training at Sekem

Improving food safety and relevant HACCP plans

In March 2021, Land O’Lakes International Development asked me to help with a remote project on improving food safety and relevant HACCP plans. As many companies and organizations around the world are having to acclimate to the new work environment and an inability to travel, the Farmer-to-Farmer team at Land O’Lakes Venture37 has been working on ways to adapt programs to the times. Coordination between home country teams and consultants are allowing new remote assignments to happen. With the continuation of work from home coupled with a lull in workloads, it is a great time to integrate this revised programming with more ‘remote-friendly’ topics that assist the host’s needs in-country.

The Egypt Farmer to Farmer Program implemented a remote assignment on the Basics of Food Safety Management System in food facilities. The objective of the assignment was to enhance the capacity of the targeted food handlers to establish an effective food safety management system in their facilities. A local expert is introducing a webinar to a group of food processing companies and I reviewed the developed PowerPoint presentation. In this scope of work, SOW, five host organizations will receive a webinar that will be conducted by a local volunteer from Sekem company. The webinar topic will be “Basics of Food Safety Management System in food facilities”.

The objectives of the assignment are to:

  • Educate the targeted food handlers on the basics of establishing food safety management system in food facilities.
  • Enhance the capacity of the targeted food handlers to produce safer foods.

I was on the ground in Egypt in December 2019 and gave workshops at the Sekem facility on food safety, HACCP, and compliant labeling. The processors that I worked with included honey, chicken slaughtering, teas, fresh vegetables, etc. I saw that they did not know what the specific requirements were for their processing plans and that is why we started with the Codex requirements for their specific needs. Codex Alimentarius is the voluntary international trade standards set up by FAO/WHO on 224 foods. The standards specify the accepted processes, the control points that need to be considered and sets the critical control points for each process step that must be monitored. Harmonizing food safety measures with Codex Alimentarius standards can help minimize trade restrictions and help create a food safety culture.

If your country does not have food safety standards and you wish to produce safe food for export the Codex standards are a good place to start planning your HACCP plans. Too often in this time of online webinars we give general information. It is boring, does not have any significance to the audience participating, and creates no participation in change.

Who is our presentation for? Each industry is different with different critical control points and monitoring to consider. We know and have seen many businesses simply purchase the documents and hang them on the wall or put them in a drawer. Lengthy general PowerPoint presentations will probably just cause people’s eyes to glaze over. For us to have an impact we need to do smaller, more specific informational teachings that relate directly to the businesses. The needs and capacity of a small-scale chicken processor is vastly different than honey processors bringing their goods to be bottled and labeled.

So much more can be accomplished if we help utilize science-based evidence for risk-based prioritization in their businesses. By addressing their existing food safety issues along with considering their capacity and lack of industry information changes can be made. Many of these small businesses are more like what we call cottage industries in the US or EU. People do things if it makes sense and if it applies directly to their businesses. Otherwise, it is just a form to fill in the blanks and not much action is taken or thought put into it.

 I have been thinking of putting multiple trainings together that are scaled down to meet specific food safety needs of international businesses in developing countries.  Much of the current information being offered is for large businesses. It overwhelms the small business, and it becomes irrelevant for them. I really would like to hear your comments and feedback on what I have said here. Do you agree or do you think I am out of touch with your clients and their needs?

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