The 2020 Global Food Security Index Report, released in June, ranked South Africa as number 69 out of 113 countries in the study. These results show that the country has dropped two places since last year when it comes to issues surrounding food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience. Unathi Mhlatyana, MD at McCain Foods South Africa, unpacked the results of this report.
Problems with food safety in South Africa
In this study, South Africa ranked number one out of the sub-Saharan countries when it came to the quality and safety of food. However, there are still many food safety issues that need to be addressed in the industry. Although freezing is a safe way of preventing bacterial growth and enzyme activity, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the utmost food safety and quality. One hurdle is temperature abuse, which happens when there are breaks in the cold chain resulting in the product undergoing cycles of defrosting and refreezing, leading to quality deterioration and in extreme abuse, mouldy products.
To produce safe food products, robust food safety programmes that ensure compliance with physical, chemical and microbiological factors are vital. Along with this, it is essential to establish temperature abuse projects to understand, detect and mitigate the risks related to this. Optical sorting and defect detection equipment can also identify foreign material and remove it from the product.
The country’s top score in the report was 72.4% for food quality and safety, followed by affordability at 63.1%, availability at 49.5% and the lowest score was for natural resources and resilience at 49%. When it comes to affordability and availability, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated hunger and malnutrition in the country. With this in mind, it is crucial for the public and private sector to work together to minimise the plight of those suffering. One way to do this is by minimising food waste and establishing projects to deliver nutritious food to those that need it.
How are companies like McCain improving their food security processes?
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) defines a food safety culture as “shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour towards food safety in, across and throughout an organisation”. As such, it is important to emphasise that all stakeholders are responsible for food safety; this must underpin the culture of any food company. Therefore, staff should be regularly trained and all parties in the supply chain need to ensure compliance. to ensure this McCain conducts unannounced independent third-party inspections of all their facilities as well as audits of food safety and quality management systems.
At McCain, they also procure their products from over 100 farmers who plant over 4 500 hectares of potatoes annually. In this way, the company has made it their mission to improve their sustainability practices by 2025.
In the same way, protecting our environment is extremely important and everyone’s responsibility in the F&B industry. This is why McCain works with their growers to implement sustainable regenerative agriculture practices as well as they use transferring technologies such as integrated pest management, decision support systems for disease management, soil management, seed cutters and storage practices to help protect the environment.
Improving South Africa’s Global Food Security Index ranking
If South Africa is to improve their ranking in next year’s GFSI report, it is key for the industry to band together and further improve food safety and quality compliance, establish ways to end hunger in our country and commit to sustainable agriculture practices to ensure that we can provide for future generations.