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Packaged Foods processing facility in Nigeria

Q&A on Food Safety with Stephen Driver, President Manufacturing & Technical Services

1) How challenging is it to implement international QEHS standards in emerging market processing facilities?

There are 4 main challenges:

Firstly, there’s typically a lack of regulatory frameworks in emerging markets with respect to QEHS requirements – for example a lack of Occupational, Safety and Health (OSHA) norms, or a regulatory authority with strict standards for public health and safety.

Secondly, you can find that in emerging markets, risk perception and legal compliance is relatively low as penalties/consequences can be limited due to weak enforcement of various statutory acts and rules, for example, with regard to product recalls or fines for serious incidents.

We can then experience a lack of trained and empowered manpower – so frequent re-enforcement from the organisation becomes critical to stay within the QEHS standards. This is what many multinational companies have had to do in emerging markets, and it has taken them many years to get to where they are today.

And finally, having authentic and visible senior management attention at every level, to enable the re-enforcement of QEHS standards, the empowerment and, at the end of the day, the courage to stop a line or change an unsafe behaviour.

2) Did Olam have any food safety fines?

Olam businesses did not receive any fines for violation of food safety from regulatory agencies during 2015.

There were some negative news reports in Bangladesh in February 2015 that erroneously stated that our Brazilian wheat had a high incidence of Vomitoxin which can occur through poor storage.

As per our usual quality control procedures, we had the consignment tested by a third party laboratory which found that the levels were well within international (which includes USA) tolerance levels for “raw wheat” futures contracts (i.e. the wheat has not undergone processing to be turned into final wheat end products for consumers to purchase).

It’s important to note that should there be any trace levels in raw wheat, these are vastly reduced by the processing stage, which supports the fact that Vomitoxin is not a requirement of the World Food Program.

We can also confirm that the wheat was accepted by the Bangladesh Department of Food.

3) What is Olam’s position on GMO?

At this point, Olam does not encourage Genetically Modified crops entering our food supply chains

4) What are your focus areas for 2016-2020?

To progressively introduce GFSI compliant Quality Management Systems into more plants (mostly in Africa) and seek certification so that we complete our goal of 100% certification by 2020 of the top 61 secondary/midstream processing facilities.

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