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International conference serves up insight into food safety culture

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Published on 05 September 2019

Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell talks to graduates Dominic Hutchinson and Daniel Almond
Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell talks to graduates Dominic Hutchinson and Daniel Almond

A group of world leading experts on food safety gathered at the University of Sunderland this week for the North East’s first International Food Safety Culture Conference.

Aimed at professionals and academics working in the industry, more than 60 delegates from sole traders to multi-national businesses, attended the one-day event, which provided in-depth knowledge, theories, values and beliefs that impact on food safety culture within an organisation, helping to drive up standards across the industry.

 Opened by Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of University of Sunderland, the keynote speech was delivered by Dr Chris Griffiths who has been involved in food safety research and training for over 40 years. He has been awarded numerous international awards including the International Food Safety Leadership award.

 Other guest speakers included specialists from Greggs, Asda, Northumbrian Water, Farne Salmon, Food Standards Scotland, the BRCGS and Dr Pieternel Luning, Associate Professor of Food Quality Management at Wageningen University, Holland.

 The University of Sunderland is leading academic research in the area of food safety and the conference has been organised as a joint collaboration with food training specialists totrain, alongside academic Dr Derek Watson.

Dr Watson has been investigating how food industry manufacturers can develop a positive food safety culture by adopting his globally recognised food safety business model ‘Enlighten’; which puts their own business practices under the microscope and lays the foundations to run more effectively and efficiently.

Dr Watson, a senior lecturer in the University's Institute of Business, Law and Tourism, said: “The key driver for the conference is to promote the food safety culture model I developed for the totrain company and to share commercial and academic experiences on the key challenges in implementing a positive food safety culture, best practice and how to support food manufactures in developing their food safety culture plans, which are now a key audit requirement for companies registered with the British Retail Consortium.

“It was an excellent event which is breaking new ground for our university in this important area of research.

“Dr Griffiths gave a fascinating insight the future challenges facing global organisation in dealing with a food safety culture. Throughout the day there was a rich blend of academic and commercial expertise, which provided an engaging learning forum for delegates.”

Director at totrain, John Husband, said: “We are delighted the conference was such a huge success and have had wonderful feedback from delegates who praised the range of speakers and the balance of academic and practical application. We will definitely be looking to run a follow-up conference next year.

“The themes which were clearly evident from across our speakers were that food safety culture cannot be a bolt-on or one-size fits all and it is a non-negotiable for customers – consumers rightly expect every single item they purchase to be safe. It is our responsibility as those creating these products to ensure that they are.

“Our speakers, who gathered from across the world, brought many different perspectives – from academics offering the theory behind food safety culture to regulators exploring what they expect from organisations to international brands sharing their experiences of measuring and embedding food safety culture within their organisations.”

He added: “We were delighted to partner with the University of Sunderland to create this unique conference which truly gave those working in the food manufacturing sector an opportunity to learn more about this vital subject from some of the world’s leading experts.”