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Recipe for Disaster: The Impact of Food Labelling Errors

Food Labelling Errors

Everyone can remember when horse meat found itself on menus back in 2013, but what about the more recent 250,000 servings of beef lasagne containing pork?

Incidents like these, with or without criminal intent, will have major consequences to a food business. The FSA conducted a study, published in February 2015, with 84 of 307 restaurant food samples containing non-declared meat. Quite alarming statistics, so soon after the widely publicised horsemeat scandal. How could this have been prevented?

Particularly in today’s multi-cultural environment, all should be aware of the enormous sensitivities around this in terms of religious beliefs. Correctly labelled food is not only a matter of legislation but also having high moral and ethical standards. If the product is labelled as beef lasagne then this is exactly what it should be.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that people were at the heart of the issue.

In this case, what is most concerning is that the error was apparently flagged up to management by a staff member some three months prior, but no action was taken. This suggests that the restaurant group not only need to bring about a change in how they procure, manage and monitor product but also the culture within their company as a whole.

David Bashford, Food Alert’s Managing Director Client Services, highlights this people issue further, “It is the culture and the management of a restaurant that is key to its success. This isn’t just in terms of its food reviews and its financial turnover but also, reflective of its approach to food hygiene management. We help our clients develop a culture that sees food hygiene and health and safety as the norm within the business, not something that has to be specially prepared for in time for the twice yearly audit, but something that is the beating heart of the company as a whole”.

It is clear that the main lesson to learn is how to develop a business culture to train, care and create a strong team that respect and work together for the greater good of the business, with customers at the heart of all the decision processes.

How to protect your business from food labelling errors:

  • Ensure you have well trained and valued staff who are listened to throughout the chain of management.
  • Ensure your suppliers are fully approved and have committed to not only labelling their products accurately, but also updating you should things change (also important in relation to allergens).
  • Put in place a working hygiene and health and safety risk analysis and business continuity strategy.
  • Ensure a culture of food hygiene and health and safety as the norm within the business.

Food Alert are at the forefront of restaurant food safety auditing, training (both classroom based and e-learning) and legislative health and safety.

For more information or advice, get in contact - enquiries@foodalert.com or call 020 7244 1900