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Global Markets Awards winners operate like international food safety ambassadors, propagating their knowledge and know-how throughout their companies, their countries and beyond.

Today’s featured ambassador, Veronica Kalu-Ufe of Golden Sugar Company Ltd. in Nigeria, led her company to the 2019 award for the African Region by placing an emphasis on food safety culture at every level of operations. This top-to-bottom culture helped Golden Sugar to progress smoothly through the stages of the Global Markets Programme and achieve full certification through FSSC 22000.

More than a year after Golden Sugar earned its certification, the company maintains a robust food safety culture and stands as a role model for food producers in the developing African market. Read on to see how Golden Sugar Company is holding true to its vision to “ensure the production of safe food for consumers globally.”

With increased food safety challenges and current trends in contamination-related issues, food manufacturers are left with no option but to continuously seek and implement new techniques and strategies to ensure the manufacturing and distribution of safe food.

As a Quality Assurance Manager at Golden Sugar Company Ltd., a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc. located in Lagos, Nigeria, it was my quest to improve my organisation’s existing food safety system and to consider specific ways we needed to improve in order to ensure our product is safe for consumption.

We began our inquiry by speaking with other multinationals, bigger organisations and customers that already had robust and enviable established food safety management systems. In these conversations, we shared our vision to “ensure the production of safe food for consumers globally.”

As soon as Nestlé Nigeria Plc. introduced us to the Global Markets Programme, we swung into action using the toolkit. We matched it with our existing systems, then progressed through the basic and intermediate levels of the Global Markets Programme checklist before achieving our Food Safety System Certificate. We made corrections and implemented corrective actions to close identified gaps as applicable. Before long, we were declared the 2019 winner of the Global Markets Awards from Africa.

Winning the 2019 Global Markets Awards, as well as gaining an express, all-paid entry to the conference, was quite fulfilling. We were extremely excited by the opportunity to meet other food safety experts, share ideas, evaluate our food safety practices and ultimately gain more knowledge to bring back home.

At the end of the conference, our expectations were by far exceeded. We not only returned with the winner’s medal but were also exposed to a wealth of material, knowledge and techniques on how to sustain and improve our food safety management system.

In the following paragraphs, I will share some tips related to how we have managed to sustain our food safety system certification.

With my experience so far, I have learned that earning a food safety certification might be a feat, but sustaining the certification by complying with the requirements therein still remains the major challenge. This can only be achieved by building a food safety culture and integrating the requirements into your operations.

A food safety culture depends on how people relate to food safety. It is about staff perception and attitude towards the food safety rules. It is very important to the business and must be encouraged, supported and taken seriously by the company’s leadership from the top down. The top management must be committed to this course for effective implementation.

  • Create Food Safety Policy and Objectives: We had to establish and communicate a food safety policy statement as well as a measurable company-wide food safety objective, which was embedded into the business core values. These served as the company’s mission statement/guideline, showcasing the company’s commitment as well as its vision and the direction in which it is headed. We also established measurable, non-subjective departmental food safety objectives to help drive continuous improvement in all departments.
  • Change People’s Perception: This was as important as our everyday job. We initiated a company-wide training for all Heads of Departments, Supervisors, Cleaners, Operators and top-level management. We made sure all our staff were aware of the ways in which their job roles and functions impact the food safety objectives of the organisation. The staff needed to know that unsafe behaviors result in unsafe food and were made to be accountable for their actions regardless of their position or status.
  • Schedule Periodic Reviews and Update Programmes and Policies: We initiated a time for reviews of the objectives. This is done monthly to check how each department has fared with the set of food safety objective targets. This also includes a general review of customer complaints with those on the packing floor, which is aimed at helping them understand the impact of their job on the consumer.
  • Reward and Recognise: This takes the form of extra compensation for employees who have performed very well and met their objectives within the timeline, or for those who have identified and corrected mistakes that could have become bigger issues. We organise quarterly town hall meetings in which we discuss the people who are doing it right and offer them our appreciation. This goes a long way in boosting the morale of employees.

In order to reduce/eliminate food safety risks in all departments and align with the vision of GFSI, it is important that we, as stakeholders in the food industry, take time to encourage our contractors and raw material suppliers to earn accredited third party certification, or perhaps introduce them to the GFSI tools and the Global Markets Programme to begin with. This will ensure inclusion of all in the food chain.

In a bid to influence the small- and medium-sized companies in our region, we have incorporated discussions of the Global Markets Programme as a major topic in annual forums with our suppliers, contractors and logistics service companies. This is one way in which we can play a role as members of GFSI and truly give assurance and confidence to customers and consumers globally.

The search is on for the winners of next year’s Global Markets Awards, sponsored by greenfence. If your company or someone in your supply chain would like to join the fray, don’t delay — the deadline for applications is 16 September. 

If you missed Veronica’s interview on our GFSI Experts Series, you can watch or read it here: A Food Safety Ambassador in Africa: Golden Sugar Company’s Journey to a GFSI Award.

This blog was written and contributed by:

Veronica Kalu-Ufe
Quality Assurance Manager and Food Safety Team Leader,
Golden Sugar Company Limited.
GFSI Global Market Awards Winner 2019. African Region

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