( Photo by The Packer staff )

In life and in work, it is easy to get distracted by the day-to-day crush: tasks that have to be completed, e-mails and phone calls that need to be returned, problems that must be resolved.

We all know the areas we should invest in for our personal well-being: getting sufficient sleep, drinking enough water, eating real food, exercising. It all seems simple enough, but for many people the to-do list too often takes precedence over the practices that are critical for long-term success.

The same can happen in business, when short-term objectives get practical priority over loftier goals not immediately tied to the bottom line.

The Center for Produce Safety recently had its 10th symposium, so this is a timely question: Is your company investing enough time, money and other resources in food safety?

Martin Wiedmann, a food safety professor at Cornell University, has spoken at more than one industry event about validation — the process of making sure that you not only have food safety practices, but that you have verified through science that those practices actually do what they are supposed to do.

To flesh out the big-picture question of whether your company is investing enough in food safety, here are some corollaries:

  • What evidence do you have that your food safety measures work?
  • Have you invested in qualified food safety people?
  • Do you make time for education sessions and events on food safety topics relevant to the industry?
  • What kind of priority does the company as a whole place on food safety?

As an organization, you need to be aware of the latest developments in food safety research relevant to produce. You need to understand what science says about what the best practices should be — even if they aren’t mandated yet.

Presumably, every produce company has a food safety person — a person who handles compliance with food safety regulations, at the very least.

Shouldn’t they all be at the Center for Produce Safety Symposium? Shouldn’t their companies all send them for the two days — yes, plus travel — to be part of the industry conversation around food safety research, risks and best practices?

About 370 people attended the event this year — good attendance based on the size of previous symposia. The audience was a mix of mostly industry and academia. 

There was a statement made on a panel that I heard someone repeat later on as folks were heading to lunch: Food safety is an investment, not a cost.

With the right information, it is easy enough to discern what a person values. It is generally reflected in two ways: How does he spend his time? How does he spend his money?

In work and in life, there is no shortage of tasks and problems demanding our money and our time, but for the produce industry and individual companies, a strong focus on food safety is one investment that is certainly worthwhile — and absolutely critical for long-term success.

Ashley Nickle is editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer. E-mail her at [email protected].

Related content:
CPS shares research relevant for produce at 10th symposium
Panelists urge companies to invest in traceability
Food safety truisms: trust, but verify