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Many years ago while growing up, I remember connecting a boiling ring to my bath water (unsupervised if I might add) to make it warm. While the boiling ring was still immersed in the bucket of water, I remember dipping my hand into the water (which was still connected to electricity) just to check if the water was warm enough, and getting the shock of my life, literally. 😂 That incident seems to be my first lesson about risks associated with my actions and inactions.

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Risk-based thinking is one of my key learnings so far in the food industry, and I find myself unconsciously applying it to other areas of life and career.

Yes, there are risks associated with every of our actions and inactions. You either choose to identify them or not.

Let's establish two points:

  • Food manufacturing is delicate. A process that yields products that consumers rely on for life and nourishment should not be trifled with.
  • Food manufacturing is also capital intensive. The global economic meltdown has made funds for procurement of raw materials lean while the supply chain challenges has made raw materials scarce even when funds are available.

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Therefore to remain in business, in a competitive and volatile market, it is imperative that risk-based thinking is adopted voluntarily not necessarily as a requirement of ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management System) and ISO 2022:2018 (Food Safety Management System).

As a food manufacturer (business owner or employee), think of the risks that will be encountered if a particular action is taken instead of another. Let that be a basis to help you in decision making. For every risk on one hand, there is an opportunity on the other hand and some people are benefitting from it.

Food and microbes are like 5 & 6 because microorganisms need food too. 😄 Therefore, microbial contamination is an imminent food safety risk during food production.

Conduct a value stream mapping and identify the possible sources of microbial contamination in your value stream or unit operations.

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Take the raw materials for instance, raw materials are a major source of contamination.

  • How are you going to ensure that the right quality of raw materials in terms of safety is delivered to you by your suppliers?
  • How are you going to ensure that they are properly warehoused?
  • How are you going to ensure that your process line itself does not contaminate raw materials and the finished food product consequently?
  • How are you going to avoid regulatory scrutiny due to sale of unsafe food?

If consumers know your food product as one that causes food poisoning, it is an imminent risk of bankruptcy for you and an opportunity for your competitors to thrive and cash out.

Adopt risk-based thinking today! 

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About the Author

Chidinma Ezinne Ochulor is a certified Food Technologist, a quality assurance professional with over 3 years' experience. She is a professional member of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST). Reach her on LinkedIn, here

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