Keeping it fresh: Considering climate change and risks to fresh food safety

  • Fresh food safety has not received widespread governance attention, partly because consumers expect high levels of service continuity.
  • While largely voluntary currently, black letter law is on its way as signaled by the corporate regulators.
  • Climate-related risks are accelerating the need for renewed governance focus.

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The competition for fresh food continues to put downward pressure on the sector’s supply chain. Directors across this very broad supply chain need to ask the right questions, at the right time, and ensure adequate and appropriate resources are allocated to address the risks. This will help ensure that organisations in the value chain prepare for the inevitable climate-related impacts that will challenge our fresh food supply, protecting consumers, their brands, and reputations. Danone and Fonterra are cited as leaders in this area.

Why climate risks and food safety?

The physical risks only tell part of the story of the challenge that climate change poses to the value chain for fresh food. For example, increased incidences of mycotoxins and higher risks of cold chain discontinuity and failures. What we know about climate-related risks in Australia is that there will be more extreme weather events (for example, cyclones, floods, droughts) and a range of knock-on effects[i]. It also means that the seasons when we can be guaranteed of a good return are becoming less frequent and more erratic, temperatures are getting hotter, drought has become business as usual, and water is now scarce. Our cold chains can be rendered useless in minutes during extreme weather events, and can then remain in outage for several months.

 

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