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Food safety is becoming increasingly important to New Zealand's agricultural export sector.
To meet the needs of an increasingly dynamic and sophisticated food industry, Lincoln University's Centre for Food Research and Innovation is offering food-safety courses to address complex issues stemming from the globalised nature of food production.
The first such course (which will be repeated throughout the year) took place on April 15 as a one-day introductory course on food safety in general and the well-established Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) management system for food safety.
The next short course will take place from June 16-18 and will cover practical considerations in food microbiology.
The courses have been established by Lincoln University food microbiology senior lecturer Dr Malik Hussain and the university's South Island business development manager Dr Sam Yu in response to the shortage of adequately trained food professionals working in the industry.
''These courses will suit a wide range of industry people: anyone from distributors, manufacturers, government regulators, sanitation supervisors, plant managers or packing staff,'' Dr Hussain said.
''New Zealand has a great reputation for the quality and safety of its food. However, we should never get complacent.
''There is a strong need for science-based `field-to-fork' food-safety education. Ultimately, such an approach can bring long-term benefits through savings in healthcare and for the food industry in general, and increases our competitive standing on the world stage.''
Dr Yu pointed to the fallout from Fonterra's false positive test result for botulism last year to show how food-safety scares could significantly disrupt ''business as usual''.
''These kind of issues can really put an industry or individual business on the back foot, meaning a lot of relationship-building effort has to go back into building trust - it's time-consuming and expensive. We have started these professional development courses to help ensure that businesses never have to experience such a situation.''
''It's also worth noting that approximately 40% of New Zealand's food production exports come from the South Island, and around 30% of food and beverage companies are here, too.
That's another good reason why Lincoln has decided to start running these professional courses,'' he said.
For more information, see www.lincoln.ac.nz.