Safety part of the package

Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity director Helen Darling says there has been a very positive...
Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity director Helen Darling says there has been a very positive response to the initiative. Photo by Linda Robertson
Getting safe food to market is the objective of the Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity.

Otago woman and food integrity consultant Dr Helen Darling came up with the concept of working with food producers across the whole supply chain.

While there were very good science providers in New Zealand, food producers often found it hard to know who to go to and how to get their product to market, she said.

Talking to food and beverage small and medium-sized enterprises, she found the audit burden was ''huge'' for them, if they wanted to get their product in the export market.

The centre planned to help mitigate upstream risks associated with procurement of ingredients, processing risks, transportation and trade risks, assisting producers and exporters to become market ready, to know who to talk to before and during production and through the export and import processes.

''It's about packaging up what New Zealand does well and doing it in a way that's usable by producers but also recognisable by consumers,'' she said.

Dr Darling, who is a director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity, left Oritain Global, the pioneering company of which she was founding chief executive last year, and launched her own consultancy business, Darling and Associates.

She described the virtual centre's establishment as a ''win-win'' and she was enjoying working with ''some pretty cool people''.

The team included the likes of Dr Geoff Allen, a veterinary epidemiologist who has worked extensively in animal disease control, exotic diseases, veterinary public hygiene and public health areas, as well as the food production and export industry; David Mace, who has a consulting practice in Hong Kong advising corporate and business clients on Asian strategy; and Jo Coughlan, who has more than 25 years experience in the government and public relations, and strategic communications sector.

Dr Darling said they were not replicating what regulators did. Regulators had their own very distinct area of work and they were ''everything else''.

It was all about rebuilding New Zealand's brand.

''We have do to something, it has to be cohesive, co-ordinated and commercial,'' she said.

The country had survived some food safety scares, but how many more it would survive, she did not know. New Zealand's brand was damaged every time something bad happened, she said.

The centre was starting with some pilot studies and working with four clients, looking at what data was available, what they required and where there were gaps or weaknesses in their supply chain.

Clients would get as much future proofing as they could offer.

''We're monitoring for emerging trends, giving them the heads-up so they are always one step ahead,'' she said.

It would be developing recognition of a brand of integrity and it should also be beneficial to New Zealand science providers.

There had been a very positive response to the initiative, and there was a lot of interest in China about what they were doing. The model being created could be taken into other markets, as well, and the potential was very significant, she said.

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