Publication: Food & Beverage Reporter
Publication Date: 01 Jul 2022
Sub-Headline: The 2022 Africa Food Safety Workshop (AFSW) was hosted by the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (N M ISA) recently, at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park. This event brought together global ex
TEXT: One of the key presentations was delivered by Professor Pieter Gouws, head of Food Microbiology at Stellenbosch University`s Department of Food Science and the Centre for Food Safety (CFS), who delivered a keynote presentation on the successes of public-private partnerships. Professor Gouws highlighted the significance of collaboration, how to establish a fruitful academia-industry partnership, and gave an update on what has been accomplished to date at the CFS. The focus of this article will be on food safety, with the emphasis on the fact that everyone has a role to play in this regard. Food Safety and Collaboration Food security is a significant public health issue for everybody. With the growth of global populations and food distribution, the possible hazard of foodborne illness to public health also continues to rise. Science has embraced advancements at an astounding rate throughout the last two pandemic years. To ensure a sustainable and secure future for all, it is essential to continue sharing information as well as fostering innovative concepts and solutions post- pandemic. In South Africa, safe, nutritious, and adequate food is a basic human right. However, complexity of the global food supply chain is increasing, and like the 2018 Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, any food safety incident has a harmful impact on aspects of trade, the economy, and public health. In South Africa, food safety is often taken for granted and is rarely discussed until someone becomes ill. Additionally, if food insecurity and improved health are to be addressed, as 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, safe food is a prerequisite. Food security cannot exist without food safety. Professor Gouws underlines that food safety is a shared responsibility and that cross-sector collaboration is key. Only by working together can we ensure safer food and better health. Initiatives encouraging collaboration between universities and the industry should be supported to increase research productivity and facilitate the exchange and application of knowledge. To do this, the approach to education need to be challenged, and expanded to include industry inputs. One way to accomplish this is to have a learning model that requires students to study on campus while also working in the industry. This can be observed to some extent at Technikons around South Africa. Industry exposure is limited at universities such as Stellenbosch, where undergraduates are expected to perform a cumulative 8 weeks of industry training during the undergraduate degree. The CFS tries to improve this by taking on industry- based post-graduate programmes, to foster intellectual
TEXT: and practical knowledge exchange while also boosting communication between academia and industry partners. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) The future of food safety necessitates collaborative approaches in which research has an impact and innovation is pursued. The Stellenbosch University Centre for Food Safety (CFS) was established following the notorious 2018 Listeriosis epidemic in South Africa. This incident prompted collaborations between academia and various members of the food industry, to address the public`s and the food industry`s lack of understanding concerning food hazards. A multi-sectoral approach to food safety is pivotal in South Africa and will help boost business and food quality. Food safety research, policy, and consumer education are the 3 main pillars of the CFS which help direct the way in which research is conducted. Further, the centre recognizes that the practice of innovation is maximized through collaboration, making industrial partnerships indispensable when research that makes a tangible difference to South Africa`s food systems is prioritised. Collaboration drives innovation, advances scientific evolution, industry treatments, useful technologies, and boosts productivity and thus the delivery of solutions to urgent issues. It`s clear to see why successful companies internationally encourage collaborations. Real-world data facilitates more informative trials and insights, which fuels innovative solutions. This data and industry involvement are key to successfully steering research, which is necessary if prospective research is to deliver applicable discoveries for the growth and development of the food sector. Ideally, this collaborative approach to innovation should transcend beyond academia and industry. All stakeholders, including government, conomics, engineering, IT-professionals, institutions, educators, and consumers, should unite to cultivate, problem solve, and investigate global and local challenges. Ultimately, all partners including industry and consumers will benefit from collaborative efforts in the future.
TEXT: Effective research yields insights that are relevant to industry issues and help in the industry`s advancement. Food safety advancement is no different in that it also necessitates the exchanging of sensitive data and situations to pursue impactful research. This is echoed in Stellenbosch University`s vision for 2040, which includes `Knowledge in the Service of Society`. In its pursuit of impact, the CFS, prefers industrial partners to collaborate with on specific projects. This promotes an interdisciplinary approach to the topic, transforming the research into a project involving a collaborative team working on a specific issue. In doing so, the CFS hopes to encourage inventive solutions, technological advancements, and a greater understanding of food safety hazards. Collaboration with industry, enables the CFS to innovate more effectively and applicably. The interface between academia and industry is pivotal, and despite the inevitable challenges, it has the potential for beneficial synergies to create, evolve, and innovate. Safer food, better health and the One Health approach For World Food Safety Day 2022, the WHO had the theme ` Safer food, better health`. When approaching industry, this is a good slogan to employ. Explain that by collaborating for safer food, everyone`s health can improve. Hence across sector partnerships will improve global awareness of food safety. Therefore, this is a call for food industry, policymakers, decision makers, politicians, all involved stakeholders, and the public to start collaborating. The` One Health` approach, recognizes that animal, human and environmental health are interdependent. ` What we do to animals, we do to ourselves, and that both animals and humans depend on the environment`. Consequently, no research initiative or collaboration can begin without considering the One Health` concept. This leads us to the skills necessary for the future. We need to consider aiming to increase the opportunities for collaborative or inter-disciplinary research. This involves increasing the number of industry-involved research contracts and conducting research in conjunction with other external stakeholders to ensure that we have an impact on the advancement of food safety. These programmes act as bridges between the promise of scientific discoveries and the advancement of new practical innovations to improve the industry and consumer experience. The example below is a case in point: Everyone has a right to safe food, so we must understand that food safety is everyone`s business, and what this means in terms of responsibility. Together is the only way we can achieve food safety goals. Change requires collaboration, and now is the time to start, to ensure that food safety is made a priority. Ending with his signature line from Louis Pasteur, Professor Gouws reminds us that, `It is n ma is the microbes who will have the Nozonol Mtvoiogy Inseam of` Scud, Africa last word.`