What price do you put on food safety?

Paul Collins
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Something which distinguishes Reynolds from most other ‘greengrocers’, both large and small, is that we have a sourcing plan. Reynolds is in control of its supply chain and not at the mercy of the spot markets.

Importantly, our approach to procurement is a proactive one, not reactive, which puts us firmly in the driving seat when it comes to sourcing. Of course, like all fresh produce businesses, we are at the mercy of the weather, political unrest and other external factors, but a sourcing plan enables us to choose where we buy from, agree specifications, fix prices, put in place contingency and, most importantly, ensure the food we procure is safe.

In fact, food safety is the foundation of Reynolds’ procurement strategy and, for us, it’s an area in which there is no compromise. We put its importance before sustainability, food quality and price because, quite frankly, you just can’t put a price on food safety.

Like any farmer or grower, food manufacturer or distributor, food outlet or chef, we have a duty of care to our customers – we simply have to get food safety right. Because, if we don’t, the rest of the food supply chain has no chance of repairing the damage caused. If the food that arrives in your kitchen isn’t already safe then what chance do you have of preventing your diners becoming ill, or worse? We take pride and satisfaction in the fact that our customers have confidence in our ability to deliver safe ingredients.

Arguably, the further down the supply chain you are, the more reliant you are on the rest of the chain doing the right things. And of course we have seen, particularly since the horsegate crisis, that quite often supply chains can be incredibly complex and confusing… blurred even. Fortunately, because the vast majority of food that Reynolds buys is contracted, in other words grown for us, our supply chains are really quite simple.

Horsegate has, to some extent, changed the way people view the food supply chain – probably forever. People have become more sceptical about the food they eat and they ask more questions. Provenance and authenticity are more important today than ever.

If you don’t know where the food you are buying comes from, then it is damn near impossible to know if it is safe. At Reynolds, we know from where the food we sell originates and can trace it back to the farm on which it is grown. And whilst, for some at least, ignorance may be bliss, that approach simply doesn’t work for us. Our technical team spend much of their time on farms making sure farming and production practices are safe.

Over the last few years, there have been several examples of food safety incidents in the dairy and fresh produce industries and, each and every time, Reynolds has been able to provide its customers with timely reassurances that the food in their kitchens is safe.

For example, following a food safety crisis in 2011, when 3,950 people were affected and 53 died from E-coli, mostly in Germany, seeds of organic fenugreek imported from Egypt were eventually deemed the most likely source of the outbreak. However, initial reports blamed Spanish cucumbers. Throughout this confusing episode, as news broke, Reynolds was able to update its customers on the origins of its food.

Turning to the dairy industry, Reynolds only buys Lion-branded shell eggs, produced in the UK. Not just because we believe in supporting British farmers, but because the lion stamp is an assurance that eggs are produced to the highest standards of food safety. The entire supply chain is checked and independently audited, including the hens, eggs and feed. Most importantly, the Lion stamp is as good a guarantee as possible that the eggs you serve are salmonella-free. The same cannot be said for imported eggs, which do not come with the same guarantee of food safety. Whilst imported eggs might be cheaper to buy, they come with no safety assurances and no traceability. In short, imported shell eggs come with a risk, but what price do you put on your reputation?

For us, reputation is everything, including of course the reputations of our customers. Whilst people are often cited as having short memories, when it comes to breaches of food safety this much-used expression does not apply.

Our customers can rest assured that by putting their faith in Reynolds as a supplier of choice, their reputation and their consumers are in safe hands.

Paul’s comments feature in Reynolds’ August 2015 newsletter, the Marketplace.

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