The status of food safety management systems in South Africa 2007 vs 2017

In the light of Listeria outbreak, it is the right time to reflect on the status of food safety management systems in South Africa. Have we made the progress we should have?

In 2007, Linda Jackson, well-known food safety expert and now co-founder of the compliance website, Food Focus, presented a paper at that year’s SAAFoST congress on the results of a survey conducted to establish the status of HACCP certification in South Africa.

In 2017, ten years on, she repeated the research and presented the updated comparison at Cape Town’s biennial SAAFoST conference last September.

Graph 1: In 2007, there were a few dominant certification bodies associated with food safety.

Graph 2: 2017 survey results reflect the acquisition of private auditing companies and the diversification of certification options. Many more companies now service the market while the SABS retains dominance in certain standards.

Graph 3: While suppliers would prefer a single standard this is obviously not a reality as yet in 2017. In fact there are more standards in use than previously.

Graph 4: The survey indicated the current preference of auditing bodies who service the market

Graph 5: The official FSSC 22000 certificates in circulation in South Africa is 606.  The spread of sectors is compared for 2007 and 2017 for certified food companies in South Africa.

Given the HACCP certification is still not a legal requirement other than for the peanut industry, we asked respondents what was their motivation for certification.

Graph 6: In 2007 the primary reason for NOT certifying was the lack of retail pressure

Graph 7: In 2017 retail is the reason for certifying – to reduce audits.

Graph 8: For companies who are not yet certified, FSSC 22000 would be the obvious option going forward

Graph 9: While there are many audits taking place, we were interested in the activity of the law enforcers. Little change is evident, see the numbers for visits by Environmental Health Practitioners.

Graph 10: In the 2017 survey we asked respondents about food safety hazards experienced. Obviously, this is a real-life concern. The Listeria outbreak underlines the need for transparency and notifiable recalls.

The results show the number of food companies with certified food safety management systems has doubled in the last decade. Is this enough progress given the efforts spent on food safety in this time?

These figures do not give an indication of retail supplier food safety systems. More research is required in this regard. Does this mean we have safer food now? That would be the subject of another survey!

Source: Linda Jackson, Food Focus,, [email protected]