We use our unique quality system, Safety Guard, to safeguard feed and food safety in each link of our production chain. The Safety Guard system also lays down the highest standards in terms of food safety, as a result of which our chain delivers high-quality, safe and nutritious protein-rich products that customers expect from us. With this system, we can trace every meat product that leaves our chain to the individual animal, the husbandry where it grew up and the feed that it received. In this way, we mitigate the risks of food safety violations and we can respond rapidly if there is a recall.
Responsible and safe production
All over the world, food safety and quality are the basic standards that customers and consumers expect from us as a food producer. Our Safety Guard quality system guarantees food safety, animal welfare, fire safety, occupational health and safety and the environment throughout the entire production chain. A fast-changing world requires structural and innovative solutions that extend beyond the current method of quality management. That is why we revised our quality structure in 2020. The transition envisages that the organisation will develop into a chain where quality ethos is proactively used to continuously improve our system and to be in compliance with the changing requirements within the system. Whereas control over the quality policy was previously performed by each of our subsidiaries, a central control has now been organised. In order to achieve this, a Corporate Chain Quality Officer who is responsible for this process was appointed in 2020. Moreover, the internal audit structure has been intensified.
An indicator to determine whether veal products and animal feed are have been produced responsibly and safely is the number of recalls (the recall of products by a supplier). Two recalls took place in our chain in 2020. With these recalls, veal was recalled due to food safety standards being breached. Due to the properly-functioning tracking and tracing system, the recalls were of limited size and it was possible to get in touch with customers quickly. The recall procedure was tightened within our animal feed companies in 2020, as a result of which it is possible to intervene at an earlier stage of the production in the event that the legal standards in the field of food safety are breached.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the political and social attention about (the introduction of) infectious animal diseases and zoonoses has grown. A zoonosis is an infectious disease that can jump from animal to human. Zoonoses occurring in the Netherlands include COVID-19, Lyme disease, Q fever, toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis and bird flu. About two thirds of the pathogens of infectious diseases come from (wild) animals. People can become infected with these in various ways: via food, water or air, and via direct contact with infected animals or pets or with contaminated animal material, such as manure. Zoonotic pathogens can also be transmitted by ticks and mosquitos.
We pursue an active policy to reduce pathogens so that outbreaks of infectious diseases are prevented. Prevention and surveillance are essential principles within this policy. In 2020, we conducted a risk analysis into critical points in the chain. This analysis indicates the direction to be followed when developing appropriate preventive and counteractive measures.
In recent years, good coat hygiene has been an important point for attention within our chain. A clean coat without faeces is important to prevent contamination on the carcass and therefore enables the meat to be processed hygienically. The extra attention not only led to further regulations within the SKV, but also to better figures. We saw the delivery of soiled calves fall by 70 percent in 2020 compared to 2014.
Raising food safety in the chain up to a higher level
The VanDrie Group wants to further improve the quality structure and safeguarding of food safety within the chain. Labora, the lab of the VanDrie Group, plays a key role herein. In order to properly fulfil this function, innovation in terms of microbiological research and tracing pathogens is crucial. For that reason, 2020 was characterised by expansion for Labora. Auke Scheepstra, the Head of Laboratory and Meindert Nieland, quality manager and team leader of microbiology, talk about the new opportunities that the lab offers:
“Food safety has been laid down in the form of strict European legislation and regulations. Nevertheless, we’ve been seeing for a few years that both legislators and customers of food manufacturers are more and more frequently setting extra requirements, in order to limit risks further. Examples include ruling out certain materials, identifying new safety risks at an early stage and better self-regulation. In order to satisfy this growing demand for research and create room for implementing new techniques, Labora was thoroughly renovated in the space of one and a half years. This included the renovation of the existing lab and an expansion in the form of a new building.
The most important development is the expansion of our microbiological lab and the arrival of a Bio Safety Level 3 lab (BSL3). The design of a BSL3-lab is subject to extra strict safety requirements, as a result of which we can conduct research into pathogens that cause serious diseases more safely. Examples include so-called category 3 organisms, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). This expansion means that we also have more space to use innovative research techniques. For a long time now, microbiological research has been conducted by means of PCR technology, with which Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli can be detected. A new innovation in this area is whole genome sequencing (WGS), a molecular technique that makes it possible to demonstrate relationships between pathogens in order to trace possible sources of infection.
By exchanging experiences and linking research results, we create synergy within the chain.
With this renovation, the VanDrie Group is investing in knowledge and research techniques with which we can raise food safety in our chain to a higher level. Collaboration and knowledge sharing between the companies is extremely important in that regard. For that reason, we will be working in various chain projects on specific improvements within food safety in the coming year. Half of this is focused on research. Labora acts as a knowledge hub within the VanDrie Group and receives lots of samples from the different companies and a wide range of questions regarding food safety and interpretation of results. By exchanging experiences and linking research results, we create synergy within the chain.”
In connection with food defence, our production facilities are protected against malicious actions that could threaten the security of production. In contrast to food safety, which concerns unintentional contamination, food defence assumes there has been intentional contamination. Protecting production facilities against such intentional contamination is necessary to guarantee food safety for customers and authorities.
Our companies are actively concerned with this theme. That means that a risk analysis is regularly made in order to identify the risks and vulnerabilities of the products, the facility and the facility’s surroundings. Internal audits are also conducted in the food defence programme.