General Mills invests in food safety
by Eric Schroeder
MINNEAPOLIS — Advancing global food safety is a vital component in General Mills, Inc.’s drive to become a more globally responsible company.
In its “2013 Global Responsibility Report” issued April 30, General Mills pointed to two distinct ways in which it is following through on its goal: by adhering to strict food safety processes and by partnering to increase food safety.
In adhering to strict food safety processes, General Mills said it is setting high standards for prevention, quality and investment. The company’s food safety risk management strategy is based on three core elements: prevention, intervention and response.
“We work hard to prevent problems by building in quality and food safety from the start of our product design process,” the company said. “We maintain stringent internal standards and requirements to ensure safety across all processes and operations. To verify prevention, we conduct focused audits, risk-based surveillance and testing. We continually review our processes and procedures. Should a compromised product reach the market, we have well-established processes that guide our immediate response.”
Preventing problems often means higher costs, and General Mills is not immune. The company said in 2012 it spent five times the amount on food safety that it spent five years earlier, and at the end of each year it reviews areas where capital is required to address emerging needs.
More than 90% of the company’s total worldwide volume is manufactured in facilities audited and/or certified by an independent third party. In 2012 no official actions or noncompliance issues of significance were identified by regulatory inspections, General Mills said, though the company noted it incurred five recalls during the year, all of which were voluntary and did not result in any consumer illness or injury.
General Mills in the report cited increasing supplier and co-manufacturer audits, training and awareness as ways in which the company is partnering to increase food safety. In fiscal 2012, the company said it directly conducted more than 350 supplier and 150 co-manufacturer audits worldwide. General Mills also encouraged third-party audits and/or certification, such as the Global Food Safety Initiatives, as an additional preventive control measure.
General Mills also plans to expand the scope of its “supplier schools.” First launched in the United States in 2011, “supplier schools” are an opportunity for food safety subject-matter experts to present timely information on food safety topics. The knowledge-based, interactive courses were developed to improve suppliers’ competencies regarding food safety, sanitation and quality management. In the case of the 2011 event, more than 350 participants gathered at the General Mills campus and facilities to learn how to gain a differential advantage from the company’s ingredient supply chain. The “supplier school” was conducted in Asia in 2012, and earlier this year took place in Europe.
In addition to the “supplier schools,” General Mills said it is raising food safety awareness through webinars covering topics such as biological and physical hazard controls, allergen management and plant sanitation.