Given the commemoration of World Food Safety Day on June 7th, and considering the current global scenario, one of today’s big headlines in the news is the need to maintain high safety standards in food production, as well as disseminate and replicate successful models.

Food safety has to do with the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and diseases transmitted by eating it. Raising awareness of this global threat, which is more active than ever, is one of the main concerns for most countries. Ensuring practices to obtain safe and secure foods and thus reduce the number and volume of foodborne diseases, is of utmost importance.

When talking about the white meat industry in Chile, Juan Carlos Domínguez, Executive President of ChileCarne, is clear: “Since its inception, our industry has set its eyes on foreign markets, some as demanding as the United States, Japan, or South Korea, which meant working under the highest health and food safety standards. This allowed us to be ready to face the risks of infection from Covid-19, and thus ensure the health and well-being of our workers and their families, while maintaining our product supply throughout Chile and foreign markets.”

The Executive Secretary of the Chilean Food Safety and Quality Agency (ACHIPIA), Nuri Gras, said the following: “Our competitive advantage as a country is in line with our ability to comply with the most demanding standards and demonstrate that our processes and foods are safe and do not cause any microbiological, chemical or physical contamination to consumers.” She emphasizes: “Throughout the food production value chain, from primary production to retail and distribution, we apply strict certification schemes, quality assurance, and hygiene and sanitation best practices.”

For years, the pork and poultry industries have been implementing various ongoing programs to produce safe foods. These programs are implemented throughout the entire production chain, whether they are feed-producing plants, animal farms, during transportation or in slaughterhouses, where meat is finally produced. The programs can be split into two groups: microbiological safety and chemistry.

Miguel Adasme, veterinary doctor of ChileCarne, is actively involved in these issues. He points out, “regarding salmonella -the bacteria that produces the most foodborne illnesses in the world and the industry-, there are self-monitoring and official programs; i.e., the ones run by industry/companies, and the official programs implemented by the proper health authority, in this case, the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG).”

The industry works heavily on animal farms, where veterinary drugs authorized by SAG are the only ones being used. “In this sense, there are good drug-use practices on farms, thus ensuring that the meat produced from an animal is safe from the standpoint of drug residues,” added the veterinarian.

Regarding companies’ efforts in this field, they are always trying to optimize production processes and develop technological innovations. An innovative project was carried out at a plant located in the O’Higgins Region. It added copper alloys and coatings in poultry and pork processing lines. After years of research and validation, it was determined that the already known bactericidal properties of copper also had enormous preventive potential when used on surfaces that come into direct contact with meat products, which makes it possible to strengthen food safety controls inside the plant.

In line with this, tests are being conducted with a system of bags with copper salts. It has shown good preliminary results while extending the shelf life of fresh products.

Considering 2020’s global scenario, a series of safety measures have been taken in relation to Covid-19. Miguel Adasme from ChileCarne explains: “Strict efforts have been conducted at the plants to prevent and control the spread of the virus. The industry has prepared itself by implementing protocols on farms and slaughter plants and establishing staggered work shifts to minimize contact between people. In addition, temperature checks are carried out when entering the plants, and workers have received guidelines to take care of themselves at home. Drills have also been conducted, and the industry has worked closely with health authorities to report the protocols it is adopting in relation to the virus.”

Nuri Gras added, “these industry practices prepared us to face the current Covid-19 scenario. The fact that Chile exports and follows hygiene, manufacturing and biosecurity best practices reassures us and allows us to be one step ahead. Today, our work with the industry is focused on taking care of people, the workers, helping them understand cross-contamination and its consequences. There are many challenges, like advising workers for them to apply these practices with their families, for example. Today, we are the ones introducing the threat, not the field or the animals.”

“ChileCarne plays an important role in terms of standardizing safety programs throughout the industry for them to be efficient, known by health authorities, and aiming at the same goal. As an association, we ensure that the safety programs implemented by companies are technically correct in terms of the requirements to be met, the analytical methodologies to be implemented, and the representativeness of the samples to be taken, in relation to actions and results,” concludes Adasme.[:]