The South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA) has donated R1 million towards the activities of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Food Safety. The funding will support ongoing endeavours related to food safety research at Stellenbosch University. The Centre aims to support the local food industry as a whole and was established in November 2018.
The donation was handed over by SAMPA executive committee members representing the association at a gathering at the University.
“Food safety requires effective regulation, capacity and transparency,” said food microbiologist and Centre director Prof Pieter Gouws. “The partnered approach of the Centre is aimed at strengthening the food safety system in South Africa, and to protect consumers.”
He hopes the Centre will increasingly play a leading role in educating consumers about food-related issues.
The Centre for Food Safety is situated within the Department of Food Science in the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University. It is the only one of its kind in the country focusing on applied food safety research. It looks into matters related to food defence and food processing.
It was founded in 2018 as a combined effort between Stellenbosch University and the food industry. Its staff provide expert opinion and academic support to the industry and conducts research into food safety matters. It also strives to use sound scientific evidence to influence food safety regulations being considered by government. Work is done in combination with industry leaders and researchers.
“Food-related diseases have a significant impact on consumer health and the viability of the food industry,” said Prof Gouws, who noted that food-related diseases and product recalls are a worldwide problem that is not unique to developing countries.
Of the Centre, he said: “As an independent entity our mandate is to work across all faculties and disciplines within the University and together with other institutes, national and international institutions of higher education, as well as public and private enterprises in South Africa and abroad.”
According to SAMPA president Andrew Cocks, it is essential for industry to support science-based research such as is being done through the Centre for Food Safety.
“Improving South Africa’s food management system through better integration and collaboration across key role players, including food manufacturers, government and academia is crucial to SAMPA,” he noted.
SAMPA vice-chair Arnold Prinsloo expressed thanks to the University and Prof Gouws in particular for the invaluable help and expert knowledge provided to the industry during the recent listeriosis outbreak.
“It showed us that we need more interaction between industry and researchers. We need to make sure it does not happen again,” added Cocks. “Food safety is a generic issue, and not only limited to one company or one factory. If we do it right, it’s better for the whole industry.”
SU vice-chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers thanked SAMPA for its support towards the Centre, and reiterated the importance of industries and universities working together in support of the public good.
“Knowledge production and application in the 21st century is characterised by convergence, cooperation, collaboration. Universities need input from industry to ensure that our research and our output of graduates meet the real-world needs out there,” he said.