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SAMPA donates R1m towards SU food safety initiative

The South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA) has donated R1m to Stellenbosch University's Centre for Food Safety in support of its ongoing endeavours related to food safety research. The centre aims to support the local food industry as a whole and was established in November 2018.
A donation of R1m was handed over to the vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Prof Wim de Villiers (front row, second from left), by executive committee members of the South African Meat Processors Association. It will further the work done by the Centre for Food Safety, led by Prof Pieter Gouws (front, left). The SAMPRA members attending were (left, back row) Wesley de Jager, Bruce Smit (second from the right, back row), Alistair Hayward (right, back row), and (front) Arnold Prinsloo, Peter Gordon (chief executive officer: SAMPA), Andrew Cocks (president: SAMPA) and Melindi Wyma. With them are (back row) Prof Gunnar Sigge (chair: SU Department of Food Sciences), Prof Danie Brink (dean: SU Faculty of AgriSciences). Photo: Anton Jordaan

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.

Food defence and food processing

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.

Listeriosis outbreak

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.
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