Life on the Front Lines of Food Safety: A Quality Officer’s Journey

From the bustling production floor of International Food Cooperation (IFC), Richard Shane Brigil’s gaze is unwavering.

For six years, he has been a guardian of quality for one of Papua New Guinea’s premier exporters of canned frozen tuna loins, ensuring their coveted destination: the discerning markets of the European Union.

Brigil’s world is one of meticulous standards and constant vigilance. It’s his job to make sure every aspect of production, from raw ingredients to final product, adheres to rigorous international safety regulations. While IFC has its own internal checks and balances, Brigil understands his role extends further – it’s about safeguarding public health well beyond Papua New Guinea’s shores.

That’s why a recent training program hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and supported by the EU-Sweden funded Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme,, has been transformative for Brigil.

“It has helped me understand the interconnected nature of our work within the bigger picture,” he explains. “The role of ‘Competent Authorities,’ how they fit into the global food safety framework, and what they expect from companies like ours.”

The Challenges of a Changing Industry

The tuna canning industry is a significant pillar of Papua New Guinea’s economy. However, alongside opportunities come challenges that keep Brigil on his toes. “One of the biggest hurdles is ensuring our workforce understands and consistently follows food safety protocols,” he admits.

In the Pacific islands, fostering a strong food safety culture requires a sensitive and adaptable approach to training. This goes beyond theory to include practical support for seemingly basic practices like handwashing. IFC reinforces this commitment by dedicating officers to provide guidance and support before anyone enters the cannery.

But cultural change isn’t the only challenge. Brigail also candidly discusses the need for closer understanding and alignment between his company and competent authority officers:

“It’s not about conflict but finding that balance between the company’s need to produce and the Competent Authorities’ duty to uphold broader industry standards,” he says.

A Day in the Life of Quality

Brigil’s workday is a whirlwind of preemptive measures. It begins before dawn, overseeing inspectors who carefully sanitise machinery and monitor worker hygiene.

He’s part safety enforcer, part educator, and all troubleshooter.

Delays happen – an inspector may be absent, chlorine for sanitising might run out.

“It can cause friction with production,” Brigil concedes, “but these things cannot be compromised for the sake of deadlines. Compromising food safety compromises everything.”

Training for Success in a Global Market

Brigil believes his PEUMP training has instilled a renewed sense of shared purpose between IFC and the Competent Authorities.

But his ambitions for improvement don’t stop there: “We need more of these opportunities, not just for a few of us, but for key people throughout the industry. That’s the only way Papua New Guinea will maintain its place as a reputable and trustworthy food supplier to the world.”

While days are long and often filled with obstacles, Brigil never loses sight of the bigger picture.

Every perfectly sealed can that leaves his factory carries a piece of his nation, and a whole lot of his unwavering commitment to quality.

SUVA, 23 May 2024

Media Contact:
Ernest Ta'asi
FFA Communications Officer
e: ernest.ta’[email protected]
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Find out more here: www.ffa.int

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