Mark Flanagan, Founder and CEO of Manchester-based Shield Safety Group, has been recognised for his pioneering, landmark achievements in developing and implementing food safety standards to support the hospitality, leisure and retail industries, and their customers.
He has been shortlisted for the national title of ‘Food Defender of the Year’ in this year’s Apples awards which ‘honour individuals and companies who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and integrity within the food industry’.
The organisers commended Mark by stating: “Your exceptional achievements and contributions in the industry have truly stood out, and we believe you deserve this recognition for your dedication to excellence, innovation, and responsible development.”
Mark, will now join other finalists in celebrating their vast achievements at the prestigious awards evening in London on 17 October at the Food Integrity Global event.
As many leaders have testified, Mark, is “a world class environmental health leader,” who “has single-handedly driven huge change,” and “clearly stands out, both as an innovator and entrepreneur.” A former environmental health officer (EHO), Mark went “from EHO to CEO”, founding Shield Safety Group in 2003, which is now the United Kingdom’s largest employer of environmental health practitioners (EHPs).
Mark’s passionate about all aspects of environmental health and safety has been driving force to challenge the status quo and bring about major improvements in rationalising the systems and paperwork, improving protection for their clients and reducing the massive burden faced by their clients.
The Manchester based CEO has grown Shield Safety to a workforce of 123 full-time employees and £8 million turnover business, with clients across the UK/Europe, including the UK’s number one retailer, Tesco.
He personally developed Shield Safety’s award-winning safety software RiskProof, boasting international presence and global reach, and perhaps the greatest symbol of Mark’s commitment to food and health and safety is Safe to Trade – the pioneering food safety standard he personally developed and funded. Safe to Trade is a clear, comprehensive, assured standard. It’s the first voluntary, third-party assurance scheme for the hospitality sector, designed to protect and care for the public. A standard that leads and directs the sector, devised in collaboration with leading food business operators and local regulators, and implemented by highly trained independent teams of assessors. The initiative builds on the requirements of the Food Standards Agencies Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and includes additional essential standards such as allergen safety, labelling and front-of-house operations, all of which will help enhance the hospitality experience for guests.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark “made a difference on a UK-wide scale at a time of global uncertainty, panic and nervousness”, with Safe to Trade – bringing protection and confidence to food business operators, employees and customers alike. The original pilot of Safe to Trade, was developed at great speed, then brought stability to a wounded hospitality sector – at a time of mass uncertainty, during which society’s hygiene and safety fears were at an all-time high.
His zeal and entrepreneurial drive came into play with the launch of the early version of Safe to Trade, which was launched within weeks of the first COVID-19 lockdown, in spring 2020. Mark was driven by the compulsion and challenge to make a difference in supporting the hospitality and retail industry in their time of need, and acted with speed and precision.
John Barnes, Ex Senior Civil Servant at the Food Standards Agency, says: “I have got to know Mark well in the last 10 years, working closely with him and his company on a number of initiatives in the hospitality sector. Before that, I knew of Mark, his growing business activities and met him at professional events in my role as Head of Local Delivery at the Food Standards Agency. Given the duration and depth of our connection, alongside my industry experience, I can say with great confidence that Mark is an exemplar in the regulatory compliance area.
“Mark is an innovator, risk taker and moderniser, which sets him apart from most others in his field. He has been instrumental in introducing a range of award winning, digital solutions to support regulatory compliance in food safety, fire safety and health and safety in the hospitality sector. His innovative products and services have helped hospitality businesses improve customer and staff safety. His focus on providing simple digital solutions to reduce business regulatory burdens has
required significant time, investment and risk on his part but the better support and protection it provides is why his company has grown and is seen as a market leader.”
The company, which saw sales of £8.86 million in 2022, has grown significantly since its formation in 2003, thanks to its trail blazing, highly innovative approach, led by Mark and his senior team.
Mark comments: “Once again I feel extremely honoured to be presented with such esteemed industry recognition, by this highly coveted awards programme. I see it as my duty to help deliver a more sustainable future for the hospitality industry, and with the full rollout of Safe to Trade now in progress, myself and my team are excited by the prospect of delivering even greater impact, and protecting, millions of people across the United Kingdom.”