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Cor Groenveld

FDA Compliance

Turning Point for Food Safety

A new certification scheme, FSSC 22000, is a major step forward in food manufacturing

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 11:43

How safe is our food? It is a question asked all over the world on a daily basis as food-scare stories fill the media and governments act to calm consumer fears. There is a real and tangible concern among the public; an IBM consumer confidence survey in 2009 found that 80 percent of those questioned do not trust the food they buy.

In truth, the food chain is almost certainly safer today than at any time in history, yet there is still much to be done. Public trust must be restored, and there is a need for more transparency across food supply chains. A large part of the problem is the number of different food safety standards around the world. Major retailers often create their own bespoke set of standards which they impose on their suppliers, creating further fragmentation.

Suppliers are left confused, wondering which standards to follow. The fragmentation only harms transparency and erodes trust. There is also a cost implication, because auditing and assessing against many schemes clearly takes more time, and this puts financial pressure on everyone in the food supply chain.

The food industry has recognized for some time that a new global standard was needed; one that could be audited consistently around the world, reduce the need for bespoke schemes, and allow smaller suppliers to offer their products to a wider range of customers. A standardized scheme would also improve the quality of audits while reducing costs.

In response to these needs, global manufacturers have been working on a harmonization project, an initiative that led to the development of Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC 22000).

A complete, standardized certification system

The new FSSC 22000 (sometimes shortened to FS22) is a complete certification scheme for food safety systems. It has been developed for food manufacturers that process or manufacture animal or perishable vegetable products, products with a long shelf life, and a range of food ingredients such as additives, vitamins, and bio-cultures.

FSSC 22000 is based on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for food safety management systems, ISO 22000, and Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 220, a standard developed to address prerequisite program requirements for food product and ingredient manufacturers. This means the food industry is now adopting risk management and quality assurance techniques which have been proven across a huge range of other sectors.

The new scheme is also credible, independent, and respected. It has been developed and is owned by the nonprofit Foundation for Food Safety Certification. The management of the scheme is with the board of stakeholders that consists of representatives of trade and industry, authorities, and other concerned parties.

All of this means that FSSC 22000 looks set to become the global standard the food industry so badly needs; and it represents a massive change to the way food safety audits are carried out.

Embracing the process-based approach

In the future, food safety audits and assessments will move toward a process-based approach. This is the proven and tested way to effectively support the elimination or control of potential hazards. A process is defined as any activity (or set of activities) that uses resources to transform inputs into outputs. A process approach is the systematic identification and management of those processes and the interactions between them. This approach is founded on fundamental quality management principles contained within the globally recognized quality management systems standard, ISO 9001.

FSSC 22000 takes a systematic approach to managing the various processes involved in any kind of food safety management system. It takes the view that making any kind of product involves a set of interrelated activities that can be broken down as follows:
Identifying requirements—the needs and expectations of customers, regulators, shareholders, and the organization itself
Product realization—the transformation of raw materials into finished products
Measurement, analysis, and improvement—measurement monitors hazards at all stages of the process.
Management responsibility—the evidence of top management commitment to the development and implementation of the food safety management and its continual improvement
Resource management—this involves personnel, work environment, and infrastructure.

A fundamental requirement of this approach is the existence of an effective management system. Most large organizations will already have this in place. Smaller organizations may need to invest in management systems, but these are likely to prove highly cost effective, delivering efficiency improvements and cost savings throughout the organization.

No longer will food safety assessments look at each process in isolation—a technique commonly known as the tick-box approach. Auditors will look at how each process affects all the others, as a network, or a web of interactions. “The process-based approach is analogous to a spider web that relies on interconnection of a systematic structure to provide flexibility and strength, preventing a catastrophic failure,” says Mark Overland, corporate certification manager at Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services.

Everyone’s a winner

This new approach offers many benefits. There is likely to be greater confidence in food, fewer health risks, improved protection for brands, lower costs, and better supply chain management. Producers will gain greater control over their processes and a more holistic view of their organization. The audits will also form the basis for continual improvement and benchmarking on a global level, while standardization will make it easier to open up new markets and sell to new customers. Streamlined third-party auditing will also help to lower costs and ease the burden on regulators.

The new approach to regulating food safety is already being widely adopted across the globe. FSSC 22000 has been given full recognition by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and is supported by the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union (CIAA). Only associated certification bodies are licensed to issue accredited FSSC 22000 certificates.

Food manufacturers throughout the global supply chain are now moving toward the new standard. The major food manufacturers with high profile brands to protect will quickly pass the requirements down through their supply chains. Some will add bespoke requirements to satisfy specific needs, but this will simply mean adding a few items to the standard.

“FSSC 22000 will play a crucial role in safeguarding food safety throughout the global supply chain,” says Fons Schmid, chairman of the board of stakeholders for FSSC 22000. “It helps ensure safe food manufacturing in all countries and has the support of the GFSI, the industry, and the many retailers who follow the GFSI’s founding mission, ‘Certified once, accepted everywhere.’”

This story originally appeared in Insight: The Lloyd's Register Group Magazine (February 2011). For more information on food safety, visit www.lrqausa.com/food.

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About The Author

Cor Groenveld’s picture

Cor Groenveld

Cor Groenveld is the global product manager for food services at Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance Ltd. (LRQA). He also serves as chairman of the board of the Foundation for Food Safety Certification, and as a representative of the Independent International Organization for Certification (IIOC) in the food safety working group of the European Accreditation Committee. He is a member of the ISO working group for food and food Safety standards (including ISO 22000), and a member of the Food Committee of the Dutch Normalization Committee (NEN). Also Groenveld is a technical committee member of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).