Safer food supply chains why assessments are great news for your business

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1 Safer food supply chains why assessments are great news for your business Article By Vel Pillay, a food safety expert for LRQA America; and Cor Groenveld, Global Food Product Manager of LRQA and chairman of the Foundation for Food Safety Certification. A revolution in the way the food manufacturing sector is regulated and assessed is ushering in a new era of food safety. A whole new approach to risk management and quality assurance is contained within FSSC Gone are the days of the tick box approach, and the single snapshot in time. Under FSSC 22000, the whole network of interacting processes will be assessed and monitored. In this article, we look at how this will change the food manufacturing sector, and how it this benefit all concerned. Because this process-based approach does not just mean safer food for consumers. It will also lead to business and performance improvements, reduced risk, better protection for corporate reputations, and lower costs. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the safety of their food supply. They're looking at what they eat and asking searching questions. They want reassurance. They are alarmed at some of the mistakes that have been made, and confidence in the integrity of food supplies is at an all time low. According to an IBM Consumer Confidence Survey, 80% of consumers do not trust their food. Not surprisingly, the large retailers and manufacturers are listening to their customers and starting to take action. Wal-Mart has already acted - insisting on Page 1 of 10 2/3/2011

2 strict new standards not only for its direct suppliers, but for their supply chains as well. And the food manufacturers are implementing robust vendor assurance programs to control their supply chain. Others are also taking action, and demanding more transparency and more consistent standards across their global supply chains. Regulators and governments may not have the resources to inspect regularly, but they do not lack teeth. They are looking for new ways to improve their surveillance, and finding it in the new global standards being developed by the industry itself. For behind the scenes, industry bodies have also been busy, working hard to create a new paradigm. We are about to enter a new era of food safety. And while the changes are likely to be slow, steady and meticulous, they also represent a revolution in the way the food manufacturing sector is regulated, assessed, and in the way it does business. Changes that benefit the entire food sector The really good news is that these changes will benefit everyone. The consumer will have increased confidence in food supplies. Regulators can use the new standards as a first point of assessment. Large retailers and food manufacturers will be able to reduce costs, improve product safety and quality while also protecting their brand and image. Further down the supply chain, manufacturers are set to reap a huge range of benefits. The new measures are set to deliver quality and food safety improvements, cost savings, and open up a whole world of potential new markets. Page 2 of 10 2/3/2011

3 For the new standards are just that - global standards. No longer will each and every large retailer have its own bespoke set of standards. In future, even the smallest suppliers will be able to offer their products to a much wider range of customers. Understanding the new approach The new approach is contained within FSSC (sometimes shortened to FS22), which applies to food and food ingredients manufacturers. It has been developed by the Foundation for Food Safety Certification and has been given full recognition by the Global Food Safety Initiative. FSSC represents a complete certification scheme for Food Safety Management Systems, and is based on ISO 22000, with additional requirements to cover prerequisite programs for food manufacturers. Additional programs designed to cover the needs of others in the supply chain, such as retailers, the feed industry and farm houses, are under development. What this means is that the food industry is now adopting risk management and quality assurance techniques which have been proven across a huge range of other sectors. Hazard control - the heart of food safety management One of the most important principles of the new approach is that of hazard control. A hazard is defined as a situation with a potential for human injury. A food safety hazard is defined as a biological, chemical or physical agent in food, or condition of food, with the potential to harm human health. Page 3 of 10 2/3/2011

4 Companies in the food industry are at various stages in their ability to control food safety hazards. Some have very robust systems in place that allow them to mitigate and manage their risks. Others are still at the stage of identifying the hazards in their processes and are more likely to pass these hazards downstream in the supply chain. To effectively eliminate potential hazards, all segments of the food supply chain need to be able to identify and mitigate risks. The proven and tested way to do this is through what is known as process-based food safety management. The process-based approach - and how it works The process-based approach is founded on fundamental quality control principles contained within the globally recognized ISO A process is defined as any activity (or set of activities) that uses resources to transform inputs into outputs. A process approach is defined as the systematic identification and management of those processes and particularly the interactions between them. This last part is crucial. One of the major flaws with other methods has been the tick-box approach. This involves looking at the different processes in isolation. The process-based approach, on the other hand, looks at how each and every process impacts on all the others. It is a network, or a web of interactions. As Mark Overland, Corporate Certification Manager at Cargill says, 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. To translate this into the day-to-day activities of life, getting ready to arrive to work on time in the morning involves a series of interrelated activities that leads to the Page 4 of 10 2/3/2011

5 output. Making coffee in the morning is one part of that process - but it has an impact on all the other processes. Make a bad cup of coffee, and it might put you in a bad mood that causes you to drive neglectfully - and you end up bumping the CEO's sports car in the parking lot. Bad morning. A systematic approach to managing a 'web' of processes FSSC 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. Analysis helps the organization establish standards for performance. This produces metrics that are used by top management to bring about improvements. 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. Large organizations will already have these in place. Smaller organizations may need to invest in management systems, but these are likely to Page 5 of 10 2/3/2011

6 prove highly cost effective, delivering efficiency improvements and cost savings throughout the organisation. Credible audit programs - the proof of the pudding Once a system of food safety management is in place, the next step is credible auditing. An internal audit program is crucial, one that assesses the process based on the system's ability to control existing and new hazards in an effective and efficient manner. External audits by third party assessors are also vital. The name of the game here is an independent validation of the effectiveness of the process which in turn restores confidence among stakeholders - from supply chain partners to consumers and regulators. Accredited, independent, third-party assessors help companies to build and maintain trust. These assessors should have a strong background in the specific food sector they are assessing, as well as an excellent understanding of process-based systems. If these requirements are met, then the audit will help deliver confidence in the organization s management of risk. Remember, regulators worldwide are now looking at the new standards, with their rigorous third party inspections, expert auditors, and independent status, and taking these into account. There could soon come a time when life is made much easier for regulators: they use the third party assessments as a reassurance that risk is contained - and they target for inspection those companies that don't have third party accreditation in place. Third party assessment - how it works Page 6 of 10 2/3/2011

7 So what should a food manufacturer expect from a third-party auditing of a process-based approach? It will be very different from the old school tick-box approach. Traditional audits were flawed: they could tell there was no salmonella in your products today - but they couldn't tell you that there wouldn't potentially be any there tomorrow. An audit of a process-based system will ensure that all aspects of interrelated processes are reviewed. Here's how it could work: this example draws on a review of the functioning of a critical control point (CCP) in a pasteurization process. The auditor carries out the following activities: Identifies all personnel involved in monitoring the CCP Reviews the procedure, instructions and work aids Ensures that the current version of the documents are available at point of use Ensures that the procedure is being adhered to Reviews the records of monitoring Reviews the verification process and competency, training and qualification of the reviewer(s) Reviews the validation of the parameters of the CCP and the scientific basis for the validation Reviews the maintenance records on all equipment for the CCP Inquires about deviations and how correction, corrective actions and preventive actions are carried out Looks at competency, skills and training of the operators handling the CCP Reviews calibration of measuring and other equipment involve in the process. Page 7 of 10 2/3/2011

8 Depending on the findings, the auditor may follow other trails such as how deviations are brought to the attention of top management and what the inputs and outputs are from top management. The method commonly used by an experienced third party assessor is observe, listen, interview and review of documents. Advantages of a process based approach The advantages of the new approach are many and wide-ranging. For consumers, regulators and buyers within the supply chain, the benefits include: Higher confidence in food, with fewer health risks Improved protection for corporate reputations and brands Lower costs Improved supply chain management Greater transparency around food standards Global standards that everyone recognizes Third party auditing eases the burden on regulators. Meanwhile, producers and providers within the supply chain also stand to benefit: Greater control over individual processes and their combination and interaction More mature business processes and a more holistic view of the whole organization A basis for continual improvement and for comparison on a global level Improved team building since problem solving involves all departments working together Improved management commitment Page 8 of 10 2/3/2011

9 Easier management of the upstream supply chain Easier identification of the organization's strengths and weaknesses Improved crisis management - ensures you have the right processes in place to spot and contain mistakes in time and better manage unforeseen or unpredictable incidences Process efficiencies leading to cost savings Single audit process leading to cost savings Benefits of benchmarking against others in the sector through the audit process Meeting global standards makes it easier to tender for new business and open up new markets worldwide. What to expect - what happens next? Expect retailers and customers further up supply chains to start moving towards the FSSC certification scheme. They will want their suppliers to meet the same standards, and may require audits. Some firms will add bespoke requirements on top to satisfy specific needs, but this will simply mean an addition of a few items to the standard. What to do? If you take the new requirements seriously, meet them and show that you meet them, you can open up new markets, find new customers, and keep those you already have. You can reduce the cost of assessments, because now there is just one standard, and you will be able to use the information gained from these process-based assessments to improve just about every area of your operations. Page 9 of 10 2/3/2011

10 It truly is a win-win situation for the entire food industry. Lower costs, improved confidence in food products, and protection for brands. We believe the successful food companies will be those that embrace the new standards and use them for commercial advantage. At LRQA, we are ideally placed to help organizations achieve this thanks to our unique risk-based methodology and approach to Business Assurance. LRQA s Business Assurance helps you manage your systems and risks to improve and protect the current and future performance of your organization. We are one of the world s leading providers of independent assurance services with a portfolio of internationally recognized clients. Our unique methodology turns assessment into a powerful management tool to improve and protect performance. By understanding what really matters to your organization and stakeholders, we help you improve your management system and your business at the same time. For more information: Visit the FSSC website at: Information on the GFSI can be found at: And for information on business assurance and third party auditing, please go to: and Follow LRQA on twitter: Page 10 of 10 2/3/2011

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