On the last day of the Global Food Safety Conference, a lot is happening. Cor Groenveld, LRQA’s global food safety expert, gave an interesting breakfast presentation this morning (at 7:45!). The turnout was good, with the room full. The Q and A session was lively, with time being our enemy, as we had to end the Q and A session to allow for the next meeting to get set up. After the presentation, we got our LRQA Food Round Table members together and had a quick recap chat about what has taken place here in London over the last three days. Cor was joined by John Roberts from our UK office, Anders Nilsson from our office in Sweden and Vel Pillay, our Americas food safety expert. Here is a recap of that discussion, starting with Cor’s thoughts:
Today is the final day of the Global Food Safety Initiative Conference here in London and I must say it is the tenth conference and is one of the best I ever attended. There are several topics covered in this conference and one of them is the quality of the auditor. You can have the best management system in the world, you can have the best standards in the world, but when the quality and the integrity of the audit is not at the right level you have a problem. With LRQA we are investing a lot of time and money in the quality of our auditors. It starts with getting new auditors on board. If you look at food safety an auditor needs to have sector knowledge. You cannot use someone coming from university without working experience to do an audit. You also cannot use someone who worked his whole life in the bakery sector to do an audit in the meat industry. So the sector knowledge is one of the first key issues that we look at. The second one is then training in audit skills and audit experience. It can take up to three months within LRQA before an auditor can do audits on his own. We have a training programme where an auditor goes together with supervisors in the field to learn the job. The audit skills are very important. And last but not least, continuous development. We make sure that we have harmonisation sessions. We also make sure that we do reviews. We do monitoring of our auditors in the field and that is how we try to make sure that they are also developing continuously.
The learning points I have picked up from this conference from a UK perspective is particularly the momentum behind the FSSC22000 scheme. It is clear that the major manufacturers and even at this conference two retailers are promoting the scheme down their supply chain. In the UK there has always been the dilemma of the strength of the BRC scheme and it will be interesting to see how that develops in the future but from a global perspective and I am sure at some point that this will have an inference on the UK, the FSSC22000 schemes will gather strength, will gather pace and particularly with their development into the other sectors like packaging and animal food.
If I can just to add to that for me the part that I feel has been covered very well, it has been a learning experience as well as an eye opener is the food safety culture. I have learned what is a food safety culture, how to assess your food safety culture and I think this is going to be one of the most important areas. To me, GFSI has really raised the bar in this conference about food safety and we have also heard a lot from multinationals talking about the implementation process and integration of a food safety culture within their organisation.
Yes, I think that is a good point. We have not been on a food safety conference I think it is important to remember that the consumer expects more than food safety. The consumer expects quality, environmental issues, social accountability all to be discussed and included. So we have to work for a combined approach where we integrate not only food safety but other aspects and help our clients to build a management system that supports the needs of the end consumer because that is what it is all about to get customers and clients that are satisfied.
As you can see, a lot was discussed over the last three days. The LRQA Food Round Table had a good conference. The role of certification and auditors was a central point of discussion throughout the event. We welcome those discussions, as we are an organisation who puts our people and their skills at the centre of what we are about and at the heart of our services that we deliver to our clients.
You can find out more about LRQA's food month activities at www.food.lrqa.com
Read the previous blog and listen to the 'food month' podcasts