Americas, making Food Safety priority one

LRQA Food blog from Vel Pillay

Vel Pillay is the Food Safety Program Manager for LRQA - the Americas. He has over 15 years of experience in the food sector managing both R&D and food safety. He has also worked for the FDA, Canada. Vel is a qualified Lead Assessor and trainer for FSSC 22000. Food safety remains a critical issue in the US, with 94% of Americans saying they are “very concerned” (57%) or “somewhat concerned” (37%). Product recalls still abound as well. Last week we saw recalls on undeclared eggs in Ceasar’s salad, potential presence of Salmonella in Cilantro, undeclared almonds in ice cream and many more. According to the latest figures, 48 million Americans are affected by food borne illnesses every year, over 100,000 are hospitalised and thousands are killed. Both the Government and the food sector have realized that proactive measures are required. We are seeing an increased effort by both the Government and industry to adopt sweeping changes aimed at preventive control. The emphasis is on strengthening accountability for prevention throughout the food supply chain The enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in January 2011 is the first major legislative food safety reform in the US since 1938. Some of the highlights of the FSMA are:   The focus on prevention – Registered facilities must identify hazards and put in place effective measures to control the hazards Food importers must ensure that the food they import is safe The new system will be based on applying good science and common sense that will prevent problems that can make people sick and this will involve FDA partnering with the public and private sector FDA to establish offices in countries exporting food to the US FDA has the power to set nationwide standards and training FDA will recognize third party certification FDA has been granted the power to recall   Industry is also proactively engaged in implementing preventive measures to identify, evaluate and control hazards. The food sector in North America has recognised the value of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a foundation that benchmarks existing food safety standards against  established criteria. Most retailers and multinational food processors now require GFSI benchmarked schemes from their vendors. The multinationals are also implementing GFSI benchmarked schemes in their own facilities. Finally, processors in North America have recognised the value of process based and management system assessment. The FSSC website (the owners of the global FSSC 22000 food safety management system certification scheme) listing certified companies comprises of companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Mars, Cargill and others. Of the 210 companies listed as being certified to FSSC 22000, 26% are multinationals with headquarters in North America. At LRQA, we are seeing an increase in the interest in and certification to FSSC 22000 in the Americas. As the importance and profile of food safety continues to increase in the USA, we anticipate the focus on FSSC will grow by leaps and bounds. LRQA anticipate a 3 fold increase the number of FSSC certificates to be issued in North America in 2011 as compared to 2010. At LRQA we believe that checklist based audits are on the way out and that process based assessment is the future. Recognizing the food industry as a key area of strategic focus for us globally, we’ve invested to significantly grow our knowledge and resource base to better serve the industry and our clients. We have also been conducting free webinars to demystify FSMS, have published white papers on process based approach and FSMS. Our website contains materials that can be downloaded and used by any company that is interested in implementing an FSMS. You can find out more about LRQA's food month activities at Read Cor Groenveld's blogs from day 1, day 3 and listen to the podcasts