Certification, part of the Food Safety Culture

  • For the 3rd party certification and assurance industry, the GFSI and the Global Food Safety Conference (GFSC) are a sector specific example of how independent assurance can protect brand reputation.

Last week’s GFSC placed the role of 3rd party certification at the centre of the food supply chain. The conference, under the “Developing a Food Safety Culture”, openly and honestly discussed the role of management systems implementation and assessment. It started on the morning of day one, with Catherine Francois, Director of GFSI Food Programmes, communicating the results of the GFSC delegate survey. The single most important issue for delegates of the event was auditor competency.

Throughout the event, there were case studies and examples cited of certification helping and hurting organisations and their supply chain. The value of independent assessment was praised and questioned throughout the event. Those are the discussions that LRQA welcomes. We believe that certification bodies need to be transparent, clearly add value to the organisations they assess and, above all, provide confidence to stakeholders that independent assessment can help ensure confidence in the systems and processes that companies have in place to run their business. To be able to do that effectively and efficiently, auditors need to understand the business they are assessing. Put simply, if an auditor is assessing a meat factory, that individual should have the knowledge and/or experience in the meat industry. It is not enough for that auditor to have worked in some other part of the food supply chain. We understand that this presents certification bodies with a resource dilemma. There are only so many auditors with experience in each of the sub-industries that make up the food supply chain. But, we believe it is essential to have sector-specific auditors, ones with enough training (both before they start assessing and, equally as important, once they are out in the field delivering audits).

Overall, the majority of delegates agreed that in order to develop a successful food safety culture, independent, robust assessment will have to be present. When the costs of failure in the food supply chain are measured in lives, money and brand reputation, the cost of 3rd party certification is put into perspective. The global brands, including retailers and manufacturers are taking the necessary steps to drive a food safety culture; internally through looking at their own corporate culture, externally by working with their supply chain to improve transparency, effectiveness and efficiency and through their relationships with suppliers, including certification bodies.

That is good news for anyone involved in the food supply chain, in other words, all of us!

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