The recent food scares have led to a fundamental shift in the approach that organisations, governments and consumers are taking towards food safety. That change can only be good for all of us.
The biggest move we see in the food sector at the moment is that there’s a change from inspection audits and the product audits to a process based management system approach to auditing. What does that mean, you ask? Previously, auditing, be it 2nd or 3rd party, was an inspection, a “snapshot in time” of what a factory or organisation was doing at that exact moment (to be clear, that often meant how an organisation performed in front of an auditor that they knew was coming to visit them well in advance!). Fair to say the audit often told you how the company was doing on this Tuesday at 11:17 a.m., but could not really give you a clear picture of what was going on the next day, week or month. Instead of this, a process based management system audit reviews both the effectiveness of processes in the past and the capability of the system to meet the companies objectives and client requirements now and in the future. Next to having a good standard addressing these requirements, it is mainly the skills, knowledge and experience of the auditor that ensures the efficiency and effectiveness of the audit.
FSSC 22000 is a certification scheme that requires these process based management system audits. It is getting a lot of attention right now from global organisations looking to harmonise their food safety systems to ensure a more consistent, safer and transparent performance. The large manufacturers like Cargill, Danone, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé etc. are already using it for their own processing activities. They are now beginning to stimulate their supply chain, and their vendors to use to apply FSSC 22000 in their organisations as well. The biggest difference with FSSC22000 (the scheme is based on ISO 22000 and PAS 220) and other standards is that it is based on a risk analysis model. It is not a set of prescriptive requirements but it asks a company to do a robust analysis of their hazards and risks. This is a positive development and fits the approach of food companies towards their food safety hazards. The transition we see is that companies are building integrated management systems. And an integrated management system means that they not only cover food safety but also other risk areas like sustainability and corporate responsibility.
ISO 22000 can help them do that, as there are a lot of very specific requirements in ISO 22000 that give a company a tool to build their management system, including a robust analysis of risks and hazards and ensuring that continuous improvement is at the heart of what they are doing.
I will be at the event in London (16th February - 18th February) which is one of the biggest global food safety conferences.
You can find out more about LRQA's food month activities at www.food.lrqa.com
Read my previous blog and listen to the 'food month' podcasts