The Importance of Food Safety Certification

Food safety certification is a third-party verification that products, processes or systems in the food supply chain meet accepted food safety standards. It is distinct from other systems of proof of conformity such as supplier declarations, laboratory test reports or inspection body reports. Food safety certification is based on the results of tests, inspections and audits and gives confidence to the consumer because an organization’s products and/or system are being thoroughly evaluated against accepted national and international industry standards by a competent third body.

food-safety-certificationProduct certification attests that a food product complies with the safety, fitness for use and/or interchangeability characteristics defined in standards, and in specifications supplementary to standards, where they are requested by the market.

Organizational certification demonstrates that, for example, a food manufacturer’s quality, environmental or other management system has conformed to the relevant management system standards. Standards for management systems apply to the processes that an organization employs to make its products or deliver its services rather than to the actual products or services themselves.

When there are no legal requirements for a food sector business to conform to standards, food safety certification is voluntary. In these cases, a company may have its own reasons for seeking certification of conformity to a given standard, such as an internal product requirement, or the desire to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace since food safety certification can represent a sign of food quality and safety to consumers.

Why do Businesses Want or Need Food Safety Certification?

Food safety certification conveys to consumers and the marketplace, as well as to employees and key stakeholders, that a food sector business has successfully met the requirements of a national or internationally recognized best practice approach. Certification by an objective third party can be invaluable to any business as it signifies good governance and corporate responsibility.

With heightened awareness stemming from recent high profile food recalls, consumers are demanding an increase in food safety standards throughout the global supply chain. Those businesses which become certified to a particular food safety scheme will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Benefits of a Certified Food Safety Management System

Food safety standards are becoming a common requirement for doing business throughout the food supply chain. Some of the benefits of a fully certified food safety management system include:

Consistency: A well-implemented food safety management system can help businesses consistently produce safe, quality food that meets specification.

Due diligence: A food safety management system helps demonstrate that management is meeting its legal responsibilities in relation to food safety legislation and regulation and is doing so effectively. The laws in some countries allow an effective HACCP plan plan as a defence in a court case of food poisoning or food contamination.

Consultation: A systematic approach to processes ensures that employees and other stakeholders are involved in the business and are aware of food safety concerns before they become larger problems.

Liability: Some insurance companies will not insure food businesses that do not have HACCP programs. 

Cost efficiencies:A well-functioning food safety management system will deliver long-term cost efficiencies by helping busiensses diminish their risk of contamination and waster through costly food recalls.

Industry-Specific Certifications

Within the global food and beverage industry, food growers, manufacturers/processors, import/exporters, distributors, retailers, and packagers, are expected to adhere and be certified to food standards designed to ensure products are safe for consumption.

There are specific food safety standards for everything from the safe production and storage of fresh fruits and vegetables to packaging materials that have direct or incidental contact with food and beverage products.

Different food stakeholders, including many associations (i.e. packaging, horticultural), offer food safety standards and certification systems that comply with a country’s national standards and are harmonized with the international protocols of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Why You May Need More Than One Certification

In some cases you may be required to be certified to more than one standard because the food industry around the world is not standardized, governments in some countries may require you to have a specific certification (e.g. Germany IFS) and some retailers or manufacturers may demand another. In China, for example, the government sets their own standards but in order to export their products they might also need to meet other international standards that are acceptable to country of export or a retailer is asking their suppliers to be certified to a specific scheme i.e. BRC, HACCP, or SQF. Being certified to one of the food safety schemes under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) should help reduce a businesses overall costs and duplication because these standards are increasingly being recognized and accepted by governments and retailers worldwide.

Certification to an industry specific standard i.e. PacSecure, in addition to HACCP or other certification, can also give a company a competitive advantage in its particular sector. For instance, a sustainable packaging company would seek PacSecure certification to demonstrate that its products were safe from contamination or leeching. If a company is not certified it does not mean that its products are not safe or sustainable, but third party validation gives businesses and consumers confidence in a company’s products providing a competitive edge from a business that is non-certified.

Global Certification Versus National and Industry Specific Certification

The decision to seek global versus national and/or industry specific certification is dependent on where/with whom a company is doing business and what standards are expected or required. A global certification may eliminate the need for duplicate audits by different certification bodies. This would offer an immediate cost saving benefit. If a small company is only doing business locally/nationally, it might only consider CanadaGap or HACCP certification.

A registrar or a food safety consultant can help guide a business in the right direction by doing a “gap-analysis” to identify areas for improvement within a company’s operation(s) and to determine what type of certification would be most beneficial.

Food safety certification is a third-party verification that products, processes or systems in the food supply chain meet accepted food safety standards. It is distinct from other systems of proof of conformity such as supplier declarations, laboratory test reports or inspection body reports. Food safety certification is based on the results of tests, inspections and audits and gives confidence to the consumer because an organization’s products and/or systems are being thoroughly evaluated against accepted national and international industry standards by a competent and independent third-party.

Product certification attests that a food product complies with the safety, fitness for use and/or interchangeability characteristics defined in standards, and in specifications supplementary to standards, where they are requested by the market.

Organizational certification demonstrates that, for example, a food manufacturer’s quality, environmental or other management system has conformed to the relevant management system standards. Standards for food safety management systems apply to the processes that an organization employs to make its products or deliver its services rather than to the actual products or services themselves.

When there are no legal requirements for a food sector business to conform to standards, certification is voluntary. In these cases, a company may have its own reasons for seeking certification of conformity to a given standard, such as an internal product requirement, or the desire to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace since certification represents a sign of food quality and safety to consumers.

 

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