FSSC 22000 Providing Strong Alternative for Food Packaging

By Leah Roberts 

The announcement that FSSC 22000 has recently awarded its 10,000th certificate marks a milestone in the organization’s five-year history: it now boasts more than 100 licensed certification bodies around the world and there is an increasing demand for its stamp of certification throughout the global food supply chain. 

At the same time, many food producers have become increasingly focused on using packaging suppliers that comply with global standards and who are also implementing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program to fulfill certification requirements and gain access to large retailers.

FSSC 22000 has issued 1200 certificates to food packaging manufacturers since the organization added a new scope for the production of food packaging materials, making it a fast-growing GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) benchmarked food safety certification scheme. FSSC 22000 is a Food Safety Management System Certification scheme based on ISO 22000 international standards and ISO TS 22002-4 for packaging (previously PAS 223). In 2013, the ISO TS 22002-4 document was added to provide the requirements for Prerequisite Programs that apply directly to the food packaging industry.  The scheme is owned by the Foundation for Food Safety Certification who, as a nonprofit organization facilitates and owns the scheme and manages its copyright with license agreements. The actual responsibility and authority for the content of the scheme and the delivered certification audits is the Board of Stakeholders, represented by the relevant stakeholders of the food supply chain.

Certification is aimed at manufacturers of packaging materials made of glass, paper and board, plastic and metal that comes into direct contact with food.

This is reassuring to those who follow these issues: packaging is becoming increasingly important to customers and consumers who want to know about its potential effects on human health and the environment. FSSC 22000 is designed for manufacturers who supply their products to major food retailers…and it provides a single, internationally recognized Food Safety Management System (FSMS). Each government regulates food packaging materials differently, so food companies must be aware of the legal regulations in each country, and establish food safety management systems to help them achieve compliance.

Each of the four GFSI-approved packaging standards currently in existence require packaging manufacturers to demonstrate that they have a food safety management system in place and prove that they have conducted an risk analysis aligned with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles.

“All four have a similar set of criteria for packaging manufacturers,” Nancy MacLeod Grove, Senior Regulatory Specialist at Dicentra explains. “In my experience, in Canada, the majority of packaging manufacturers favor SQF and FSSC22000, as these are the GFSI schemes most used by their food customers.”

Dicentra provides packaging, food safety and compliance-related expertise and guidance for food companies through the efforts of the organization’s toxicologists, microbiologists, former government officials, food safety experts, engineers and regulatory specialists.

“FSSC 22000 easily integrates with the packaging manufacturers existing management systems, such as Quality Management System and Environment Management System,” says MacLeod Grove.

As part of the ongoing certification process, packaging manufacturers using the FSSC 22000 scheme are required to demonstrate that they have knowledge of all regulations affecting the product in the destination country. This involves demonstrating how the regulations will be met for each product produced and sold to the international site, as well as maintaining procedures and actively documenting this process using links and references to all relevant international regulations. 

“(FSSC 22000) promotes continuous improvement in food safety as well as legal compliance… Of course another major benefit of this system is its wide acceptance in the European Cooperation for Accreditation,” says MacLeod Grove.[N1] 

The FSSC 22000 standard has at its heart the principle of continual improvement as well as regulatory compliance.  This effectively delivers a management system that is not just robust and comprehensive but one that also delivers a framework for maintaining the safety of the food product being packaged.

The scheme is recognized by the European Cooperation for Accreditation and ANAB (ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board) which means that the various certification bodies that deliver the scheme must be accredited in order to do so.  Accreditation is important to ensure the standard is applied and regulated in a consistent fashion wherever the audit is being undertaken.

Canada recently passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act as a key step in aligning the country’s food safety system with international trading partners, including the US, which released the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011.

“It will eventually become mandatory under the new FSMA and Safe Foods for Canadians regulations to confirm traceability when non conformances or recalls occur,” says MacLeod Grove.

And packaging companies will be expected to prove their food safety compliance since their product will inevitably affect the quality of the finished product.

 “Companies that are already certified to a GFSI standard, such as FSSC 22000, will clearly have a much easier time of meeting and probably exceeding the mandatory requirements,” MacLeod Grove notes.

About the Author

Leah Roberts is an Ontario-based writer and digital marketing expert with a keen interest in food safety and sustainability practices.

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