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Food Safety Conformance Versus Compliance: When Is It OK to Say “NO!”?

By Joan Martino

Food Safety Conformance Versus ComplianceWhen my son entered Junior Kindergarten a few decades ago, his teacher had a conversation with me praising his high energy and then she proceeded to tell me that he was probably going to struggle within the “system.” Being somewhat of a maverick myself, I knew exactly what she was talking about, so I spent many years teaching him how to conform.

In the world of food safety, there are regulations and requirements that a business must comply with and conform to. So what is the difference? By definition: to comply, is to conduct yourself in a legal manner, adhering to an Act or Regulation. To conform usually refers to actions or behaviors that align with a Standard, a set of criteria or a procedure. In other words, “play by the rules,” whatever they maybe.

Sometimes, rules seem like laws, written in stone like the Ten Commandments. In some cases, and in the absence of clear laws or regulations, conforming to a guideline or a Standard is the best method to adopt.

The real question here is not whether to conform or comply, as both will impact operations, but rather when to say “NO” to the endless requests that we confront to change our established processes. Areas that affect food safety, quality and legality may not be neglected, ever! But finding an answer for any other issue is usually substantially more complicated.

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