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LRQA Business Assurance looks at how the Harmonisation of Standards has driven food safety across the supply chain

16th February 2012 by Cor Groenveld

I believe that the harmonisation of standards in the food supply chain is one of the most important topics within our industry. If we think back almost to 20 years ago, where the food sector started to expand the focus on food safety, we ended up with more than 100 standards for food safety management systems!

Moving to the present day, I think we are making good progress in harmonising standards and certification There are two very important initiatives helping to drive the harmonisation of standards. I think the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is one of them. They started about 10 years ago with benchmarking and reviewing food safety management standards against a set of criteria and they have now identified and approved 12 standards. It could be argued that this is still too much, but I think coming from 100 and now going to 12 that’s already a big achievement and I think the number will decrease further in the future.

The initiative from the GFSI is really helping the supply chain to have one certificate that all the retailers and all the manufacturers accept, and that is absolutely a huge benefit. On one side, it delivers harmonisation of requirements, and on the other side, to reduce the number of requirements and costs for audits and certification in the supply chain. We are not yet at the stage that mutual recognition of the GFSI recognised certificated is achieved fully, but the number of organisations accepting is growing very rapidly around the globe.

The other very good initiative is from the International Standardisation Organisation, ISO. ISO recognises that there is a need for standardisation of food safety standards, and they now have a permanent working group that started with developing ISO 22000. Now they are also developing technical specifications for prerequisite programmes in the different parts of the supply chain and we see that this meets the needs of manufacturers and other stakeholders. I think these two initiatives will help us to drive harmonisation of standards and certification

Cor Groenveld, Global Product Manager for Food Services at LRQA and Chairman of the Foundation for Food Safety Certification

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