Food safety - in everyone’s interests

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Courtesy of IMSM Ltd

In the UK today, there had never been such intense scrutiny of the food we eat, where it came from, how it got there, how it was packaged, prepared, cooked and presented. Everyone wants to know- the whole supply chain, the press, and especially the consumer.

Concerns for food safety, and increasingly food security, have resulted in legal action on a scale not previously seen. Recent headlines have reported tough prison sentences for directors and massive fines for businesses, both of which can, directly or indirectly, affect the whole food chain. The cost of rectifying the processes as a result of such cases can run into millions, while the loss of the production facility, or the reputation of the supplier, is harder to quantify. Every business, large or small, can be affected, whether local produce or sourced from around the world, through the processing and packaging, to final cooking and presentation.

Roderick Hogarth from International Standards experts, IMSM, explains. “It’s not as if the industry is completely unregulated- on the contrary, there are many different regulations and controls which aim to provide a framework to help the industry comply and ensure safety throughout the process. However, one of these, the international standard on food safety, ISO 22000:2005, is intended to define the requirements for companies that want to go further.”

Based on the universally recognized ISO standards, including ISO9001 (Quality Management Systems), this standard brings together the acknowledged key elements of food safety throughout the food chain. These include putting in place interactive communications, management of systems and processes, control of food safety hazards through pre-requisite programmes and HACCP plans, and continual improvement and updating of the management system. Where a business already holds ISO9001, processes are in place which can be readily integrated with ISO22000:2005.

Roderick Hogarth continues, “Wherever your business is in the global food chain, certifying to the requirements of ISO 22000 brings quantifiable benefits. Customers and suppliers, whether wholesale or retail, all recognize that holding the standard means your business has been externally audited to an international standard, and complies with the Codex HACCP principles. By a pro-active approach, planning each set of processes carefully, and ensuring they are fully documented and regularly communicated to staff, you can set up the right systems. A good assessor will have experience in the food sector, and help anticipate problems before they arise, then work with you to find the best solutions. “

As a global standard, ISO22000 provides marketing opportunities in both developed and emerging markets, and proof that your organisation is serious about food safety. Process efficiencies can lead to real cost savings, while documentation is improved, and helps with training staff. Achieving ISO22000 doesn’t need to be disruptive, either, and it can save time when completing supplier questionnaires- they know that your business works to a recognised and sustained standard.

With scores of different schemes in various countries worldwide relating to food safety and the supply chain, each providing for various levels of checks, balances and procedures, ISO22000 helps make it easier for organisations to implement a practical, management driven system for food hygiene in a harmonised way.

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