Food Safety Globally Harmonizes Management Systems

Risks arising from an improperly designed, implemented, and maintained food safety system can have financially crippling effects, from brand damage, decreased consumer confidence, product recalls, illness, death, and legal ramifications. And, with globalization and an increase in supplies from emerging countries, the likelihood of these risks grows and the processes to manage them effectively become more complex. An additional element in this struggle is the varying acceptance of food safety standards and certification, which vary from market to market. In an ideal world, everyone would accept one food safety certificate. Unfortunately, the multitude of methods available around the world presents a bewildering array of options that could potentially distract from their core objective: to improve food safety.

Consequently, there has been a growing interest in an independently verified, process-based, global food safety management standard. Many of the early schemes and standards developed were either regionally specific or only considered food safety risks within certain portions of the food sector and its supply chain. But the latest development, a harmonized scheme through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22000 and PAS 220, will deliver substantial benefits, not only to consumers, but also to food manufacturers, their supply chains, and retailers alike.

A Brief History

In 2005, the ISO published ISO 22000, the first globally recognized food safety management systems standard that would consider food safety risks and impacts across the entire food supply chain. Naturally, this was hailed as a great step forward.

Following the publication of ISO 22000, however, food safety specialists from the food manufacturing sector found that the prerequisite programs (PRPs) of the ISO 22000 standard were not prescriptive enough and did not fulfill the expectations and requirements of food manufacturing stakeholders in particular.

In an effort to harmonize the prerequisite programs, realize further acceptance of ISO 22000, and fulfill additional expectations and requirements of food manufacturing stakeholders, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries (CIAA) of the European Union sponsored the development of PRPs that would take into account the specific requirements of the manufacturing stakeholders. The resulting PRPs formed the basis of a new publicly available specification (PAS), 220:2008, published in October 2008 by the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Although the key elements of ISO 22000 include interactive communication, system management, PRPs, and HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) principles, sub-clause 7.2.3 of ISO 22000, which lists the areas the organization should consider in developing the PRPs, does not detail the specific requirements sufficiently.

To ensure the critical components of PRPs for food manufacturing processes would be specifically defined and that aspects considered important in controlling hazards would be included within the manufacturing process, drafting of the PRPs was undertaken by representatives from some of the world’s major food companies.

These included Kraft, Danone, Nestle, Unilever, General Mills, and McDonald’s. The companies worked with experts from the United Kingdom’s Food and Drink Federation and the CIAA and received input from a wide range of manufacturers’ representatives, retailers, and certification bodies, including Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) to draft the PRPs. This cooperative effort resulted in PAS 220:2008, a specification that is applicable to all manufacturing and food handling organizations, regardless of size or complexity.

A Unique Standard

According to Steve Mould, technical author of PAS 220 and worldwide quality chain management systems program manager at Kraft Foods, PAS 220 provides a common set of PRPs that can be used by any food manufacturer wanting to establish an ISO 22000 certified food safety management system. “What sets this standard apart from others is the wide consultation and public reviews that were conducted by BSI during its development,” he said. “This is a standard that the industry has created by working together.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *