Verification, Validation Key to Helping Food Companies Comply with GFSI Standards

Today’s customer is more informed than ever. Whether shopping for groceries, serving as a retail store manager, or placing an order at a restaurant, people want to know about and trust the companies they buy from and learn about the ingredients, production, and quality of the food they consume.

This consumer concern, which is not limited to one particular group or geography, can make or break the financial success, public image, and popularity of a business or food product overnight. Companies now have an obligation to inform consumers about how their food products are made.

With this obligation for transparency comes the need to peel back the curtain on food safety. While consumers’ desire for knowledge about the makeup of their meals grows, so does their need to be reassured about food safety measures that are implemented across the entire supply chain—from the retailer to the manufacturer and processor—and all the way back to the farm itself.

Tracing food back to the farm or factory source will typically cross county or state lines–even national borders and oceans. According to FDA figures, the U.S. imported $49 billion worth of food in 2011 from nations such as China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Brazil.

The amount of food imported into the U.S. continues to grow as Americans consume more products not locally available or not grown in abundance to meet demand. Additionally, cheaper labor costs overseas often mean less expensive fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and red meat from other countries than the same food grown on local farms.

Because of the ever-growing sourcing of food from overseas in an increasingly complex world, certification and inspection across global markets is essential to ensure that this international sourcing—and the entire supply chain for that matter—is protected and operationally efficient on all fronts.

Success in today’s food supply industry requires an unwavering commitment to food safety—a significant challenge for most companies, especially those that are global and with worldwide operations serving tens of thousands of customers.

Keystone Foods, for example, is a leading global supplier of protein products and a customized food-service distributor serving more than 35,000 quick-service restaurants, major food service and industrial companies, and retail outlets around the world. The company needed to obtain certification to a GFSI standard for all seven U.S. Proteins division facilities within a 12-month period. In order to achieve this goal and meet the company’s aggressive timelines and certification expectations, Keystone hired TÜV SÜD America, a testing, inspection, and certification organization, to meet its certification goals.

The amount of food imported into the U.S. continues to grow as Americans consume more products not locally available or not grown in abundance to meet demand.

International certification bodies can provide this peace of mind and reassurance for manufacturers’ food safety measures on a global scale and create a unique partnership between a certification body and the business. Along with helping to solve food safety issues, a third-party certification body brings tremendous business value and outside expertise, helping the business apply strict and regular processes throughout the supply chain.

Two of these key processes are verification and validation. Verification and validation are independent of one another but are used in combination to set up a system of checks and balances for a product, service, or system.

While verification and validation share some similarities, there is a key difference between the two practices: Validation is ensuring that what you say you do to reduce risk to an acceptable level is achieving the intended result, while verification confirms that you have done what you have said you will do and that you have achieved the desired result.

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