As it is now, the sanitation performance standards (SPS) allow the inspector to point these items out and for the plant to address facilities and other items. On the other hand, ISO would make plants more accountable in terms of looking after their own facilities. The economic issue comes into play, but from a regulatory standpoint this is a necessary consideration in reducing or eliminating unsanitary conditions. Unsanitary conditions are those that promote the presence of biofilms and of opportunistic bacteria. Unsanitary conditions are the battleground of SPS regulations at the moment. ISO would be a tremendous help in making the SPS more effective. Social issues are intangible issues, involving cultural, global, religious, and diversity issues. How will people of certain cultures feel about the use of ISO along with HACCP? Is this infringing upon anyone’s privacy? Does it interfere with the practicing of religion? What about the production of foods from various cultures? Actually what would be done would be to incorporate those production modes into HACCP and ISO, depending upon whether the issues are food safety or quality. Regardless of culture, foods need to be produced safely and sanitarily.
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There are of course custom establishments, which are exempt from some aspects of inspection. But establishments are all required to be under the federal regulations governing HACCP, and if ISO is employed establishments will be required to employ ISO as well. Will it be offensive to any culture, religious or other grouping? These are all considerations that establishments will be made more accountable under ISO. Geo-political issues are those that determine the relationship of one country to another. How will this combination affect the U.S. relationship with Mexico, Aruba, Canada, England, Nairobi, etc.? Will we require exporting countries to employ ISO? Do exporting countries already have ISO in place? We do require of Mexico for example to have HACCP in place in their establishments. 11 If the government comes to adopt the use of ISO and HACCP together, will this be required in other countries? It would probably be easier in other countries, as many look to ISO to help them improve their quality control programs and have added HACCP to further help promote food safety. Companies in other countries use ISO and others want to use ISO in order to help them increase quality prior to the use of HACCP, so that both food safety and quality will be in place.
According to Christina Bedillion of NSF Systems, most companies in the U.S. are not interested in ISO because they believe their own quality system is sufficient for maintaining compliance with the regulation. On the other hand, foreign countries that export from various U.S. companies may require exporting companies to have ISO certification, since U.S. requires companies in other countries to have HACCP in place. It may boil down to a political issue, but it actually is for the benefit of the US that ISO be combined with HACCP.
Lydia Guillot is a veterinary medical officer/public health veterinarian for USDA. Reach her at LGuil42909@aol.com.