Since the Jack-in-the-Box incident in 1993, where high levels of E. coli were found in undercooked hamburgers, the buzzwords at FSIS have been HACCP and pathogen reduction. E. coli O157:H7 was the culprit, and the pathogen reduction portion of the “Final Rule” was designed to reduce or eliminate the potential hazard to the public that was posed by E. coli and other pathogens, including Salmonella and Listeria. HACCP in the USDA setting has been useful from a microbiological setting in identifying certain hazards. There are other incidents that are considered quality issues that also fall under HACCP umbrella.
Why are these items not given the weight that other categories are given, even if they are still considered HACCP? The question remains whether those items are not as important in food safety, and if not, should they be transferred to some other entity, such as ISO? Reason would dictate the need to separate those traditionally called HACCP issues into food safety and food quality, the former being true HACCP and the later being under some instrument as those standards dictated by a ISO 9000 and above.
What is the difference between HACCP and ISO? This difference is essential to understanding where food industry issues should be considered. Simply put, HACCP is a food safety system, ISO a quality system.
FAO and WHO have accepted HACCP standards for international consideration. HACCP has been widely used in Europe since 1993 as a system for food safety in the production of food. Globally, Codex has made recommendations that all participating countries implement and use HACCP as the major food safety system.
It is interesting to note that while ISO is not specifically recommended, those countries that have implemented ISO are considered to be at the forefront of food quality and safety. The use of HACCP is recommended in order to improve food safety and prevent returns and recall of products that are exported globally.
What is ISO? ISO is a non-governmental organization that is unique in that while it is independent of governments, its members do play some role there. ISO is completely separate from governments, yet many governments adopt ISO standards as part of their regulatory framework. This is probably good public relations from the standpoint of international relations and promoting ones trading with other countries.
ISO originated in 1906 with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and later was titled the International Federation of National Standardization Association. ISO has been especially useful with consumers, being involved with many processes and techniques that are designed to improve quality of process and product. ISO has also been helpful to governments, trade officials, developing councils, consumers, and for protecting environmental conditions globally.
ISO remains involved with the IEC, and has been involved with such global organizations as International Telecommunication Union (ITU), WHO, FAO, WTO, as well as World Standards Service Network (WSSN), in a rather elaborate and eloquent system of setting and maintaining standards. Standards are set in the following manner:
- Experts on the various technical committees develop standards. Laboratories and consumer associations also help with the technical committees;
- Standards are drafted by consensus of the committee;
- There is a public review by members;
- If there is a consensus among the members then the Final Draft of International Standards is then published;
- If the next vote is positive, the draft standard is then considered an official standard.
ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 are unique because they are generic, meaning that these standards can apply to any organization, large or small. ISO also involves all types of products, processes, and service, such as in business, public administration or government.