Historically in the United States, supplier audits have been accepted as external verification that a company was producing safe food. These second party audits are conducted either by internal staff employed by retail and food service companies or by auditing firms that can conduct generic or customized food safety audits. Third party audits, backed by certification bodies and typically incorporating stringent international standards, haven’t been widely accepted or utilized in this country.
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Explore this issueAugust/September 2008
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That’s because the long-standing system has seemed to work reasonably well, so there has been no perceived need for a major overhaul, says Tom Chestnut, vice president of supply chain food safety and quality programs for NSF International, a public health auditing and testing organization in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Third party certification audits also require a degree of trust by retailers in systems that are not in their direct control, and such audits are generally more expensive,” Chestnut says. “The traditional and more customized approach allows each retailer a certain amount of individual choice and control, which is not the case with third party certification auditing.”
Despite established mindsets, a dramatic cultural evolution toward embracing third party certification audits is underway in this country. Spurring that evolution is a dynamic new retailer-driven certification program called the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), launched in May 2000 by CIES—The Food Business Forum (CIES). CIES stands for Comité International d’Entreprises à Succursales, which is French for International Committee of Food Retail Chains.
Founded in 1953 and based in Paris, with regional offices in Washington, D.C.; Tokyo; Shanghai, China; and Singapore, CIES is the only independent global food business network. It brings together the chief executive officers and senior management of some 400 retailer and manufacturer members of all sizes, representing 150 countries.
“The emergence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s forced the U.K. and European Union to look at a more harmonized approach to food safety long ago, and that eventually led to the impetus for GFSI,” Chestnut says.| | | Next → | Single Page
About Linda L. Leake, MS
Linda L. Leake, doing business as Food Safety Ink, is a food safety consultant, registered SQF contract auditor, and award-winning freelance journalist based in Wilmington, N.C. Specializing in agriculture, food, food safety, and travel, her articles have appeared in some 89 print and online publications. Along with garnering awards for her articles and photographs, she holds the prestigious Master Writer status with American Agricultural Editors’ Association. Majoring in Dairy Science, she completed a BS in Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Food Safety at Michigan State University. She’s an active member of IAFP, Toxicologists Without Borders, Inc., and the National Dairy Shrine. She’s currently enrolled in the International Development Doctoral Program at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast. Reach her at Llleake@aol.com.