On the grower side, there’s an increased interest in monitoring to corporate social responsibility standards, Edwards adds. “While there are modules within some of the GFSI standards to address these issues, we do not have evidence that the industry is willing to back these ‘add-ons’ to replace their well-developed corporate standards,” he says.
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“Corporate social responsibility is increasingly more important to food buyers,” Edwards says. “They recognize their dual role now in support of both ethical treatment of workers, as well as food safety-related challenges with livestock and produce. It’s not just farms in China that are being scrutinized, but farms in North and South America as well. Suppliers and buyers need to be aware of that and scrutinize management practices so they don’t get into the press for unethical practices.”
Optimum facility security is an additional priority to buyers, Edwards says. So is information technology. “Retailers want to know how to use database management to gather information, evaluate their supply chain, and reduce brand risk.” Edwards is quick to emphasize that a fully integrated quality system includes audit results, product quality test results, and product inspection.
“In order for your manufacturing processes to meet these global standards, it’s vital to integrate control points to minimize the risk of product contamination from physical, biological, or chemical hazards,” Edwards says. “To that end, suppliers should also construct control points into their security measures and make them transparent to future buyers. Major brands as well as retailers have expressed greater interest in their suppliers’ ability to account for traceability from the ingredient level all the way up the production ladder to the grocery store shelf.”
“It’s inevitable that certification will one day become a ‘must have’ if you are a food processor in the United States, as more and more members of the U.S. food buying community require it,” Chestnut says. “At this point, the industry still knows very little about what certification is.”
The current challenge in the food industry is to balance the risks in universal acceptance of the uniform quality standards represented by GFSI, Edwards says. “The food chain is so dynamic now,” he says. “For cost control and supply chain efficiency, we need more reliance on GFSI.”
Leake is a food safety consultant and writer based in Wilmington, N.C. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 799-4881.