ISO 22000 provides a number of advantages to food processors wishing to improve their food safety management system. The system approach of the standard, with its compatibility to ISO 9001 would be a great advantage. In addition, the ISO 22000 was written to try and alleviate the myriad of different audit program requirements by buyers that are currently present.
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The benefit of ISO 22000 is that it is designed specifically to address CODEX requirements and it is specific to the food industry. Firms adopting the standard would now be on an even playing field with many other firms across international lines. Further, buyers could be assured, with proper outside auditing, that products from these firms would meet their food safety needs. As the standard was written in similar terms to that of ISO 9001, implementation within the HACCP QMP would be nearly seamless. These firms already have most of the elements covered with just a few changes. Therefore, there would be no effect on the audit frequency as concerned the industry previously. But to be most effective in positioning firms in the Seafood Inspection Program internationally, ISO 22000 would have to be adopted in all approved facilities, not just those in the HACCP Quality Management Program.
Adopting ISO 22000 as the standard of the Seafood Inspection Program brought up the same concerns. Although the frequency of audits would not be an issue, the same concern on increased paperwork was initially raised. ISO 22000 was drafted so that minimum documentation would be required. It is anticipated that little additional procedures would be required of program participants. But firms in the program were not accustomed to the controls described in the increased focus on management commitment being of foremost concern. An unnecessary focus on prerequisite programs was also highlighted as possible.
The decision to implement ISO 22000 in all approved facilities in the Seafood Inspection Program was made in January 2006. The rating criteria and supporting documentation was finalized by May 2006. It was determined that again a series of meetings with industry and agency personnel would enhance the change. However, there were some differences in implementation. First, meetings were held with an agency personnel focus group. This led to valuable information regarding acceptance of the changes as it was determined agency personnel fully supported the new standard. This was much different than with the adoption of ISO 9001. Also, it was decided that those program participants located outside the United States would be required to implement the changes earlier than domestic firms. The standard is international in scope and many of the firms outside of the United States needed its implementation sooner rather than later.
The first plants outside of the United States have already been assessed to the standard and it was found that the additional procedures and documentation were highly minimal due to the current requirements of the Seafood Inspection Program. Therefore, a deadline has been established for overseas commencement of the new requirement of October 1, 2006 and domestic commencement on January 1, 2007. Again, the participants will be given assistance in process development and templates for all required forms and procedures will be provided to ease the burden. Full implementation will be required within 18 months of commencement. The early results indicate high support by agency personnel and industry for the standard. With little change in the firm’s system required, successful implementation is expected.
Steven Wilson is chief quality officer of the Seafood Inspection Program under the United States Department of Commerce. He can be reached at 301-713-2355 or Steven.Wilson@noaa.gov.