Sustainable and Organic Market Analysis & News

Food Safety Certification

The Ekobai.com market guide to food safety certification condenses all of the key information from across this broad sector. The guide presents the main food safety standards such as ISO22000, GLOBALGAP and the BRC Gold Standard, as well as outlining HACCP principles and providing an insight into problem areas, such as the Chinese food industry. The guide also features important news updates from across the food safety sector.

Overview


Most countries throughout the world have a government-connected authority to monitor food safety issues from production to sale. Such authorities advise on national legislation and deliver food safety requirements for home-produced and imported goods. Examples include the Food Standards Authority in the UK, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the State Food and Drug Administration of China.The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  conducts risk assessments on food and feed safety in close collaboration with national authorities and provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks.

The HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) guidelines published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are an integral part of the key food safety standard being developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO), ISO22000. There are seven HACCP principles which must be adhered to and these state, among other things,  that food producers must conduct a pre-production hazard analysis to identify and address biological, chemical or physical issues that make food unsafe for human consumption; establish robust safety or ‘control points’ monitoring systems; and implement comprehensive record-keeping procedures. The application of HACCP principles and procedures are mandatory in the US for food products including meat, juice and seafood, and they are generally applied elsewhere as the basis for third-party food safety certification.

Role of standards within the market


Unlike some sector-specific certifications, Food Safety certification is absolutely vital for food retail and international trade. Without it producers and suppliers cannot hope to sell their goods within the food chain or on to food retailers. There is significant business and reputational risk attached to the type, degree and source of certification and it is advisable to get certified to well-recognised standards awarded by reputable third-party certification bodies. 

In recent years, there have been a number of food safety scandals in China, not least the revelation that the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, accepted bribes in exchange for state product safety licenses – resulting in his execution in July 2007. Other scandals include that around Jinhua ham which was treated with a poisonous pesticide before sale (2003); the production of counterfeit baby formula which led to the death of around 80 babies and 100 to 200 cases of severe malnutrition (2004); and most recently in 2008, contaminated baby formula produced by the Sanlu Group led to an outbreak of kidney disease resulting in the death of six babies and the hospitalisation of tens of thousands of others.
 
The State Food and Drug Administration of China was set up in 2003 to take control of food safety issues, but has itself been the centre of controversy as outlined above. The government is currently developing new legislation to standardise food production and address illegal activity in the industry. However, internationally recognised certification is especially important for Chinese food producers and suppliers wishing to engage in trade with other regions. For details of the leading standards see below. Key standards and certification bodies are listed on the right. 

Leading standards


Launched in 2005, the ISO 22000 is already one of the best recognized international food safety standards. It outlines food safety management systems for any organization, regardless of size, involved in any aspect of the food chain. To meet the standard an organization must demonstrate its ability to effectively control food safety hazards in order to ensure that food is safe at the time of human consumption. It incorporates the HACCP principles outlined above.
 
The BRC (British Retail Consortium) Global Standard for Food Safety is trusted by leading global retailers to deliver effective supply chain management and legal compliance. The Global Standard is part of a suite of product safety standards, together enabling certification of the entire supply chain, and was the first standard in the world to be approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GSFI) benchmarking committee.

Formerly called EurepGAP, GLOBALGAP sets voluntary ‘pre-farm-gate’ standards for the certification of agricultural products and Good Agricultural Practices. Standards are awarded by approved third party certification bodies in 80 countries internationally. GLOBALGAP is a business-to-business label and is therefore not directly visible to consumers.

Other leading standards include the Food Alliance Certification and SQF Certification. Food Alliance Certification is given to North American sustainable food products which address issues such as the humane treatment of animals and the exclusion of hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, GM crops or livestock and certain pesticides as well as soil and water protection at farm/ranch level. 

SQF (Safe Quality Food) Certification is awarded by licensed certifiers globally and provides independent certification that a supplier's food safety and quality management system complies with international and domestic food safety regulations. This enables suppliers to assure their customers that food has been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain. SQF certifications have been issued to thousands of companies operating in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America.

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The Ekobai.com market guide to food safety certification condenses all of the key information from across this broad sector. The guide presents the main food safety standards such as ISO22000, GLOBALGAP and the BRC Gold Standard, as well as outlining HACCP principles and providing an insight into problem areas, such as the Chinese food industry. The guide also features important news updates from across the food safety sector.

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