Quality in the Food Safety Industry

Each industry will have different interpretations of the concept of Quality and how to prioritize its tenets within their own field of practice, expertise and work experience. Perhaps the best fundamental principle is the definition of Quality given by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements where a requirement is a need or expectation.” This look at the Food Safety sector is one in a series of blogs that provides a quick look at how the concept of Quality applies in different industries.

The global food supply chain is increasingly complex – especially when it comes to addressing food safety incidents and recalls. Food moves around the world in an international marketplace, and the potential for error with catastrophic health consequences for consumers is high. Each year in the United States, 48 million people fall ill as a result of contamination and disease that can be traced back to the food they consumed.[i] Of that number, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 ultimately die. Foodsafety.gov maintains a list of recent food recalls for items with Quality problems ranging from undeclared ingredients to contamination at point of production.

There are several Quality standards in place to address food safety and prevent illness from contamination as companies build and use their own Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from 2011 gives the FDA mandatory recall power and prioritizes preventing contamination over reacting to existing incidents. The ISO 22000 family of standards provides an international benchmark set of requirements for globalized food safety management systems that encourages competition and fair trade in a globalized market. Standards in this family include ISO 22000:2005, which lists the requirements for organizations in the food supply chain – from farm to fork – and ISO 22005:2007, which lists the principles and requirements for system design and implementation for tracing feed in the food chain.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) developed by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is a global forum of 400 food retailers and manufacturers. It provides a set of food safety certifications called the GFSI Benchmark Standards, against which organizations can be certified, including the Global Red Meat Standard and the Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood Processing Standard. As part of GFSI, the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety provides a framework for managing food manufacturing, processing, and packing and includes site standards, product control, and requirements for staff training. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) program maintains a set of international standards relating to food safety control systems. SQF strives to standardize assessment standards and engages in continual improvement by incorporating regular feedback from retailers and consumers. It provides standards such as SQF Code, Safe Feed/Safe Food, Ethical Sourcing, and the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) that are designed to meet the needs of producers, retailers, and consumers.

Ultimately, these standards aim to protect humans and animals around the world from consuming food that makes them ill. Given the complexity of today’s global food supply chain, it’s critical that organizations adopt and implement these Quality Management systems, not only as a condition of doing business in the global marketplace, but to protect consumers, workers, and the natural resources we harvest to feed our communities.

[i] Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), last updated 03/06/2018, accessed March 8, 2018, https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/.

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