Global Food Safety Standards

Most countries have measures in place to monitor food safety, implemented by centralized government agencies. Some of these include the State Food and Drug Administration of China, the The Global Food Safety Initiative was set up in 2000 in response to the request of around 30 CEOs of international retailers. It was initiated at a time when there were reports of a number of food safety scandals, including the "mad cow" BSE crisis. Since BSE was reported in a number of European countries in 2001, Australia took action to refine its food safety rules for imported beef and beef products.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was created to represent a whole range of retailers and is used globally as a framework to any business to assist the production of safe food and the selection of reliable suppliers.

Other leading Standards

GlobalGAP is a voluntary standard that is used to minimize the environmental impacts on agriculturally produced food products. GlobalGAP has support from major European retailers, PMO's and growers on a global basis. Other leading standards include the Safe Quality Food Program. The program 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.

The emergence of ISO 22000 and PAS 220:2008

Given worries about safety and the emerging standards, ISO, the international body responsible for standardization, decided to produce a safety standard covering the entire supply chain. The ISO 22000 was launched in 2005 in order to meet this requirement. ISO 22000 has become one of the most recognized global food safety standards. It lists over 60 codes of practice and guideline documents associated with the food sector. Despite this, it also has its limitations, and has often been quoted as being non user-friendly. Some have argued that the requirements it places are too high.

Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 220 is a new complementary standard to ISO 22000. It has been designed to address the technical limitations around PRPs in ISO 22000 for the food manufacturing sector. PAS 220:2008 was developed by BSI and sponsored by Danone, Kraft Foods, Nestlé and Unilever through the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA). Other stakeholders involved in the development process included representatives from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), McDonald's, General Mills Europe, and certification bodies.

FSSC 22000 is a new global food safety scheme which brings together ISO 22000 and PAS 220 certification for the food manufacturing industry. The scheme has been designed to meet the GFSI's benchmarking requirements. This new scheme has been looked upon favorably as it is believed that as companies are already used to working with ISO standards and are familiar with the risk and management systems based approach adopted by ISO 22000 and PAS 220, they may find it easier to align with these rather than with other standards. It remains to be seen if this system is effective.

Dylan Tanner is an eco-entrepreneur and writer who founded the newsletters Asia and China Environmental Reviews and has been writing about environmental and social trends within a business context for fifteen years. His latest venture is a B2B directory of responsible and sustainable suppliers.

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