Producers and suppliers in the food chain are being confronted with an increasing number of food safety standards, such as HACCP, British Retail Consortium (BRC) food and packaging, International Food Standard (IFS), EUREPGAP and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). There are also broader initiatives such as the Global Food Safety Initiative of the European Retailers. Many organisations need to be certified to several of these standards. However, this can lead to unnecessary costs and duplication of effort.
All these measures have not yet led to the harmonisation that everyone is waiting for. A large number of supermarkets still require certification against a specific standard, such as BRC or IFS, and will not accept any of the alternative approved standards.
The current EU Legislation (1995) states that Food Business must carry out a hazard analysis. However it makes no reference to physical traceability i.e. writing the results down. Therefore in replacing the current EC Directive 93/43 the new EU Directive EC No 852/2004 comes into effect on the 1st January 2006 requiring all Food Business operators to have in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure/s based on the HACCP principles to include corrective action procedures where critical point events fall out of their limits.
The new legislation is needed to modernise, consolidate and simplify EU food hygiene legislation. It is intended to apply effective and proportionate controls throughout the food chain, from farm to fork.
Along side this legislation the British Standards Institute are developing a new standard, ISO 22000, to offer a good solution the problems highlighted. However, the acceptance of the stakeholders in the food chain and the will to use it as a basis to control food safety throughout the whole chain is a condition for success.
The important advantage of ISO 22000 is that it will be possible to use it throughout the chain. It will be internationally accepted and cover almost all of the requirements of retailer standards. The most important difference with standards like BRC and IFS is that ISO 22000 will not have a detailed list of requirements for good practices. But, being realistic, it is impossible to make a list that covers all such requirements for all organisations and all situations. However, ISO 22000 will require the implementation of good practices and expects organisations to define the practices that are appropriate to them. And, as a result, the standard makes references to several internationally recognised codes of practice relating to the Codex Alimentarius.
If the chain stakeholders, such as supermarkets, accept ISO 22000 as a basis for the implementation of management system requirements and need only a limited number of additional requirements, the large overlap between standards and certification assessments will disappear. And this will surely be of benefit to the food industry.