The Value of Third Party Certification
August 31, 2017
Food borne illness lays dormant in the back of every food business operator’s mind. To keep these thoughts sleeping, third party certification can provide the solution and increase consumer confidence in today’s competitive market pace. Food businesses are consistently seeking ways to stand out. Since 2002, the World Food Safety Organisation has continued to be a leader in harmonizing the standards for food safety on a global scale. Now, with the help of Culinary Impressions, Inc. the World Food Safety Organisation’s Programs are available in the United States.
When developing a business model, food companies often have steps to take before entering into the market place. From facility design to training plans, food safety is a prime focus when building a business. Once the business is up and running, thoughts of food safety are often put on the back burner. Managers begin to assume that systems that have been in place, will continue to work without continued maintenance. When a food business contacts a third party vendor to audit and certify their operation, it offers an opportunity to fine tune existing systems and potentially start new ones.
Third party certification involves an independent outside organization that verifies the business, process or systems and meets the assessment criteria established by the organization. Outside of government action, Third party verification provides businesses the opportunity to apply certification to their products and gain customer confidence. According to Natural Products Insider, customers are demanding higher quality standards for the products they buy (https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/articles/2015/04/what-is-a-third-party-certification.aspx). All well-vetted certification is relevant in the marketplace.
There are many organizations that offer third party certification for food businesses that consumers are well area of. Retail product producers in the United States have the ability to verify that the ingredients they use in manufacturing their products is “Certified Non-GMO.” Organizations have sprung up in recent years to meet the consumer and industry demand for non-GMO products certified businesses ingredients Non-Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). “NSF launched its Non-GMO True North program in response to requests from food manufacturers, retailers, and consumers who want more options to meet the growing demand for non-GMO products, says Jaclyn Bowen, director of NSF International’s Consumer Values Verified Program” (http://non-gmoreport.com/articles/new-non-gmo-certification-programs-emerging/).
Along with Non-GMO certifications, another popular consumer trend is the verification that the foods they purchase are gluten free. One example of a third party organization certifying businesses whom meet gluten free criteria is the Gluten Free Certification Organization, part of the Gluten Intolerance Group. Their criteria includes strict compliance to limiting the gluten in products that bare their certification mark. Along with these standards, the Gluten Intolerance Group is proud to state that they set standards that exceed the requirements determined by CODEX, USA, Canada, the EU and many other countries in terms of labeling products gluten free (http://www.gfco.org/get-certified/standards/).
The growing consumer awareness of where their food comes from and how it is produced has become greater over the past decade. While the gap to fill in these consumer demands for product sourcing and ingredients, there is a need for consumers to gain confidence that the food they are purchasing comes from safe sources. A Third Party certifying agencies for food safety systems is available to help consumers gain the confidence in their purchases.
Everyday food products are begin recalled. The potential risk for food borne outbreaks is of growing concern for all facets of the food system. Since 2015, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has sent 750 scientist and doctors out into the field to investigate potential outbreaks (https://www.cdc.gov/outbreaks/index.html). From 2011-2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has investigated 575 potential food related incidents (https://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm272351.htm). These numbers are alarming. A closer look into these facts will uncover that teams have investigated 140 incidents related to FDA regulated products. 22 of these investigations by the FDA have occurred in 2016 which indicate a 14% increase over 2015. Third party certification of food system management is a powerful tool to assist the industry in reducing risk to consumers.
On average, FDA inspects less than a quarter of food facilities each year, and the number of facilities inspected has declined over time according to a report issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-08-00080.pdf). In response to reports like these published in 2010, the FDA enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act to help food facilities meet the growing necessity for increased food safety. Since this act was released in 2011, the FDA has begun many more programs to aid in the safety of food.
|Table 1: Food Facilities Inspected by FDA, FYs 2004–2008|
|FY||Number of Food Facilities Subject to FDA Inspection||Number of Food Facilities Inspected||Percentage of Food Facilities Inspected|
|Source: OIG analysis of FDA data, 2009|
While these initiatives are incredible steps for the United States Government, the food service business does not have to wait for agencies to move forward with their plans. By becoming third party certified, the businesses have the opportunity to increase their systems to meet a globally recognized food safety standard.
So what can the food business due to increase consumer confidence in their product and help ensure that their business is operating as safely as possible? The business can seek a third party agency to validate their systems and meet the standard for global food safety compliance. When seeking a non-government, third party organizations the business needs to be aware of the process used to develop the standards of what is being verified. Questions the business needs to ask can relate to how long has the organization been in existence? Did they rely on a panel of subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop their standards?
Rest assured! Since 2002, the World Food Safety Organisation has been utilizing Subject Matter Experts from around the world to continually improve and develop their systems. The World Food Safety Organisaiton (WFSO)’s Food Care Award (FCA) fills the gap in the industry for third party certification of food safety production. The FCA is a multi-tiered program that can help any sized food business from the single product producer to the multi-million dollar enterprise increase their confidence in food safety. Working closely with businesses, the WFSO has a team of trained auditors to develop systems that increase their food safety programs.
With the WFSO’s Food Care Award Certification, the businesses has the ability to add an extra layer of safety and confidence in their food safety systems. When a business contacts the WFSO, a request for proposal is sent to gather information about the business. Once the WFSO has received this request, a dedicated food safety professional will work closely with the business to determine which level of certification will fit their business model the best. Through working with the client, the WFSO will help guide them through a self-study process leading to an on-site verification of processes and systems. After the audit is complete, if successful, the business will be issued a Food Care Award Certification.
One step in food safety management systems is incorporating Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans for food production. The WFSO FCA-Level 2 verifies that the food business’ HACCP plans meet not only the FDA regulations but also the global standards established by the World Health Organisaitons. This midlevel step in the Food Care Award program will allow the business to gain the confidence in their food safety plans and meet a standard that outweighs the minimum global expectation set forth by many governments.
Contact the World Food Safety Organisaiton today to learn more about their Third Party Certification Program for your food business or get involved with their mission of “Harmonizing the food safety standard and related training and educational programs to support the development of the Food Business on a global level.”