No matter what you’re selling, when there’s food involved, you’ll find some fundamental requirements you need to fulfill. Certifications being one of them - you need to know which certifications are most important, how to get them, and the steps you’ll take along the way. For example, what do you know about food safety audits? Do you have a HACCP certification? Are you looking for a higher-level certification like FSSC 22000?
As you can imagine, these certifications are valuable not only for trade and B2B sales, but they also develop trust with consumers. As a retailer, it’d also be helpful to understand what the different certifications mean so that you can make informed choices about your food suppliers.
We consulted Ms Rachel Ng, Technical Lead (Food) from TÜV SÜD, an accredited provider of food quality and safety testing, certification and training, to put together key important information for you to help you navigate the food safety audit and certification process.
Bonus: Scroll to the end for a downloadable infographic that highlights the key information about getting certified!
Food Safety & Factory Audits
In order to confirm the safety of the food you’re selling, a factory audit by industry regulators will be required. Factory audits confirm that your factories and processing facilities are consistently attaining regulatory requirements and food safety and quality standards. Accredited third-party certifiers typically perform audits to ensure food producers achieve the food safety standards in accordance with the Food Safety Management System (FSMS) or food-related program you apply for. Through these audits, consumers know you offer consistent integrity and food safety quality in your products.
There are five steps for these audits that cover the practices of a facility or process from planning, through execution, corrections and preventions, and verification, all the way to a final evaluation. Ultimately, a company projects its food safety audit status through further certification like those that follow.
International Food Safety Certifications
The following certifications and processes, though often interdependent, represent various requirements in the food production industry. You may notice that they sometimes overlap and other times a single certification stands out. Some of these are considered voluntary certifications, which means you have the opportunity to choose which labels will most support your business success. You may find you follow many of the standards for these safety and practice certifications already.
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, are practices required in order to conform to the guidelines recommended by the agencies that control the authorization and licensing of the manufacture and sale of food and beverages, cosmetics, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, and more.
GMP is a prerequisite of the HACCP food safety or Food Safety Management System (FSMS). Required practices include efforts like equipment maintenance and cleanliness, pest control programs, incoming raw material inspections, and more. It’s important to document your procedures to ensure you’re following the GMP.
HACCP - your “level 1” certification
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is one of the most common basic level food safety systems. Food safety is addressed through the identification and control of possible hazards from production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. It is also often the foundation to many other certifications, such as those covered below.
The application process for HACCP differs depending on the type of food you’re working with. You’ll find many of the other certifications you may seek include requirements from HACCP too. You can learn more about HACCP at fda.gov.
ISO 22000 - your “level 2” certification
The ISO 22000 is a widely known international FSMS certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This FSMS is relevant for all organizations in the food chain, regardless of size or complexity. These include organizations that are directly or indirectly involved include, but are not limited to animal feed producers, harvesters of wild plants and animals, food manufacturers, cleaning and sanitation services, and food contact materials etc.
Considered as a “level up” from the HACCP, the ISO 22000 allows organizations, including small and less-developed organizations like small farms, food packers, and retailers to use this framework as a broader management system. Learn more about ISO 22000 at iso.org.
FSSC 22000 - your “level 3” certification
FSSC 22000 is also an international standard, similar to ISO 22000. The main difference between ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000 is that the latter is recognized by the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative). By meeting the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements, the FSSC 22000 Scheme has been given full global recognition since 2010, leading to international food industry acceptance. Furthermore, the Scheme is widely accepted by Accreditation Bodies worldwide and supported by essential stakeholders like FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) and the Consumer Brands Association (CBA). Learn more about FSSC 22000 at fssc22000.com.
- Halal certification
Although different in nature from the above-mentioned certifications, the Halal certification considers both food safety as well as additional food preparation and storage practices. This assurance allows you to expand your food production business to significant populations across the world.
The Halal certification specifically informs Muslim consumers that their food is in alignment with the Syariah law. People of the Muslim religion live in countries all around the world. Others, who aren’t of these religions, may also look to Halal certifications to note quality foods. In some countries, it may be a regulatory requirement to obtain this, hence it would be best to verify before selling food products in that market.
For Singapore and Malaysian food businesses, you can apply for a Halal certification at muis.gov.sg/halal, halal.gov.my respectively.
(Photo by Walter Otto on Unsplash)
Benefits of Food Safety Management System Certifications
- Minimise food safety risks and pertaining issues
- Gain consumers trust with certified assurance
- Accelerate cross-border market expansion
With the increasing number of product recalls and food poisoning incidents happening globally, consumers are losing confidence with food products in the market. With information so easily available now through social media, consumers are more prudent in their choice of food purchases. Manufacturer with certified FSMS promotes confidence in food safety to consumers, it also opens up overseas opportunities for the business especially if the company is certified to internationally recognized FSMS e.g. ISO 22000 or FSSC 22000.
Get Your Food Safety Certifications
Find trusted and accredited resources for your certifications. TÜV SÜD is an accredited provider of food quality and safety testing, certification and training for HACCP, ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000, covering the entire food chain. They also provide a wide range of analytical and microbiological evaluation services to help F&B companies perform product analysis, quality control and product labelling in accordance with local and overseas regulatory requirements. Explore more information on their website at tuvsud.com.
You’re Certified - Now What?
After obtaining these certifications, display your certificate at your factory premises and promotional materials such as your website. Be sure not to mislead your customers into thinking that the certification is an endorsement of the product; the certification body is certifying the FSMS.
It’s Not Over Once You’re Certified - Maintenance Is Critical
The certificate validity is for 3 years, and audits are done annually to ensure the FSMS requirements are still met. If any issues were flagged but your business has failed to rectify, the certification body may revoke the certification.
Your certification can assist to grow your business exponentially and provide a stepping stone into the global market. Food safety certification gives consumers a peace of mind because they know that you have a comprehensive food safety program to control and manage each step in your production process, and ensure the quality and safety of your food products.
Food Safety Audit & Certification At A Glance
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