Keep your food safe

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Of all environmental and health concerns, food safety requires the most attention from authorities when violations are found. In China recently, there have been several food safety scandals that have caused huge economic losses and reputational damage to the country and the food export industry. The high point came in July 2007, when Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, was exposed to accepting bribes in exchange for a national food safety license. He was subsequently executed in line with China’s official stance on corruption. There have been many scandals in the food industry before. Jinhua ham was found to be treated with toxic pesticides before being sold (2003); production of counterfeit infant formula in 2004 resulted in the death of around 80 infants and hundreds of cases of severe malnutrition; most recently in 2008, contaminated Infant milk powder led to the occurrence of kidney disease, resulting in many casualties.

The fact that China’s State Food and Drug Administration (established in 2003 to control food safety issues) itself has been the target of corruption investigations has led to a resurgence in the adoption of third-party audit standards for food safety. nation. Foreign importers from China distrust Chinese national standards and require exporters to comply with international standards such as ISO 22000, which is inspected by global certification bodies. Similar incidents have occurred in Japan, most notably Snow Brands Dairy, which was found to have falsified food safety records following a tainted milk scandal in 2002.

Most countries have government powers to manage these issues from production to sale to consumers. They advise on national legislation and provide food safety requirements for domestic and imported goods. These include the UK Food Standards Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration and China’s State Food and Drug Administration. At EU level, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) works with governments to carry out risk assessments on food safety and provides independent advice and communication on current and emerging risks.

The HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) guidelines issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are an essential part of the important food safety standard being developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 22000. There are seven HACCP principles that must be followed. These require food manufacturers to conduct a pre-production hazard analysis to identify and address biological, chemical, or physical problems that would render food unsafe for human consumption; establish a sound safety monitoring system; and implement a comprehensive documentation program. In the United States, the application of HACCP principles and procedures is mandatory for foods including meat, juices, and seafood, and they are often applied elsewhere as the basis for third-party food safety certification.

As the example of China shows, food safety certification is critical to food retailing and international trade. Without it, producers and suppliers cannot sell their wares. There are significant commercial and reputational risks in the way certification is obtained and it is recommended to obtain certification to a recognized standard issued by a reputable third-party certification body.

Launched in 2005, ISO 22000 is now one of the most recognized international food safety standards. It provides a food safety management system for any organization, large or small, involved in any link of the food chain. To meet this standard, an organization must demonstrate its ability to effectively control food safety hazards to ensure that food is safe for human consumption. It combines the above HACCP principles.

Before the ISO standard, BRC (Association of British Railways) Global Food Safety Standards are developed and trusted by the world’s leading retailers to provide effective supply chain management and legal compliance. The global standard is part of a group of product safety standards that collectively support certification across the food supply chain and is the first in the world to be approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GSFI).

GLOBALGAP, formerly known as EurepGAP, develops voluntary ‘pre-farm’ standards for the certification of agricultural products and good agricultural practices. Standards are issued by third-party certification bodies recognized in more than 75 countries. GLOBALGAP is a business-to-business label and therefore has no direct relationship with consumers.

The other main standards, more on the ethical aspects of food production, are Food Alliance Certification and SQF Certification in the US. Food Alliance certification is awarded to sustainable food in North America and covers issues such as the humane treatment of animals and the exclusion of hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, genetically modified crops or livestock and certain pesticides, and soil and water conservation on farms/ranches.

SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification is issued by a global authorized certification body, providing independent certification for suppliers’ food safety and quality management systems in compliance with international and domestic food safety regulations. SQF certification has been awarded to thousands of companies operating in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North and South America.

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