The ins and outs of quality assurance and food safety assessments

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th November 2014
The ins and outs of quality assurance and food safety assessments
The ins and outs of quality assurance and food safety assessments

Dr Makis Galanos is an expert in food safety assessment and currently holds the position of Australasia Managing Lead Assessor at Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA). He has over 18 years’ experience in the certification industry and is currently the company’s product specialist in relation to food schemes and standards.

Q: What changes have you seen in the way that food safety is viewed by key stakeholders in Australia over the past ten years?

A: There have been many changes in the past ten years. One of the major changes has been the improved level of standardisation and harmonisation within food safety. Ten years ago there were countless food safety standards and all kinds of different certification schemes, certification products, audits and a lot of duplication of these audits in the food supply chain. Some food manufacturers were audited three, four, five times on the same topics. Since then, food safety has become more standardised through the work of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) who publish ISO 22000.

In Australia the industry has moved from a checklist type of auditing to more of a management system approach, which endeavours to ensure that when things go wrong there is a system in place to (a) ensure that the right actions are taken, (b) that the organisation learns from these mistakes and (c) they look to prevent them from happening in the future.

Q: How are food manufacturers influencing their supply chains?

A: Certified food manufacturers are increasingly cascading the value of certification into their supply chains. As an example, big manufacturers of beverages that use a lot of packaging materials like bottles, glass or PET are now asking their suppliers of packaging materials to have their management system and third party certifications in place.

Q: LRQA has been quoted saying that food safety is not competitive. What does this mean?

A: When you look at food safety it can be perceived as non-competitive because a food crisis involves and impacts all stakeholders in the food supply chain. You can see it with the horsemeat crisis in the UK; the salmonella contamination in peanut butter crisis in the Americas. A crisis also involves competitors because when there is a problem with a specific product – even if it is caused by one manufacturer – you often see a ripple effect impacting other providers in the market. Given this, manufacturers and retailers both have a significant interest in avoiding food scares and crisis. In response to this, they will look to collaborate on key issues that may affect their business performance.

Q: Can food safety certification support all suppliers of all sizes?

A: There can be a perception that food safety certification is too difficult and of limited value for small suppliers. I do not agree. I think that food safety and its certification is important to businesses of all sizes. From the consumer’s perspective and experience, food is either considered safe or not safe. The minimum level of food safety has to be the same around the globe and for suppliers of all sizes. I think the opportunity is how smaller suppliers are supported. We have to provide them with training and guidance so these businesses can create a system that fits their purpose and activities.

Q: What does auditor calibration mean and why is it important to help drive food safety across global supply chains?

A: The calibration or alignment of auditors is very important. First of all, with only small number of recognised certification schemes under the GFSI, we have an unknown number of certification bodies around the world delivering audits against these schemes. Globally, the minimum requirements of the auditors have to be the same, and the outputs of the audits have to tell the same story. In order for retailers and global food manufacturers to have confidence in the certificates, they have to trust the certification process.

Improving performance, reducing risk

Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance Limited is a limited company registered in England and Wales.

Registered number: 1879370. Registered office: 71 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 4BS, UK. A member of the Lloyd’s Register group.