Tag Archives: fssc 22000

Ask the Experts: Remote Audits Rules for SQF, FSSC 22000 and BRCGS Standards

Shawna Wagner, DNV Isabella D'Adda Veronica Ramos, DNV
SQF Q&A with Shawna Wagner, CP-FS, Food Sector Technical Manager, North America
SQF Auditor of the Year 2019
FSSC 22000 Q&A with Isabella D’Adda, DNV GL Global Food & Beverage Manager BRCGS Q&A with Veronica Ramos, DNV GL Lead Auditor, BRCGS Auditor of the Year 2020 award winner

Can we have 100% remote audits?

Shawna Wagner (on SQF): SQF does permit conducting an audit at 100% using ICT. Audits using ICT are not mandatory. This option must be a last resort option, as full onsite and the 50/50 blended option (50% onsite and 50% remote) shall be the first options. A feasibility assessment with a certified organization is needed to verify that a full remote audit is an effective and practical option. An SQF Fully Remote Audit only applies to announced re-certification and/or surveillance audits of the SQF Food Safety and/or Quality Codes. It does not apply to initial certification audits or unannounced re-certification audits.

SQF Fully Remote Audit certification can be applied to the following SQF Codes:

  1. SQF Food Safety Code for Food Manufacturing
  2. SQF Food Safety Code for Storage and Distribution
  3.  SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacture of Food Packaging
  4. SQF Food Safety Code for Primary Production
  5. SQF Quality Code

Isabella D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): Yes, 100% remote audits are now allowed also for FSSC 22000. On the 5th of October, 2020 FSSC published a new document called “Full Remote Audit Addendum” that explains the conditions and the rules for conducting FSSC 22000 audits fully remotely. This document is valid and applicable only, when a certified organization cannot be accessed due to a serious event – as in the case of a pandemic.

The FSSC 22000 full remote audits are completed using Information and Communication Technology (ICT); these will be accredited audits, which will not be recognized by GFSI – the transparency of the certification process is always granted, that’s why the certificate that will be issued after these kind of audits will have a specific reference that a Full Remote Audit was conducted.

Before conducting a 100% remote audit, a certification body must evaluate an impact of the serious event on the current certificate and certification status, and conduct a feasibility assessment with the certified organization in order to verify that a full remote audit is an effective and practical option.

The FSSC 22000 full remote audits can be done when annual announced surveillance/periodical or recertification audits cannot take place on-site. But not for Stage 2 Initial audits. Note: even during the 100% Remote audits, auditors need to spend about 50% of the time on documents and records evaluation, and the rest of the audit time on performing video plant tours and interviews.

The addendum to the standard called “FSSC 22000 Annex 9” is still valid in cases where a certification body and an organization agree that it is more appropriate and effective to conduct an audit in two steps: document review and interviews with key personnel remotely, using information and communication technology (ICT), then audit implementation and perform verification of the food management system on-site, with a time-lapse between the two steps.

In the case of the first certification, the FSSC 22000 Annex 9 can be applied and the whole stage 1 audit can be conducted remotely, while the subsequent stage 2 audit will be conducted on-site at least within 6 months after stage 1. For all other audits, according to Annex 9, part of an audit can be conducted remotely, and the rest of the activity completed onsite, considering that the onsite audit cannot have a duration less than 1 day and shall be at least 50% of the total audit duration.

Veronica Ramos (on BRCGS): The rules have been changing recently for the BRCGS standards. These rules are published in the Position Statement BRCGS 078, 080 and 086 (www.brcgs.com) – and these are applicable only for already certified sites. Currently, all certified sites, whose certificates can be affected due to COVID-19 in respect to travel restrictions and internal rules of receiving external visitors to the sites, can opt to any of the following three options:

  • Request a certificate extension for six months with a COVID-19 risk assessment (see Position Statement BRCGS 072);
  • Request their re-certification audit with the “blended audit” modality (see Position Statement BRCGS 080) – where a remote audit (using ICT electronic systems) is combined with an on-site audit for re-certifications;
  • Request the new temporary modality to conduct 100% of an audit remotely (according to the Position Statement BRCGS 086).

This is only applicable for announced audits. It is considered that the best option is to conduct a regular on-site audit or to go with the blended audit option, because an auditor can have a better opportunity to confirm the level of compliance on-site. The on-site audit part should be of at least 1.0 day duration, while the remote part shall not exceed 50% of the total audit duration. Note: full (100%) remote re-certification audits must replicate the exact methodology of a regular audit, including plant tours and interviews, however, it must be first verified that electronic devices and communication means can be used successfully. Also, one should be aware that 100% remote audits are not GFSI benchmarked, but are accredited. Please contact your lead auditor or certification body for more information.

What can be audited during the remote portion?

Wagner (on SQF): For SQF we would focus mainly on Module 2 items, such as Food safety policy, Management Reviews, Approved Supplier Program, Specifications, Validations, Verifications, and Training for the 50/50 blended audit. The 100% remote audit shall include all steps associated with an SQF Systems audit including the opening and closing meetings and discussion and agreement on non-conformities.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): When an audit is 100% remote, the whole activity will be done using an appropriate ICT. The audit will follow the same format and organization as an on-site one and, in any case, an auditor must be able to complete the full audit against all FSSC 22000 requirements: also during these audits a possibility to do interviews with personnel must be granted, an appropriate site inspection of all production areas, facilities, storage and external areas must be completed, implementation of PRPs must be verified, documentation must be evaluated with involvement of all management and staff, who manages the food safety system.
A fully remote audit can be conducted only, when a site is operational, and production is taking place.

For FSSC 22000 fully remote audits, it is advisable to provide supporting information to an auditor before an audit takes place. Documentation, such as site maps, updated flow diagrams, a list and overview of OPRPs/CCPs, any changes, caused by a serious event, and any other supporting information regarding the production process will be useful during an audit.
For audits done 50% remotely and 50% on-site there is the following process: during the remote part, focus will be on the ISO 22000 components of the FSSC 22000 scheme and interviews with management and key personnel. An auditor will review documents and procedures, check management review with specific focus on FSMS objectives and key process performance indicators, HACCP plan, internal audits, complaints and recalls, and how these were managed, focusing on key changes since the previous audit (applicable in the case of periodic audits and re-certification).

Ramos (on BRCGS): During the remote part of a blended audit focus should be on the information included in the documents and records: an auditor would need information on implementation and maintenance of the requirements since the last audit (meaning that samples of records, which could be requested, could be for the last twelve months). Most of the BRCGS standards are color coded, clearly indicating, which are the expected requirements to be audited against on-site, and which can be audited against remotely (e.g. management review, internal audits, complaints, recalls, etc.). But as mentioned before, everything will need to be audited, if the option selected is 100% remotely.

Who should attend the remote portion?

Wagner (on SQF): We would look at this audit no differently than as if we were onsite. It would be recommended that whichever employee is responsible for the section being audited that they attend. Employees could also be interviewed during a remote audit. This should be discussed with key personnel at the opening meeting.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): During remote audit both management and involved key personnel shall be available to support the auditor in his/her activity. Companies should cooperate and provide adequate resources to ensure the audit is conducted successfully.

Ramos (on BRCGS): During a remote audit both management and involved key staff shall be available to support the auditor in his activity.

What documents should we have ready for the remote portion?

Wagner (on SQF): Documents would be the same as if it were an onsite audit. All documentation should be made readily available to the auditor during the time of the remote portion and/or onsite portion of the audit.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): The documents that should be available for the remote audit are the same, as the ones requested for ISO 22000 implementation, like context analysis, food safety management system with its defined scopes, products and processes that are included and the objectives of the FSMS, food safety policy, HACCP Plan, management review, updated internal audits and all procedures that a company has documented, which are necessary for the effectiveness of their food safety management system.

Ramos (on BRCGS): All types of documents in their latest updated version shall be readily accessible. It is up to an auditor to request documentation, which is required to fulfil the objectives of an audit within its scope. Documents could be manuals, procedures, work instructions, templates of records, and actual records.
Can we send documents ahead of time?

Wagner (on SQF): It is not required that documents be sent ahead of time, although in some cases this could be helpful for the site and the auditor. Information that is sent ahead of time would be confidential and not audited until the actual audit.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): It is not required to send documents ahead of time, however all documents must be prepared and available for the planned audit dates, remote or onsite. There are some organizations, which want to share information in advance and show potentially useful examples, such as master list of documents, flow diagrams, maps, or a summary of preliminary answers to key requirements/topics. This information will not be audited until the actual audit (remote or on-site) starts. Thus, this information will be handled as confidential. As a representative of a certified organization, one should know that during an audit, it is up to auditors to request certain information, which may help to get proper evidence, needed to fulfill objectives of the audit.

Ramos (on BRCGS): It is not required to send documents in advance, however there are some organizations, who want to share information beforehand to demonstrate examples, which might be useful during an audit, such as master list of documents, flow diagrams, maps, or a summary of preliminary answers to the key requirements/topics. This information will not be audited until the actual audit (remote or on-site) starts. Such information will be handled as confidential. As a certified organization, one should know that it is up to auditors to request certain information, which may help to get proper evidence, needed to fulfil the audit objectives, during an audit.

Is my information confidential?

Wagner (on SQF): All information that is sent shall be confidential and follows DNV GLs Information Security Policy.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): All DNV GL auditors received specific training on how to manage remote audits and treat confidential information in accordance with the DNV GL’s Information Security Policy.

Ramos (on BRCGS): All DNV GL auditors received specific training on how to manage remote audits and treat confidential information, in accordance with the DNV GL’s Information Security Policy and confidentiality agreements signed with customers.

When does the onsite portion need to happen?

Wagner (on SQF): The onsite needs to happen within 30 days of the remote portion. Both audits must occur within the 60-day audit window for SQF.

D’Adda (on FSSC 22000): In the case of fully remote audits, there won’t be an onsite auditing activity, and it will be completed using ICT equipment. In the case of an audit done partially remotely and partially on-site: FSSC has defined that the maximum timeline between a remote audit and the on-site portion shall be 30 calendar days. In the case of a serious event, this timeline can be extended to 90 calendar days, but only after a documented concession process and risk assessment have been completed by a certification body. Serious events that could lead to a postponement of the onsite portion of an audit are pandemic emergencies like Covid-19, legal proceedings, prosecutions, affecting food safety or legality, public food safety events (e.g. public recalls, calamities etc.), natural disasters (e.g. floods, fire, earthquake), war or political instability and other serious situations, like malicious hacking.

Ramos (on BRCGS): It is expected that in a blended audit the remote part is conducted first and then the on-site part, however, if logistics require that the audit is conducted in the reverse order, this is acceptable as well. The second part of a blended audit needs to happen within the following 28 calendar days, allowing enough time for a site to do a non-conformity closure (when applicable), and a re-certification decision can be issued before the expiration date of the current certificate. In exceptional justifiable circumstances, a certification body may request a concession from BRCGS for a maximum of 90 days. In the case of a 100% remote audit, the full audit shall be conducted as scheduled on consecutive full days.

Handshake

FSSC 22000 to Host Focus Event During Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo 2019

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Handshake

EDGARTOWN, MA, June 27, 2019 – Innovative Publishing Co., publisher of Food Safety Tech and organizer of the Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo is pleased to announce a partnership with FSSC 22000 to hold the organization’s Focus Event 2019 at this year’s Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL.

FSSC 22000, GFSI
The FSSC 22000 Focus Event 2019 takes place on October 1 in Schaumburg, IL.

Taking place on October 1 as a pre-conference workshop, the FSSC 22000 Focus Event will provide a firsthand update of the FSSC 22000 program worldwide and review the new Version 5, which includes the revised ISO 22000:2018. Experts will give attendees an overview of the benefits of the ISO approach and its alignment with FSMA, as well as the role of FSSC 22000 new scopes, including Transport and Storage, with a practical example of the benefits of certification in this new sector. There will also be discussion of the application of the FSSC Global Markets Program to smaller and medium-sized organizations.

“I am excited to welcome stakeholders from the GFSI-recognized food safety management system FSSC 22000 to the Food Safety Consortium as key participants in educating an important part of this industry,” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Co., Inc. and director of the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo.

Speakers include Cornelie Glerum, Managing Director, FSSC 22000; Cor Groenveld, Market Development Director, FSSC 22000; Jacqueline Southee, North America Representative, FSSC 22000; and Jim Blackmon, President of Carry Transit (invited).

Professionals within the following roles/segments should attend this event: Food and beverage companies; FSSC 22000 certified companies and companies interested in becoming FSSC 22000 certified; certification bodies and contractor auditors; accreditation bodies; and training organizations.

The FSSC 22000 Focus Event is available and included in the Food Safety Consortium Conference registration fee.

Delegates registering for the FSSC 22000 Focus Event 2019 only will also receive complimentary admission to the plenary session of the Food Safety Consortium, presented by Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner, food policy and response at FDA, and are invited to attend the evening reception in the exhibition hall.

About Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.

About the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo

The Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo is a premier educational and networking event for food safety solutions. Attracting the most influential minds in food safety, the Consortium enables attendees to engage conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting edge solutions, explore diverse educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in an ever-changing, global food safety market. This year’s event takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL.

About FSSC 22000

FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification 22000) offers a complete certification program for the auditing and certification of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) and Food Safety and Quality Management Systems (FSSC 22000-Quality). Based on the internationally accepted ISO 22000 family of standards and benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), FSSC 22000 sets out the requirements for companies throughout the supply chain for meeting the highest food safety standards. FSSC 22000 is recognized and relied upon by some of the world’s largest food manufacturers, is widely accepted by Accreditation Bodies worldwide and supported by important stakeholders like FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) and the American Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Fraud: Where Do I Start?

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
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Karen Everstine, Decernis

I attended the Safe Food California Conference last week in Monterey, California. Food fraud was not the main focus of the conference, but there was some good food fraud-related content. Craig Wilson gave a plenary session about the past, present and future of food safety at Costco. As part of that presentation, he discussed their supplier ingredient program. This program was implemented in response to the 2008 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in peanut paste but has direct applicability to food fraud prevention.

Food Fraud: Problem Solved? Learn more at the 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Attend in Rockville, MD or virtually Jeanette Litschewski from SQFI gave a breakout presentation on the most common SQF non-conformities in 2018. She presented data from 7,710 closed audits that cited 44,439 non-conformities. Of those, 756 were related to food fraud requirements. While this presentation was not focused on the specifics of the food fraud non-conformities, Jeanette did mention that many of them were related to broad issues such as not having completed a food fraud vulnerability assessment or appropriately documenting that each of the required factors was addressed in an assessment.

I was invited to give a breakout presentation with an overview of food fraud issues globally and a brief outline of some of the tools currently available to assist with conducting vulnerability assessments. Although many of the attendees had already began implementation of food fraud measures, there was a lot of interest in this list of tools and resources. Therefore, I am recreating the list in Table I. The focus is on resources that are either complimentary or affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses, with recognition that “full-service” and tailored consulting services are always an option.

Food Fraud Resources (Table I)
Food Fraud Mitigation Training Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessments Food Fraud Data/Records
Michigan State Massive Open Online Courses for Food Fraud SSAFE/PwC Decernis Food Fraud Database
Food Fraud Advisors Online Training Courses USP FFMG FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry
Food Fraud Advisors Vulnerability Assessment Tools (downloadable spreadsheets):

The USP Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance referenced in Table I is a great source of general information on food fraud mitigation, as is the “Food Fraud Prevention” document created by Nestle. Many of the GFSI Certification Programme Owners have also released guidance documents about vulnerability assessments, such as BRC, FSSC 22000, and SQF.

The Decernis Food Fraud Database and the FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry (see Table I) are two sources of historical food fraud data that are referenced specifically in the SSAFE/PwC tool. Companies can also track official information about food safety recalls and alerts (including related to food fraud) from public sources such as the FDA Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts; Import Refusals; Warning Letters; USDA Recalls and Public Health Alerts; EU RASFF, and many others.

Of course, there are quite a few companies that offer tailored tools, training and consulting services. Companies that offer courses in food fraud mitigation and assistance in creating a vulnerability assessment (or FDA-required food safety plan) include NSF, Eurofins, AIB International, SGS, and The Acheson Group.

Also available are services that compile food safety recalls and alerts (including those resulting from food fraud) from multiple official sources, such as FoodAKAI and HorizonScan. EMAlert is a proprietary tool that merges public information with user judgment to inform food fraud vulnerability. Horizon Scanning is a system that can monitor emerging issues, including food fraud, globally.

Food fraud mitigation, vulnerability assessment
Vulnerability assessments should help focus resources towards those ingredients truly at risk of fraudulent adulteration.

In short, there are many resources available to help support your food fraud vulnerability assessments and mitigation plans. If I have unintentionally missed mentioning any resources you have found to be helpful, please let us know in the comments.

Accreditation

Why Accredited Services Increase Business Opportunities And Contribute To The Harmonization Of Regulations

By Natalia Larrimer, Jacqueline Southee, Ph.D.
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Accreditation

Accreditation is an internationally accepted independent oversight process for maintaining operational standards and ensuring confidence. It is accepted by many governments and private industries, including at various levels of the global food supply.

Recognized within the food industry and endorsed by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the process of accredited certification has become essential for business.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), in its rule on accredited third-party certification, incorporates the accreditation process for oversight over third-party certification bodies certifying foreign food facilities manufacturing for import into the United States.

With accredited services increasingly becoming an integral part of business operations, many wonder how the processes of accreditation and certification work.

Accreditation is the process of ensuring that an organization has the necessary technical competence to perform a specific task, and has met and continues to meet a specific set of operational requirements. An accreditation body (AB) uses internationally established techniques and procedures to assess conformity assessment bodies (CABs) against recognized standards to ensure their impartiality, competence, and ability to produce consistently reliable, technically sound and impartial results.

Accreditation provides formal recognition that an organization is competent to carry out specific tasks, and provides an independent assessment of conformity assessment bodies (CABs)1 against recognized standards to ensure their impartiality and competence. Accreditation provides assurance to a CAB’s customers and industry that the CAB continuously operates according to internationally accepted criteria applicable to CAB’s scope of accreditation.

Although there is flexibility for an AB to design its accreditation process within the constraints of ISO/IEC 17011, Conformity assessment – General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies, the standard to which all internationally recognized ABs must conform, some aspects are mandatory.

As part of the application process, the applicant for accreditation submits information about the desired scope of accreditation and its documented quality management system. The AB conducts a document review to verify that the applicant has documented all management system requirements specified in the relevant criteria and any other applicable requirements. Additional requirements could include, for example, those mandated by a specific regulatory authority or industry. During the assessment, through witnessing of the CAB conducting a conformity assessment activity, interviews of personnel, and review of records and other objective evidence, the AB’s assessment team verifies the CAB’s technical competence and implementation of the quality management system.

The applicant is required to provide corrective action for all identified deficiencies. Only after all identified issues have been addressed can the accreditation decision process begin. To ensure that the accreditation decision is impartial, members of the assessment team do not take part in the decision. The designated decision maker, which may be a group or an individual, is responsible for reviewing the assessment team’s recommendation and ensuring that all accreditation requirements have been met by the applicant and are properly documented before granting accreditation.

A certificate and scope of accreditation are issued only after a favorable accreditation decision.

Once accredited, the CAB is regularly re-assessed to ensure continued conformance to the accreditation requirements, and to confirm that the required standard of operation is being maintained.

To ensure transparency, the AB is required to make publicly available information on the status and scope of accreditation for each accredited CAB. Any changes occurring after initial accreditation, such as suspension for all or part of the scope of accreditation, are published on the AB’s website.

It is important to note while ABs provide oversight over CABs, internationally recognized ABs are themselves subject to regular oversight from organizations orchestrating the harmonization and recognition of the accreditation process internationally.

The International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) provide this international oversight. ABs that are signatories of the ILAC and/or IAF mutual recognition agreements (MLAs or MRAs) must conform with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 as applicable program-specific requirements, and are admitted to the agreements for a specific capability, for example, as an accreditor for testing labs or for management systems certification bodies. Technical competence of the AB and conformance to the requirements is verified through rigorous on site evaluation by other member of the IAF or ILAC community.

Without international oversight, there would be no evidence or confirmation that an AB operates in accordance with international requirements when providing oversight of accredited CABs. This oversight provides assurance that the AB understands the CAB’s process and can attest to the CAB’s competence.

The IAF, MLA and ILAC agreements are internationally recognized forms of approval; signatories have demonstrated their compliance with specified standards and requirements. Accreditation by a signatory of the ILAC MRA and/or IAF MLA provides assurance that decisions are based on reliable results, thus minimizing risk.

This is of particular importance in the constantly evolving global food-supply network. Many specifiers, such as regulatory authorities, have acknowledged the importance of credible accreditation programs.

A number of government agencies in the United States and around the world, including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), have mandated accreditation by an internationally recognized accrediting body for their programs.

Accreditation within the MLA/MRA process helps regulators meet their legislative responsibilities by providing assurance that testing, inspection and evaluation results are issued by organizations whose technical competence and compliance with specified criteria has been verified by an independent third party. It provides assurance to stakeholders, such as the regulatory authorities, that the accredited CAB operates in accordance with recognized and accepted criteria.

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GFSI Basics: Is FSSC 22000 Right For Your Company?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Safety Tech recently sat down with experts from Eurofins to discuss FSSC 22000. According to Kristopher Middleton, technical manager at Eurofins, and Kim Knoll, food safety systems national sales manager at the company, there are still quite a few companies (especially in North America) that are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the certification scheme. In a Q&A with FST, Middletown and Knoll break down the basics of FSSC 2000, along with explaining some of its benefits.

Kristopher Middleton
Kristopher Middleton, technical manager, Eurofins

Food Safety Tech: How is the trend with FSSC 22000 evolving?

Kristopher Middleton: The scheme started in 2009 based on a demand for people wanting to have an ISO-based certification within the GFSI benchmarking process. When the program came out, it trended toward larger companies that already had ISO-based certifications, mainly ISO 22000 and ISO 9001. The FSSC 22000 scheme is the fastest growing GFSI benchmarking scheme currently. It’s not just for large multinational companies; a lot of smaller suppliers are seeking certification to this scheme. The foundation continues to expand its scopes to become a true farm-to-fork certification program.

FST: Is FSSC 22000 also appropriate for a single site or for a company with fewer than 50 employees?

Middleton: The certification doesn’t discriminate based on facility size—nor footprint or number of employees. It’s ideal for any company that has a robust food safety management system and manufacture products that fall within the FSSC 22000 scope of certification. This currently includes manufacturers of perishable animal products (feed and food), perishable vegetable products, products with a long shelf life, biochemical products (i.e., food ingredients, vitamins, biocultures, etc.), manufacturers of food packaging, and primary production of animal products.

The key thing about FSSC 22000 certification is that it is not a terribly prescriptive food safety scheme, when compared to others that are available. You will be successful with FSSC 22000 certification if you are confident and knowledgeable about your own food safety management system, and you have appropriate justification or validation for the method in which your programs have been implemented, as well as validation for the controls of your food safety hazards.

FST: Are there quite a few companies that have not heard of FSSC 22000 or are not aware that it is a GFSI-recognized scheme?

Middleton: Since ISO 22000 was not terribly popular here in North America, it didn’t catch on right away. It was more so overseas that it caught on. However, within the past two years the scheme has become increasingly popular here, especially among companies that have other ISO standards already implemented (i.e. ISO 9001, 14001, 18001,etc), where it relates to occupational health and safety, environmental, and quality. The reason for that is the FSSC can easily intertwine with that entire management system program so that it all works together versus having separate programs in place.

Kim Knoll
Kim Knoll, food safety systems national manager, Eurofins

Kim Knoll: I’m having a lot of conversations with smaller manufacturers who are brand new to GFSI. Many of them are being asked by their customers to achieve a GFSI benchmarked certification and are in the early stages of researching scheme options.  Some of these companies are surprised to learn that FSSC 22000 is a viable option.  Like other certification schemes, Eurofins lends support to companies planning to pursue FSSC 22000 through training courses, consulting services, pre-assessments and ultimately certification services. Even though FSSC 22000 is a newer scheme, auditor availability is not an issue.

FST: What are the key differences between FSSC 22000 and the other GFSI schemes?

Middleton: Probably the most apparent difference with FSSC compared to other GFSI benchmark schemes is the fact that your certification lasts for three years, not one year. The reason for that is that it’s not a product-based certification like the others, it is a process-based certification and it uses the accreditation standard of ISO 17021 not ISO 17065. It also uses ISO 22003 for direction to the certification body for the conducting of the audit. That doesn’t mean that sites won’t be audited annually; it just means that once the certificate is granted, it’s good for three years.

Another key difference is that there is no true pass or fail within the audit. It’s a conform or not-conform audit. The decision to certify is based off the findings from the auditor and their recommendations, as well as the decision from a technical review meeting at the certification body. It requires the effective closure of a particular non-conformance or satisfactory plan being submitted for the closure of those non-conformances before the actual certificate can be granted. So that’s a bit different, because you can just submit plans for your non-conformances [instead of] actually showing that everything has been completely resolved. That being said, if a facility isn’t able to hold or get a certificate, if there’s an imminent food safety threat noted during an audit—if there’s an issue, such as a potential recall or contaminated goods, the ability to be granted that certificate is not feasible.

FST: Can you walk us through the auditing and certification process under FSSC 22000?

Middleton: Like any of the standards out there, you can get a pre-assessment, which is not necessarily part of the certification activity. The certification activity starts at a Stage 1 audit within this scheme (also known as a document audit within other schemes). It’s an evaluation of a facility’s food safety management system document to determine if they’re valid. The process does not include an entire evaluation of the implementation of the program, just simply that the programs are adequately designed and meet the requirements that are in place.

Next there’s a Stage 2 audit (sometimes referred to a facility audit) that is conducted no more than six months after the Stage 1 audit. The Stage 1 audit will identify the areas of concern—programs that might not meet exactly what the specifications required within the standard, which would become non-conformances in a Stage 2 audit (also called a facility audit or certification audit).

The Stage 2 audit is the full evaluation of the implementation of the program that was reviewed in the Stage 1 audit. Following completion of the audit, effective closure of non-conformances is required. This closure can either be [related to] major non-conformances, CAPA or root cause analysis. You have to supply evidence that the non-conformance is properly eliminated and will not recur, and this evidence must be supplied to the certification body and the auditor for review.

Any other non-conformances (also known as minor non-conformances) must have corrective action plans. Companies need to state how they plan on resolving the issue. They will be “closed” but left open for the next audit, which has to occur within one calendar year (known as a surveillance audit). The term “surveillance audit” within this standard is different from some of the other standards. Within some of the other standards, a surveillance audit is not a yearly activity—it is done within the year of certification. The surveillance audit within this standard is a yearly audit that is required to meet the requirements of GFSI. It’s also a requirement within [ISO] 17021 and [ISO] 22003 that surveillance audits are conducted. The GFSI requirement changed the surveillance audit within the ISO world because they used to do a sampling audit, which progressed to a full-blown audit. Your whole food safety management system will be evaluated, which is slightly different from ISO 22000 surveillance audits.

After that audit is conducted, you have another surveillance audit in the following calendar year. Within those surveillance audits, if any minor non-conformances or non-conformances from the previous audit are still present, they are upgraded to major non-conformances and [companies] would have to implement a full corrective action plan, root cause analysis, etc. and then determine the solution.

Once the second surveillance audit is conducted, the following year will be your recertification audit, which is simply another facility audit. It’s not a document audit—you don’t have to do Stage 1 audits after that initial one. This recertification audit occurs prior to your certificate expiring.

FSMA, Food Safety Tech, FDA

Certified to FSSC 22000? You’re Ready for FSMA

By Maria Fontanazza
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FSMA, Food Safety Tech, FDA

If my company is GFSI-certified, is it also FSMA compliant? The answer is: With shared goals of producing safe food, coordinating preventive measures and ensuring continuous improvement, if your company is FSSC 22000 certified, you’re well on the road to FSMA compliance, according to Jacqueline Southee, Ph.D., U.S. Liaison, FSSC 22000.  Southee discussed several areas in which FSSC 22000 aligns with FSMA as part of a recent Leadership Series, “GFSI in the Age of FSMA”.

Supply Chain Visibility

FSSC 22000 is applicable to all aspects of the supply chain and requires interactive communication (all of which must be documented), from the downstream level in ensuring raw materials and suppliers meet requirements of ISO 22000 framework to communication with customers and suppliers to verify and control hazards.

FSMA controls the hazard of food within the United States, says Southee, whereas GFSI certification is a global initiative, thereby extending supply chain visibility to foreign suppliers.

The Food Safety Plan

There has been much discussion surrounding building a FSMA-ready food safety plan and the migration from HACCP to HARPC. “HARPC can be referred to as HACCP with preventive controls,” says Southee. FSSC 22000 provides a flexible yet robust approach in a framework that is applicable to all situations (i.e., different manufacturers have different issues, such as producing ice cream versus baked goods). Rather than being prescriptive, the prerequisite program has the flexibility to apply to a particular situation. In addition, validation, verification, monitoring and documentation are an inherent part of the ISO 22000 approach and the FSSC 22000 certification.

FSSC 22000 serves as an effective tool in preparing companies for FSMA compliance. “We’re not a regulatory system; FDA has that domain,” says Southee. “They’re the ones that carry the responsibility of meeting those regulations. We work with everyone…to do the best job we can.”

Audit Readiness

Being audit ready all the time is a key part of preparing for FSMA. FSSC 22000 certifies a food safety management system (a three-year certification cycle) and requires internal audits of company performance, along with helping companies ensure that their records are organized at all times. The goal is to install a management system that enables constant monitoring, reevaluation and assessment as part of an ongoing process of keeping food safe, according to Southee. “If you’re certified and have an effective ongoing management system, unannounced audits won’t be an issue,” she says.

Food Safety Culture

FSSC 22000 and ISO 22000 provide a strong foundation for building food safety culture. ISO 22000 requires proof of management commitment to the food safety process, along with accountability, and for management to make resources available to see the food safety process through. “We agree that culture has to come from the top,” says Southee. “The personnel have to see that management is committed, and the culture will come from that commitment.” It also requires constant communication, up and down the supply chain as well as internally. This includes involving all employees and making sure that they know what they’re doing (i.e., training). “Everyone needs to know they’re valued and important, and how their function contributes to the function of safe food,” says Southee.

FSMA Alignment and Gap Analysis

There are sure to be some gaps when it comes to FSSC 22000 and FSMA. FSSC 22000 has commissioned a gap analysis to compare the preventive controls for human and animal food rules with the GFSI scheme and will add addendums as needed. Areas of review include a requirement to include food fraud into the hazard analysis and a review of unannounced audit protocol.  

Jill Bender, SafetyChain

GFSI in the Age of FSMA Series Helps Companies Prepare for FSMA Compliance

By Jill Bender
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Jill Bender, SafetyChain

The “GFSI in the Age of FSMA” three-part series wrapped up in early December, providing the food safety community insight on how leading GFSI schemes align with, and help prepare for, compliance with FSMA.  The series was presented by SafetyChain with media partner FoodSafetyTech.

Each GFSI scheme leader from SQF, BRC and FSSC 22000 discussed how their schemes align with FSMA in several key areas, including Supply Chain Controls, migrating Food Safety Plans from HACCP to HARPC, and audit readiness. While each scheme leader provided insights and details on how their scheme aligns with FSMA, common key themes across all three sessions included: 

  • FSMA’s focus on prevention vs. reaction is similar and aligns with GFSI’s objectives; Scheme certifications and ongoing compliance is centered around continuously assessing risks and putting preventive measures in place to mitigate those risks
  • GFSI’s global approach surrounding a company’s food safety program—to ensure better supply chain controls internally, upstream and downstream prepares companies to manage FSMA’s increased focus on both domestic and foreign supplier compliance
  • GFSI stringent documentation and recordkeeping requirements—along with unannounced audit protocols—are a strong foundation to help food and beverage companies prepare for FSMA’s “if it isn’t documented you didn’t do it” mantra

The GFSI scheme leaders also spoke about the importance and opportunity companies have to leverage technology tools to help more effectively manage the complexities and requirements of GFSI and FSMA compliance.  Series participants were able to see an example of how these automation tools work and the impact they can have on managing a robust food safety program via a post session demo of SafetyChain Software.

Archived recordings of all three sessions—SQF in the Age of FSMA, featuring Robert Garfield, Senior VP, SQF; BRC in the Age of FSMA, featuring John Kukoly, Director, BRC Americas; and FSSC 22000 in the Age of FSMA, featuring Jacqueline Southee, U.S. Liaison, FSSC 22000—are available and can be accessed here.

Vice President, Science Operations, Grocery Manufacturers Association
FST Soapbox

GFSI and FDA’s Preventive Controls: Complementary or Redundant?

By Jennifer McEntire, Ph.D.
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Vice President, Science Operations, Grocery Manufacturers Association

Accreditation, certification, certificates…the structure that supports the third-party audit system can be very confusing! Further, an audit company offers a menu of audits: An audit to their own private standard, audits to several GFSI benchmarked schemes, and perhaps in the future, an “FDA accredited” audit. How do you know which one you need? How do you know which best prepares you for FSMA?

Jennifer McEntire spoke during the session, “Staying Ahead of New USDA and FDA Mandates for Controlling Pathogens in Food Processing” at the Food Safety Consortium conference.  LEARN MOREUntil the compliance dates for the Preventive Controls rules pass, food manufacturers really only need to be compliant with good manufacturing practices (GMPs), from a regulatory standpoint. There are some specific audits that evaluate adherence to GMPs, but many companies wanted to take their food safety programs to the next level by demonstrating that they were implementing effective food safety management systems. Certification to a GFSI-benchmarked audit scheme (BRC, SQF, FSSC22000, IFS, etc.) was a primary means to show a commitment to food safety and the demonstration of exemplary programs. With the finalization of the Preventive Controls Rules, FDA is catching up. So how do the FDA requirements compare with the main elements of the GFSI Guidance Document?

Let’s evaluate the extent to which the scope of GFSI aligns with FSMA. In September, the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule was finalized, and the areas addressed within that rule constitute the bulk (although not all) of the topics covered by GFSI (GFSI covers additional areas for which FDA has not yet finalized rules, such as food defense and traceability). The question on everyone’s mind is, “If I’m certified to a GFSI-benchmarked audit scheme, am I compliant with the rule?” The answer is, “You’re probably in way better shape than someone who is not certified.” The reason is, regardless of which GFSI benchmarked audit scheme you choose, your facility will need to demonstrate, through fairly exhaustive documentation, the nature and validity of the programs that are in place, and the proof that those programs are followed day in and day out. FDA is looking for the same thing.

The Preventive Controls rules go beyond strict HACCP in that they require facilities to consider what has historically been termed the HACCP system. This includes programs that may not be critical control points (CCP) per se, but are critical to the safety of the food product. FDA identifies elements of sanitation and allergen control, as well as a supplier program, in this category. If you’re familiar with FSSC 22000, you might call these “operational prerequisite programs”.  FDA will want to see how each and every hazard is evaluated to determine if it needs a preventive control, whether that is a traditional CCP or another control. For the most part, this is aligned with the GFSI benchmarked schemes, although some of the language may differ.

When it comes to the implementation of a supplier program, facilities should be aware that FDA’s requirements of such a program are much more explicit than most of the GFSI-benchmarked schemes. Even if the result is the same at the end of the day, FDA inspectors may be looking for companies to follow a fairly structured approach compared to a GFSI auditor.

To further complicate matters, FDA will be finalizing a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors. If an effective private third-party audit system exists, why is FDA adding another layer with its own form of audits (separate from inspections)? The answer lies with Congress, not FDA, as it identified two specific circumstances in which a special regulatory audit would be necessary. One situation is when a facility (or their customer) wishes to participate in the forthcoming Voluntary Qualified Importer Program. The second is if FDA has determined that the food poses food safety risks such that a facility wishing to export that food needs a certification issued by an auditor under this program. In neither case will domestic facilities be audited under this program; this program only applies to foreign facilities and only in very limited instances.

Since the rule and accompanying guidance documents related to accreditation of third-party auditors hasn’t been issued by FDA, it is premature to comment on how these audits will compare to those in use by private industry today.

So with the implementation of new rules from FDA, is there still a market for audits? Absolutely. From a very practical standpoint, FDA won’t be inspecting most facilities on an annual basis, and many private audits are conducted on an annual schedule. Plus, industry typically pushes itself further than regulations, which lag behind. Regulations can be viewed as the floor for expectations, but not the ceiling. Moving forward, we expect audit standards and private audits to become even more stringent and aggressive in terms of promoting the very best food safety practices. But beware, as history has shown us, a certificate is not a guarantee or indication of the ongoing quality of a plant’s food safety system. This is why FDA will not blindly accept that a facility has a favorable audit; regardless of the audit certifications you hold, FDA will still inspect you. That said, depending on the audit, it can serve as a credible certification of a food safety system in a plant and demonstrate to your customers your level of food safety commitment.  And poor performance during an audit can find its way to FDA too, since in some instances the agency will have access to the conclusions of the audit and corrective actions taken in response to significant deficiencies identified during the audit. FDA initially proposed that serious issues uncovered during consultative audits conducted as part of the third-party accreditation of auditor program would be shared with FDA, and when audits are used as part of supplier programs, FDA will see how serious deficiencies in audits have been addressed. Be clear on why you are pursuing a particular audit, and take the program seriously. Audits should reflect your food safety culture, not serve as your motivation.

Animal Feed Industry: Steps to Success to Meet FSMA Requirements

By Maria Fontanazza
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As industry awaits next month’s final rule on preventive controls for animal food, companies in the animal feed business must be prepared for the changes, especially as it relates to having an aligned system with HACCP principles. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Victor Muliyil, food technical project manager at SGS SSC North America, and Mary Williams, a quality assurance and regulatory affairs expert at Land O’Lakes, Inc, discuss where companies should be looking for gaps in their systems.

Food Safety Tech: What critical changes does FSMA introduce to the animal feed industry?

Victor Muliyil: FSMA introduces the primary change that all feed manufacturers must have a feed safety hazard control program that is in line with HACCP principles. Hazards likely to occur must be identified and controls implemented; and [although] hazards related to medications and prohibited material must still be controlled, the responsibility is on the manufacturer to identify all hazards and controls. The focus is on prerequisite programs, not just on critical control points.

In addition, feed industry recalls can now be mandated by FDA, not just recommended. HACCP certification is not mandated by FDA, but several feed and food industry customers are looking for competent independent audit and certification of feed safety control programs. Trained internal auditors are required to verify the system. Traceability is required to the next level of distribution, as well as backward to key ingredients such as medications.

Mary Williams: Food industry leaders must now show they have “planned to work safely,” and this plan must be written down with documented evidence of training. This is a fundamental shift in approach, as FSMA indicates that all feed manufacturers must control feed safety hazards consistent with principles many of us have learned in HACCP. This speaks to prevention vs. reaction, so the prerequisite programs as a foundation must be in place first. This is a time of unprecedented change in the U.S. Food/Feed industry plus global supply chains that are expanding. While it is widely accepted that zero risk is unattainable, the approach that companies take to prevent having an issue, and to prepare for efficient and effective response in the event of a problem is seen as critical.

Product Safety Culture must be leadership driven and reinforced and furthermore, a strong product safety culture is a “choice”.  Leaders of an organization set the tone and must proactively reinforce the expected outcome because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it is the newest food safety law.

While many feed companies are moving toward HACCP certification, it is not mandated by the FDA.  Regardless of whether you build a HACCP plan or a Food Safety Plan, it is important for feed/food companies to start now. The cGMPs, new GMPs and most FSMA requirements are generally understood thus having more time to live and practice the programs implemented allows time for adjustments.

FST: Regarding GFSI certification, in what areas are companies in the animal feed industry the most under-prepared?

Muliyil:  Management commitment, understanding and communication are key. Better training is needed to understand feed industry specific hazards and realistic controls. Currently, internal auditing is not very thorough and must be more structured. Corrective actions are not followed through to gauge effectiveness and are often not documented in adequate detail. Finally, validation is not well understood, nor is there specific guidance on this topic.

Williams: Management does not always clearly understand the need and requirements of “Management Commitment”.  It requires active and visible participation at all levels of management. Managers must “walk the walk” and “talk the talk”.  It may also require an investment in resources such as staffing, capital improvements, and training, to name a few. Management commitment is essential to support the development of a strong product safety culture. Failures in product safety culture increase the potential risk of outbreaks and deaths from foodborne illness.

The skills needed in the industry to meet these new expectations are different than what we needed before. It is not enough to just adopt new standards.  We have to train and educate those who implement them.

We need to train for behavior – what do we want the trainee to be able to do? The training needs to be clear and practical. In addition, we need to educate for increased knowledge across the employee base.  Don’t just send the managers and supervisors to HACCP class or auditor training, make sure we educate a multi-disciplined team including production employees.

Continuous improvement is an everyday concept and involves having a strong corrective action/preventive action program. Often deficiencies are corrected quickly, but not prevented over the long term, and this requires increased due diligence.

FST: Are companies with FSSC 22000 certification more prepared for the preventive controls rule?

Muliyil: FSSC 22000 is one of the GFSI benchmarked schemes that offer effective integrated food safety management, covering:

  • Specific controls and scheme criteria for animal feed and pet food
  • Global buy-in and adoption by many of the world’s leading feed and food manufacturing companies
  • A top-down focus, including defined roles for management, requirements for policies and regular management review
  • Prerequisite programs focused on hazard control, in line with HARPC and FSMA
  • The HACCP system approach to structured food safety control, focused on medications & prohibited material control
  • Traceability from suppliers through to customers
  • Communication:External: Consumers, customers, service providers, suppliers, associations and regulators.
    • Internal: Within a company and between all elements of the system
    • Internal audit of the entire food safety management system and follow up
  • Regular system updating to maintain rigor

Williams: A company certified in FSSC 22000 or one of the other GFSI benchmarked standards has implemented Codex HACCP and hygiene principles in their foundation programs. These same HACCP and foundation programs overlap with the requirements in the preventive controls rule and will support compliance to FSMA.  It will be important to review all the FSMA requirements to ensure all elements are effectively covered in the current company program.

FSSC 22000 requires annual recertification and an annual self-audit. These two elements of review ensure that internal and external eyes are always looking for program compliance before a failure occurs.  These are solid “prevention” elements that support FSMA compliance as well.

FSMA Final Rules Almost Here, Guide to GFSI

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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With a host of mandatory requirements under FSMA means, businesses may want to consider GFSI certification.

The first FSMA deadlines are now two months away, and manufacturers may wonder how and where GFSI certification ties into increased regulation. First, what are some of the main differences between GFSI and FSMA? GFSI is seen as more global, while FSMA is more US-focused. Of course, the final FSMA rules will require mandatory compliance, and GFSI is voluntary. However, GFSI certification is recognized among major domestic and international retailers, so compliance with a GFSI-recognized scheme is an important part of a company’s food safety program.

The Food Safety Consortium Conference features a GFSI Services & Compliance track. With increased regulatory demands under FSMA, speakers will discuss the role of food safety certification systems. A GFSI-certified facility is one step closer to compliance with FSMA and may be held in higher regard by FDA from an auditing and inspection standpoint versus a business that has not opted to obtain certification.

Obtaining GFSI certification provides several benefits to the food industry, according to a recent TraceGains blog about the GFSI journey, including:

  • Reducing duplication of audits
  • Creating a comparable audit approach and outcomes
  • Enabling continuous improvement and customer opportunity for GFSI-benchmarked companies
  • Enhancing trade opportunities
  • Gaining cost efficiencies throughout the supply chain
  • Increasing competitiveness in the global market

Several food safety management schemes are recognized by GFSI. Among them is FSSC 22000, which touts the certification of more than 10,000 businesses worldwide. This year’s Food Safety Consortium also includes the first FSSC 22000 North American Harmonization Day on Tuesday, November 18. The meeting will provide a technical update of FSSC 22000, along with current scheme and future plans for expanding scopes and preparing for GFSI benchmarking.