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ISO 22000 and the Importance of Food Safety

In response to changes to diversity, globalization, and digitization across the industry, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently announced a revision to its ISO 22000 standard which governs food safety management systems. First proposed over four years ago, this revision impacts organizations large and small.

The identification and prevention of foodborne hazards throughout our food chain remains of great importance to the world’s purveyors of foods. The food chain, however, remains burdened with threats. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 600 million people—almost 1 in every 10—fall ill after eating contaminated food every year. Strides have been made over the years to fortify our food chain, but many factors continue to complicate comprehensive food chain safety. Take for example the recent recall of whey powder that precipitated recalls from Pepperidge Farm, Mondelēz Global LLC, Flowers Foods, and Pinnacle Foods. Or the recent Cyclospora parasite outbreak that affected Del Monte. Prompt action was required from each of the manufacturers to adequately protect their consumer bases—action that can best be facilitated by standard processes and protocols.

There are a few trends occurring in the industry that are introducing complexity to today’s food chains:

  1. Business Model Innovations

While it’s unclear whether meal kit services are here to stay, their explosive growth of 236% in 2015 and 2016 serves as a prime example of how companies are innovating to keep up with consumers’ changing tastes. Executing a direct-to-consumer distribution channel while protecting its safety is not without challenges. HelloFresh has struggled with Listeria, while others like Plated, Blue Apron, and others all seem quite vulnerable to food temperature issues throughout the supply chain—particularly in the last mile. Regardless, everyone from traditional grocers to fast-food chains are attempting to get a slice of the meal-kit pie.

  1. Ingredient Innovations

The speed of innovations in the food and beverage space often leave manufacturers navigating the marketplace without specific regulatory guidance. For example, the FDA only recently announced its intentions to regulate cultured meat, which certainly came as a shock to the USDA. Nestle’s innovations in structured sugar offer an interesting innovation for traditional confectionary products. This rapid innovation must be backed by a sound foundation in quality practices to enable speed-to-market while ensuring prompt adherence to refinements in industry regulations as they are introduced.

  1. Consumers’ Demands for Transparency

In today’s current environment, transparency into a product’s ingredients often informs brand loyalty for consumers. In a recent survey of over 1,500 consumers, 94% stressed the importance of transparency both in terms of ingredients and process. 71% stated that product transparency affects whether they choose to purchase a product, and 67% believe that it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide consumers with clear and comprehensive information surrounding its products. Open and transparent communication between manufacturers and consumers fosters a relationship built on trust and reliance – preventing issues before they arise rather than merely responding after crisis occurs. For brands, this shift towards transparency proves crucial in capturing the market of younger generations, with the 56% of the millennial generation surveyed stating that a brand’s transparency has the capacity to make them a customer for life.

Industry leaders are seeking out a number of innovative solutions, be them advancements to cold chain collaboration or leveraging blockchain to pave the way for complete supply chain transparency. In a recent post, we shared what SaaS leader FoodLogiq is doing in this space around IoT solutions. Despite the inherent complexity of these supply chain issues, manufacturers should strive for excellence and consistency in quality by adhering to internationally recognized standards to certify their food safety management systems—in fact, more than 32,000 manufacturers and suppliers are currently certified to ISO 22000. With the June release of the 2018 revision, these certified companies have only three years to adopt changes to maintain their certification.

What is Changing with ISO 22000

ISO 22000:2018 represents a new approach to risk that distinguishes between the operational and business level of the management system. The revision is also more closely tied to the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of internationally recognized standards put forward by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

There are a few important things to understand about the revision:

  • The new version of ISO 22000 will follow the same structure as all other ISO management system standards, making compliance easier for those organizations already certified to other standards
  • The revision adopts a new approach to understand risk, one in which both internal and external risks are examined, put into appropriate organizational context, and paired with an effective risk treatment plan
  • The revisions include clarifications to the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle by outlining two cycles that work together: one to cover the management system and the other to cover the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). This underscores the importance for business to distinguish hazard assessment at the operational level separately from business risks identification and mitigation

Where We Go from Here

The ISO 22000:2018 revisions represent enhancements that should ensure safety at every step of our food chain. Protecting the farm-to-fork lifecycle, the enhancements zero in on these important facets of food safety:

  • Strengthened collaboration along the food chain, particularly among ISO 22000 certified organizations
  • A systematic approach to management
  • Prerequisite Programs (e.g. control of operation, maintenance & sanitation, product information & consumer awareness, and training)
  • Strict adherence to the principles of Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP)

ISO 22000 should be viewed as a necessary complement to other management standards like ISO 9001. While ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems) is a great start, certifying to ISO 22000 demonstrates a dedication to quality that customers will respect.

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Tags: Regulatory Strategy & Compliance
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