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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Letting Wisdom Prevail over Euphoria:

Dear inquiring friend,

Regarding food safety and quality system certification options, if your customers have not indicated what they want, the choices are as follows:

Go with None: Just keep managing your programs well and improving them according to what you have learned and are continuing to learn from experience and real events in your operation. If you need to consult additional educational resources, the World Health Organization's CODEX Committee provides a wealth of free materials. Beyond expanding your knowledge of your operation, you only need to ensure that you meet applicable legal/regulatory requirements and that you remain committed to producing safe products with the desired quality. If you can also implement some cost and stress reduction strategies with this option, you will be a winner. Read the Tale of Three Companies.

Go with Any: Just to have a certificate. The certification programs, as long as they include the HACCP principles, are essentially the same. They only differ in name and price. Choose wisely and be ready to bear some unnecessary expenses. Someone will come along to make you believe that it is worth it because of all the businesses that you would lose without certification - part of the wool-over-eyes game.

Go with “Elite level” certification:  If you wish or if you must, get certified to one of these. You will certainly have fanciful documentation. If you do decide to go this route, be ready for heavy resource (time, money and stress) investment along with imposed incidental costs and no significant gains in the actual safety and quality of your products beyond what you can already be determined to achieve without certification.

That said, and given the current market craze, the investment in certification may be worthwhile if you actually gain more customers who have not stopped to take stock of what they are really getting from the certification circus.  If your customers fail to see that you are already able to offer more to them without certification than with it, you need certification.

If you are the customer, go with the first option (NONE). You are already not relying on certificates anyway. You are doing what is more reliable than submitted audit certificates with shipments that you receive - your receiving inspections and testing. If you are not, you need to start doing these because they are always necessary and helpful. The certificate does not help in that regard. Have you ever accepted a defective shipment on the shipper's argument about having an elite or the like certificate?

I wish you have the time for a further discussion of your options but you are probably too busy preparing for your next third party audit. Then you will have the resulting NCRs to address, and the busy cycle continues. Meanwhile, and more likely than not, day-to-day operation floor challenges are also continuing to require your attention. You probably also have to attend this or that seminar,, webinar, meeting or conference in the attempt to learn what will help you keep up with everything that is thrown at you by prevailing schemes and programs.   

You should always let wisdom prevail over euphoria. Read the story of the Cherry Processor and the Ice Cream Manufacturer
All the best!

Felix Amiri is the current Food Sector Chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection

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