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Food industry gears up for new ISO safety standard


With the deadline approaching for a new global standard on managing food safety in plants, the industry is gearing up to train employees on how to keep contaminants out of the processing line.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is in the process of developing a specific standard for food processors setting out safetymanagement procedures. The development of ISO 22000 will become a key part in the efforts by governments and regulators to keep contaminants out of the food chain.

ISO 22000 on food safety management systems will affect organisations ranging from feed producers, primary producers through food manufacturers, transport and storage operators and subcontractorsto retail and food service outlets. Related organisations such as producers of equipment, packaging material, cleaning agents, additives and ingredients will also be affected.

Dorte Jespersen, secretary of the ISO 22000 working group, said the introduction of a global standard will aid multinational food producers by helping to harmonise the growing raft of nationalstandards being introduced by various governments.

"Organisations that produce, manufacture, handle or supply food recognize that customers increasingly want them to demonstrate and provide adequate evidence of their ability to identify andcontrol food safety hazards and the many conditions impacting food safety," Jespersen said. "The growing number of national standards for food safety management has led to confusion.Consequently, there is a need to harmonise the national standards at an international level."

The ISO is an international standard-setting body made up of representatives from national regulatory bodies. The organisation produces world-wide industrial and commercial standards, which oftenbecome law through treaties or national regulations. ISO plans to publish the new standard in September this year. ISO has circulated a final draft of the standard to national standard bodiesthat make up its membership for a two-month voting period, ending on 5 July 2005.

A food or beverage company will be able to use the new standard to demonstrate its ability to control food safety hazards. They will have to comply with part or all of ISO 22000 to meet applicablefood safety regulations or any requirements agreed with a customer. Currently food and drink companies follow ISO 9001, a more general industry standard on quality management.

The standards specifies requirements on planning, implementing, operating, maintaining and updating a food safety management system. It will set the standard for evaluating customer requirements.It will require companies to inform its suppliers, customers and other parties in the food chain about safety standards.

US-based Bizmanualz is one company gearing up to meet the demand for training courses relating to the new standards. The company recently announced it had created a five-day training course thatwill satisfy the auditor certification requirements under ISO 22000. The class certifies quality auditors of food industry companies involved in the sourcing, processing and packaging of food anddrink products.

"Recent global news highlighting unsafe food processing, distribution and preparation are creating an increasing demand for standardised food safety training to ensure a safer foodsupply" stated Bizmanualz's managing director, Christopher Anderson.

The publication of ISO 22000 will be followed by an ISO technical specification giving guidance on the implementation of the standard. The technical specification will focus on guiding small andmedium-sized food producers. The ISO plans to publish another technical specification in a few months explaining certification requirements when third-party auditing is used.

Experts from 23 countries are participating in the formation of ISO 22000. The Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union, the Codex Alimentarius Commission,International Hotel and Restaurant Association, CIES/Global Food Safety Initiative and the World Food Safety Organisation are participating as advisors.

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