In the second part of FoodProductionDaily.com’s special edition on Plant Audits and Quality Control, the chair of the FSSC board of stakeholders outlined drivers behind the growth projections, and talked about the body’s plans to form a new division to provide certification services when the forthcoming ISO standard on packaging comes into force.
Evolution of FSSC
The Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 is still in its infancy compared to other schemes such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) but its current 300 certifications (compared to the BRC’s 13,000) will soar by more than 10 times within a few years, predicted Schmid.
“We are still relatively young as an organisation but our development dates back more than a decade,” he said.
The method has been developed for the certification of food safety systems of food manufacturers that process or manufacture animal products, perishable vegetable outputs or products with a log shelf life – as well as ingredients such as additives, vitamins and biocultures.
The formation of FSSC 22000 has its seeds in the string of food contamination incidents at end of the 1990’s that saw a straining in trust in food manufacturers by leading retailers, who increasingly pushed for the formation of private certification schemes to oversee the supply chain.
But it took another five years for the food manufacturing sector to recognise that a unified system would be more efficient and credible than the individual ones used by companies. The sector’s insistence on a scheme developed by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) led to the ISO 22000 in 2005.
It was not, however, until this standard was combined with an industry-led system PAS 220 in 2008 that it received the necessary approval from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
The FSSC is a combination of these standards plus extra criteria such as the need for food processors to have an inventory of applicable foreign regulations on their premises and effective supervision of personnel to apply safety standards.
Schmid highlights two crucial elements that he is convinced will underpin the rapid growth of the non-for-profit group’s scheme: full GFSI approval in spring 2010 and its acceptance by the European Cooperation for Accreditation. FSSC 22000 was the first of the GFSI-recognised schemes to receive ECA approval and means all accreditation bodies in Europe accept it.
This was due to come into force at the start of this year but a delay means this will now more likely happen from the 1 July, 2011, he added.
The initiative’s global structure and increasing acceptance by major players will also ensure its growth, said Schmid. The scheme already counts a number of giants such as Cargill and Kraft while others such a Coca-Cola and Nestle are considering its adoption.
The growing market for certification bodies is also driving expansion and with this number expected to surge to create what the FSSC board chair calls a tipping point.
“We currently have nine accredited bodies but a further 36 that are in the process of going through the application procedure. Some 26 more have expressed an interest in coming on board”, he explained.
Consequently the number is expected to balloon to 60 by the end of the year and such increased coverage will be a massive driver for growth – mainly in Europe and North America but also China and key parts of South East Asia such as Thailand and Japan.
He said this would have a massive effect on the scheme’s expansion because “many food manufacturers have been waiting for the certification bodies they currently work with to get FSSC accreditation – and from there will come the tipping point”.
The FSSC said it expects to have 1,000 certifications in place by the end of the year and between 5,000 and 10,000 within three years.
“FSSC 22000 is in its infancy but we are expecting an explosion in growth”, said Schmid.
But he stressed the foundation’s goal was not for the scheme to become the number one system in the world but rather making sure that its accreditation bodies are “operating to highest standard of certification and integrity”.
Packaging and other challenges
The key to the scheme’s future growth will be its ability to adapt, said Schmid, adding this was something the organisation worked hard on.
He cited the forthcoming ISO standard on food packaging for material manufacturers as being a good example
“With packaging we would need to adapt our requirements and scope, which won’t be difficult but we will need new certification bodies and accreditation, as well as a new division,” he said “The ISO may introduce the packaging standard sometime this year. We could incorporate it within a couple of months.”
Upgrading the scheme to meet GFSI 6 is on their radar but while Schmid acknowledges the challenge he predicts this should be completed by the middle of this year - in plenty of time for the 1 January, 2012 deadline. In the meantime, the GFSI will continue to recognise its current procedures.
Increasing its penetration in North America and the opening of an office in China by the end of the year are also two aims high on the FSSC’s list.
“We are constantly adapting and gaining more and more recognition from big manufacturers. We firmly believe that FSSC 22000 is making food processing safer across the globe,” Schmid said.