Food safety holds a critical role in a mutually successful buyer/seller partnership. Securing consumer confidence and loyalty are foundational pillars for retailers as they assess supply chain practices and strategies to enhance transparency and traceability. Therefore, there has never been a more critical time to emphasize the value of third-party supplier audits, certifications and the role they can play in advancing food safety, protecting the retail brand and maintaining consumer trust.
SQFI, a division of FMI, has helped countless food suppliers of all sizes establish a food safety management program and has assisted many others seeking to enhance their existing programs through its Fundamentals Program for Food Manufacturing and the Fundamentals Program for Primary Production. Each program provides both basic and intermediate levels and provides a step-by-step approach to improve food safety management.
There are several converging factors sparking the renewed interest by retailers to strengthen the food safety requirements for their suppliers. Primarily, these factors stem from changing consumer food preferences and food safety.
Changing consumer food preferences has led to an emergence of new and innovative food products, an increased demand for information surrounding the origins of food (e.g., ethically sourced) and an expansion of international flavors and cuisine. The shift in consumer preference has given rise to an expanded inventory and more product offerings leading to more suppliers from around the world who are entering the market—many of whom lack familiarity with requirements to meet U.S. food safety standards.
More product offerings and new suppliers may expose retailers to increased risks. New supplier onboarding programs are critical to mitigating these risks. Third-party certifications are vital to a successful onboarding process by providing retailers with the necessary quality and safety assurances for manufacturing, growing, and harvesting processes.
In addition to SQFI’s Food Safety management program, suppliers have the opportunity to leverage ReposiTrak’s Compliance Management System to collect and manage all required vendor documents, including a current directory of approved vendors, third-party audits, and food safety plans, as well as other vital documents like signed vendor agreements and certificates of liability insurance. Derek Hannum, senior vice president at ReposiTrak, affirms the rise of international suppliers presently in the U.S. food supply chain, which now includes products and ingredients hailing from more than 100 countries.
With a new year comes new priorities and expectations. On May 24, 2021, SQF Edition 9 will be implemented to further advance the food industry’s commitment to quality and safety. While the food industry’s priorities may shift to meet the ever-changing consumer, when it comes to food safety, the food industry’s priorities remain unchanged – provide consumers around the world with safe, quality food.
With this in mind, we encourage you to watch Frank Schreurs, SQFI technical team member, who recently provided a keynote presentation in a complimentary webinar hosted by ReposiTrak where he discussed critical changes to SQF standards for 2021 implementation. Click here to view the webinar recording.
For more information on SQF Edition 9, please visit https://www.sqfi.com/resource-center/sqf-code-edition-9-downloads/
By Gigi Vita, Chief Food Safety Assessment Officer & Senior Vice President, SQFI