Chapter 15: Quality and safety standards in food supply chains – Delivering Performance in Food Supply Chains


Quality and safety standards in food supply chains

R. Baines,     Royal Agricultural College, UK


Private standards have been developed in many countries and some standards have progressed beyond national status to become global standards, the most important of which are evaluated here. The standards compared here include pre-farm gate standards (SQF1000, GlobalGAP and ISO22000) and food industry standards (SQF2000, BRC Global, IFS and ISO22000). Like most national standards, all claim to address food safety but only some also consider product quality and extrinsic quality factors like environmental care or worker conditions of employment. What each standard actually delivers is discussed here and summarised in two decision trees, one for food safety and quality and the other for environment, worker care and food defence.

Key words

private standards


food safety and quality


worker care

food defence

15.1 Introduction

Modern food supply chains have become increasingly globalised and complex (Manning and Baines, 2004) and have also become the domain of the private sector with governments mainly providing a regulatory and hygienic oversight. This chapter will take the reader through the evolution of private standards around the world in the context of the changing governance of food supply and the rise in global sourcing of raw materials to finished products. With the decline in direct government inspections of food crossing national borders, allied to the increasing pressure of the food industry to be responsible for food safety, and liable in the event of any breakdowns, many national private standards have been established but only a few operate internationally. The chapter will provide the reader with a systematic analysis of the main international standards and includes a decision tree to assist in selecting the right standard for those involved in, or planning to engage in, international food trade.

The term private standards is used here to describe food and farm assurances that have been developed by interested parties (e.g. producers, food industry sectors, manufacturers, retailers, non-governmental organisations, and similar) with the specific purpose of providing sets of rules for production, processing, manufacturing and distribution that can be independently checked so that the next stages in supply chains can be ‘assured’ that the products coming forward meet the conditions laid down in that standard. As such, the term ‘private standard’ is synonymous with terms like food and farm assurance schemes, systems or codes.

15.2 Private standards and their evolution

Before embarking on an evaluation of current standards, it is important to explore what is meant by private standards. Many small and medium sized processing and distribution organisations have a long history of quality assurance (QA) systems. Generally these systems were either promoted by trade organisations, industry bodies, or were privately owned and branded like the systems employed by multinational food companies. Such schemes were either regulated by the operator (1st party), audited by the purchaser (2nd party), or they were independently certified using agreed protocols (3rd party audit). Recognised management systems such as ISO 9001 were common (Baines and Davies, 1998, 1999; Varzakas and Jukes, 1997; Caswell and Henson, 1997) as these early private standards had evolved out of the business philosophy of total quality management. These approaches, however, were found to be deficient in managing food safety challenges as supply chains concentrated into fewer, bigger suppliers in the 1990s.

Early (1995) described quality assurance in the food industry as a strategic management function that embraces policies, standards and systems for the maintenance of quality. Further, Sparling et al. (2001) considered that the growth of QA standards would move suppliers away from commodity (and wholesale) markets into more speciality (or value added) markets, especially in the agriculture sector. However, Manning et al. (2006) argued that QA needs to move from qualitative measures of quality to more quantitative measures in order to demonstrate to external stakeholders and consumers that QA can actually deliver tangible benefits.

As a result of several benchmarking studies, Baines and Ryan (2002) concluded that a well constructed private standard had the potential to be a business management tool for:

• demonstrating regulatory compliance to governments

• driving internal business efficiencies through operators, internal auditors and managers knowing what they are doing and why and

• communicating to suppliers, customers and consumers the integrity that the business has placed in the products sold.

If the capacity exists independently to inspect and certify to the standard under ISO Guide 62 or 65, then the assurances given can be global and can thus facilitate international trade, as long as the standard is known by buyers and consumers in the countries of consumption.

15.2.1 Private standards, regulation and food safety

The rise in prominence of private standards is one element of a number of trends that define food production and supply over recent decades. Perhaps the most important of these trends is the continuing concerns over the safety of food allied to a recent history of major food safety breakdowns including BSE in cattle and the reported links to new variant CJD, mineral oil contamination of animal feeds, the discovery of a banned colouring, Sudan red, in many processed foods and the many examples of microbiological contamination of foods ranging from raw meats to fresh mixed salads.

Governments have responded to food safety breakdowns mainly through the introduction of consumer protection legislation that is grounded on risk assessments and the adoption of hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) approaches, at least for higher risk food groups in the food processing and manufacturing industries. Australia and New Zealand went further and proposed to include HACCP-based risk assessment down to the farm level in 1995 which resulted in the Australia, New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSANZ online). Similarly, the European Union under their General Food Law in 2005 (Europa online) brought primary production under hygienic regulations; however, neither region has effectively embedded this aspect of these laws in practice to date. Over the same period, governments have generally reduced their resources for food inspections in favour of a lighter ‘regulatory oversight’. Allied to this, greater responsibility is placed on industry to manage food hygiene and ensure that the food they sell is safe.

What does this mean to food businesses today? Should a food business cause harm or injury to consumers, then governments will apply sanctions, including prosecution, under consumer protection law. Therefore the onus is on businesses to set up systems to reduce the risks of food being unsafe and it is this that provided the stimulus to embed food safety management into private standards alongside quality management. Indeed, having a management system in place for food safety can be used as a defence by demonstrating due diligence, while in strict liability regions such systems can be used to lower the cost of insurance premiums taken out to cover the costs of litigation and liability.

Although worldwide regulators are still increasing their efforts to safeguard the foods we eat, there has been a continued weakening of consumer confidence in the capacity of regulators to assure safe food adequately. In response, the food industry has sought to regain the confidence of consumers, especially along discrete supply chains where chain captains (such as global retailers and the main brand name food companies), who are the main link between the chain and consumers, are increasingly insisting on third party certification of the private standards they have developed to assure the integrity of the food in terms of both safety management (the legal defence) and quality specifications (for market positioning, competition and price). The term ‘chain captain’ is used here in the same context as Hughes (1994) and others use it to denote the power and influence of such organisations to specify what the whole chain should do, as they have the economic power and influence to do so. As a result, third party or independent certification is seen by many in the industry to provide a more cost-effective method of surveillance than regulatory inspection alone. This is based on the following arguments:

• Internal audit systems within food businesses can be developed to provide the level of surveillance necessary for the level of food risk associated with different raw materials and food preparations.

• Independent or third party audits provide an independent check that the internal system is operating and is capable of detecting, removing or recalling defective products.

• The system is capable of providing traceability down the chain and provenance up the chain.

Regulatory controls are important though as they provide the necessary public check of private certification systems and are a necessary link between food chains and international agreements linked to trade.

15.2.2 Globalisation and private standards

Several other trends have contributed to the globalisation of food supply and thus the evolution of private standards, these include:

• Increasing trade in food and raw materials across national borders and between different parts of the world. Access to some trading blocks requires compliance with international grades and standards and import regulations. Where private standards prevail in the market place, then although country access may be governed by regulatory rules, access to markets may additionally require compliance with appropriate private standards.

• A consequence of this trade is that more food is purchased unseen and therefore requires appropriate description and documentation to ensure what is delivered is what was ordered. In other words, a system of identity preservation and traceability is required for both regulatory inspection and under various private standards. As more materials are sourced from around the world, businesses require the standard of inspection and certification to be consistent. This has led to most private standards being inspected by accredited certification bodies under ISO Guide 62 or 65.

• Irrespective of the regulatory system, chain captains are increasingly dominating food trade. As a result, they are driving the trend for more vertical integration and discrete supply chains. In addition, they will often exceed regulatory food safety requirements through ‘their’ private standards and will define specific criteria related to product quality and safety while some will also define the systems of production (such as worker and animal welfare, environmental protection and conservation) all as conditions of supply.

• These chain captains also recognise that governments do not have the capacity (personnel and financial) to inspect food as frequently as would be desirable or necessary to address potential liability, nor do regulators inspect against specific quality and credence requirements. Therefore chain captains are increasingly demanding private inspection and independent certification against their own QA protocols and product specifications.

• Consumers have also changed over this period in that they (we) want local and exotic food, convenience and pre-prepared foods but they do not seem to want seasonality which further drives global sourcing of such products. Irrespective of the origin or preparation, they expect the food to be safe and of the right quality for the price they are prepared to pay. This can be communicated through private standards. Furthermore, some consumers are interested in how food is produced and are prepared to search out and even pay a premium for such products like organic or fair trade products (Baines and Davies, 2007). Again, private standards have been developed to meet these requirements either as the main focus of the standard (e.g. organic certification, Fair Trade, or Rainforest Alliance) or as an additional element of safety and quality focussed standards (e.g. safe quality food (SQF) optional modules for environmental and worker care (see and the recently introduced Global Gap Risk Assessment on Social Practices).

Over the same time horizon, food and agriculture have become key areas in relation to trade liberalisation and have been linked with government to government trade and disputes that have required World Trade Organisation (WTO) arbitration. Should such arbitration include food safety concerns, then the case may be referred to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (a UN agency funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation). Furthermore, although Codex Standards are not compulsory, they are increasingly being embraced in national rules and guidelines, especially the adoption of HACCP (Codex, 1969).

It is against such food trade and regulatory developments that industry driven private standards evolved in the 1990s in some countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand and Europe) but not in others (e.g. the USA, Canada and south America). As the pace of globalisation has increased, with multinational food companies and multiple retailers sourcing from further afield, some standards have been exported to these new regions, for example the expansion of GlobalGAP into Asia and Africa and the expansion of SQF1000 & 2000, British Retail Consortium (BRC) and International Food Standard (IFS) into Asia and the Americas. It should be noted here that private standards are not subject to WTO trade rules as they are classed as voluntary standards even though they may dominate supply chains and effectively be used as conditions for market access.

15.2.3 Private standard developments from retailer to producer

So why have QA systems evolved as they have? As stated earlier, the principal force behind the development of private standards has been, and remains, the legal requirement to demonstrate that food is safe. The stage in the supply chain that is exposed to the greatest liability is retail and food service, as these are the interface with consumers and hence consumer protection legislation. In response to this legislation, EU food retailers in particular developed their own quality and safety systems to demonstrate ‘due diligence’ in their distribution, handling and the sale of food. This meant that the greatest risk remaining for retailers was their suppliers, so they then demanded the same of them as a condition of continued supply. A logical development of these end-of-chain schemes was for individual or groups of retailers to examine supplier activity and set common hygienic requirements. Current examples of this approach are the British Retail Consortium Global Standard (BRC) and the International Food Standard (IFS) developed by German and French retailers.

This process has been repeated down the supply chain with food processors and manufacturers requiring their suppliers to implement QA systems that meet their requirements, or more accurately meet the conditions of their chain captains. In response to these demands, primary producers in a number of industry sectors and in particular regions developed their own farm assurance schemes, for example the range of farm assurance standards under the British Farm Standard, the Australian Care programmes for cattle, sheep flocks and fresh produce and Horticulture New Zealand.

Our reviews of various supply chains have shown that the adoption of HACCP to address food safety risks generally does not include the primary production level where codes of good agricultural practice (GAP) often prevail, for example, along beef chains (Baines, 2000; Buncic, 2000), fresh produce chains (Baines and Ryan, 2002; Baines, 2002) and with grain supply (Baines and Davies, 2003) even though food hazards can occur at this stage. The main arguments for relying on GAPs is that it is considered to be too difficult to implement HACCP on farms and that HACCP can be strategically placed further along vertically integrated chains. Indeed, adopting HACCP at strategic stages has been particularly important for the safer supply of livestock products (e.g. meat at the slaughter stage and milk from ‘first buyers’ onwards) and in the supply of fresh produce (fruit and vegetables at the pack house stage onwards).

When GAPs are considered within the HACCP system, they should be more accurately described as HACCP prerequisite programmes. Some farm level standards have progressed further in relation to addressing food safety risks, for example a number of poultry private standards have developed sector wide HACCP plans to guide producers (Manning et al., 2008). Furthermore, Baines and Ryan (2002) and Baines et al. (2004) have argued that correct HACCP adoption at the farm level is feasible and affordable and this is backed up by the fact that primary producers under the SQF1000 code (level 2 or 3) are doing this already, as are pig producers under the Australian Pig Industry Quality programme (APIQ).

15.3 Comparison of international standards

It would be difficult to describe adequately in this chapter the multitude of national and regional standards that have been established over the last 20 or so years. However, there has been a significant amount of harmonisation between standards within regions and as a result those that have become internationally recognised are generally indicative of the approach of national standards in that region. Furthermore, owing to the importance of global sourcing allied to the control of international supply chains, primarily through enforcing private standards as a condition of market access, it is important to understand what these standards actually deliver to customers, consumers and regulators.

15.3.1 Benchmarking international food and farm standards

The plethora of national private standards and the preference of some global retailers only to accept ‘their’ standards has led to a call either to rationalise standards or to provide some form of equivalence analysis through benchmarking. In response to this, the CIES (International Committee of Food Retail Chains) (who represent global retailers and whose members command some 65% of global food trade) developed a benchmarking tool, the global food safety initiative (GFSI) which is based on evaluating whether standards are underpinned by HACCP, have management systems to operate them and are supported by good guidance. Their argument was that any standard benchmarked would be accepted by all CIES member retailers (Byrnes, 2003).

To date the GFSI has recognised four food industry schemes (British Retail Consortium Global Standard, Dutch HACCP, International Food Standard and SQF2000) and two farm level schemes (SQF1000 and Horticulture New Zealand). Global GAP was submitted for benchmarking when it was known as EurepGAP but was found to be non-compliant. Since this initial submission, the CIES has decided to discontinue farm level benchmarking. The recently introduced ISO22000 (food and farm standards) are in the process of being submitted to GFSI for benchmarking.

As has already been stated, private standards address more than just food safety. For this reason a more detailed benchmarking approach has been developed. The main areas considered under this approach include:

• ownership of the standard and degree of stakeholder engagement in its development

• presence of a management system (as with GFSI)

• food safety management (as with GFSI)

• management of food quality and product credence

• supporting guidance (as with GFSI)

• audit approaches and decisions over compliance and non-compliance and

• standards body control over service providers (e.g. suppliers, consultants, trainers and training organisations, auditors and certification bodies).

The criteria used to select standards that are truly global were twofold; the standards are being used in more than one country and they have been, or will be, considered by the benchmarking activities of the CIES. Given these criteria, the private standards considered here are:

• at the farm level: SQF1000, GlobalGAP and ISO22000

• from the food industry: SQF2000, BRC Global, IFS and ISO22000.

The method of analysis used was to evaluate each standard along with any guidance documentation and the audit checklists. Once initial analysis was complete, the findings were reviewed by a certification body familiar with use of the standard, this was the verification stage of the analysis. Finally, the conclusions drawn from this analysis were compared to other benchmarking or evaluation studies of the standards in question. The main conclusions from these studies are given below.

15.3.2 Standard ownership and engagement with stakeholders

Details of the organisations that own the standards under consideration are given in Table 15.1 and from this it can be seen that there are different types of ownership and governance. The ISO standard 22000 is owned and governed through the International Standards Organisation and its various regional technical committees. As a result, stakeholder engagement is through high level representation resulting in limited access to development of the standard by those who use it on the ground. In contrast the remaining standards are effectively owned by food retail associations (the chain captains). The approach to governance varies, however, with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) through the SQF Institute ensuring that a wide range of stakeholders, including those not directly involved with the standard, have the opportunity to influence the standard’s management and development. In contrast, the remaining retail owned standards allow little supplier involvement (BRC and IFS) or the suppliers invited to participate have to be members of the standard (GlobalGAP).

Table 15.1

Ownership and governance of global food and farm standards and the degree of engagement with supply chain stakeholders

Global standard Standard owners Stakeholder engagement in standard development
SQF 2000 and 1000 SQFi – a Division of the Food Marketing Institute, USA (Origin of standard – West Australian government and industry) International Technical Committee from all stages of the chain including non-members of the standard
Stakeholder forums at annual conferences and case study suppliers.
Global GAP Foodplus, German Eurohandel Institute made up mainly of European retailers Sector technical Committees drawn only from members of standard
Managed stakeholder sessions at conferences with invited suppliers presenting
ISO 22000 International Standards Organisation National experts from 23 countries plus liaison with international organisations (Codex, WFSO, CIAA and CIES) formed Working Group 8 of ISO TC 34
Little contact or interaction with supply chain businesses
BRC Global British Retail Consortium representing most of the UK’s major retailers Standards governance drawn from members’ technical directors and BRC Management
Technical advisory – as above plus trade association and certification body representatives
International Food Standard Initial standard – the German retail federation (HDE) and French counterpart (FCD)
IFS Food, version 5, is now a collaboration of three retail federations from Germany, France and Italy
Predominantly German, French and Italian retailers
Governance drawn from retail associations through technical committees and groups?

15.3.3 Food safety management approaches

Two contrasting approaches to addressing food risks and managing food safety were identified, namely the adoption of HACCP or the reliance on codes of practice. This study of the global standards has identified that all of the post-farm gate standards are grounded in HACCP adoption (Fig.15.1), as is SQF1000 (level 2); in contrast, GlobalGAP relies on codes of good agricultural practice as prescribed in the guidance and audit checklist. This is considered less rigorous, as good agricultural practices are listed as HACCP prerequisite programmes. It is claimed that the pre-farm gate ISO22000 standard also requires HACCP adoption; however, documentation available to date does not make this clear although it is likely that the approach will be to develop sector HACCP plans for producers to follow. It should be noted, however, that the SQF codes and ISO22000 do potentially provide a whole chain-linked solution to food safety risk assessment and management (Fig. 15.3).

Fig. 15.1 Food safety approaches of the major global food and farm private standards where HACCP signifies full adoption of HACCP system at the business level and GAP refers to good agricultural practices. (Note: Level 2–3 refers to higher levels of compliance within the standard and ? refers to uncertainty about the approach of standard at this stage in the chain.)

15.3.4 Food quality and credence

Chain captains have identified the lack of food quality as a risk associated with their suppliers, at least post-farm gate. As such the BRC, IFS and SQF2000 standards all include quality as key criteria (Fig. 15.2). The SQF1000 code (level 3) also requires quality to be addressed pre-farm gate, thus allowing quality management to be harmonised along the whole supply chain at the same time as risk-based food safety management is harmonised (Fig. 15.3). The ISO22000 standard does not include product quality criteria which may reflect the government-led development of this standard through ISO where quality has not been an issue for regulation. Furthermore, ISO argue that quality can be adequately managed by also adopting ISO9001 Total Quality Management, but this would add unreasonable costs to many small and medium sized enterprises (SME) food businesses. Finally, GlobalGAP does not include any audit criteria for product quality.

Fig. 15.2 Product quality specifications of the major global food and farm private standards where market specifications refer to customer requirements. (Note: Level 3 refers to the highest level of compliance under this standard.)

Fig. 15.3 Supply chain linkage in terms of standard’s requirements pre- and post-farm gate for the major global food and farm private standards.

If we now consider extrinsic quality issues or credence, we see differences in approach between the standards (Fig. 15.4).

Fig. 15.4 Environmental (Env), worker care (Emp) and food defence (FD) requirements of the major global food and farm private standards. (Note: requirements may be recommendations or be optional requirements of the main standards – see text.)

In terms of environmental care, both SQF and GlobalGAP address this; however, the approach is different. With GlobalGAP, environment and conservation are encouraged but not required to a point where major or minor non-compliances are raised though audit. Moreover, this investment in environment can be lost further along the chain if post-farm standards do not include environmental considerations. In contrast, both SQF1000 and SQF2000 can include environmental care as an optional module if the market requires it (or if the supplier wants to do it), thus a whole chain solution to environmental care is realisable. None of the other standards address environment.

A similar approach to worker care is seen, with GlobalGAP encouraging worker care, while the SQF codes have an optional module in responsible social practice mainly aimed at worker care and employment relations. Another area of development is the recognition that food can be deliberately contaminated, either by dissatisfied employees or consumers, or as an act of terrorism. In response to this, both the SQF codes and IFS have introduced optional food defence modules to address the risks associated with deliberate contamination.

15.3.5 Training in standards

Understanding the standard and using it correctly are key elements in underpinning the quality and robustness of any standard, as any abuse of the standard by a stakeholder can undermine it for all. Therefore, it is important that those who use the standard, from supplier to auditor and consultant, are trained accordingly.

All of the standards reviewed required auditors to be trained in their standard and in addition to have been trained and competent in HACCP (Fig. 15.5). Thereafter, the retail owned standards SQF, BRC and IFS also require those who train in the standard to be trained themselves (Fig. 15.6). Finally, only the SQF codes require consultants and at least one person in the food business to be trained unless they retain the services of a trained and registered consultant.

Fig. 15.5 Training requirements for suppliers and service providers of the major global food and farm private standards.

Fig. 15.6 Standard owner’s control over training organisations and trainers for the major global food and farm private standards. (Note: yrs refer to registration period and ? denotes uncertainty of time.)

From this we can deduce that only the SQF codes require all users and service providers to be trained as part of the integrity of their standard. This means that every food and farm business certified under this standard has someone working with them who has been trained in its use. The SQF institute goes further by requiring training bodies and trainers to register with the institute so that any users of training services can check that providers are legitimate.

15.3.6 Standards body control over users and service providers

The next stage in exerting control over users of a standard is to know who is using it and how they are operating. The general approach for most standards is to manage the activities of auditors and certification bodies. Standards owners can do this in two ways: by issuing licences first to certification bodies to operate in order to provide an audit and certification service (Fig. 15.7) and second, through the independent accreditation service provided by national government agencies under ISO Guide 62 or 65.

Fig. 15.7 Standard owner’s control over certification bodies (CB) and auditors for the major global food and farm private standards. (Note: yrs refer to registration period.)

This means that the control of auditors, their training and activities are the responsibility of the employing certification bodies. Both IFS and SQF go further by requiring individual auditors to be registered either biennially or annually, respectively, after checks are carried out, including HACCP training, food sector category experience and competence in using the standard.

15.4 Conclusions

Before considering the current situation and likely future developments, it is worthwhile reflecting on the past. Prior to the 1990s and the on-going sequence of significant food safety incidents, many food processors relied on ISO 9000 to deliver total quality management. This approach was found to be deficient in managing food safety. In response, most private standards operating beyond the farm gate have embedded HACCP principles to address food hazard identification, control and management. In contrast, most pre-farm gate standards are based on sector legal requirements and good agricultural practice guidance.

Currently, food and farming businesses operating along modern supply chains are increasingly required to adopt one or more private food standards, in order to secure access to particular markets and customers. Most of these standards are grounded in national regulations and are additionally defined through codes of good practice; however a few also seek to be internationally recognised. This review has identified the differences and similarities between those private standards that are promoted as ‘global’ standards. However, it is important to note that selection of the right standard is not just an objective choice, the politics and power behind these standards needs to be considered.

15.4.1 Politics of standard selection

Although this chapter provides an objective review of standards, it is important to recognise the significant political influences associated with certain standards. Indeed, the best-known standards may not be the best! In considering the apparent popularity of standards, it is important also to consider who owns standards, as this will generally condition their use. For example, many suppliers to British, French and German retailers currently have to maintain both BRC and IFS standards to satisfy market access in spite of the CIES agreement of these same retailers to recognise all standards benchmarked under the Global Food Safety Initiative. It could be argued that this is another example of the use of economic or other powers by these chain captains in European and global markets.

European retailers are also seeking to popularise their standards in the countries that supply them. This is understandable, as they have a vested interest in the success of such standards and on imposing additional market access distinguishing requirements on suppliers. In contrast, the SQF Codes have grown out of Western Australia and have become popular with some primary producers and food processors in other counties, irrespective of the fact that the standard’s intellectual property is now owned by the Food Marketing Institute, the US retailer and wholesaler association. Moreover, as private standards take off in the Americas, the SQF institute should have home advantage even though Global GAP, IFS, BRC and supporters of ISO22000 are seeking to take their market share.

In order to bring us up to date, we must also consider the introduction of another ISO standard, the ISO 22000 standard for food safety management, which was released in the latter part of 2005. Is this a new innovation, or merely an attempt by ISO and the major certification bodies around the world to win back the ground lost to other private standards when ISO 9000 lost its appeal and relevance to the food industry, mainly owing to the inability of the standard to provide a framework to address food safety? It is interesting to note that ISO22000 is to be benchmarked against GFSI and is being promoted as ‘the one universal food safety standard’ by at least one international certification body (SGS 2009 online); only time will tell whether chain captains will accept it as an equivalent standard or stay with those they effectively own and control.

The more recent emergence of European retailer requests for their suppliers to demonstrate responsible social and environmental practices in response to (or to create) an interest in credence purchasing in the market can further deflect suppliers away from the twin goals of food safety and product quality. This is yet another development for standards owners and members to ponder and this is reflected in those standards that have encouraged such activities (e.g. GlobalGAP for environment) or have provided optional modules for environmental and worker care (e.g. SQF codes and GlobalGAP GRASP). Finally, we have seen the risk of food terrorism being raised, particularly under the US Homeland Security Bill (Govtracks.US 2002). This has led both the SQF institute and IFS to introduce food defence modules in an effort to address ‘unknown hazards and risks’.

15.4.2 Selecting the right standard

So which standard should you choose? Accepting the unpredictability of the politics of food chain captains, and indeed some governments, and acknowledging the speed at which supply chains evolve globally, the following may help you decide:

• If you are looking for a whole chain integrated solution to food safety management in all food categories, then both the SQF codes and ISO 22000 may meet your needs; however, ISO 22000 does not address food quality unless implemented in association with ISO 9000. We should not overlook the cost and resource requirements necessary to implement ISO standards, a major factor in the rejection of such standards by medium and small sized businesses in the past.

• Beyond the farm gate, SQF2000, BRC and IFS all address food safety through the adoption of HACCP and also address food quality issues; however, only SQF 2000 currently offers a seamless link between pre- and post farm gate through the linkages between SQF1000 and SQF2000.

• For countries, or regions, considering private assurance for the first time and who are targeting Europe as their export market, then GlobalGAP may (understandably perhaps) be their initial choice for the farm level. It is relatively simple to achieve, although farms will need to adopt procedures and good agricultural practices (GAPs) based on European conditions and legislation to meet what is essentially a very prescriptive audit checklist.

• If your target markets for agricultural products include the USA then you need to think again. GlobalGAP standards mainly focus on controls associated with pesticide residues and GAPs to protect the environment, whereas US retailers and food processors place greater emphasis on preventing pathogenic contamination of food (and more recently, the threat of deliberate contamination). FMI has recognised the need for private standards to complement government oversight and to address industry and consumer concerns and they have adopted the SQF1000 and SQF2000 codes and these are effectively becoming the standards to be met by suppliers to the USA.

• If you are looking for quality and rigour in the management and delivery of private food standards, then all of the standards require auditors to have experience and be trained in HACCP and auditing. All offer training to other users of their standards; however, only the SQF codes require within business experts, consultants and trainers to be trained in the standard. This should ensure that all key players know what they should be doing to support food producers and suppliers.

• A key area of continuing concern for many food businesses is recognising and overcoming many of the problems associated with the actual (and often perceived) inappropriate actions of some auditors, certification bodies and consultants. Most standards rely on national accreditation activities to maintain standards within certification bodies. In addition, most require certification bodies to take out a licence with the standard owner. However, only the SQF Institute seeks to maintain control over these functions for the benefit of food chain businesses through a programme of certification body, auditor and consultant licensing and registration backed up by supplier feedback on the activities of these service providers.

15.4.3 Meeting end of chain requirements

It is recognised that multiple retailers around the world are increasingly setting the food supply agenda, even though they claim that this is consumer driven. Irrespective of the drivers and politics, the major retailers are all demanding the same level of food safety management based on the adoption of HACCP. They also require specified product quality attributes to be met. The convergence of retailer safety requirements can be seen in the supplier standards recognised by the CIES Global Food Safety Initiative. Currently the only post farm-gate standards recognised are:

• The BRC Global standard

• The Dutch HACCP standard

• The International Food Standard

• SQF2000

Although not benchmarked yet, we are of the opinion that the ISO22000 standard would also comply, especially as the CIES liaised with ISO TC34 WG8 on the standard’s development. At the pre-farm gate level three, standards have been submitted to the GFSI but SQF1000 is the global standard is currently fully compliant (Horticulture New Zealand is classed as a national scheme).

Meeting retailer product quality specifications through private standards can be realised through the adoption of all post farm-gate standards except ISO22000 which only focuses on food safety. At the farm level, only the SQF1000 code has a focus on product quality.

We should also consider the interests of some retailers in environmental and animal welfare issues as well as worker conditions (especially in agriculture). Some European retailers require pre-farm gate standards to address aspects of environmental responsibility and animal welfare. These areas, where they exceed legal requirements, are covered in the Global-GAP standards, but only as recommendations (which do not affect supplier compliance with the standard at audit). GlobalGAP introduced GRASP in 2008 for farmers who wish to demonstrate that they are implementing a social management system and this module will be audited separately. In contrast, the SQF Institute has developed optional modules in environmental care, worker care and, for the US market, biosecurity. These may be taken up by suppliers both pre- and post-farm gate where customers require such assurances. These optional modules form part of the auditor assessment.

Finally, the following decision trees may help in deciding which standard best suits specific current and future needs (Figs. 15.8 and 15.9).

Fig. 15.8 Decision tree for selecting appropriate global food or farm private standard based on approaches to food safety risk management and product quality specifications. (Note: the grey zone denotes what most global retailers require as a condition of market access.)

Fig. 15.9 Decision tree for selecting appropriate global food or farm private standard based on approaches to environmental and worker care and food defence specifications. (Note: the dark grey zone denotes what some global retailers require in relation to environment and worker care, light grey refers to requirements of some retailers for food defence or actions against deliberate contamination.)

15.5 Future trends

There is a dynamic tension operating in the field of international food and farm standards that is linked both to the contents and approach of various standards and to the politics of standards use in different parts of the world. What is clear though is that the cost to suppliers of meeting market standards is significant. Moreover, should suppliers be servicing more than one market, they may have to have more than one standard in place.

The costs of compliance have been recognised by standards owners and certification bodies and currently there are moves to harmonise audit protocols between SQF2000 and IFS and between SQF1000 and GlobalGAP. The former is a reasonable approach in terms of harmonising food safety and quality assessments and in terms of certification body licences and auditor registration but does not currently extend to the option of IFS compliant suppliers gaining access to SQF optional modules (other than a similar approach to food defence). Care should be taken however, in harmonising SQF1000 and GlobalGAP; as long as harmonisation of GlobalGAP is to level 1 of SQF1000 (i.e. food safety fundamentals and prerequisites) then they are equivalent. Equivalency does not extend, however, to the different approaches taken to environment by the two standards, nor to GlobalGAP suppliers gaining access to the SQF food defence module. Although not benchmarked as yet, the approach to worker care by the two standards is similar at the farm level but only extends further up the food chain under the SQF2000 code.

Although there are clear advantages in reducing certification costs for the industry by offering more than one certificate per audit where standards have been harmonised, there is a risk that too much harmonisation will result in these standards loosing their individuality and uniqueness. This could lead to one or more of the current international standards being taken over or closed in due course.

There is also a move within some international certification bodies to promote ISO22000 for food and farming, perhaps because this will take power away from the global retailers in terms of control over standards; however, it is difficult to see such retailers giving up on their own standards and the control they currently exert as chain captains.

Another area of future development being considered by some is the potential for the private sector to support and help deliver public regulation. It seems reasonable for the frequent contacts between auditors and food and farm businesses also to be used to provide oversight of regulatory requirements as long as confidentiality is maintained and public versus private market information is kept separated (Baines, 2002).

Finally, amidst this power struggle for private standard dominance, it is also feasible to see alternative approaches to risk management evolving that are not based on the prescriptive protocols and guidance of standards. It could be argued that self assessment of risk backed up by independent audit and risk ranking may be the way forward in a similar way to how insurance risks are calculated for businesses. As such, certification of standards could disappear in favour of a more general risk and insurance model for food and farming.

15.6 Sources of further information and advice

The development in private standards is a rapidly changing area with many stakeholders engaged at sector, national, regional and global levels. In order to keep up to date, it is advisable regularly to visit the home pages of major standards owners, certification bodies, the International Standards Organisation and the CIES. Some of these links are detailed below.

15.7 References

Baines, R.N., Food safety in meat – meeting international regulatory and market requirementsCongreso de Produccion y Comercializacion de Carne ‘Del Campo al Plato’. Uruguay: Montevideo, 2000.

Baines, R.N., Environmental benefits of farm assurance. 4th Langford Food Industry Conference. 2002. [Bristol UK].

Baines, R.N., Davies, W.P., Quality assurance in international food supply. Ziggers, G.W., Trienekens, J.H., Zuurbier, P.J.P. 3rd International Conference on Chain Management in the Agribusiness and the Food Industry. Wageningen, Netherlands, 1998:213–223.

Baines, R.N., Davies, W.P. Building trust through farm assurance. In: IAMA World Food Congress. Italy: Florence; 1999.

Baines, R.N., Davies, W.P., HACCP at the farm level – reducing risks in grain and oilseed supply chains through quality assurance. Grain Europe – Grains & Oilseeds in the Global Food Chain. International Feed Industry Federation Conference, Rotterdam, NL. 2003.

Baines, R.N., Davies, W.P., Developing consumer trust in ethical food supply to meet increasing market interests in credence purchase. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Fresh Supply Chain Management. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, RAPRA Publication 2007/21, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2007:314–325.

Baines, R.N., Ryan, P., Global trends in quality assurance. Trade Partners UK and Ministry of Agriculture Modern Food Chain Seminar. 2002. [paper presented at the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia].

Baines, R.N., Ryan, P.J., Davies, W.P., HACCP at the farm level – the missing link in food safety and security. Proceedings of the International Food and Agribusiness Association (IAMA) Symposium ‘Sustainable Value Creation in the Food Chain’, Montreaux, Switzerland. 2004.

Buncic, S., Developments in food safety in the meat chainLangford Food Industry Conference. UK: University of Bristol, 2000.

Byrnes, H., Introduction to the global food safety initiative. 36th AIFST Convention, Melbourne, Australia. 2003.

Caswell, J.A., Henson, S.J. Interaction of private and public food quality control systems in global markets. In: Loader R.J., Henson S.J., Trail W.B., eds. Globalisation of the Food Industry: Policy Implications. University of Reading; 1997:217–234.

Codex. Recommended International Code of Practice. General Principles of Food Hygiene, 1969. [CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev. 4-2003.].

Early, R.A Guide to Quality Management Systems for the Food Industry. London: Blackie Academic and Professional, 1995.

Europa (no date). General Food Law introduction. (date accessed 06-06-09).

FSANZ (no date). Food Standards Code. (date accessed 06-06-09).

Govtracks.US. National Homeland Security and Combating of Terrorism Act of 2002., 2002. [(date accessed 06-06-09).].

Hughes, D.Breaking with Tradition: Building Partnerships and Alliances in the European Food Industry. Ashford, UK: Wye College, 1994.

Manning, L., Baines, R.N. Globalisation. A study of the poultry meat supply chain. British Food Journal. 2004; 1(10/11):819–836.

Manning, L., Baines, R.N., Chadd, S.A. Quality assurance models in the food supply chain. British Food Journal. 2006; 108(2):91–104.

Manning, L., Baines, R.N., Chadd, S.A. Benchmarking the poultry meat supply chain. Benchmarking – an International Journal. 2008; 15(2):1463–5771.

SGS. ISO 22000., 2009. [(date accessed 07-06-09).].

Sparling, D., Lee, J., Howard, W. Mungo Farms Inc: HACCP, ISO9000 and ISO14000. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review. 2001; 4(1):67–97.

Varzakas, T., Jukes, D.J. The globilization of food regulation and quality: a study of the Greek food market. In: Loader R.J., Henson S.J., Trail W.B., eds. Globilisation of the Food Industry: Policy Implications. University of Reading; 1997:253–271.