Food safety experts stressed the importance of management playing a more prominent role and in food safety control and processes at the official launch of the updated standards, organised by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation – Standards Development Organisation (SMF-SDO).
According to Linda Quek, Technical Consultant and Auditor at LQ Consult: “There is now a requirement for management to be more involved in food safety [in order to qualify for the SS ISO 22000:2018].”
“Company management will have to demonstrate now a high level of commitment, [and] this therefore has an impact where [management will have to] consider business risk.”
“[This includes] considering all the upstream and downstream components that will impact food safety, [so it is necessary to] look at what is the strategy to manage the [food safety] programme overall in the business.
“It is no longer just solely about the product, but about the business as an entirety.”
Similarly, Rachel Ng, Product Specialist (Food), TÜV SÜD said when introducing SS444:1018 that: “The main key change [here] is the incorporation of increased, clearer management aspects.
“What this mainly means is that strong management commitment [by companies is now] necessary under [the latest] version.”
Rationale behind the 2018 update
Among other factors, changes in food safety and the food system as a whole were what drove the updates to the food safety standards.
“The sudden need to do this [update] has emerged from a flurry of change [in the global food system], especially in the last three or four years. This includes the way we manufacture, transport and consume food,” explained Quek.
“The world has become so global that manufactured food items tend to contain raw materials from different countries, all of which tend to have different standards and systems in place. Food processing technology has also advanced.”
Quek mentioned evolving food safety risks, increasing food safety incidences, food fraud and consumer demand for clarity as key factors for the updates.
“[With the update], management will now need to take a serious look at whether there is potential for food fraud or sabotage, and see what are the issues that can affect the business upstream (staff) as well as downstream (customers).
“Essentially, because of this requirement for greater management involvement, [companies] will have to add on new things to the existing programme, basically to cover the current global issues.
“You don’t realise what can happen until it happens, [and food safety standards can help].”
The importance of food safety standards
Even though food safety standards are not exactly regulations, but certifications that are applied for by companies on a voluntary basis, all the food safety experts were unanimously adamant about their importance.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Allan Lim, Chairman of Food Standards Committee (FSC), emphasised that: “[Food safety standards] are important both to the GDP and to employment.
“Taking up certifiable standards gives companies a competitive advantage and recognition beyond borders.”
Quek concurred, adding that: “It’s a bad business decision if you don’t take food safety into consideration. […] If you have a bad image as a company, you’re going to lose your business.”
On the other hand, Ng detailed the benefits that these standards, especially SS444, can bring to food companies.
“Benefits include an increase in customer confidence leading to increased sales and the minimisation of food safety incidents. If there really are complaints or problems in production that occur, this will also help to shorten the investigation time required.”