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New version of ISO/TS 22003 gives boost to food safety certification

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Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue. The consequences of unsafe food can be serious and ISO's food safety management standards (ISO 22000 series) help organizations identify and control food safety hazards. Despite thousands of certificates issued to the standard - although this is not a requirement - consumer confidence in the food industry has been waning in recent years, calling for an urgent injection of trust.

As part of a team leading efforts to boost consumer confidence in food safety, Jacob Faergemand believes the newly published ISO/TS 22003 is a game changer for certification bodies (CB) serving the food industry. With a major overhaul since its 2007 publication, the new technical specification aims to improve the way in which CBs certify food companies. Faergemand, the co-convenor of the group of experts who developed the new ISO/TS 22003, explained how this second revision works in practice and what benefits stakeholders will see.

Why is ISO/TS 22003 critical to the food industry?

JF: Unsafe food has always been a human health problem, and many food safety problems encountered today are not new. Although no one standard can eradiate all the problems, ISO/TS 22003 will go a long way to building confidence in certification throughout the food supply chain.

The technical specification defines rules on, for example, auditor competencies and audit duration that CBs have to implement. If CBs seek accreditation, the accreditation bodies will assess them to determine if they have implemented these rules.

How will ISO/TS 22003 build confidence in certification?

JF: While certification to ISO 22000:2005 is not itself a requirement of the standard, in situations where certification is deemed necessary by customers, regulators or as a marketing differentiator, ISO/TS 22003 will increase confidence in the way certification of food suppliers has been granted.

Who will benefit? Just about everyone, from customers and authorities (regulators) to the end consumer!

What are the major benefits of the new edition and how do certification companies stand to gain?

JF: In the new ISO/TS 22003, the most important change – and one to which the CB will need
to adapt – is the shift from a “qualification-based approach” to a full “competence-based approach” for the definition of auditor competence requirements.

The new technical specification is also more specific than the generic ISO/IEC 17021 standard, and contains food-sector-relevant requirements that a certification body needs to implement.

What does ISO/TS 22003 mean for the future of food safety certification?

JF: ISO/TS 22003 should be seen as an opportunity for CBs to align their work, whether they are certifying “products” or “management systems”. In the future, it will be critical for the food industry to find more cost-efficient certification solutions. The joint working group that developed ISO/TS 22003 acknowledges that scheme owners, accreditation bodies, certification bodies and food regulators need to sit together to discuss options. To this end, the ISO Committee on conformity assessment (ISO/CASCO) and the ISO subcommittee responsible for food safety management systems (ISO/TC 34/SC 17) are considering ways to take this concept forward.