The revision of ISO 22000 on food safety management is underway

by Sandrine Tranchard on
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Ensuring food is safe along the entire food chain is a major concern in our modern societies, where products sometimes cross several borders before reaching the end consumer.

Since the first publication of ISO 22000 on food safety management in 2005, players in the food chain, including manufacturers, consumers and governments, have been facing new food safety requirements – spurring a need for the standard to be revised. The meeting of the ISO working group (ISO/TC 34/SC 17/WG 8) in charge of the revision was hosted by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), ISO member for the country, and the group met on 23-25 February 2015 in Dublin to discuss the necessary improvements to the standard.

A consultation held last year among users of the standard brought up gaps in the current version. Certain terms were found to be potentially confusing: unnecessary repetition was revealed and some concepts needed clarifying. Moreover, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were not sufficiently integrated and the understanding of risk evaluation still needed to be improved. These various points raised by users will contribute to the revision process.

Based on this feedback, the revision group will thus tackle the following issues:

  • Clarify certain key concepts, especially critical control points required to be managed, operational programmes needed, approach to risks, product withdrawal and recall, and a combination of external control measures
  • Update terms and definitions
  • Make the standard simpler and more concise
  • Avoid making the content too prescriptive
  • Ensure a greater coverage of SMEs

What’s more, ISO 22000 will have the same format as other management systems standards (MSSs), which will now follow an identical structure with common texts, terms and definitions. This will make life easier for companies wanting to be certified to several MSSs, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 22000. The coordinated format will ensure coherence between the standards, simplify their integrated use and facilitate their reading and understanding by users.

While food industry experts may be especially involved in this revision, other users of the standard will be specifically targeted as necessary. These include SMEs, feed producers, pet food industry players, regulators looking for a model by which to develop regulatory requirements with a food safety management approach, even manufacturers who don’t directly “manage food” but whose activities fall within the scope of the standard, e.g. water.

Many companies and organizations do not use ISO 22000 on its own, but in conjunction with quality management standard ISO 9001, hence the desire to align the two standards and ensure their coherence.

Furthermore, the ISO/TS 22002 family supports specific sectors and enables them to implement ISO 22000 by providing tools to develop the prerequisite programmes necessary.

Naturally, all this work could not be done without the concerted participation of the different parties involved in the food chain. The revision group will meet again in mid-October to deliver a second version, currently called working document. If all goes according to plan, the standard is expected to be published in 2017.