The International Trade Centre (ITC) and ISO have just released a new product designed to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the food sector to benefit from the advantages of implementing a food safety management system.

The product consists of a combined handbook and CD-ROM, ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Systems – An easy-to-use checklist for small business – Are you ready? It is aimed at SMEs, both in developed and developing countries, for which a food safety management system meeting the requirements of the International Standard ISO 22000:2005 could be the entry ticket to increased business in the global market and participation in cross-border food supply chains.

There exists a range of different retail and private schemes that may generate risks of uneven levels of food safety, confusion over requirements, and increased cost and complication for suppliers that may find themselves obliged to conform to multiple programmes. ISO 22000:2005, Food safety management systems – Requirements for any organization in the food chain, backed by international consensus, harmonizes the requirements for systematically managing safety in food supply chains and offers a unique solution for good practice on a worldwide basis. Incorporating the principles of the Codex Alimentarius Commission's "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point" (HACCP) system for food hygiene, ISO 22000 also provides a single management system platform upon which more specific requirements, such as those developed by the various global food retailer organizations, may be incorporated.

Less than two years after the publication of ISO 22000, the standard has been implemented by organizations in more than 50 countries as an alternative to more than 20 food safety schemes developed by individual companies and groupings in the sector for auditing their suppliers.

The checklist consists of questions covering various aspects of the setting-up, implementation and certification of a food safety management system according to ISO 22000. Working through the questions in a step-by-step manner will enable managers of an enterprise to determine the present status of their business and will help them identify main areas for improvement.

The checklist is in 13 parts, each covering a particular aspect of ISO 22000, with an explanation of the relevant requirement and guidance on how to incorporate it into a food safety management system geared to the needs of user's enterprise. Depending on "yes" or "no" answers given to the checklist questions, the user is directed to the next stage, or to additional guidance.

Certification is not a requirement of ISO 22000 and both the standard and the checklist can be usefully implemented even when certification is not the goal of the enterprise.

In addition, the checklist includes a chapter identifying the linkages between ISO 22000 and the ISO 9001:2000 standard for quality management systems, and provides a comprehensive list of Web sites addressing food safety.

The content of the handbook and the CD-ROM is the same, with the latter adding the advantages of electronic navigation, plus the possibility of automatically generating reports on the level of ISO 22000 maturity of the user's enterprise, based on the answers to the checklist questions.

Patricia R. Francis, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, and Alan Bryden, ISO Secretary-General, provide a joint preface to the handbook, in which they declare: "We hope that this handbook on ISO 22000 will be of benefit to small businesses, especially in developing countries and transition economies, in their effort to improve their market share of food and agricultural products in the global market."

ISO Pack: Food Safety Management Systems

Practical management processes for all food businesses, from Farm to Fork