July 2020 may come to be regarded as a landmark month in the history of food safety as it saw important updates from various stakeholders which will have immediate and long reaching impacts on how food safety practices are enforced and demonstrated.
Both the SQFI and BRCGS made changes to their respective standards concerning the use of technology in remote audits, while the FDA released its long-awaited New Era for Smarter Food Safety Blueprint which will affect the supply and value chains of food production in the US over the course of the next decade and beyond.
Beyond these, the SQFI also sought public comments on proposed criteria for Edition 9.0, while the WHO and UN FAO published draft guidance on Microbiological Risk Assessments.
Read on for more details and sources for further reading on each story.
SQFI and BRCGS audits now utilizing technological solutions for remote/off-site audits
Both the SQFI and BRCGS revealed changes to policies which will facilitate the use of Information and Communication Technologies like Safefood 360° to conduct portions of audits remotely/off-site.
The SQFI changes will allow both current and prospective SQF sites to apply to conduct a portion of their audit in a hybrid manner using ICT solutions, while the BRCGS have specified that ICT can only be used for announced audits and while the remote element cannot exceed 50% of the audit, the total time of ICT use is left to the discretion of the certification body.
The SQF changes were announced in part as a response to the challenges proposed by Covid-19, but it is envisioned that they should be permanent additions to the SQF procedures moving forward.
For the BRCGS, the remote audit must be conducted first and the onsite audit must follow within 28 days.
The remote audit can be used for documentation, records, and systems, but an onsite audit will still be required for physical verification of GMP, hazard analysis, risk assessment, and traceability.
FDA release New Era for Smarter Food Safety Blueprint
The FDA have released its blueprint for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety which will look at new ways it can help create a safer and more digital, traceable food system over the coming decade.
The blueprint centralizes on four ‘Core Elements’ which are:
- Tech-Enabled Traceability
- Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response
- New Business Models and Retail Modernization
- Food Safety Culture
The blueprint encompasses more than a year of collaboration and refinement with senior experts and public consultations, and was originally scheduled to be released earlier in the year but was postponed due to the challenges and subsequent learnings from Covid-19, which are reflected in the document.
The full release is publicly available to read and a video highlighting core tenets is available below.
SQF Edition 9 seeking public comments
SQFI are also currently seeking public comments on its proposed benchmarking requirements for SQF Edition 9.
Currently, SQFI hope to have implementation of the published code starting from May, 2021.
WHO and FAO publish Microbiological Risk Assessment draft guidance
Earlier this month, the WHO and FAO received public comments on draft guidance it published suggesting improvements on the framework for conducting the four components of microbiological risk assessments.
The feedback has been welcomed in each of the four areas whether they are used in full together, or individually as part of a stand-alone process.
It will review each of the four criteria, which are hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment, and risk characterization.
Sustainable Cocoa memorandum reached by European platforms
In Europe, three platforms dedicated towards sustainable cocoa production joined together and signed a memorandum of understanding to work towards change in the value chain of sustainable production.
The agreement reached between the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO), the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO), and Belgium’s Beyond Chocolate will strive eliminate child labor, instituting a living income for farmers, and improving overall traceability and deforestation impacts.
A cornerstone of the agreement will see the implementation of a unified monitoring system between the three which will report on shared key performance indicators.
EFSA to host meeting on climate change affects on food safety
The European Food Safety Authority has announced a virtual meeting focusing on the effects of climate change on food safety.
The meeting is scheduled for October and will review current and anticipated food safety issues that may arise from climate change that were raised in a report published by the FAO earlier this year.