More and more, food safety is becoming an important component of fruit and vegetable
By Marg Land
More and more, food safety is
becoming an important component of fruit and vegetable production in
Canada and around the world. So important in fact that it has the
potential to become a new method of controlling international trade.
More and more, food safety is becoming an important component of fruit and vegetable production in Canada and around the world. So important in fact that it has the potential to become a new method of controlling international trade.
That’s the view of past federal Agricultural Minister Lyle Vanclief, who recently addressed a gathering of agri-food industry experts at the ISO 22000 Food Safety Symposium held in Mississauga, Ontario. Vanclief, who served as Canada’s ag minister from 1997 to 2003 and currently works as a lobbyist, said, “Every country is looking as ways to keep product out or get their product in.
“As we go down the road, (food safety) is going to be used for tariff and non-tariff barriers.”
It’s with this knowledge in mind plus the growing international focus on bio-terrorism that many in the agri-food and food safety sectors are moving to ISO standards, internationally developed and recognized quality and safety requirements administered through the International Organization for Standardization and its various technical committees. Recently, a standard covering food safety was released – ISO 22000 – developed by Technical Committee 34 (specializing in food products) and covering specific requirements for food safety management systems all the way along the food chain, from the field to the point of consumption. The standard includes the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) principles and is already being accepted internationally. Since its release, there have been rumblings within the industry that this designation may become a global mandatory requirement in the future.
“It is already a fact of doing business in the poultry and meat processing plants that HACCP principles have become a mandatory requirement in federally inspected plants,” said Peter Annis, director of The Business Resource Centre, a business training and consultant service which hosted the food safety symposium. “Can mandatory designation be far behind for the rest of the food industry? Even if not, HACCP and ISO 22000 is a requirement that may become mandatory for all exporters by their international clients.
“My prognosis is it’s going to happen absolutely.”
So, what does this mean to the average Canadian fruit and vegetable farmer? Basically, producers need to be prepared to start implementing and documenting HACCP principles on their farms if they hope to continue exporting produce or continue supplying produce to grocery stores and/or chains. Most of the big chain grocery stores were present at the symposium, many with an eye to considering the designation. One representative said it isn’t expected that individual farmers work toward the certification but it is a given that supplying producers will need to be HACCP certified as part of the overall program.
“The expectation is to look at the whole system,” said Mike Haycock, a quality management consultant with The Business Resource Centre. “The expectation is that information will be shared across the entire system, not just one component. People from the entire industry need to be involved.”
Even so, a few in the audience weren’t convinced of the need or the benefits of the new certification and were confused with how it integrates with HACCP.
“It’s like a pie,” explained Annis. “One slice of the pie is HACCP. ISO is looking at all of those slices.”
Here’s hoping the pie is tasty, making the whole idea easier to swallow.