Consumers need to know that the food we eat is safe, and retailers want to ensure their products are safe and high quality. Recent news reports have increased consumer awareness of health and safety issues related to food, and restaurant companies are concerned about consumer perceptions and liability risks. As the supply chain for food continues to expand globally, foodservice operators recognize more than ever that the difficulties in the food supply chain must be improved by utilizing more rigorous food safety standards.
NSF International has worked closely with the restaurant industry since 1944. Over the past six decades, the needs and concerns of the industry have increased exponentially, and NSF has responded with customized food safety solutions in all areas of the supply chain.
GLOBAL FOOD SAFETY INITIATIVES:
A NEW FOCUS
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has emerged in the food industry as a means to further address the safety and quality of the global food supply and the restaurant industry acknowledges the Initiative’s potential. The foodservice sector recently created a strategic alliance with GFSI through the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA recognized the importance GFSI provides in strengthening food safety systems in the supply chain and its capability to increase consumer confidence by utilizing GFSI-recognized food safety standards worldwide. The industry believes that alliance will provide a unique international stakeholder platform for networking, knowledge exchange, and sharing of best food safety practices and information.
GFSI was a retailer-driven certification program that is now strengthened with the participation of the foodservice sector. CIES benchmarked the following standards as part of GFSI: British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Food (SQF), International Food Standard (IFS) and Dutch HACCP. Currently, seven major global retailers (Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, Migros, Ahold, Wal-Mart, and Delhaize), along with the NRA, have agreed on common acceptance of the aforementioned four global food safety certifications. Certifications cover food, packaging, consumer goods, storage, and distribution, for primary producers, manufacturers, and distributors. The goal of the initiative is continuous improvement in food safety supply chain management. GFSI also provides a benchmark to ensure consistency between countries and the products that have been certified.
NSF International is an accredited provider of third-party audits with expertise in BRC, SQF and IFS.
Because NSF has the capabilities to certify to GFSI recognized standards, we have been able to strengthen the food safety programs that we offer the restaurant industry. We work hard at NSF to understand the needs of the industry and create programs that help restaurant companies enhance their food safety systems. Our technical expertise in the area of supply chain food safety allows us to help operators determine which international certification best fit their needs.
RETAIL FOOD SAFETY
To further assist our clients along the chain, the NSF Dine Safer™ program provides a means for foodservice establishments to demonstrate their commitment in utilizing best practices, by going above and beyond standard food safety requirements. The program includes a consulting arm as well as a third-party audit approach that complements in-house quality assurance efforts.
NSF also has a similar program designed for supermarkets –Shop Fresh™. Like Dine Safer™, Shop Fresh™ assists in further preventing and reducing food-related risks while improving the quality, freshness and shelf life of foods. The program provides customers with reassurance that the foods they purchase have been tested to the most stringent food safety standards. Shop Fresh™ integrates microbial sampling with onsite audits. While microbial testing detects what the eye cannot see, the audit goes beyond to evaluate visible factors.
Now let’s take a step back to see how these services began. America’s passion in “dining out” began in the late 1930s. At that time, state and local health officials monitored public food establishments for sanitation, utilizing widely varying criteria to evaluate equipment. This resulted in inconsistent rules and regulations for food equipment design throughout the country. It became evident that consistent national standards for foodservice equipment were necessary to prevent health problems resulting from “dining out.”
To address this issue, two University of Michigan public health experts and the head of the Toledo, Ohio Health Department joined together in 1944 and organized the National Sanitation Foundation, known today as NSF International. They formulated a framework to allow research and participation from all interested parties – regulators, manufacturers and users – in the consensus development process. NSF’s efforts started in the areas of soda fountain and luncheonette equipment, where it used this consensus process to develop public health and safety standards. This cooperative thinking and independent, not-for-profit status now provide the foundation for NSF’s leadership in public health.
Jennifer Tong was recently appointed director of NSF’s Restaurant Food Safety Division, responsible for the strategic development of NSF’s restaurant programs. Before joining NSF.
Greta Houlahan has over eight years of experience in media relations, corporate communications and marketing. She has worked at NSF International since 2000 and currently works as NSF’s Corporate Communications Manager.
For more information on NSF visit www.nsf.org.