Presentation of the new ISO standard for food safety systems

“New ISO standard offers an obvious added value”

About 140 visitors recently witnessed the presentation of the new NEN-EN-ISO 22000:2018, the Dutch version of the ISO standard for food safety systems. Various stakeholders, including the NVWA, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, explained what this new standard meant for them, how they see it, and what the consequences will be for the market. The common denominator became clear: “Useful, fun and an addition.”

Marcel de Vreeze, consultant Agrofood and Consumer of NEN, started the morning session with a short explanation about how and why this revision of the standard ‘Management systems for food safety – Requirements for an organisation in the food chain,’ was needed. He also briefly explained the most important changes compared to the 2005 version.

De Vreeze mentioned some important changes. “The new version focuses on stakeholders more. Besides, readability and definitions of the standard have been considerably improved. Other important changes are that High Level Structure has been implemented, a risk approach has been applied, and two PDCA cycles have been added to the standard.”

FSSC 22000
Harold Pauwels of NEN then presented the new Dutch version of the ISO standard to Geert de Rooij of the FNLI. Cor Groenveld of FSSC then talked in depth about what the new standard means for his organisation and certificate holders. Firstly, he clarified the relation between ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000, of which a new version is forthcoming. In practice, there are quite a few misunderstandings about what the two mean, precisely. “The ISO standard consists of requirements the food safety system has to meet, FSSC is the global certification outline based on ISO 22000. If a company wants to be FSSC certified, it has to use ISO 22000, including the applicable ISO specifications with prerequisite food safety programmes for that company. These programmes are in the ISO/TS 22002 series. FSSC also has specific requirements that originated on the market. These might be left out of the new version in part, because they’re already part of the new ISO standard.” Certificate holders will have to deal with some changes because of the new standard. “The new HLS structure suits the processes in an organisation much better,” Gorenveld says. “Certificate holders might have to get used to that a bit, but it’s definitely progress.” The risk approach is new as well, and Groenveld specifically mentions ‘significant hazards.’ In the new standard, it’s become obligatory to describe and manage these, leading to more clarity. The risk approach also ensures threats, control measures and opportunities are looked at on a strategic and operational level.

“Things will be considered to a broader extent, the world around the company will also be looked at. Who are the stakeholders? What requirements do they have? How do I respond to that? It’s mostly up to the top management to show active leadership, and it’s important ISO 22000 is supported by them.” For FSSC, the challenge is mostly in bringing the 1,500 auditors up to standard, so that they can continue doing a good job, according to Groenveld.

NVWA: “Working more intensely with private certifying authorities”
An important finding from the presentation of Hans Beuger of the NVWA was that the government wants to appeal to private certification schemes more and more often. The public-private cooperation is therefore improving, although it took some time. “When the audits are done well and the certificates actually contribute, we won’t have to invent the wheel twice,” Beuger says. “We can then trust in them to show us what’s all happening. This frees up more time for the NVWA for inspectors to focus on other things, such as maintenance, picking up incidents and service.

For that matter, the chain guarantee website features a number of schemes assessed by the government.” The NVWA is also working increasingly focused on risks, Beugers says. “That should improve the cooperation with the private sector as well. To that end, we look at the supply chain more and more, instead of just the individual company. We’re trying to apply a helicopter view to find out how best to serve the public interest. That’s why we work with Integral Risk Analyses (IRAs). The risks found this way, are discussed with the supply chain concerned, and we’ve identified twelve of these. Do they recognise the risks? What can they do about it? Is legislation necessary?” The NVWA would also like to see branch associations playing a more active part. “Don’t be afraid to rap the knuckles of companies or suppliers that don’t follow the rules. Supply chain guarantee could be a nice base for those companies to meet the minimum requirements. Preferably before something goes wrong. In that case, the website should be expanded to be a more active information platform.”

Since 2015, ISO standards have been created using a plug-in model, this is a basic text with core requirements all management systems should meet. That is the HLS, High Level Structure. NEN consultant Dick Hortensius briefly explained what this HLS means and how companies can use it to their advantage. According to Hortensius, the dual risk approach and recognising chances and how to deal with these are important with the HLS. That same active leading role of top management as described by Groendveld is important in this as well. “Identifying social developments, stakeholders, their wishes and requirements, for example, are important. That’s how you end up doing the right things, and doing them well. In other words, the coupling of strategic to operational level. The new ISO 22000 has included new aspects in chapter 8, particularly on an operational level.” Stakeholders can therefore be certain they’ll be listened to more. For certified institutions, the HLS should make it easier to do combined audits, according to Hortensius.

Clearer definitions
For the afternoon, a number of parallel sessions were planned. Paul Besseling, consultant of Précon Food Management, talked about definitions of PRP, O-PRP and CCP. In the past, these were often interpreted differently, but the new ISO 22000 should put a stop to that. “The new ISO 22000 will ensure more clarity,” Besseling says in his speech. “An explicit difference is made between dangers and deviations, and because of that, also between control measure and safeguarding. But seizing chances is also an important part. That’s a very important distinction to make within HACCP. You’re also looking at the consequences of control measures not working, and based on that you decide which monitoring and corrective actions should be used. ISO 22000 will therefore work exactly the same as HACCP problems. That’s not actually new, but we’ve implemented a new structure that makes much more sense.”

Thinking from risks and opportunities
The parallel session of Mathijs Brink of N&S Quality Consultants was about the consequences of the risk approach mentioned by Groendveld. This ensures that a risk assessment within a company looks at threats, control measures and opportunities at a strategic and operational level. It also looks at the world around the company, such as stakeholders and social developments. “In the new ISO 22000, quality managers work on that not just to a technical and professional extent, but also on a management level. However, it’s always focused completely on food safety. That’s quite a big step to take, but one that’s necessary to link your context analysis to your operational measures. The quality manager isn’t leading in this strategic part, just management.”

Sector-specific interpretation of ISO 22000: transport and storage
After the parallel session regarding the relation between ISO 22000 and BRC, IFS, HACCP and the integration of systems, attention was paid to the sector-specific interpretation of the new standard. Specifically, about transport and storage. During the fourth parallel session, Patricia de Wilde of business association evofenedex and Aly Rappange of food company Cargill talked about how they view ISO/TS 22002-5. This text is still in development for ISO, and will describe basic condition-programmes for food safety within transport and storage in food supply, and is based on NTA 8059. The duo gave a practical example to raise the question of how far you should go in practice with the concrete imposition of rules. They also gave the participants some statements about topics that don’t have any rules yet. Should those rules be drawn up? How specific should they be? “Sealing a shipment is nonsense,” was one example of a statement that led to various pros and cons among the participants. The workshop thus playfully showed that drawing up a good text is a difficult job.

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