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Have you got what it takes to audit food safety?

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By Rachel Arthur+

Last updated the 27-May-2014 at 15:30 GMT

A one-stop shop for food safety certification bodies has been produced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Released this month, the ISO handbook covers two standards for certifying food safety management systems, putting all the information that certification bodies need in one place.

It combines the ISO/TS 22003, which outlines the requirements for bodies issuing certifications to ISO 22000 on food safety management systems; and ISO/IEC 17021, which sets generic requirements for bodies carrying out audits.

The ISO/TS220003, which was launched in December, sees a shift from a ‘qualification-based approach’ to a full ‘competence-based approach’ for auditor requirements.

This means the focus is on making sure auditors are knowledgeable about each aspect of food safety they handle, not just their qualification and experience.

Jacob Faergemand, co-leader of the project, told what makes a good auditor.  

You always look someone that has an education in food, and knows about food contamination,” Faergemand said. “Then you look for guys who have been working in the food industry, or you could also look for public servants in the area of food.

An auditor should be good in communicating, both writing and oral. They need to be a good person for following facts. If you see a problem, you follow the trail.

And they need to be a person who isn’t afraid of being the centre [of attention]. You need to ask the tricky questions and follow them through. You need to take a harsh decision – like shutting down a line – and stand by it.

Auditors also need consistency in the decisions they make, he added.

The handbook wants to help harmonise higher standards across countries, Faergemand said. It is an opportunity for certification bodies to align their work, as the food industry needs to find more cost-efficient certification solutions, he added.

Consumer confidence in the food industry has been waning over the last few years, and ISO certification should help re-build trust in the system, Faergemand said.

The consumer should not be thinking [about food safety]," he said. "It’s not for them to know there’s something called ISO 22003 or ISO 22000. They should just have confidence that the food authorities have food guidelines. We’re trying to build standards used by authorities and big manufacturers.

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