Bashing Third Party Food Safety Audits Will Not Fix The Food Industry…But I Know What Will

I love reading the articles written, posted, and commented on by many of the food compliance professionals within Linkedin. Felix Amiri is one of the spirited professionals that I may not always agree with, but always love to read.

That said, Felix, buddy, you got this one wrong.

It’s okay Felix, you’re not the only one getting this wrong. Many food safety experts think bashing food safety certifications will somehow fix the food safety issues, domestically and worldwide.

“You can make these audits useful by writing them on toilet paper. Then someone would at least use them,” said Mansour Samadpour, president of Lake Forest Park, Washington-based IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. “They’re worthless. They give a false sense of security.”

Another great quote from Mansour Samadpour, a man who makes millions selling testing to the food industry; “The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education.”

It’s worth mentioning that Mr. Samadpour makes millions selling testing to the food industry, and would greatly benefit if third party auditing was to disappear.

These experts want to get rid of third party audits, which are the one solution, albeit flawed, that every major food company agrees. They want to replace these third party audits with…

Hmmm.

The real problem is that, while it’s easy to stand on an internet soapbox and criticize third party food safety audits, it is much harder to come up with universally accepted solutions.

So, my dear critics, I’ll do your work for you. Over the next few articles I will explain the strengths and weaknesses with third party auditing, how to make the system better, and where I see the future of food compliance.

As a Certification Body (WQS), I can absolutely assure you that a food safety certification is not a food safety panacea. Seriously Felix, I agree it’s crazy that a certificate has become a commodity and I will agree that some third party auditing companies sell certs like they are commodities; it’s a disgusting fact that these POS’s are ruining my industries credibility.

What a third party food safety audit is when it is done correctly, is a single day process review of food safety systems, a snapshot of documents, practices, and facility inspection. Auditors see that one day, and from that audit report the industry must extrapolate how a company acts every other day of the year. It is an imperfect measurement that is still more efficient than any other system or current measurement.

Why? Why are third party audits more efficient than any other system? Why won’t major retailers, food service, and processors just accept an internal audit from their thousands of suppliers? Or testing…why not just send your testing to your clients? Or program, just send all your documents, processes, and logs to clients?

Brace yourself for the answer.

Because retailers, food service, and processors don’t trust information provided by their suppliers. And, from a pure liability standpoint, they shouldn’t.

Anyone reading this article is probably perfect. You have never lied on a document to sell more product, or told your client a lie on the phone just for a higher margin, or a chance to enter a new short or long term domestic or foreign market. I’m sure you have never done that, but I guarantee you know of a neighbor that has – hell, the SOB’s probably brag about it.

For decades retailers, food service, and processors asked for a letter of guarantee and internal question and answer sheet. They would send these forms out annually asking their supply chain to declare that they were following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and HACCP principles. They’d collect these basic documents, put them in a filing cabinet, and for years that false sense of filed security worked great AND was super cheap.

THEN came the 90’s that followed in to a new millennium of outbreak, after outbreak, after outbreak. Bill Marler siphoned hundreds of millions from the food industry for Americans sickened by food borne illness, Pulsenet was formed to track the epidemiology of food borne outbreaks, and the whole food industry was caught asking, “What the hell is e. coli, why is it in beef, and lettuce? How is Salmonella getting on tomatoes, or hepatitis on green onions? Hold the phone, now we need to worry about listeria?! Where did this little bastard come from and why is it on my melons, ice cream, and candied apples?”

In the late 90’s to the early 00’s, after either being sued for food borne illness, and/or watching other major companies being sued over outbreaks, the major food service, retailers, and processors started wanting more proof their supply chain was actually doing what they said they have been doing for years. I mean, they had thousands of hand written documents from their suppliers sitting safely in the filing cabinet of false security. “So,” they thought, “surely every one of my suppliers should be able to complete a simple GMP audit.”

When the major food companies started calling on the proof, it was as if a major bank company started calling all the stock options after the market fell. The excuses were many. “I’m not ready just yet. We are between facilities. We are having major changes in our facility. My grandma died. My wife’s third cousin is having a baby. I need a couple years to comply. Can you give me one more year. I just need one more season. Be reasonable.”

Being in this industry for over 15 years and working with many food companies, from farmers to major food service, retailers, and processors, there is not an original excuse left for me to hear, and the major food companies have heard it all from their suppliers as well.

So these excuses from the supply chain leads to why “your clients won’t accept internal audits.”

So.

This article got VERY long VERY fast. There is no way to hit all the points needed in one article. I have to split this up! Over the next couple of weeks I will write 8 more articles explaining what is the pros and cons of all the food compliance programs, and finish with my FREE opinion on how to fix it all:

YOUR CLIENTS WON’T ACCEPT INTERNAL AUDITS
HISTORY, THIRD PARTY AUDITS
DATA MANAGEMENT, THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE?
INDUSTRY COMPLIANCE IS LESS THAN YOU THINK
TESTING HAS AN IMPORTANT PLACE
FOOD SAFETY CULTURE, QUANTIFY AND/OR QUALIFY
FSMA, WHAT IT GOT RIGHT AND WTF
IF MATT REGUSCI WAS FOOD COMPLIANCE KING (FOR A DAY)

See you then.

——————————-

Author Matt Regusci, as a great consumer of many foods and beverages, is passionate about assisting in making the industry better. He is Founder of LinkedIn Groups Cultural Mindset of Food Safety & Executive Food and Beverage Forum AND Co-Founder of WQS Food Verification, LLC and Train To Comply, LLC. You may connect with him anytime you have any questions, comments, and/or need further information.

Find his Linkedin Profile Here.

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Matthew Regusci

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