Should We Expect No Recalls From GFSI Certified Companies?

October 30, 2010

  Del Monte Fresh was audited and found to be in compliance with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards.  The auditors used the SQF (Safe Quality Foods) Level 2 requirements for the audit.  These requirements are one of those approved to measure GFSI compliance, BRC is another.  The audit’s over, the certificate is on the wall and then Del Monte Fresh is recalling cantaloupes for salmonella contamination.  http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm230528.htm

One of the first things I saw on a food safety network to which I belong was the question – what auditing company did the audit?  The more important question might be – does being GFSI certified mean no recalls?  We food safety professionals are all big supporters of the GFSI system but it is just possible we are asking too much.  No system is completely failsafe. 

Auditing firms are sanctioned by the SQF to audit to the SQF requirements.  It is in the auditors’ best interest to strictly audit to the SQF requirements.  Getting more auditing gigs at other Del Monte Fresh locations would be great but losing the sanction to do SQF audits could be a financial disaster.

It is possible that everything that was happening at Del Monte Fresh on audit day was in strict compliance with the GFSI standards.  But do the GFSI standards cover every possible potential recall causing contingency?

The GFSI standards are now in version 5.  They are continuously being improved and refined.  The No Recalls goal may be like Zero Defects, Zero Accidents, etc.  These goals are all the ideal but, realistically they should not be our expectation.  Let’s not give up on GFSI.  For now, it seems to be the best auditing system we have for food safety.


AIB (Auditors Incredibly Blind)

October 16, 2010

Maybe traditional 3rd party audits don’t work.  Last year the peanut butter manufacturer, PCA, and their customers (Kellogg’s to name just one) had massive recalls because of Salmonella contamination.  This year Wright County Egg and their customers, Albertson’s, Ralph’s and others recalled half billion Salmonella tainted eggs.  Both PCA and Wright County Egg had had traditional 3rd party audits by AIB.  Why didn’t these audits turn up the same egregious food safety issues found later by the FDA in their investigations of the two?  AIB’s job was to supply PCA and Wright County Egg with a finished product, that being an audit report, and they did exactly that.  In traditional 3rd party audits, the auditing firm typically minimizes its client’s short comings and the client asks them back year after year to audit.

Now if AIB had been hired by Kellogg’s to audit their supplier, PCA, they might have found the food safety issues.  Kellogg’s would have been paying AIB to find any issues that could potentially lead to a recall.  Same thing if AIB had been hired by Albertson’s or Ralph’s to check out their egg supplier.  This type auditing is called 2nd party auditing.  Usually it works.

The 3rd party audit to GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) standards also works.  AIB might have found the food safety issues if PCA and Wright County Egg had hired them to do a GFSI audit.  GFSI has very stringent accreditation criteria for auditing firms.  A history of failing to find issues would lead to AIB’s loss of their accreditation and subsequently a major revenue stream. 

The reason 2nd party audits and audits to GFSI standards work is that we all see what we are paid to see.  In 2nd party audits, the auditor sees anything a supplier is doing that might lead to its client having to recall things made by the supplier.  AIB would be protecting Kellogg’s from potential recalls of peanut butter purchased from PCA.  With auditing to GFSI standards AIB would do a good job seeing food safety issues to protect it from losing its GFSI accreditation.  In the traditional 3rd party audit the auditor gets continued business for minimizing what he sees.