Accredited third party certification bodies can play a critical role in efforts to continually improve the safety of our food supplies. Food companies retain third party auditors to assess conformity of food manufacturing facilities to ensure that they meet or exceed standards and to identify steps to continually improve food safety. In addition to industry efforts, Congress and the Food and Drug Administration are considering ways by which accredited third party certification bodies can supplement FDA efforts to improve food safety.
Third party certifications/auditors already play a critical role in food safety and will play a larger role in the future. Accordingly, GMA is working with policymakers and industry leaders to ensure that third party audits are conducted by auditors who are qualified, employed by a certification body that is duly accredited, and encourage the development of transparent, universal food safety auditing criteria.
GMA is working with other public and private partners to advance the development of food safety auditing criteria based on sound science and that incorporate internationally-recognized voluntary food safety standards such as those developed by Codex Alimentarius, an international body that establishes voluntary food safety standards.
By increasing the number of well-trained auditors and developing universal food safety auditing criteria, industry leaders and policymakers will ensure that auditors are qualified to review a particular facility, discourage duplicative audits, reduce auditing costs, and encourage wider use of third party certification/audits throughout the food industry. Ultimately, wider use of third party certification/audits will help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Third party certification could also help supplement FDA activities in several ways. For example, voluntary third party certification could be one criteria used by FDA to determine the potential risk of a product being imported into the U.S. Identifying low risk imports would allow FDA to focus greater scrutiny on imports that pose greater risk of foodborne illness. However, third party certification/audits should supplement—not replace—the critical roles played by FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal and state agencies.