PAI Group, the certifier behind the new standards, has previously assessed soy for use in animal feed for its genetically-modified origins. This has allowed for processors of meat products to make declarations like ‘from animals not fed on GMOs’ on the labels.
However Paul Wright, managing director of PAI, said that retailers have been interested in more certification standards for soy used directly in food products, as a result of campaign pressure groups.
A request by members of the British Retail Consortium led PAI and FEMAS (Feed Materials Assurance Scheme, operated by the Agricultural Industries Confederation) to develop new ways of assessing soy destined to be imported into the UK.
The standards will be used by importers when marketing the material to the food chain, and can be used on soy ingredients sold in a business-to-business context.
Wright told FoodNavigator.com that the standards are not expected to be used on finished food products, but it will be used to used by manufacturers to support non-GM and sustainability claims should retailers ask for evidence.
The new scheme was piloted last year, and has just become available in its final form.
The methods used involve going to the country from where a client sources material, and looking “as far as we have to on the sustainable, ethical side”.
This involves checking along the supply chain from field to export terminal, which may amount to thousands of miles.
The responsible procurement module involves monitoring all farms growing soy to make sure they do not harm the forests. The certifiers may look at satellite imagery, as wella stalk to field staff to be satisfied that there are no breaches of protocol.
“Verification also confirms that soybeans entering the certified supply chain only come from identified and approved farms,” said Wright.
While the system is currently centered on soy, and involves going on-site annually to ensure nothing has changed, Wright said there is “every likelihood” that it could also be used in other countries.
One possibility, he said, would be for palm oil sourced from Indonesia.
However he said that implementation would be on demand, and depend on “someone getting excited about it”.
While the credit crunch may mean that retailers are placing more attention on price control and looking less at ethical and sourcing issues for a while, the system is capable of being implemented swiftly when the need arises.
PAI was established in 1996. It has two offices in the UK and one in Italy, and has partnerships in South America, China and Greece.
Other activities in the food sector include the BRC’s food packaging scheme, organic certification, ethical auditing, and food chain security.