Dr Ron Wacker, global business unit manager food, health and beauty, told FoodQualityNews that scandals and recalls can damage the manufacturer’s reputation and undermine consumers’ trust.
“I feel within the current structure we have the challenge that most countries have their own regulations and food standards which we have to follow so it’s not easy to say we do the same test in every country based on the needs of specific buyers and big companies,” he told us at the GFSI conference in Berlin.
“I see there should be a harmonisation on the result because many of the standards and regulations go in the same direction not using the same way necessarily.
“So I feel it is very important to have a really deep control on the internal quality, if you are a global service provider you have to make sure that all your labs are providing identical results everywhere if you test the same sample.
“This sounds quite easy and is normally followed by the ISO standard 17025 which is the basic need for each lab location but at the end everyone has to be aware ISO 17025 is the minimum requirement so for global service providers it should not be enough.”
To safeguard quality of products through the procurement and supply chains, companies must establish appropriate safety standards. However, the process is an increasingly complex one, said the firm.
Manufacturers must also do extensive quality control measures in the form of monitoring, audits and certification, it added.
Dr Wacker said there also has to be a strong focus on internal quality programs for the service provider to guarantee best in class service for clients.
“This is also what I see as a big need on the client side, that they expect us to serve them wherever they buy their raw materials of their products,” he said.
“In the first place the laboratories have to follow the local regulations meaning we have GB standards in China, mainly ISO in Germany, the BAM and AOAC in the US which are the basics.
“But in addition if you work for the national customers you will have different standards for the same tests in the same locations so even if want us to test in Vietnam, not on the local regulation but based on a US standard, that is possible using different methods and we have the different accreditation for these various standards.”
TÜV SÜD provides food safety and quality services including testing, inspection, auditing, certification and training.
Broader buying sources
Dr Wacker said it is a fact that supply chains are getting broader.
“So even within the last five years we see that before where a manufacturer said ‘we would never buy from there’, now they are buying, just because there are limited resources and also the consumer expects a broader variety of products being available in the retail stores and coming from the manufacturers,” he said.
“Consumers expect whatever they buy wherever that is in line with their expectations. Therefore the need to check your supply chain and the traceability in your supply chain is heavily increasing.
“Before maybe you had sourcing from five countries nowadays easily with one final product you have ingredients coming from 10-20 countries and managing this supply chain and having traceability is the biggest challenge we have today."
The food market is going traditionally not with economics, he said.
“Even with the economic situation in a country going down food is growing just because there are more and more people not only this but also the expectations of the consumers are growing. Where we had 10 years ago we mainly looked at the expectations of European and US consumers nowadays just look into China.
“The consumers are getting more and more aware of the quality of their products and they ask their government to provide the same quality level as they export to other areas and the same trend we also see in India and if you look at the population rate of India and China you can imagine that this is a huge growing market where we should have a clear focus on.”
Retailer action to protect private brands
Dr Wacker said the classic big manufacturer has an established food safety system in place and retailers are also working towards this.
“The other part is the retailers with their private brands, so suddenly retailers which so far just relied on their brand suppliers now have their own brands, so they are focussed heavily on their own quality system,” he said.
“Nowadays they are responsible for their own products because at the end if there is a recall it is not brand X anymore it is their own name printed on the package so it is much bigger risk for a retailer.
“For ingredients, for the manufacturers in Europe, there is a need that the final product is safe which means not all the ingredients have to automatically be on the same level of safety than the final product.
“During the production process you have a number of steps to reduce, for example, the microbiological load of your ingredients so it depends heavily on the intention of using these ingredients.
“So there is a different approach if you test the final product which goes to the market or the ingredients. For ingredients quite often it is not based on the regulations but based on the requirements of the manufacturer.”