The $500 billion (€440bn) US food processing industry says it is ready to focus its attention on suppliers in Europe, Asia and Africa, from whom it currently already sources a wide range of ingredients and packaging materials. But hopefuls will first need to match up to the new NFPA-SAFE standards.
The first NFPA-SAFE (National Food Processors Association - Supplier Audits for Food Excellence) auditors to have a permanent base in Europe have now been certified by the NFPA. This new development will facilitate audits of ingredient and packaging material suppliers from outside the USA. The NFPA says only those companies that have had a successful NFPA-SAFE audit can now expect to continue supplying the biggest processors in the US food and drink sector.
The NFPA is the voice of the US food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues. Its SAFE scheme was devised to establish excellence in food safety auditing, and has the backing of most of the major players in the US food processing sector.
Reading, UK-based RQA/RSSL Select QA is the first and only organisation in Europe with auditors qualified to carry out the NFPA-SAFE audit. This situation is likely to pertain for some time because of the strict qualifications needed to become a NFPA-SAFE certified auditor.
In addition to needing many years of auditing experience, candidates must demonstrate good knowledge of US food law, and are required to pass a demanding examination in order to qualify as an auditor. Thereafter, certified auditors must maintain their knowledge through continual professional development, and re-examination by the NFPA. This ensures that qualified auditors retain their expertise and credibility with clients.
"The NFPA-SAFE audit is extremely thorough and broad in its scope. Each audit requires a minimum of two days to complete and generates a substantial report that is industry-recognised and vital for any supplier wishing to deal with the larger US food processors," commented Gwenda Jarrett of RSSL Select QA and one of Europe's first NFPA-SAFE approved auditors.
"As a European organisation, RQA/RSSL Select QA has good access to suppliers in Europe, Africa and Asia, and is therefore well placed to assist companies in their preparations for an NFPA-SAFE audit, as well as to carry out the audit itself," she continued.
According to Dan Cahill of RQA Europe, the NFPA-SAFE scheme is already proving itself in the USA and the scheme is expanding rapidly. "Ingredient suppliers benefit from receiving one audit that meets the requirements of all participating US food processors, rather than having to undergo an individual audit from every company they want to supply. This saves them time and money, and opens doors to potential new customers."
He added: "The scheme is administered via the NFPA website which means all NFPA members have access to the one audit report and can select suppliers based on an assessment of these results."