Any of you who have been in this business over the last 25 years will have notice the rise of the Accreditation Standard Organisations. They were supposed to harmonises procedures and set international recognised standards to improve food safety.

I call it an example of the box ticking regime that pervades all walks of society but does nothing to stop , adulteration ( encourages it actually), and fraud ( horse meat). I see that BRC7 is trying to address the issue of fraud. I always thought that it was the responsibility of the food retailer to ensure that what they are putting out is safe and according to all food regulations .  Marks and Spencer ,I read, do not rely on BRC and still insist on their own audits.

So what is the value of these audits? They add cost in fees, additional personnel, time organising and conducting audits. In other words they have added costs and reduced margins for all in the food industry or cost the consumer in price and ultimate quality of the food as buyers seek cost effective solutions.

now audit bodies such as Kosher have been around for many years where a traditional lifestyle wants to preserve values and quality. It is probably the oldest quality regime in existence and started off in the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The laws are there to see in the books of Leviticus. The importance of Kosher grew as the USA asked for it more and more.

In my opinion there is a confusing array of quality standards and all of them are basically selling the promise of standardised procedures leading to safer quality. In some respect they have been useful in knowing that producers around the world adhere to agreed standards. They have spawned procedures where everyone is audit crazy and where there is no standardisation of quality audit documents. You can get basically the same set of questions from so many different companies all of who have their own audit form that asks so many questions. I have been tempted in the past where companies have asked for the address of the laundry company in China who launder the workers factory clothing to answer Mr Wu’s Chinese Laundry. I dont think they appreciated I was taking their quality procedures seriously when I gave them this link .

Suppliers have had to employ many additional workers just to fill in forms . That is one of the good points of quality it has created many jobs form filling and box ticking . That sounds a bit unfair as they do have to be aware of the many ,many many …EU regulations on this that and the other.

The reason these companies have grown is based on fear and the culture of box ticking procedures. Box ticking requires no responsibility or empathy as in cases of patients neglect in UK Hospitals and Care Homes. It encouraged the Horse Meat Scandal as all that is required is sending a specification and ticking the boxes. The UK press recently has highlighted the problems of free range chickens. Free range is not open fields or yards but a measured minimum space that the “complies” with regulations is satisfied by box ticking .

In other words despite all the quality accreditations, BRC, FSCC, HACCP, ISO 9001, ISO 2200, Femas, UFAS, Informed Sport ( what is this ??)it wont stop abuse of the system . I have missed out Kosher and Halal as these are required by certain groups. However what they all have in common is a cost in time and money where someone ends up bearing the burden

Only by dealing with trusted suppliers and doing your own quality controls can you really ensure your products are safe.

From the beginning of time there have been those who would cut corners for profit and it is inherent in human nature. ( see VW emissions ) . Do you have suppliers who you feel will do the best service or just content to box tick ?