Food safety continues to be a hot topic for consumers and producers alike. The passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and recent release of the proposed FSMA rules by the FDA raise important questions to CCOF members. While FSMA provides a structure for a new system of food safety verification, the entrance of the federal government into the fray has created additional questions about how the program will be implemented. See our feature article in the Summer edition of Certified Organic for the full story on how organic is well positioned for future food safety regulations.
Many farmers and processors are already being asked to be certified to one of the existing third party food safety standards by retail buyers such as Costco or Walmart. We anticipate that implementation of the FSMA rules will mean more companies will pursue food safety assessment and/or certification. Even if law does not require it, assessment and/or certification may be required for farmers and processors to be able to sell their product!
To help us determine if and how we would offer food safety certification, we launched a survey to assess our members’ needs. This feedback will shape the development of a CCOF business plan for moving forward in this area. The survey was posted on our website on April 9 and distributed via email to all certified members. We received 290 responses and they have provided some interesting insight on how to structure a plan for this type of service. CCOF also interviewed major retailers to identify their requirements for their suppliers.
Some preliminary findings:
- The majority of grower respondents are not currently inspected or certified to a food safety standard; however, the majority of processor/handler respondents are currently inspected or certified to a food safety standard.
- 47% of processor/handler respondents are asked by a retailer or other downstream entity to be inspected or certified to a food safety standard. 26% of growers and 40% of livestock producers anticipate the request in the foreseeable future.
- Grower, livestock producer, and processor/handler respondents all show some interest in a potential CCOF Global GAP certification.
- Requirement from buyers is the strongest reason for respondents to consider a CCOF Global GAP certification program. Beyond that, survey results showed an interest in combining food safety inspections with organic inspections.
Members expressed concern over the burdensome paperwork and potential shortcomings some food safety plans have regarding organic methods. We are certainly aware of these concerns and seeking feedback to help overcome these issues. One respondent shared:
"We believe that it is essential for the safeguarding of organic integrity and the future of the movement that CCOF participate actively in these food safety issues in the same way we felt it was necessary for CCOF to participate in the creation of the NOP."
It is for reasons like these that CCOF is investigating this opportunity, and we hope to continue to share our progress with our members in a transparent and efficient manner. Let us know what you think.