Consumer confidence remains high for the grocery industry, per FMI's U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends research. But the industry has witnessed some critical suggestions, not to mention an act of Congress (the Food Safety Modernization Act), that as the trend in foodservice and prepared foods grows at food retail, a truly farm-to-fork food safety approach is needed.
Consumers have expectations that their local store offers verifiable proof that robust food safety control systems are in place, so food safety systems will in turn need to be properly validated and show evidence of continuous monitoring procedures.
In line with these expectations, the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), a division of FMI, will soon launch its newest certification program, the Retail/Wholesale Grocery Code. The program was developed to provide retailers and wholesalers with the requirements to achieve accredited certification, and creates a 360-degree uniform food safety management system across the retail and wholesale food industry. SQF retail/wholesale grocery certification provides brand protection and an additional level of protection to consumers.
Food safety is a culture that must be developed within a company, and like other disciplines, it must be managed. The benefit of this new comprehensive program is its continuity. All retail/wholesale grocery activities of an organization are now covered by one SQF program. What's both unique and satisfying about the program is that the entire corporate office, brands, banners, franchises, stores—including all premises, support buildings, loading and unloading bays and external grounds—must be included in the scope of certification.
Other reasons why the SQF Retail/Wholesale Grocery certification is important:
- It puts requirements in place for suppliers so retailers complete the food safety management loop;
- It provides increased stakeholder confidence in the company;
- It supports legislative and regulatory legal aspects;
- It encourages continuous improvement;
- It requires validating processes and systems;
- It connects the corporate policies to store practices;
- It allows retailers to have a true third-party audit system;
- It acts as a high-integrity, independent third-party validation;
- It gives CEOs confidence in the internal systems and controls (so they sleep better at night);
- It confers the ability to benchmark against other retailers' performance; and
- It provides a uniform food safety vocabulary and approach to systems across the farm-to-fork sector within the food industry.
This program and its attributes are also complementary to SafeMark, FMI's comprehensive food safety training program, to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Establishing a food safety system infrastructure that connects corporate policies to in-store practices demonstrates management's commitment to food safety and creates a culture of food safety throughout the organization.
With these partners, training and resources, the food value chain can continue to instill stakeholder confidence in the food supply.
Note: SQFI's Retail Program will launch in March, 2017 in conjunction with edition 8 of its code.