By Tan Hwee Ching, Senior Manager, Food Trust Specialist, PwC Singapore
Local enterprises are amongst the key engines of Singapore’s economy. With over 90% made up by local businesses, the food manufacturing industry contributed S$3.7 billion to Singapore’s GDP in 2015. In an increasingly competitive globalised world, what can local food manufacturing companies do to open up market access and reduce the regulatory burden in maintaining food safety management standards that will be recognised everywhere? Adopting globally recognised systems, such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognised schemes, is perhaps a key lever to consider.
Founded by industry practitioners in 2000, GFSI supports the principle of “once certified, accepted everywhere” and is an initiative to help food businesses reduce food safety risk and manage business cost. By benchmarking to drive equivalence and convergence between effective food safety management systems, there are 10 recognised food safety management schemes under GFSI today. Companies have the flexibility to choose the schemes that are more relevant to their operations. The schemes serve as a food safety passport for food enterprises - through a common understanding across borders and mutual trust that is enhanced in the supply chain. Adopting GFSI recognised schemes will help food companies worldwide enhance their food safety practices and as a result, boost consumer confidence locally, regionally and globally.
Essentially, attaining certifications with the GFSI ‘stamp of approval’ means that they can engage in business with local and international food companies requiring stringent food safety standards and practices. This helps to open up market access, speed up the product registration for exporters and makes it easier for businesses to be qualified as approved suppliers to big brand owners. This will help small local enterprises gain a competitive edge in the global market.
In Singapore, the focus for food manufacturers has been on the adoption of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points standards (HACCP) which does give the food manufacturers an advantage as it forms a key component of international trade in food products. However, HACCP is science-based and only addresses intentional food safety issues. GFSI-recognised schemes (such as IFS, FSSC22000 and BRC *), on the other hand, are regularly updated to reflect the reality of today’s business environment and its challenges – and hence helps the food industry keep on track. For example, the updated GFSI Guidance Document version 7, recently released on 28 February 2017, addresses the requirement to fight food fraud and incorporate unannounced audits.
In order to build trust in food supply chain, leading food companies believe the food safety management schemes underpinned by GFSI benchmarked schemes, provide the market differentiation by assuring that their manufacturing facilities and suppliers adhere to internationally-recognised food safety standards across the entire supply chain. More importantly, GFSI recognised schemes play a key role in assisting food business to fulfil legal obligations, ensure global consistency and provide protection for the end consumers.
Currently operating in over 160 countries, GFSI is the largest industry food safety initiative. There is now a growing demand for the attainment of GFSI-recognised certification.
Recognising that many small local businesses and manufacturers might be disadvantaged or discouraged to pursue GFSI-recognised standards due to a lack of technical expertise, resources or trained personnel, GFSI has launched a Global Market Program – which aims to help such businesses get started on a pathway that leads to eventual certification.
A free access system, the Global Market Program provides an unaccredited entry point for small businesses with its step-by-step program designed to build capability within manufacturing operations, and implement a course of continuous improvement. Local enterprises can tap on this as a roadmap to safer food and market access.
In fact, leading retailers and manufacturers around the world (including China, India, Malaysia, Japan, Brazil and Russia) have adopted the Global Market Program as an entry-level food safety solution for small, developing companies in local markets.
Japanese retailer Aeon, for instance, is one forward-looking company which has tapped on the Global Market Program for its business development and growth in Malaysia.
Given the growing prominence of Asia and its role in the global supply chain, GFSI has begun to grow its presence in this region, such as China and Malaysia. Building on Singapore’s strong global reputation for maintaining gold standards in quality and food safety, local enterprises should be encouraged to work towards achieving GFSI so as to better compete in the global arena.
Is your organisation harnessing the power of GFSI benchmarked schemes to open up new markets and enhance your food safety and integrity standards?
*BRC – British Retail Consortium | IFS – International Feature Standards | FSSC 22000 – Food Safety Systems Certification
Tan Hwee Ching
Senior Manager, Food Trust Specialist, PwC Singapore
Tel: +65 9627 8602