By Wendy Edwards
I was recently reminded how much food safety auditing has transformed since the 1980’s, which was when I started my career here in New Zealand. A regulatory/inspection approach to food safety was expanded to include certification to ISO9001:1987 when the quality standard was released. Specific food safety standards followed, such as SQF in 1994, BRC in 1998 and ISO 22000 in 2005. As the number of food safety standards have expanded, it has become common for auditors to maintain multiple personnel certifications.
In 2020, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized the need to harmonize requirements and remove duplication from the auditor competence verification process. They launched the ‘Race to the Top’ program, an initiative ‘designed to increase recognition of the vital role of auditors in securing safe food for people everywhere’. Ensuring confidence and credibility for food safety auditing as a profession, it also aims to attract new talent by positioning food safety auditing as a credible career path’. The best way to stay current on news about the initiative is to click here to subscribe to GFSI updates.
At Exemplar Global, we are actively supporting the Race to the Top under Feature 1, by joining the pilot to become a GFSI Professional Recognition Body (PRB). Feature 1 is focused on ensuring validated auditor competence is mutually recognized by all GFSI PRBs. This will remove the need for auditors to hold multiple personnel certifications for GFSI benchmarked programs. Part of becoming a GFSI PRB is the development of an Exemplar Global Food Safety Auditor (EGFSA) program, which will itself be benchmarked by GFSI against its auditor competency requirements.
We have taken a proactive approach, developing our EGFSA program based on the requirements developed to date. While we expect the final requirements will change, having something now means we can test how well our processes work for food safety auditors.
Erin Unwin, Exemplar Global’s Food Safety Technical & Operations Manager, is a key member of the team supporting this project. In October, Erin started our testing by inviting a select number of food safety auditors to join an initial test group. The test group will provide feedback on our processes and requirements before we expand the pilot to a diverse range of auditor experience and backgrounds. As early adopters, this group of auditors have a vital role to play in shaping the final version of our EGFSA program. They are also making a significant contribution to our shared goal of elevating food safety auditing as a profession.
To recognize their support of the Exemplar Global community, we are giving pilot participants access to a range of exclusive promotional and profiling opportunities. This includes a customized ‘I’m Supporting the EGFSA pilot program’ digital badge to help them promote their participation and share it with their peers, colleagues and networks. Click here for further information about Exemplar Global’s digital badging program.
It’s extremely gratifying to see the level of interest in our EGFSA program so far and to be supporting the vision of positioning food safety auditing as a professional career option.
We are currently seeking expressions of interest for the second testing phase of our EGFSA program, which will be limited to 25 participants. For further information or to express your interest in joining the program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Wendy Edwards is the managing director of Powerful Insights and Exemplar Global’s EGFSA project manager.