Earlier this year we had the pleasure of welcoming Christine Flöter to the DQS family. In her new role, Christine manages all DQS services related to the IFS and BRCGS standards. With more than 20 years of experience in the area of food safety standards, she has a wealth of expertise. We took the opportunity to ask her some questions about the future of food safety standards and the current state of the industry – #Standardquestions.
Christine, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Christine Flöter, I am an employee at DQS CFS and responsible for the IFS and BRCGS series of standards. For all IFS and BRCGS audits performed by the DQS Group, I monitor the compliance with requirements of standard owners and accreditation bodies. In addition, I also continue to perform IFS and BRCGS audits myself.
The last standard revisions brought quite a few changes in the requirements – which ones where particulary important and why?
The standards I am responsible for at DQS include requirements that are driven by the GFSI framework. The GFSI requirements do not only affect the IFS and BRCGS standards, but must be integrated into GFSI benchmarked standards. The two main changes that have followed from the recent developments at GFSI level are the topics Food Fraud and Food Safety Culture – these two topics pose new challenges to certified sites.
As far as food fraud is concerned, what have been your learnings from recent audits?
The topic of food fraud is still relatively new, which means that both the industry and the auditors will have to engage more with the subject. Food fraud cases like the horse meat scandal or the olive oil scam have been a wake up call for the industry. To prevent incidents like these, companies need to take measures to mitigate fraud risks for all raw materials they procure, including the packaging materials. This remains a challenge for many certified sites: many companies are still figuring out how to do this as systematically as possible, without spending too much on unnecessary analyses. On the other hand, scheme owners and auditors are also continuously developing their approach. We therefore actively engage with scheme owners, auditors and the industry to improve audit protocols and ensure consistency.
As an experienced auditor, where do you see the biggest potential for improvement in the implementation of food safety standards?
A problem we continue to observe regularly relates to the procurement of raw materials. Certified sites must make sure that the raw materials they procure meet the requirements of the relevant specifications and standards. This means, among other things, that the supplier must meet HACCP criteria, and it is the responsibility of procurement to ensure that this is the case. Does the site have appropriate systems to ensure the hygiene and safety of raw materials? This is what needs to be verified. In reality, however, we still see procurement departments that are focused on price, reliability, compliant management, and availability. Although these aspects are no doubt important, they should never take priority over food safety.
Plastics in our oceans, greenhouse gas emissions, declining biodiversity – both the packaging industry as well as the food industry play a pivotal role in the transition towards a more sustainable way of life. What role can standards play in managing these environmental impacts?
As far as the GFSI benchmarked standards are concerned, we see that they are still very much focused on food safety. Food safety and sustainability are often seen as two separate topics – the standards currently available reflect this view.
Would you want the IFS and BRCGS Standards to focus more on sustainability?
That is a tough question. Auditors always need to go through an extensive program of training and qualification, for which they need very specific competences and experience. Auditors who are experts on food safety have a very specific and invaluable skillset. When we integrate aspects of sustainability into food safety standards, we risk creating a mismatch with the expertise of the auditors. Should aspects of sustainability become integrated into food safety standards, we will definitely need to revise the qualification process of the auditors, to ensure that the necessary competence is available.
What other developments would you like to see in the years to come?
Continuing to develop the standards is essential. There is the issue that standards are very much focused on documents and records. This not only poses challenges to certified sites, it also takes up a lot of time during the audit – time that might be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps we can find common ground and get back to the roots: focusing on processes.
Do you have a question for Christine Flöter? Send it to Constanze.firstname.lastname@example.org or ask us on Twitter with the Hashtag #standardquestions.