Food Safety Standards: Which One is for Me?
Mar 2, 2023

Food Safety Standards: Which One is for Me?

Food Safety Standards: Which One is for Me?

There are many factors to consider, some simpler than others. Let us take a look at this from two different perspectives to understand more about what to consider when selecting the right food safety standard for you.

Perspective #1:
  1. You produce your products in a shared space, commercial kitchen, or perhaps at home. Your products continually sell out at farmers' markets. Maybe an independent grocer inquires about placing your product on their shelves. From a food safety perspective, independent grocers are somewhat flexible with food safety requirements. They only need to have a plan or program in place. Given you have only been selling at farmers' markets your company probably does not exceed $100,000 in top-line revenue. You probably won’t make a high-risk product and do not ship over provincial borders. At this point, you do not have any food safety plan in place - which is acceptable.

Tip: Before we discuss the next steps, keep the following in mind: increasing production generally requires a larger production facility. It also likely entails increased storage, and associated costs will increase. It may require extra staffing and (of course) food safety.

Suppose the grocer likes your product, and they would like to take shipment of your product. It’s highly likely their initial orders will be small to test velocity AND your ability to supply in a timely fashion. At some point, either initially or as the grocer increases PO sizes, the grocer will request a food safety plan. Remember, a food safety plan is a generic term that means the written documents you have outline the hazards, important critical control points (CCPs), and maybe standard operating procedures (SOPs), or more. Depending on your product and its inherent or perceived risk (ie Fresh vs Frozen), the food safety plan requirements can vary.  A typical scenario would include the grocer requesting one of the following: a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, a certified HACCP plan, supplier verification documents, or a PCP plan (although this is unlikely).

Tip: before agreeing to provide the requested food safety documents, consider these 3 questions, you may wish you elected to surpass the requirements (see below)

  • Will you supply this grocer/retailer for only the next 3 to 5 years?
  • If you sold to other grocers who and where would they be?
  • What are the requirements to ship to other grocers/retailers?

Perspective #2:
  1. You are a venture-backed company, perhaps pre-revenue. You have identified a large market. Retailers are hungry to get your product on their shelves. This likely means national distribution, if not immediately but soon.

There are cases in which a retailer may request a HACCP plan or certified HACCP plan only, however, product distribution will be limited until the retailer is satisfied to increase distribution, and thus its food safety requirements. Regardless, if your plan is to scale and distribute nationally within 2 or 3 years you will be required to obtain a PCP (SFCR license) now or soon. Before committing to a PCP, consider what distribution to the United States or overseas looks like. Distributing outside of Canada will require a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standard. The most popular GFSI standards are: SQF, BRCGS, and GlobalGAP. (More on GFSI standards here). GFSI standards are: in general more comprehensive (SQF requires a, SQF certified practitioner on staff), and more expensive (maintenance and annual audits)

Tip: Keep in mind when identifying what food safety plan or standard to build that food safety requirements are continually increasing.

No matter what you decide what food safety plan you will build and manage, it's imperative to communicate and update the customers//retailer regularly. Not only are you satisfying their request, but you are also building a relationship. This is a vast topic, FoodByte will be exploring more on food safety standards in future posts. If you need help with identifying what standard to select, book a call with us today at no cost. We'd be happy to walk you through the process.