How to review and assess approved supplier certificates

Requesting approved supplier certificates is an easy method to verify the performance of your suppliers. In this article, find out the key pieces of information that you should be reviewing on the 3rd party certification certificates provided by your suppliers.

What are approved supplier certificates?

Approved supplier certificates evidence that an approved supplier has undergone a 3rd party, independent assessment of their HACCP based food safety management system against a set of recognized criteria. Depending on your food industry, this criterion may include requirements outlined in GFSI recognized standards.

At a minimum, the assessment should include compliance against the Codex Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System and Guidelines for its Application in addition to the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene.

Credibility of the certification body

Not all 3rd party certification bodies are created equal. When you look at the approved supplier certificate, review which 3rd party certification body has issued the certificate.  You can then cross-reference this body against either ANSI, JAS-ANZ, or European Accreditation to determine their accreditation status.

To get a quick understanding of how food safety certification works, check out this video published by ANSI.

Standard of certification

In the HACCP food safety space, the most common standards of certification are those recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). The purpose of the GFSI is to “create a common and widely-accepted understanding of what constitutes a good food safety system”.

They produce benchmarking requirements which are the basis of all GFSI-recognized certification programs. Review the ‘standard of certification’ listed on the approved supplier certificate against the current recognized list by clicking here. Don’t forget to check that the food category listed matches the product of ingredient that they sell to you.

If your supplier does not participate in any of these programs, you may need to undertake further research to determine suitability of the standard advised.

Approved supplier business location

On occasion a supplier may produce of manufacture ingredients from multiple sites under their control. It is good practice for each site location to be certified separately.  A quick google search can help you to find out what commodity they make at the location listed on the approved supplier certificate.

Scope of certification

Identifying the correct scope can be an area of concern if it does not match the commodity that is supplied to you. The scope generally identifies the process steps that have been assessed during the 3rd party certification process. Review the certificate to make sure it matches your expectation. For example, is transport from the supplier to your business covered in the scope or is this handled by another organization who may not be certified.

Approved supplier certificate expiry dates

All 3rd party approved supplier certificates should have an expiry date. A quick check of this date can ascertain their current certification status. You can also contact the certification body to determine currency. Your suppliers should be on a 6-monthly or annual certification schedule depending on risk on compliance history.

Requesting further information

Like anything, if you are unsure about the validity of information provided to you by a supplier, do further research. This may include completing an onsite audit, checking accreditation databases and reviewing government recall or compliance data. You may also want to increase your incoming goods monitoring program for that supplier.

Share your experience

Does your food business use 3rd party certification certificates as a way of approving your suppliers? Share you experience with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.

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