Going for gold

lobal Food industry inspection and certification body EFSIS has added a new higher level award to its repertoire - EFSIS Gold.

Global Food industry inspection and certification body EFSIS has added a new higher level award to its repertoire - EFSIS Gold. Taking its accreditation services to the next level, the Gold award is based on the three key principles of application and effectiveness of systems and procedures; management accountability and performance; and continuous improvement.

Five performance categories apply: hygiene operations; risk management including HACCP and food safety; operations control; customer satisfaction including product quality; and management, training and development.

EFSIS offers a range of services to the meat and poultry sectors from Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (FABBL) inspections to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) standard, International Food Standard (IFS) and ISO 22000.

EFSIS inspections per year total 25,000 for beef and lamb, 600 for poultry, 800 for pigs, 5,000 for food manufacturing, 1,650 for retail and 350 for catering.

"There has been considerable change in the manufacturing sector, with a new version of the BRC standard taking effect and the launch of ISO 22000," says Carole Payne, EFSIS food director at EFSIS. "Inspection by EFSIS, a name known throughout the industry, has become vital for any meat business that wants access to the maximum range of markets."

EFSIS claims a long association with all the meat sector bodies, and employs a team of trained inspectors with specialist meat industry backgrounds. It carries out the highest proportion of inspections to abattoirs and cutting plants.

Certifying to the BRC Global Standard - Food and the IFS focus on quality management systems and HACCP, EFSIS has also developed its own sector specific guidelines to assist suppliers in the interpretation of generic clauses.

For example, the Assured British Meat (ABM) Beef and Lamb standard is aimed at beef and lamb abattoirs, cutting plants and packing plants, and puts less emphasis on quality management systems than the BRC standard. "The ABM Beef and Lamb standard is ideal for smaller processors," says Payne. "They can use it as a stepping stone to the BRC standard if they want." Participants in this scheme may also apply to use the Red Tractor logo.

Similarly, EFSIS accredits under the British Quality Assured Pork scheme, managed by BPEX. Further schemes, Charter Quality Ham and Bacon focus on the traceability of raw materials to ensure the pork comes from an assured source, and are aimed at processors. Participants, most of which are members of the British Meat Processors Association, must go through a BRC inspection.

"We are specialists in food, offering services around the world," says Payne. "We offer a wider range of services to food processors than any other body and we can make sure any food business is getting the right service."

Among its products covering gaps in certification standards is the EFSIS Safe and Legal standard for small processors. "It makes sure that they are, as it says, safe and legal, but leaves out some of the more onerous paperwork requirements of standards like the BRC one," she says. "It's proved popular with small business, particularly start-up, as well as with their customers."

And under the FABBL brand, EFSIS is the best known provider of inspection and certification services to British livestock farmers.

"FABBL is the name people know," says Chris Reading, EFSIS-FABBL general manager of Agriculture UK. "Farmers know that they are going to be asked for it."

He believes that EFSIS? range of farm assurance is a vital tool for UK farmers seeking to convince buyers they are producing to the best standards. "You only have to look at the current controversy surrounding imports of beef from Brazil to see what a difference it makes," he says. "With the FABBL brand on British produced meat, buyers can be confident that they're getting a quality product from professional farmers."

FABBL offers services covering every sector of agriculture, including FABBL Beef and Lamb assurance, Assured British Pigs, Assured Chicken Production, Assured British Turkey, Farm Assured Welsh Lamb and the Wild Boar Quality Assurance Scheme.

"One of our great strengths is our ability to offer a one-stop shop for farm assurance," says Reading. "Farmers want to cut the amount of time they spend away from working on the farm to a minimum. By combining inspections we can make sure the number of visits from inspectors is kept to a minimum.

"We also offer the Assured British Meat Transport and Auction Market standards, which help make sure meat is covered all along the chain. On top of that we can combine any of these standards with organic certification as part of our partnership with Organic Farmers & Growers.

"Over 95% of our inspectors come from a farming background and all of them have extensive experience of the sector before they come to work for us. From a farmer's point of view that means the FABBL inspector knows how their business works. We don't just send people out with clipboards to tick boxes.

"Our message to people in the meat and poultry sector is that, if they want real FABBL assurance, we're the only people who can provide it. No brand in farm assurance has more credibility throughout the industry."