Thursday, 4 February 2010

Andrew Smith Interview - day one at the Global Food Safety Conference

This morning at the Global Food Safety Conference, we talked to Andrew Smith, LRQA's Senior Vice-President, Americas. Andrew talked about some of his early discussions with organisations in the food sector on day one of the Washington, D.C. event. (Listen to or download the audio podcast here)

Well, the emerging themes I think we are seeing from the traffic so far this morning are very much on harmonisation and consistency, so organisations are looking to harmonise the standards they’re applying within their own businesses and their suppliers. They are looking to ensure that an audit completed in China is the same as an audit completed in Columbia, which is the same as an audit completed in Peru, they’re looking for consistency of audit.

Where LRQA can help with those issues, obviously, we have a team of nearly five hundred food assessors worldwide, who go through the same program, and are held to the same standard. We have teams of experts who travel the world to ensure our auditors are trained to the same standard. Therefore, an audit completed in China would be conducted to the same level of attention as an audit in UK, or the Netherlands, or the USA.
In terms of key themes in client’s minds, there’s no doubt from their perspective that they are looking for certainty and assurance. There is a great deal of uncertainty and worry, within the food community that I am seeing here, associated with very complex supply chains and lots of different suppliers from small farmers all the way up to very large suppliers. It is about making sure they have the same assurance with the small players, that they do with the larger players.
The programs we’re developing to combine second party company schemes, with third party assurance, I believe is the answer to many of the concerns that we’ve just talked about. Again with the consistency of approach, the consistency of training, the level of rigour that is required by an LRQA assessor, combined with the program development skills that we’ve already developed, with many of our large clients, will solve these kinds of problems.
Another key theme I am seeing emerging from conversations I have had this morning relate to an understanding amongst the food community that inspections have had their day, and that process audits really are the answer of the future, for the level of assurance which is required. Again, our Business Assurance approach, which builds upon going beyond compliance to actually help businesses improve their performance certainly will assist in this regard.

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