A primer on food safety certifications | F&B Report

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Establishing a food business, or any kind of business for that matter, is no joke. More than the money, passion and skills, there are key professionals you need to consult (and maybe hire) before embarking on your business venture. And more  importantly there are safety measures to consider as well as permits to secure before you can fully operate—the most important of which are food safety certifications. 

According to Glenn Hyde Dela Cruz, vice president of program development and food inspection services of Food Safety & Hygiene Academy of the Philippines (FoodSHAP), “Food safety certification for food business is essential as this will reassure primarily the quality and safety of food products as well as the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.” 

In terms of acquiring one, food safety certifications for food establishments, Dela Cruz says, are “conducted by an accredited certifying body for certain standards.” But before engaging any of these establishments’ services entrepreneurs should verify the integrity and validity of third-party certifying bodies through relevant document review and even a facility inspection. 

In the Philippines, food businesses should be able to satisfy two minimum requirements from the government related to food safety and hygiene: the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines (PD 856)  and the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Food Safety Act of 2013 (RA 10611). 

Based on the IRR of PD 856, these two sanitation requirements should be met for a food business to operate: a sanitary permit for food establishments and a health certificate issued by the city or municipal health officer for the staff. On the other hand, RA 10611 lists the following objectives to strengthen the food safety regulatory system in the country:

  1. Protect the public from food- and water-borne illnesses and unsanitary, unwholesome, misbranded or adulterated foods
  2. Enhance industry and consumer confidence in the food regulatory system
  3. Achieve economic growth and development by promoting fair trade practices and sound regulatory foundation for domestic and international trade

Attributing PD 856, two types of food safety certifications are needed by a food business: one for the food business itself and another for the people. The former is a verification activity and implementation of the food safety management systems and is done through audit and risk-based inspection conducted by an accredited inspection body. 

Meanwhile, the latter, according to Dela Cruz, “is an assessment of knowledge and/or skills by a training or assessment center to ensure a personnel’s competency” to handle food safety in business. “It requires candidates to attend a certificate program that culminates in either a written and/or practical assessment,”he adds.  

Having food safety certifications does not only guarantee quality and prevention of food-borne illnesses but they also represent a strict compliance to rules and regulations. Certifications also minimize the cost for potentially unsafe products in the food chain as well as secures the production and workflow of the chain itself.

So what establishments are required to procure a food safety certification? Dela Cruz lists the following: 

  • Hotels and resorts
  • Restaurants, bars and fast food chains
  • Canteens and concessionaires
  • Food court and food parks
  • Food processing, cold storage and suppliers
  • Supermarkets and groceries
  • Convenience stores and food retailers
  • Hospital’s nutrition and dietary facilities
  • School canteens and feeding centers

Essentially, all businesses and establishments that serve food must implement a food safety management system or program. But as Dela Cruz clarifies, each “can have more than one food safety certification depending on client requirements and the establishment’s capability.” 

There are three widely used food safety systems or programs that a food business can secure. The first is Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). “GMP Certification focuses on food practices in manufacturing, packaging, repacking or holding food, while HACCP Certification is the application and documentation of preliminary steps and principles of HACCP to proactively eliminate or reduce food hazards,” says Dela Cruz.

The second is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22000, which is more commonly known as Food Safety Management System. This is applicable to producers under the farm-to-fork food chain. Certain technical specifications should be followed in specific production activities such as food manufacturing, catering, farming, and food packaging manufacturing. The last one operates under selected ISO 22000 specifications with additional extensive standards. This scheme is called FSSC 22000 or Food Safety System Certification and is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiatives (GFSI), a private organization dedicated to developing food safety management systems to ensure that food facilities are processing safe food for consumers.

According to Glenn Hyde Dela Cruz, vice president of program development and food inspection services of Food Safety & Hygiene Academy of the Philippines (FoodSHAP), “Food safety certification for food business is essential as this will reassure primarily the quality and safety of food products as well as the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.” 

After implementing systems and programs for your establishment, the next thing to do is to secure health certificates for the staff. Aside from attending basic food safety training with a DOH-recognized certificate, a food safety compliance officer who has passed a prescribed training course recognized by the Department of Agriculture and/or the Department of Health should also be designated by all food businesses in compliance with the RA 10611 requirement. Startup businesses can also avail a free online assessment from FoodSHAP to guide them in the process.

Once your food business fulfills the requirements, Dela Cruz recommends that businesses start signing up for “an assessment of the existing food safety programs through risk-based safety inspection conducted by an inspection body accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry Philippines Accreditation Bureau.” He also notes that the assessment includes checking if the following requirements are met

  • Food safety training and issuance of certificate to food handlers
  • Implementation of pre-requisite food safety programs such as insect and pest management control and cleaning and sanitizing measures
  • Complete documentation of procedures, from purchasing of raw ingredients and packaging materials up to preparation and serving of the foods

Dela Cruz says that accepted documents and records include food safety manuals, health certificates, water potability test reports and temperature logs, adding that special requirements such as outside caterings and deliveries need additional documentation and actual interviews of food handlers and food establishment management.

If you wish to renew your certification, Dela Cruz advises that, “Normally, [certifications are valid for] three years subject to successful surveillance audits, after which there’s a need for the food establishment to apply for recertification.”

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