Co-authored by Brian Gross
A company’s interest in protecting its brand by providing a safe product to consumers, in conjunction with the increased regulatory requirements set forth under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) require that entities active in the food supply chain take appropriate measures to verify that their suppliers comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). It is incumbent upon every business involved in the food supply chain to perform its own due diligence with respect to its suppliers, including, confirming FDA registration, making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documentation generated or retained during FDA inspections of suppliers’ facilities, reviewing suppliers’ Food Safety Control plans, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and/or Allergen Control Programs, and conducting regular audits of their facilities. Not every business, however, has the internal expertise to personally audit their suppliers’ facilities. Furthermore, the current market demands, in which consumers expect local, organic foods, means that many businesses must purchase their products from a larger, more diverse group of suppliers. This creates an issue because many businesses lack the resources to perform regular audits of all their suppliers’ facilities. Companies cannot rely upon the FDA to audit their suppliers, as it lacks the funding necessary to audit food processing companies both domestic and abroad with the regularity necessary. In fact, the FSMA only requires that the FDA inspect domestic high-risk facilities once by 2016, and at least every three years thereafter. Third-party audits provide a cost-efficient alternative which, if properly regulated, can ensure a high quality of food without the insurmountable costs associated with having to individually audit each supplier. For that reason, third-party audits will inevitably play a larger role in future food safety.
The failures of the third-party audit system are well documented.