Many manufacturers are unaware of the extent to which the safety of their end product is dependent on their suppliers. Like the man in the image to the left, each producer in the food chain plays a vital role in holding the chain together to maintain food safety and legality of the end product.
As a food manufacturer you may have asked yourself questions to the tune of “I produce chocolate brownies, why should I worry about pesticides or heavy metals!” – The problem is that our suppliers often aren’t aware of the legal limits of contaminants related to their products. This is often exacerbated when buying raw materials from distributors or importing products, as these legal limits sometimes differ from country to country.
It is important to realise that these limits set by the South African government are not guidelines and that it is a criminal offence to sell product that does not meet the legal limits. Ultimately the onus is on the manufacturer to ensure that their supplier provides them with product that is safe and legally compliant.
So what’s the solution? Firstly, know the legal limits of the products being supplied to you, and secondly if your supplier is supplying product that is legal. To assist producers a set of tools are available to monitor and manage suppliers and include product specifications, certificates of analysis (CoA), supplier assessments, questionnaires, audits and lab tests. To be effective these tools require you as the producer to know what questions to ask your suppliers. Let’s take a brief look.
First, what are the legal limits? We will cover some of the regulations in this issue of Chimera News, but if you have specific questions about the regulations for your product, give us a call.
Ask your suppliers for a specification for each product they supply you with. At minimum these will contain the ingredients, allergens and legal limits for contaminants applicable to the product.
Request a CoA for each batch of product. This is a record showing that the product conforms. If legal limits exist these must appear on the CoA or a laboratory report issued with the CoA.
Supplier assessments, questionnaires and audits assess the supplier’s level of compliance to food safety standards. Ask your supplier what food safety certifications they have, if any, and if they comply to good manufacturing practices (GMP).
Lastly, lab tests can be used to verify conformity, but are expensive and most effective when combined with a risk assessment to determine products that are at greatest risk. Where possible place the responsibility for raw material testing on the supplier.
These are just some of the tools available to help producers manage their end of the supply chain more effectively.
Article by: David James Scott