John is a UK-based consultant and trainer who specialises in the optimal use of analytical testing within food safety and food integrity assurance. He advises both industry and governments, and has worked on projects to build national food safety systems in a number of African and SE Asian countries, as well as providing expert independent advice on UK national systems. He is a member of the independent expert committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).
Industry clients range from large food manufacturers supplying retailer own-label products to start-up companies and SMEs. John specialises in designing fit-for-purpose food safety management systems for fledgling businesses and unusual product lines. He is a qualified ISO 22000 and BRC8 lead auditor with a wide experience of best practice in different industries at different scales. John is also a member of the IFST Scientific Committee, and has written a number of technical guidance papers both for food industry Technical Managers and for small businesses.
Case Study: Risk-Based Testing Schemes in the Food Supply Chain
The food industry is highly aware of the health, legal compliance, and brand-reputational risks from chemical contaminants, adulteration, and fraudulent or incorrect compositional or origin labelling. There is a desire to “do some testing”.
It is difficult to decide what parameters to test for, in what materials, at what point in the supply chain, with what sampling frequency, and how those samples should be selected. Analytical testing is not a Quality Control measure: it is a spot-check that Quality Assurance systems are working. It is impossible, and undesirable, to test everything. Analytical spot-checks should be targeted in a risk-based manner.
A UK retailer had a legacy of different policies and specifications for testing of different chemical issues in their own-label supply chain. Many of these had been introduced in reaction to past incidents or concerns (e.g. pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, meat speciation, allergens), and mandated prescriptive sampling frequencies. Because of the increasing complexity of their product lines and supply chains, these sampling frequencies were an unsuitable one-size-fits-all for the whole business. Other issues, particularly process contaminants, origin authenticity, packaging migration and wider ranges of natural toxins, were not covered by specific policies. Their suppliers were spending a lot of money on testing, with the suspicion that some issues were over-tested in a formulaic manner whilst others were being missed.
John Points worked with suppliers across the business in developing a non-prescriptive and comprehensive code of practice for risk-based specifications, certification, sampling and testing of chemical and compositional parameters. It included worked examples for over 100 common raw materials and manufacturing processes, best-practice examples, and lists of risk-factors such as specific countries of origin. It was written in such a way that compliance could be audited and verified by the retailer. John supported the roll-out of the code of practice, gaining a high level of buy-in from both small and large suppliers.