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The Benefits, Barriers to Achieving Pet Food Safety Certification


Pet food and treat manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to implement and maintain food safety best practices to ensure that our furry friends are provided with only the safest and highest quality products. One way to verify that your organization meets these obligations is by obtaining a third-party audit.

Many third-party audits are available to pet food and pet treat manufacturers, so picking the right one might seem like a daunting task. There are four different types of food safety standards available for pet food products, including ISO 22000, GFSI Benchmarked Schemes (i.e., SQF, FSSC 22000, BRC), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) SF/SF Certification and Private GMP Standards (i.e., ASI, AIB).

Before you decide which audit program is right for your organization, you need to first ask yourself what the reason is for wanting a third-party audit in the first place. Is it because a retailer like PetSmart, Walmart or Amazon requests it before they approve you as a supplier, or is senior management pushing you to improve your facility’s product safety and quality? If the request comes from a retailer or brand in which your company co-manufacturers products for, then you will need to clarify which programs are accepted, as not all organizations accept various certification programs. Once you determine which ones are accepted, you will have to do your homework to determine which standard is the best fit to meet your food safety goals and objectives. This does not mean that there are good standards and bad standards, some standards are simply more stringent than others.

The detailed process can be simply overwhelming for a variety of reasons, causing some brands to throw in the towel. When talking to pet food manufacturers that are not certified to a recognized third-party standard, there are typically four main reasons, including a lack of resources (i.e., money, people, time), lack of experience in food safety knowledge, lack of motivation or commitment from senior management or a lack of external pressure from regulators.

Despite the barrier to entry, it is becoming more common for retailers to require certification. The external pressure for pet food manufacturers to get certified continues to increase, causing more pet food manufacturers to seek out certification. Where retailers have typically put the focus on ensuring human food products are safe, they are now shifting gears to get pet food products held to the same standards as human food products.

Large retailers like Walmart require their private label pet treat manufacturers to not only obtain a “GFSI-recognized certification,” but also require them to ensure that “the entire supply chain from farm to final facility” receives and maintains a GFSI-recognized certification. This means that pet treat manufacturers producing pet treats under Walmart’s private label must obtain certification. This includes all the manufacturer’s suppliers of raw materials.

However, Walmart is not the only one that requires a third-party audit. PetSmart requires all suppliers producing products for PetSmart to “agree to comply with PetSmart’s product quality and compliance manual which includes meeting applicable regulations, product testing and manufacturing consistent with current good manufacturing practices (cGMP).”

We can see just from these couple of examples from large global retailers that not being certified to a recognized food safety standard can hinder the growth of your organization by not giving your company access to new markets.

In addition to expanding new market access, another added benefit is the improvement in overall product safety and quality. Claudia’s Canine Bakery, a pet treat manufacturer that was certified by ASI Food Safety to SQF’s Food Safety Code for Pet Food Manufacturing, getting certified helped them gain valuable exposure to current industry best practices.

“A third-party audit and certification gives our customers reassurance that their products are produced in a safe and clean environment. It also enables us to review our system annually and make improvements,” said Duke Alexander, QA manager for Claudia’s Canine Bakery.

Not only do certifications boost consumer confidence in the trustworthiness of your products, but they also provide verification that your brand is meeting regulatory requirements. LeAnn Chuboff, vice president of technical affairs at SQFI, said, “The SQF certificate is a means to demonstrate to their buyer the site’s commitment to food safety and quality while meeting regulatory and customer requirements.”

Certification has been proven time and time again to have many benefits, ranging from improved product safety, quality and consistency and increased consumer confidence to reduced waste and costs. These benefits by far outweigh the costs of implementing and maintaining a certified pet food safety management system.

 

Tyler Williams is the chief technical officer for ASI, a leading food safety auditing, training and consulting company based in St. Louis that’s provided farm-to-fork food safety solutions since the 1940s. ASI offers a full suite of safety and quality solutions to the food and beverage, dietary supplement, consumer goods and cannabis industries. Williams is a licensed SQF auditor for FSC32 for Pet Food, and as the CTO of ASI,  he develops industry standards, best practices, training materials and other technical resources.

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