It’s a well-known term in the feed & food industry: ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’, or GMP. People who are not yet familiar with GMP+ Feed Safety Assurance (GMP+ FSA) certification don’t always understand the difference between this abbreviation and our variation with the plus sign. I’m keen to explain the difference, because it is precisely that plus which represents the essence of our scheme.
In the early nineties, the Netherlands was rocked by various incidents around contaminated feed. The feed industry did not wait for the government to act and drew up guidelines for the production of safe feed itself. This was done under the banner of ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’, or GMP (nowadays known as Prerequisites, our basic requirements programme).
This laid the foundations for what would become known as GMP+ Feed Safety Assurance. However, initially it was little more than a laundry list of rules that companies committed themselves to.
Rules and guidelines are valuable because they establish a standard. However, they have one major drawback: they do not in themselves have a preventive effect. We quickly realised that although rules create the framework, they have less effect on what happens within that framework. Yet those processes are at least as important. To use an analogy, you can’t manage traffic with traffic lights alone. Properly functioning safety systems, understanding the rules and insight into traffic situations are just as crucial. Added to that, developments in the sector never stop.
For these reasons, in the mid-nineties we decided to expand the set of rules. GMP was given a more structured approach, with a primary role for risk management. We introduced Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) into GMP in order to be able to respond more proactively to developments and new insights. We also based the scheme on ISO principles for quality management systems in order to guarantee consistent application.
A crucial decision in 1999 was to extend the scope of our certification scheme to include all links in the feed chain. The harsh lesson of the early years was that feed safety would remain an illusion as long as we did not have control over the entire chain. Other tools were added for the eventuality of contamination, such as traceability, crisis communication and the Early Warning System. This resulted in a comprehensive and proactive scheme that has proved better able to control processes and minimise risks.
The plus sign symbolises these additions. It is a plus that indicates that the scheme is more than merely a handbook of rules. It is, in short, a plus for all-round assurance.
The same plus sign was at the heart of the recent update of our scheme. We wanted a scheme that serves the feed sector. We have succeeded in designing a scheme that is comprehensive, practical to use, easy to understand and that offers room for companies’ own knowledge and expertise.
Which brings me to our community. In the nearly thirty years that our scheme has been in existence, it has always been ‘of, for and by’ the sector. The dedication and expertise of the people in the sector are what make the scheme what it is. Nearly 19,000 companies have since dedicated themselves to our shared objective: Feed Safety Worldwide. Because however valuable all the additions to the scheme may be, ultimately our community is the biggest plus.