Law and regulations are not enough; only certificates can guarantee global feed safety

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The production of safe feed is a shared responsibility of all parties in the chain across the globe. Although national legislation will be beneficial to this goal to a certain degree, internationally speaking, this patchwork of rules in itself can never be sufficient for safe feed. Independent international standards are required for that.

‘Our company adheres to all applicable Law and regulations.’  Let’s be honest: this line sounds great and gives suppliers, buyers and customers confidence. But as great as it sounds, the value of such a statement can differ – depending on the country in which the company is located. After all, national legislations can vary in strictness across the globe, whereas there can also be differences in regulations and enforcement. And in certain countries, rules are even almost entirely absent.  In addition, it is impossible  for companies that wish to do business at the other side of the world, to check whether their business relationship is actually adhering to the rules. In summary: national legislation can provide direction to companies located in that country, but in an international context, the value thereof is somewhat more diffuse. The mutual differences between countries in the field of feed safety – despite the trend towards more uniformity – lead to ambiguities, are exploited and are therefore not beneficial to global feed safety.


The same value everywhere

In 1992, the Dutch feed sector – after various incidents with regard to the contamination of feed – decided to establish a code of practice for the production of compound feed. They mainly consisted of guidelines for hygiene, controlling undesired substances and on how to deal with veterinary medical products (carry-over in particular). When these so-called ‘good manufacturing practices’ (GMP) were starting to see broader acceptance, and companies across the borders started to show interest as well, the guidelines were expanded into a full-fledged scheme with standards for various links throughout the feed chain, including transport and storage and transshipment. In this, matters such as the purchase of raw materials, transparency and traceability were included as well. 
What started as a small code for the Dutch feed industry, eventually became the GMP+ Feed Safety Assurance (GMP+ FSA) module: a global certification scheme, joined by more than 16,500 companies from over eighty countries.
The big advantage of an internationally acknowledged certification scheme is that it – contrary to national legislation – has the same value everywhere, no matter whether the company is located in Colombia, Mexico, Germany, Australia or Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the certification scheme, all companies know exactly what is expected of them with regard to the production of safe feed. The uniform standards in the field of production, trade, transport and storage and transshipment provide the clarity that national laws and regulations don’t always provide. Via annual audits, it is checked whether certified companies act in line with limits and standards of GMP+ FSA.



Although the goal of the GMP+ certification scheme is equal across the globe (safe feed), the path towards this goal doesn’t have to be identical. GMP+ FSA is strict where necessary, but flexible where possible. Because the certification scheme relates to so many different kinds of companies, branches, situations, countries and cultures, it is impossible and undesirable to make everyone use the same work methods. The GMP+ FSA offers an end goal and the frameworks. This means that a company can choose its own path to the goal, but that several exits have been sealed by the scheme, because they are deemed too risky. In rail transport for instance, agri-only wagons can be used, regardless the results of the HACCP hazard analysis. In addition, almost all feeds and raw materials must be analyzed for Salmonella very frequently, even if the company can demonstrate that there is no hazard of salmonella contamination. In addition, a list of forbidden products is used.
Despite these strict rules, GMP+ International is unable and unwilling to dictate everything, because in the end, the companies are responsible for their own production, processing and transport of safe feed. They do however, receive support from GMP+ International, for instance by means of seminars and our online knowledge platform (Feed Support Products).

By internationalizing standards, you’ll automatically run into issues and difficulties. Standards may be equal, practice and customs differ per region and sector. Therefore, it is essential to keep monitoring things continuously, to see whether the standards still provide in the changing day-to-day practice, and whether they consider certain regions and sectors. The first guidelines for instance (the good manufacturing practices) were developed in consultation with ten Dutch industry associations. But when the scheme started gaining traction in Germany, this design no longer worked, and additional information was sought from experts from the German feed chain. 
GMP+ International never stopped using this work method: industry associations from various countries are associated with GMP+ International as partner. Nowadays, this is reflected in the International Expert Committee. This committee consist of about 35 parties from various branches and parts of the world and has an advisory role regarding the contents of the GMP+ Feed Certification scheme. 

Processing companies and industry associations from the feed sector are wise to join this committee (or one of the four sub committees) so that their voice is heard as well. Even though they do the same work; a production company from Germany simply cannot speak on behalf of a production company from Chile – or vice versa. The more diverse the composition of our expert committees is, the more representative the advice for improvement of the certification scheme.



Still, there are situations for which international uniform standards are not the solution. Exceptional regionally bound developments also require regionally bound solutions. Often, awareness for these developments is raised within the expert committees. When GMP+ International is convinced of the regional bond of a matter related to the certification scheme, it can decide to publish a Country Note. The international standards remain in full effect, but for the relevant country (or the region) an exception or adjustment is formulated. These are very specific guidelines that make sure that, for instance, special Polish wishes are not declared applicable for the rest of the world. 

Thanks to the combination of uniform international standards, a flexible approach and specific national solutions where necessary, the GMP+ FSA module has become a leading certification scheme for the global feed industry which is increasingly considered to be a license to sell. A certificate that removes the need to use sales slogans such as ‘ we adhere to all applicable laws and regulations’, since the GMP+ FSA certificate on the wall says it all.


International conference

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the GMP+ FSA scheme. Celebrations include an international conference in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, early November.