Revised IFA standard goes beyond food safety for GlobalGAP

GlobalGAP - people discuss crop

Some 150,000 producers and 40 retailers worldwide are GlobalGAP members

GlobalGAP - Hugh Mowat Morrisons
Hugh Mowat: It is always better to be on the front foot rather than picking up the pieces after the event

GlobalGAP’s integrated farm assurance (IFA) standard has just undergone the most thorough revision and simplification in its 19-year history. Produce Business UK talks to board member Hugh Mowat about the changes to find out what buyers and growers need to know

The revision process for GlobalGAP standards is certainly not for the faint-hearted. In two years there have been more than 2,000 comments and proposals from seven stakeholder committees and three technical committees, as well as national technical working groups, certification bodies, farm assurers and others who participated in two rounds of public consultation, all in addition to results from 17 field trials in nine countries on three continents.

Objectives

The result is version 5 of the Integrated Farm Assurance standard (commonly known as IFA) and a complete revision of version 4, which has been in use for the past four years. The standard is approved by GlobalGAP’s board, which has a 50:50 split of retail and producer members.

There were several objectives taken into consideration for this latest revision revision; simplification, elimination of duplication, improved reward system for good producers, easier access for certification bodies and integrity of certification.

There have been changes in 180 control points, the level of 29 control points has been changed and 24 new control points have been introduced. In all, there are 218 control points in version 5.

Credibility

Hugh Mowat is one of the retail representatives on the board and also head of quality at UK retailer Morrisons. He is very clear on the value the new standard offers for retail buyers as well as producers.

“For imports, GlobalGAP really is widely recognised as a good solution,” Mowat explains. “It has grown over the years in terms of recognition and credibility among retailers who face the challenge of managing due diligence of a diverse supply base across many countries, languages and cultures. Credibility also comes from the scheme’s leading Integrity programme which helps ensure a robust audit process.  

“An important point to make is that there has been a lot of simplification in version 5 compared with version 4 and we have addressed areas of duplication,” he says. “There are 18 fewer control points, for example.”

Shifting landscape

Mowat also emphasises the landscape into which version 5 is arriving. “The standard is to support growers by having a safe framework in which to grow food,” he says. “All the changes are science-based and we have consulted widely. Food safety has always been a key platform of the GlobalGAP standard and GlobalGAP has undoubtedly made a major contribution toward maintaining consumer safety since its inception in 1996.

“The context for this revision is the changing world we are living in and over the past several years there have been several food safety crises resulting from microbial contamination.

“The visibility and impact of these incidents is increasing, so GlobalGAP is taking a proactive approach to strengthen existing controls; it is always better to be on the front foot rather than picking up the pieces after the event.

“The new version addresses other risks and trends in addition to food safety, such as using water sustainably, the transportation of workers, and property law for new varieties.”

Burgeoning membership

GlobalGAP has been around for 19 years, and Mowat reports continuing growth in membership both at retail and producer levels worldwide. Numbers currently stand at 40 retailers and 150,000 producers.

There is also an increasing number of food brands signing up and although uptake on the foodservice side is not as advanced as among the major multiple retailers, Mowat believes this will increase as businesses recognise GlobalGAP as a way to manage the food safety risk; adding that all buyers have to do is make GlobalGAP a requirement of supply and the rest is taken care of.

While version 5 is applicable immediately as an early-update choice in parallel to version 4, it will be obligatory for new and recertification audits by July 1, 2016.

Looking ahead, the routine cycle of revision means there will be a version 6 released in 2019, for application in 2020.

Further information on version 5 of IFA is available from GlobalGAP here.
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