The NSF mark is a recognised global standard. (ITP Images) The NSF mark is a recognised global standard. (ITP Images)

Why would a manufacturer of commercial catering equipment need third party food safety certification?

It’s a question that Sarah Krol, global program director at NSF, the independent food assurance and certification organisation, is accustomed to hearing, as you would imagine. The answer, she explains, can ultimately be traced to two key factors: regulatory requirement and market demand.

The former is especially pertinent — unavoidable even — for any manufacturer planning to sell their product into the US or Canadian markets, where NSF certification is a way of life.

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“In order for commercial equipment to be accepted, to be installed and to pass a Health Department inspection here in the US it is almost universally required that the item has a third party certification,” says Krol. “An NSF certification mark is by and large the most recognised mark today. We certify upwards of 90% of the equipment that goes into the North American market for the sanitation, so there is a very large regulatory driver in the US.”

Of course, not every manufacturer has aspirations to target the US, but if you think that renders NSF certification pointless you would be sorely mistaken. As an increasing number of European brands are discovering, testing, auditing and certification can bring a whole raft of business benefits beyond facilitating US market entry.

“As far as the local markets go there are a lot of additional advantages and drivers,” insists Krol, giving the theoretical example of a refrigeration manufacturer that secures a multi-country order to supply equipment for a restaurant chain expanding in Europe.

“The retailer might specify NSF because they have adopted it as their global brand standard. So, irrespective of the geography or the market, the chain sees a very prescriptive value in having an independent third party look at the design, construction and performance of that equipment.”

Krol insists NSF is always learning of new and interesting ways that clients and manufacturers are deriving value from the service it offers, but certainly the growing inclusion of certification within the end-user specification process is making manufacturers in Europe sit up and take notice.

Chris Pratsis, business development director EMEA at NSF, can vouch for that, having witnessed manufacturers from across the continent, including the UK, strengthen their engagement with NSF over the past 12 months.

The value of quotes for certification in EMEA during 2013 has soared almost 90% to date versus last year, a tremendous rise given that the previous three years were relatively flat. Today, NSF has more than 350 certified food equipment manufacturers based in the EMEA region.

“We have seen a real increase in the level of interest in certification and indeed the uptake of certification, which is very strong in itself because it shows that quite possibly we are seeing a resurgence in export opportunities for manufacturers in the region,” suggests Pratsis.

Like Krol, Pratsis says it is impossible to ignore the role that branded foodservice operators and leading quick service restaurants are playing in making catering equipment suppliers appreciate the value of third party testing and certification.

As these operators evolve and expand they invariably want to make sure the equipment they purchase meets the highest independent safety and hygiene standards. Manufacturers, consequently, need to demonstrate their compliance if they have any aspirations of securing that business.

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