Across the pond, every foodservice professional knows that a product with NSF certification has been tested for its safety. The company is now looking to drive standards in the UK, and at the same time create value for manufacturers and their partners.
Catering Insight spoke to NSF’s director of technical services, Duncan Goodwin, and business development director, Chris Pratsis, to find out why food safety certification matters.NSF is well known in the US market for its equipment standards and testing practices.
Tell us a bit about NSF here in the UK.
DG: Our focus is very much on food safety throughout the food supply chain, across agriculture, manufacturing, distribution and retail premises and this has been through the NSF-CMi brand. We are auditing around 20,000 premises a year for food safety and health and safety standards and we look at the catering practices and the way that businesses manage and control equipment, so we have a very good practical knowledge from the perspective of regulatory standards. We have done a lot of work that crosses into the catering equipment sector, including the NSF certified standards for equipment design. While they are US-focused, the hygienic design principles are very relevant to this market place as well and what we are looking to do is introduce them from a UK and European perspective.
What sort of certification services do you offer to equipment manufacturers here?
DG: NSF certification is very much around equipment design and how this affects food safety. There are four stages to the certification: an evaluation of the design; a ‘material’ review focusing on toxicology or what we would call ‘migration’, which might include, for example, whether lead leaches out of a brass component of a coffee machine and poses a health risk; performance testing; and a compliance audit of the manufacturer. The criteria covers dead areas, crevices, screw heads, valves and those sorts of things, as well as the equipment and its components as a whole. For each category of equipment there is an accredited standard, which NSF has designed.
Why would a manufacturer want to get their equipment certified from a food safety perspective?
CP: Certification demonstrates that a manufacturer is supplying a better performing product to the end-user and helps manufacturers differentiate themselves here in the UK and potentially in Europe. The key thing for us is that this isn’t just a UK initiative, it is a European initiative, and increasingly it will also provide an opportunity to help manufacturers gain competitive advantage in the different European export markets as well.
So, in a sentence, what should the NSF mark ideally stand for when users or buyers see it?
DG: It has got to represent the fact that the manufacturer has put thought and consideration into how the design is going to enhance food safety. That is the key thing — what they are doing to make it easier for the end-user to provide safe food to their customers.
What would be your response to manufacturers which say they have got by okay without this certification up to now?
DG: Manufacturers are always seeking to add value and establish competitive advantage for themselves in the market place. They now have an opportunity for independent verification that their equipment is fit for purpose and meets regulatory requirements, as well as the fact that it will help their customers — food businesses — achieve regulatory requirements. This has got to be a good thing for them. Many of these companies have and understand the value of ISO 9000, which is about quality. NSF standards are about the actual design of the products and how safe it is.
How much focus are you putting on the users of the equipment? After all, for the certification to have credibility, end-users and buyers also need to understand and value it.
CP: You are absolutely right. We are embarking on an active education campaign with the end-user community — the procurement teams and the design consultants involved in specifying footprint kitchens. We are already starting to build awareness within our existing client base — particularly in the retail arena — and more widely within the food sector, to demonstrate the cost-benefits. We will work to educate those communities to use the right standards as part of the specification process to the point where there is a differentiated market place. And the opportunity then is for manufacturers to step up and give themselves an edge in that procurement process
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How long does it take to get equipment certified?
DG: It really depends on where the manufacturer is when they start to engage with us. If they have prepared all the information, the specifications for the component parts and things like that, it can be done in a matter of months. Whereas if they have to start retooling or they need to find components that are NSF-compliant, it can take a little longer. Normally we can give the manufacturer an indication of how long it is likely to take once they start the application process.
And what sort of cost is involved?
DG: Each application has to be done on its own merit, but it starts at between £4,000 and £7,000. That would be the first annual cost and then there is an ongoing listing cost, which is based on a facility audit, and some listing fees, which would work out at around £2,500.
How can manufacturers prove that their equipment has been NSF certified?
DG: The logo will appear on the manufacturing dataplate, along with any electrical testing or CE marking. They can also use and reference the fact that the piece of equipment is NSF certified. At the moment we have got 27 manufacturers listed in the UK and almost 400 products listed. Globally, there are 3,000 manufacturers producing 160,000 listed items. NSF also provides additional marketing support for certified suppliers.
Many manufacturers have multiple pieces of kit. Wouldn’t it be expensive for them to have everything certified?
DG: We operate from a sanitation and hygienic design certification perspective on families of products. So if you are producing a bowl mixer in 5kg, 10kg and 15kg sizes and the only difference is the size, we would certify the ‘worst case’, which would probably be the largest one because it is likely to have the greatest food contact area and the others would fall under that listing, which is a way of minimising the overall cost for the manufacturer.
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Website: www.nsf.org; www.nsf-cmi.com
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