Food Testing and Certification for Hong Kong Market
Q: How important is it for Hong Kong’s food manufacturers, exporters and importers to make use of testing and certification services? In what way, do these supply chain members benefit from the food testing and certification industry in Hong Kong?
A: Food quality and safety are a constant concern for communities around the world and have been highlighted by repeated health scares. Consumers are increasingly seeking assurance that their food is derived from sustainable and safe resources. Product quality and safety are critical to all involved in the food products industry. The food industry in Hong Kong is faced with the challenge of satisfying these consumer requirements while controlling growing supply chains complexities.
Whether you are a manufacturer, an importer / exporter, or a retailer; regulatory compliance, food safety management certification, and consumer satisfaction are keys to success. Having products meet the required standards, and maintaining overall quality, are critical factors for those involved with the food industry. Through the partnership with an accredited testing and certification services, the food supply chain can demonstrate that products are safe to consume. In return, companies will benefit from consumer confidence, sales, market share and profitability.
Q: Are demands in food testing and certification services increasing?
A: We do see increasing demands for testing and certification of food in Hong Kong due to increasing public concerns and monitoring by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as food safety guidelines and regulations enforced by the authorities. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) is developing scientific risk assessments and guidelines. Additionally, there is food safety enforcement within Hong Kong. As a result, the food industry uses testing and certification services to test products and certify systems to verify compliance with food safety regulations.
Q: What are the major certifications applied to food markets?
A: The major certifications, albeit not mandatory, that are applicable for the food industry, include HACCP, ISO 22000 (a general derivative of ISO 9000), MSC, FSSC 22000, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards.
Moreover, some countries and regions may require specific certifications for food products selling into their markets for safety assurance. For instance, Food Safety Management System (FSMS) such as HACCP and ISO 22000 are applicable for the food industry in Hong Kong as well as other international markets. Some European markets request British Retail Consortium (BRC), while International Featured Standards (IFS) is applicable for France, and Global G.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) is practiced in the U.S. market. In Vietnam, HACCP and BRC certifications are commonly applicable.
Q: If certification is not mandatory, why food manufacturers, exporters and importers would use testing and certification services for their target markets?
A: Despite not being mandatory, companies obtaining certification will benefit from being able to:
- Demonstrate that an internationally recognized food system management is in place
- Allow continued monitoring and set improvement goals
- Develop Knowledge Management, and improve operational consistency (reduce errors) of services and product deliveries
- Gain competitive advantage amongst major contractors and buyers through supplier’ evaluation
Additionally, organizations will also benefit from:
- Interactive communication with stakeholders, colleagues, partners and customers
- An organizational and employee learning platform
- Employee’ job satisfaction and loyalty
Q: What kind of testing and certification services does Bureau Veritas Hong Kong provide for the manufacturers, exporters and importers? What are the major areas for testing food products? How long does it take to complete the whole process - from testing to certification?
A: For the Hong Kong market, our major food testing services offered include:
- Microbiological Testing – Escherichia coli, Listeria species, total plate count (TPC)
- Food Labeling – validation of nutrition label content
- Chemical Testing – Heavy metals, pesticides, etc.
Various test services have different test lead times, in general it takes around 6 to 8 days.
Our food safety management certification services include HACCP, ISO 22000, Global G.A.P., IFS and BRC certification.
To obtain a certification, prerequisite programs are to be initiated:
- Implementation of a food safety management system that would take 3 to 6 months, subject to the organization’s resources.
- Once the food safety management system is implemented, auditing by Bureau Veritas will follow.
- When the audit is complete with satisfaction, a certicate will be granted. Lead time usually takes 4 to 8 weeks.
Q: Apart from food safety, is environmental protection or green certification increasingly important for the food trade? What are the current green certifications available and requirements?
A: “Green Certification” is not common in Hong Kong currently. However, in mainland China, food manufacturers are applying “Green Certification” through local government bodies.
“Green Certification” refers to pollution-free, safe-to-eat products with certain nutrition content. This is determined by the farming conditions of agricultural products (such as quality of water, soil, fertilizer and feed), and without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMO). This applies to the whole production process from manufacturing to packaging as well.
Q: What are the biggest emerging trends in the food industry? How could the testing and certification industry help food manufacturers, exporters and importers to sustain their business competitiveness?
A: One increasing trend is the use of advanced digital devices and tools such as mobile, social media and google. All of this enables closer engagement as well as quicker news and information sharing.
Another trend is that of government regulations and NGO pressure on environmental protection and food safety becoming ever more stringent.
However, one of the most significant trends in the food marketplace is that of supply chain transparency. As such, improvements in suppliers’ management systems are necessary for effective monitoring of the food supply chain upstream and downstream.
Testing and certification helps verify the products are compliant with the regulatory requirements of the markets, and are safe to consume for the public health. In this regard, Bureau Veritas has a leading information management platform, OneSource Suite, can assist with supply chain management, optimization and transparency.
High cost of having an in-house inspection and audit program is not feasible for small to medium or even large companies. From risk assessment and management standpoint, the food industry around the world is welcoming the suppliers to utilize third-party testing and certification as a cost-effective solution while ensuring food safety and quality compliance for business sustainability and staying competitive in the arena.
For more information on Bureau Veritas' Food Services, please contact:
• Europe, Middle East & Africa: email@example.com
• Americas: firstname.lastname@example.org
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