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Upgrading to FSSC V6? Here’s What You Need To Know

From April 1, 2024, food businesses will have one year to upgrade from FSSC v5.1 to version 6. Here you will find an overview of the most notable changes and expert recommendations for the transition.

Starting from April 1, 2024, food businesses will be able to be audited for version 6 of the FSSC 22000 certification. Organizations certified with v5.1 will have until March 31, 2025, to complete the upgrade. In this article, you will find more details about the new version with insights from an NSF expert to ensure a smooth upgrade.

FSSC 22000 in brief

FSSC 22000 is a certification for Food Safety Management Systems developed and managed by the FSSC (Food Safety System Certification) Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in the Netherlands.

The scheme is recognized by the GFSI (Global Food System Initiative) and is currently adopted by more than 35,000 organizations worldwide, particularly in Europe, Asia, and South America.

The scope of the scheme includes activities at all levels of the food supply chain: food and feed processing, packaging manufacturing, catering and food service, wholesalers and retailers (including online stores), brokers, shipping and storage services, and manufacturers of food additives.

FSSC 22000 is based on a three-tier structure:

  1. The ISO 22000:2018 standard for food safety management systems;
  2. Additional sector-specific PRPs (Pre-Requisite Programs) based on other ISO technical standards;
  3. Additional requirements developed by the Foundation.

FSSC additional requirements consist of different clauses, for example product labeling, allergen management and environmental monitoring.

As the Foundation explained upon its release on March 31, 2023, there three main reasons for publishing the new version were:

  • Integrating the ISO 22003-1:2022, which sets the requirements for certification bodies of food safety management systems;
  • Strengthening the requirements for the reduction of food loss and waste, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of the United Nations;
  • Incorporating feedback from a survey.

New categories and longer audits

The first reason (the launch of the ISO22003-1:2022) produced two notable changes.

Firstly, there is a different categorization of the activities covered by the scheme. For example, certain pre-processing activities for plant products, such as washing, sorting and waxing, were grouped in new category BIII. Similarly, slaughtering and other activities, typical of abattoirs, were separated from meat processing and grouped in new category C0.

As Jason Nyman, Manager, Global Technical Scheme for Food Safety Management Systems at NSF, explains, the rationale behind these changes is that “different activities use different technologies, so their associated risks are also different. Our regional offices will inform our clients if they belong to a different category, but apart from that, the impact on food businesses will be minimal.”

The other change related to ISO 22003 is the longer duration of audits. In this case, there will be an impact on businesses, although, as Nyman explains, it doesn't depend on the certification body but on the different way ISO 22003 calculates duration and on the new additional requirements introduced by FSSC.

New additional requirements

FSSC v6 also introduced the following new additional requirements to tier 3.

Food safety culture

Organizations will have to establish, implement, and maintain food safety and quality culture objectives and a plan with targets and timelines.

Quality control

Previously, quality control was a voluntary integration to the FSSC 22000 certification. However, with v6, it becomes part of it. The requirement for organizations is to establish, implement, maintain a quality policy and objectives, and evaluate the results.

“This new requirement serves as a basic introduction to quality standards,” says Nayman. “For example, food manufacturers will now have to make sure their checkweighers are calibrated so that the weight of products is what it says on the package. However, the requirements are not so in-depth as those of ISO 9001.”

Equipment management

It requires organizations to document their hygienic design specifications for equipment and to obtain evidence from suppliers that those specifications are met.

“This new requirement raised particular concerns among clients,” says Neyman. “If you're a small food processor who buys equipment from a large manufacturing company, they may not always be willing to customize the machine exactly to your specifications. A way around this would be to do a risk assessment and go through a checklist of your hygienic design requirements, showing that your equipment meets them.”

Food loss and waste

Similalrly to food safety culture, organizations are now required to prepare a documented food loss and waste reduction policy.

Communication requirements

Organizations must notify their certification body within 3 working days in case of serious events (such as acts of terrorism or floods), or serious situations (such as public food safety events actions imposed by regulatory authorities).

Changes to existing additional requirements

Version 6 also includes several new details for existing additional requirements. Here below are some examples:

  • Organizations are required to maintain evidence of claims on product labels and have verification systems in place.
  • The allergen management plan now includes a list of allergens handled onsite.
  • New details were added to the risk-based environmental monitoring program requirement, which now must be targeted at relevant pathogens, spoilage, and indicator organisms.
  • Organizations are required to document a risk assessment and preventive measures against foreign material contaminations.

Guidance vs. interpretation

With the new version, FSSC also introduced interpretation articles, which should not be confused with guidance documents, warns Nyman: “Guidance documents are recommendations on how to implement the requirements, whereas interpretations explain what sites should know and what auditors are going to ask, so they must be followed.”

As of now, the only interpretation articles are for quality control, but the Foundation plans to publish more in the future.

The first step to prepare for the upgrade “is to download all the documentation from the FSSC website, the new requirements, guidance documents and interpretations and go through it, paying particular attention to new requirements,” says Nyman. “Food safety culture, for example, has always been part of the FSSC audit, but now it's a standalone requirement, which means that sites will be penalized for not having a policy in place.”

FSSC 22000 Certification

Certify your operation to Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC 22000), a GFSI recognized food safety certification for food manufacturers.
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Training Course: FSSC 22000 Internal Auditor v6

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