Some audience members suggested retailers and foodservice operators that use food safety standards to differentiate their companies foster redundant audits. What's more, the vested interest of certifiers and private third party auditors to trumpet their proprietary audits also hamstrings standardization.
During a breakout discussion, Valerie Hannig, Newark-Del.-based food safety and government relations administrator for The Oppenheimer Group, said a common concern is audit inconsistency.
"But every auditing company assured us that their auditors are well-trained, they are shadowed and they have very good quality programs to assure consistency," he said. "Do they just say that or is it really happening?"
Another suggested that an FDA or USDA inspector might provide more consistency because there would be less of an opportunity for personal or company agendas to get in the way of the audit. However, yet another attendee said that government inspectors are not immune from inconsistency.
The role of buyers in determining what is expected was roundly discussed.
One retailer said he believes retailers are careful to avoid selling produce based on food safety. Food safety demands on suppliers, he said, are driven by the need to show due diligence about food safety.