ROBUST and effective qual-ity controls in the agri food industry in Northern Ireland are key to providing access to new markets in addition to further developing and expanding existing outlets, Robin Irvine, Chairman of Northern Ireland Food Chain Certification (NIFCC), announced at the annual general meeting.
He added: “To maintain the momentum we have to continue to differentiate our products, not only with high quality standards but the assurance that these standards are independently monitored and continually upgraded.”
Commenting on areas of business development in the company’s auditing service, Robin informed members that a major item of progress in 2019 will be the design and implementation of an electronic report writing tool for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Food Safety Scheme audit reports.
The principles of this system will be broadly similar to the system currently being used for the farm-based assurance schemes, and the objectives will be to enhance the efficiency of the report writing process whilst also improving the consistency and accuracy of information.
He explained: “This is an area of the business where we see opportunities for growth – the increase in the scale of the food processing sector in recent years has been remarkable and it is an area where NIFCC can further develop their business. We are keen to see NIFCC expand its activities throughout the Agri-Food supply chain and are committed to see the organisation develop.”
A further development is the plan to strengthen the management team with the appointment of a Chief Executive to lead the organisation and build on the reputation and profile that NIFCC enjoys throughout the food chain.
NIFCC is a unique United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) cert-ification body which is owned by the Northern Ireland agri-food industry, and operates on a “not for profit“ basis with a remit to provide product certification schemes to the local agri-food industry at a competitive cost.
All aspects of the farming and food industries are represented on the board of NIFCC and they employ highly qualified independent professional people to inspect and maintain standards. Quality assurance, which is independently verified, is putting the entire agri food chain in Northern Ireland at the leading edge of food safety.
In the food processing sector, NIFCC currently provides audit and certification services to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety and the BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution. The company is also responsible for auditing services for a number of Red Tractor schemes, including the Red Tractor Processing Scheme; Red Tractor Assurance Scheme for Livestock Transport and Livestock Markets and the Red Tractor Assurance Schemes for both dairy and poultry farms. Other Farm Quality Assurance schemes audited by NIFCC include Beef and Lamb, Cereals and Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable crops.
Robin added: “We are involved in monitoring and certification throughout the entire food chain from animal feed through to farm, transport, processing and storage.
“NIFCC is also continuing to provide training to the food industry for BRC Food Safety Standards. In the past year we have delivered 10 training courses to 105 delegates, including our own auditing and certification staff.”
Robin concluded: “On behalf of the directors, I would like to thank Keith Agnew for his contribution to the Certification Committee, having served on the committee for almost 15 years.
“I would also like to welcome Keith’s successor, Chris Frizzell, and on behalf of the directors I would like to thank Chris for accepting his nomination and wish him well during his term of office.
“The directors also wish to thank the Certification Committee Chairman, Liam McNeill, and the other members of the committee for continuing to give their time, commitment and expertise to ensure the smooth running of the inspection and certification services.”