The food that comes to our tables often travels long distances, passing through many hands and numerous processing procedures. Recent widespread outbreaks of food borne illness in the United States and around the world have increased concerns about the safety of the food supply chain. To protect the safety of consumers at all stages of the food production and delivery process, the British Retail Consortium has established the Global Standard for Food Safety In the past, the responsibility for ensuring that food was fresh and safe remained with the retailer, who usually sold products from local and regional producers.

But in today’s world, food production is a global enterprise, bringing products from both small farms and large enterprises to retailers half a world away. Because a product is harvested, packed and processed by a series of different entities, some in different countries, a single problem can be difficult to detect, with the potential for serious consequences far down the chain. Consumer awareness of defects in the food safety network has led to demands for closer monitoring and greater regulation of the entire food processing chain. The Global Standard for Food Safety and other types of food safety regulations have been created by individual countries and consortiums such as the European Union in response to growing consumer concerns about food safety.

These regulations aim to establish a set of minimal standards for the handling and processing of food at all stages of the supply chain. These standards apply to products of all kinds, from private label, independent manufacturers and artisan foods to branded products sold worldwide. Companies certified under the Global Standard for Food Safety must submit to third-party inspections and audits to ensure compliance with sanitation codes and all applicable health and safety regulations.

These inspections determine whether food processors practice safe handling, processing and packing procedures, and ensure that foods arrive at end-point retailers at the highest quality possible. The Global Standards for Food Safety and similar protocols govern not only food harvesting and processing, but also labeling. Food labels must show the country of origin, and may also offer information about whether foods are pesticide free or organically grown.

Ingredients must be listed in order of quantity and “use-by” dates indicate the freshness of a perishable product. Because many countries around the world apply their own standards to food safety, with differing guidelines and procedures, the Global Standard for Food Safety offers a broad and consistent set of standards applicable to manufacturers and retailers at all stages of the food safety chain. As incidences of food borne illness and concerns about product contamination continue to rise, so does the demand for stringent enforcement of safety regulations at all stages of the food processing chain.