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Interview
Albert Chambers, Canadian champion of food management standards

October 16, 2020

Albert Chambers, Canadian champion of food management standards

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Interview
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ISO 22000 Food safety management standard is the global benchmark for safeguarding the quality of food across the value chain. The subcommittee responsible for this standard, ISO/TC 34/SC 17 Management systems for food safety, has a deep Canadian connection. Albert Chambers is one of the architects of ISO 22000, which was first published in 2005. He was the Chair of the Canadian Advisory Committee (CAC) that represents our country’s interests to ISO/TC 34/SC 17 from 2009 to 2019. His extensive 45-year career includes advisory roles to companies, national associations, cabinet ministers and parliamentary committees.

 

Q.

How did you get involved with Canada’s standardization network?

A.

I first engaged with SCC in 1998, when I was working as a consultant to the Canadian on Farm Food Safety Working Group. They were developing national on-farm food safety programs and exploring accredited certification and government recognition of those programs.

In my research I came across ISO/IEC Guides 62 and 65, which covered accredited certification at that time. I reached out to SCC to learn more then connected the working group with SCC. Our project evolved through the years and involved negotiations with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and provinces on how official recognition would take place and what role the international standards system would play. So, my involvement with SCC goes back quite a few years.

Q.

What are Canada’s major contributions to the development of the ISO 22000 family of standards?

A.

I’d start with ISO 22000 itself. In 2003, I saw the development of this standard as an opportunity to apply the approach we took in Canada, which was to create a framework that served the needs of both large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Our approach was based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points). The point was to enable an industry association, or other competent body, to develop a generic HACCP model and build a food safety framework for enterprises. This gave SMEs with minimal resources an alternative to conducting their own hazard analysis, which is an expensive, time-consuming and challenging task.

Our success in integrating the HACCP-based approach in the first edition of ISO 22000, which was published in 2005, gave credence to its value. While there was a lot of acceptance, some experts had reservations. The most recent version of ISO 22000, which was published in June 2018, firmly establishes the HACCP-based approach and the use of a generic model as a way for SMEs to organize their food safety management systems. This is a key contribution that Canada has made to developing the standard. It also builds on our work in the late ’90s and early 2000’s.

Another other important contribution concerns ISO 22005 Traceability in the feed and food chain. In the early 2000s, Canada was involved in a major nation-wide industry and government exercise that explored what a traceability standard would look like. During the ISO discussions, Canada championed and successfully incorporated a data standard approach as one of the core foundations of the ISO 22005.

Canada also worked hard to establish a new subcommittee to host the new family of ISO 22000 standards – ISO/TC 34/SC 17 Management systems for food safety. Since its creation in 2009, Canada has played an on-going leadership role in SC17’s work.

As a final point, I would say that Canada was instrumental in persuading the members of SC17 to initiate another standard in the ISO 22000 family. Work is currently underway to create ISO 22003 Part 2. This standard will add requirements regarding food safety schemes to the predominant standard for accrediting certification bodies that do food safety product certification – ISO/IEC 17065 – and parallel the revisions to ISO 22003 Part 1, which covers certification bodies that do food safety management system certification.

 

Q.

What role to do you think SCC will have in the standards world 50 years from now?

A.

I think SCC has an important role. Its role will be defined by what stakeholders want it to have. It’s important in the very short term that SCC and its participants, like myself and others, work very hard to get across the value of the international standards system and demonstrate that in new areas. I see some very positive evidence of that in what SCC is doing now. We need to invest in building awareness, participation, and encourage a strong understanding of the importance of standards in industry, government, universities/colleges and professional circles.

 

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