by Valbona Malo
NSF International has updated its certification program for bottled water and beverages to focus more on a beverage operator’s total food safety program. As background, NSF International is a global public health and safety organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the food, water, health sciences and consumer goods industries. This article will discuss NSF International’s Beverage Quality Program and its new features.
The NSF Beverage Quality Program includes training, consulting and troubleshooting, assistance with EU Mineral Natural Water recognition application, auditing (second- and third-party audits), label verification, testing (source water, final product, packaging materials and ingredients) and independent product certification. NSF certification provides a number of other benefits including:
• Assurance to retailers that products meet regulatory requirements and that manufacturing plants follow best practices for production of bottled water and beverages;
• Confirmation to regulators that products have passed rigorous testing and plant inspection has been conducted;
• Demonstration that manufacturers have carried out due diligence to ensure the safety of the product;
• Consumer confidence with the trusted NSF certification mark.
In addition to providing these benefits, NSF‘s beverage requirements now focus more on risk assessment and management activities and support Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards, FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Changes include:
A greater emphasis on documentation and recordkeeping: Documentation helps to build a detailed picture of a company’s past and present practices, thus providing a basis for future planning. Additionally, effective documentation helps ensure product safety through better control, traceability and consistent implementation of good manufacturing practices (GMPs).
The allowance of alternative risk management analysis: While certification requirements are established, a company may petition for a waiver from a requirement if it can show validated evidence that its alternative process minimizes, reduces or prevents risk to the product as much as or more than the NSF requirement.
Nonconformances graded according to severity: The timeframe of corrective action submission is based on the grading.
NSF International also introduced additional services, including bundled and new certification services:
• Bundled product and process certifications: A company certifying to a GFSI standard and an NSF bottled water or beverage certification requirement can have NSF conduct its audits on the same visit, saving time and cost. The two certification schemes are complementary with the goal of production of safer food.
• Optional "add-on" certification on environmental stewardship of the source water area: A beverage company can apply for NSF sustainability certification to demonstrate its sustainable practices, particularly regarding the proactive care and management of the water resource. The scope of certification includes efficiency in the use of resources, protection of water resources and communication with different stakeholders. Identifying and managing risks in a systematic approach is essential to secure water resources for the future.
Valbona Malo is global business manager for NSF International’s Beverage Quality Program. Based in Brussels, Belgium, she has extensive specialist experience in beverage quality. Malo serves as chairman of the Education & Audit Committee of Watercoolers Europe, represents NSF for the European Federation of Bottled Water and is a member of the Audit Committee of the European Ice Packaging Association. Her experience and knowledge of the global beverages market is an invaluable asset in assisting clients with their certification needs and other requirements.