Seven major retailers have agreed on a benchmark for food safety standards, allowing suppliers a faster and less costly route to new distribution agreements.

The benchmark standards, developed after seven years of discussion, were announced by industry body CIES at its annual summit in Shanghai today (20 June).

Safety standards at four different certification bodies – the BRC, IFS, SQF 2000 and Dutch HACCP – meet the benchmark levels.

Suppliers holding a safety standard certificate from any of these bodies will not require further auditing by the participating retailers, including Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco. Retailers Ahold, Delhiaze, Metro and Migros have also signed the initiative.

“This has been a long process but finally we can improve cost-efficiency in the supply chain and reduce duplication of audits,” Catherine Francois, senior manager of the CIES food safety programme, told just-food.

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The project, called the Global Food Safety Initiative, was triggered by a series of issues, such as BSE, which caused a drop in consumer confidence. There are more than 200 different safety standards available to suppliers around the world, making it complex to reach an agreed benchmark.