The National Food Processors Association (NFPA) has announced a new program to coordinate food safety audits of suppliers on behalf of food processors.

"The Food Safety and Quality Systems Supplier Audit Program has a simple but very important purpose: to enhance food safety standards and create efficiencies in the way audits for suppliers and processors alike," said Kelly Johnston, NFPA's Executive Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications, who has served as the program's coordinator since its inception. "We believe the program has great potential to benefit everyone in the industry."

NFPA, the nation's largest trade group representing food makers, formed a 27-company task force earlier this year to establish audit standards, qualifications for independent auditors, and processes to coordinate the scheduling of audits and distribution of reports.

Under this program, NFPA will coordinate the scheduling, conduct, review, and distribution of food safety and quality system audits of food industry suppliers. Once a pilot phase of the program is completed, participating processors will likely ask suppliers to conduct an annual NFPA audit of their facilities. The supplier will contact NFPA to contract for and schedule the audit, and will be provided with a short list of trained and qualified auditors to choose from.

The auditor will then work with the supplier to schedule a time for the audit. Once the audit is completed - including any corrective action planned by the supplier - NFPA will review the report for completeness, and then distribute copies to processors as authorized by the supplier. An appeal procedure to handle disputes also will be established.

"An auditing standard accepted by the food processing industry would dramatically reduce the number of audits required (currently an average of nine audits per year per facility) and create other efficiencies," Johnston noted.

The program will start with a pilot phase in 2001, when it is estimated that several hundred audits could be conducted. The program is expected to grow to several thousand audits annually over the next five years.

Initially, the program will be designed for suppliers to food processors in North America, but eventually could become an international program. The program will be open to both NFPA members and non-members alike. "Eventually, it will be attractive to other segments of the food industry who have or want to establish quality assurance programs for their suppliers, including retailers, restaurants, food service companies, and distributors," Johnston said.

The National Food Processors Association (NFPA) is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs. NFPA's three scientific centers, its scientists and professional staff represent food industry interests on government and regulatory affairs and provide research, technical services, education, communications and crisis management support for the association's U.S. and international members. NFPA members produce processed and packaged fruit, vegetable, and grain products, meat, poultry, and seafood products, snacks, drinks and juices, or provide supplies and services to food manufacturers.

For more information about this new NFPA program, contact Kelly Johnston, NFPA's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications, at (202) 639-5940; Timothy Willard, NFPA's Vice President of Communications, at (202) 637-8060; or visit on NFPA's website,