Written by Fidele El Achkar, CEO FoodSight
Facing recent economic instability in Lebanon, food producers are looking more toward exporting their products to international markets. In parallel, innovation in Mouneh is attracting a rising demand for these unique Lebanese-made delicacies in shops worldwide.
However, products meant for international export should meet specific quality requirements to be eligible to enter different export markets.
Quality systems in Mouneh production benefit the economy, the producers, the consumers, and the food chain players. In addition, they are essential to efficient food production, processing, and manufacturing, as the confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply is not only a critical requirement for international trade but is also economically beneficial for all actors involved.
Some of the Quality systems components are standardization, conformity, testing, certification, sustainability & others. The standards usually define the processes and procedures for the food production facility’s activities and maintain the quality.
When it comes to standards for quality, there are many. Quality standards are documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services fit their purpose.
We can usually divide standards into public & private. Public standards usually include national, regional & international standards. Private standards cover retail, sustainability, and specific agro-food industry standards.
For businesses, standards are essential to the bottom line of every organization. Successful companies recognize standards as business tools that they manage alongside quality, safety, intellectual property, and environmental policies. Standardization usually leads to lower costs for the manufacturer of food producers by reducing redundancy, minimizing errors or recalls, and reducing time to market.
For the global economy, businesses complying with quality standards help their products cross borders and also ensure that products manufactured in one country can be sold and used in another.
For consumers, standardization can also make their lives simpler. A product based on an international standard will be compatible with more products worldwide, which increases the number of choices available across the globe.
An assurance that Mouneh products and their production processes conform with the requirements of quality and food safety standards is the certification and compliance process that Mouneh producers should look up to when considering export.
Compliance refers to meeting established guidelines or specifications. Food production compliance includes mandatory or voluntary standards and safety systems to which companies may be required to comply to, depending on their needs, preferences, targeted markets, and client requirements.
Agro-food producers in Lebanon need to start abiding by the national quality standards, issued by the Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR), the sole national standardization body entitled to authorize the use of the Lebanese Conformity Mark proving the compliance of products to Lebanese standards.
In addition to local quality market requirements, exporters must abide by foreign standards and quality requirements to access those markets.
Usually, compliance starts with the basics, the Prerequisite Programs (PRPs) including good practice standards such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Good Hygiene Practices (GHPs), and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).
Compliance with common standards such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) are required to enter most markets.
All food safety systems apply common basic principles including GAPs, GMPs, and GHPs (which consist of basic elements which make it easier to implement HACCP).
We can also list a few other internationally known standards that either markets or clients require compliance with, starting with the ISO standards issued by the International Organization for Standardization.
The FSSC22000, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), IFS, SQF, and Global GAP are some of the standards recognized worldwide by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). All these standards also require prior PRP compliance.
Halal, Organic, Sedex SMETA, etc. are other certifications that agro-food producers can comply with based on their product types and market requirements.
Labels and packaging are other requirements to check for conformity before exporting mouneh products from Lebanon. LIBNOR provides some mandatory standards listing guidelines on the use of nutrition, health claims, and the labeling of pre-packed food.
This topic is of utmost importance since Lebanese food products have been facing recalls and export rejections, mainly to the US markets, due to misbranding and labeling non-conformities to FDA regulations.
In conclusion, to ensure readiness for export, Mouneh producers need to:
– review their product capabilities and production capacities,
– ensure labeling and product compliance,
– give attention to testing conformity and shelf life of their products,
– have proper branding & packaging specifications,
– and have the needed certification depending on their target markets and customers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fidele el Achkar is the Founder & CEO of FoodSight, a Consultancy Services platform that empowers food businesses to simplify all their Food Industry activities and comply with Local & International Food Safety & Quality requirements while connecting them to top freelance talent. She is an experienced food safety consultant with a background in quality control management & lead auditing.