As MSMEs grow beyond the confines of home and eventually the borders of our country, many will invariably hit a wall in terms of export.
What is the wall, you ask? Well it’s basically trust. Another country has to trust that the products that we are sending to them are not only safe, but fits the criteria that they require; be it being properly labelled or Halal-certified.
This is where standards come in.
What is standards?
Standards are specifications and procedures that are widely or commonly accepted and are designed to ensure that the material, products, methods, and/or services that people use every day are reliable.
Standards ensure that everything, from the product functionality to the labelling, means the same and works the same anywhere you go in the world; that a certain level of quality and safety has been followed by the manufacturers.
Why should I get my business certified?
The gold standard international certifications for food and beverage products and consumables – such as ISO, GMP and/or HACCP – are not a must for MSMEs to sell their products to the locally.
Local regulations and certifications for food safety, labelling, shelf-life, and halal-requirements are under the Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Agrifoods Department and Ministry of Religious Affairs respectively.
However, internationally recognised certifications become increasingly important when you’re looking at export – and will have to comply with foreign authorities and assure new customers.
Anyone can say that their products are reliable and safe but it’s far more credible when a recognised and accepted international third-party says it.
It also protects companies from legal liability and rumours; a company that has been certified to follow international standards can confidently say that their manufacturing process follows international standards and are audited regularly to maintain their certification.
All of this is in service of trust; trust between international partners that the goods traded follows internationally recognised standards and trust between the manufacturer and consumer regarding their products’ safety, reliability and/or functionality.
What are the regulations set out by the local authorities for food products consumed within the country?
From the Ministry of Health (MOH) side, food and beverage producers need to get a health certificate to show that they are healthy and fit to prepare food for public consumption.
From the Agriculture and Agrifoods Department side, all locally sold products are required to carry labels that state the following information:
- The name and description of the product
- Product weight
- List of ingredients
- Name and address of producer or distributor
- Expiry, best before, sell by or use by date
The Scientific Laboratory Services (SLS) under the MOH does tests for the above (click here to read the procedures).
From the Ministry of Religious Affairs side, MSMEs that produce food and beverage for consumption must be Halal-certified or carry labels that say that it is not for Muslim-consumption.
What are the international certifications?
For food and beverage manufacturing, there are three international food safety standards certification:
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Certificate, designed for MSMEs with a factory, big or small. These are based off practices that ensure products prepared by are safe for consumption. If a business has successfully gained Halal certification, they are likely to already have met some of the requirements, such as segregation of food and utensils, maintenance of a clean food preparation environment.
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certificate for businesses with a factory and eyeing to export their products. HACCP breaks down the manufacturing process and identifies “critical control points” – points where hazards can be introduced into the manufacturing process, from the preparation to the packing of the products.
- ISO22000 certificate (from International Organization for Standardization) are businesses with a factory that are eyeing for export and are already GMP and HACCP certified. It’s a food safety management standard that incorporates GMP and HACCP in assessing whether a business follows the ISO standard for food safety.
This is where the National Standards Centre (NSC) of the Energy and Industry Department Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO) comes in.
How can the National Standards Centre help?
One of the roles of the NSC is to assist MSMEs and local entrepreneurs in developing their systems according to local and international standards and it does this through its SME Standards and Advisory Programme.
Once the application is accepted, the NSC will conduct an inspection of the manufacturing site and will present their findings to the SME Standard Advisory Committee to be approved by the Minister.
Once approved, the business and its relevant personnel will be trained while a gap analysis will be conducted by NSC; analysing the readiness of the current factory, and what changes are needed to for it to be eligible for international certifications.
Then the process of building the system required to comply with the requirements of the certification, be it GMP, HACCP or ISO, begins.
This includes flowcharting the production process, creating the correct manufacturing environment that is sanitary and safe, and training personnel in the proper methods of handling.
The cost of implementing the system is borne by the business but NSC will provide consultancy and guidance, whether it’s product recall testing and review, internal audit or management review.
The NSC will also prep the business for its compliance audit before calling in a third-party Independent Certification Body to do the audit.
The whole process, including the auditing by the independent auditor, will take approximately 18 months complete.
For more information call NSC at +6732334192 or visit them at B19, 2nd Floor, Simpang 32-15, Flat Anggerek Desa to get an application form for the programme to get started with the process.