The development of the Audits Benchmarking Matrix, which enables side-by-side comparisons of the third-party audit organizations and standards most commonly used by the U.S. produce industry, was completed last week by a working group of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Food Safety & Technology Council.

lettuce-field2-featured.jpgThe Audits Benchmarking Matrix allows users to select and compare any of eight organizations that perform pre-farm gate–or GAP–audits, seven organizations that perform post-farm gate–or GMP–audits, and four organizations whose standards have been benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

“In 2009, United Fresh hosted the Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards–the first-ever opportunity for the produce industry to hear directly from 16 auditing organizations how they assure the quality of their audits and standards, as well as why their audits should be trusted,” said United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology David Gombas.

“The Audits Benchmarking Matrix is a direct output from that conference, enabling audit customers to compare the quality systems of these organizations and make informed choices of which audit programs to accept,”  Gombas said.

Gail Murray of Disney Consumer Products led the Audits Benchmarking Matrix working group and invited all of the audit organizations involved in the Global Conference to provide written responses to specific questions designed to elicit information about their internal quality programs.

“We asked the same questions that the customers would ask when trying to select or decide to accept an audit program,” said Murray.

The working group asked questions of conference attendees that ranged from which program features most assure the reliability of the audits performed by a particular company to various list auditor requirements regarding experience in the food industry.

“Trust is the most important factor in deciding whether to use an audit organization,” said Gombas.  “This means trust in both the audit process and in the auditor.  The Audits Benchmarking Matrix allows interested parties to compare what these companies say about themselves from the convenience of a desktop.”

The Audits Benchmarking Matrix is accessible for free at the United Fresh Website.