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Client Success Story

European food wholesaler | Review of food safety standards

The problem

The client on this project was a major European food wholesaler with operations in both Ireland and Spain. This family-owned business has a longstanding history in the industry and has grown to employ over 40,000 people across its businesses and brands. The client is a key supplier of food and grocery products to independent businesses and franchisees. They place a heavy focus on supporting local producers, as well as promoting sustainable business practices.

Given the scale and international scope of their operations, the client identified several inconsistencies across their stores regarding the implementation of their food safety standards. To tackle this issue, the client sought help from Farrelly Mitchell’s food safety consultants to conduct an end-to-end review of their food safety standards and support the implementation of their food safety management systems.


Ensuring food safety is a continual priority for agri-food producers worldwide. Given the dangers associated with foodborne illnesses, it is crucial that businesses across the food value chain uphold food safety measures to protect public health and minimise outbreaks. To build consumer trust, ensure regulatory compliance, and improve data and quality control, it is important to implement these measures consistently.

Approaches to managing food safety from suppliers can vary significantly. Control over production processes and safety standards usually resides with suppliers, prompting retailers or brand owners to enforce stricter oversight. Additionally, it is vital to tailor safety controls to differentiate between risks specific to the retailer or brand owner’s reputation and broader food safety risks.

The problem: 

The client’s food safety and quality team had recently been restructured and several processes and procedures were new, or at early stages of implementation. The client noted inconsistencies across various stores in the application of the group’s food safety standards, specifically in the monitoring and documentation of control measures. This variability hindered their ability to maintain uniform food safety protocols across all locations, prompting a need to reform these processes.

The client engaged Farrelly Mitchell to conduct an in-depth evaluation of their food safety system, assess its risk management capability, and to provide recommendations for improvement.

The solution

To address the client’s challenges with inconsistent implementation of food safety standards across their retail brands, Farrelly Mitchell conducted a comprehensive audit of the client’s food safety management systems. The audit assessed standard operating procedures and critical control points across a representative sample of Irish stores, establishing a baseline through detailed reviews and interviews.

The audit involved scrutinising documentation to understand the existing system and conducting interviews with members of the Food Safety and Quality team. The audit focused on four key areas:

Development of the system 

Firstly, the audit assessed processes to ensure that all relevant food safety hazards were identified and managed effectively from the outset. Additionally, the audit ensured the system’s alignment with Irish regulatory requirements and the expectations of Ireland’s Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI).

Implementation of the system

Next, our auditors evaluated whether the stores had access to the most recent standards, understood the requirements, and received sufficient support for implementation. This involved assessing communication channels, training logs, incentives for compliance and support materials provided to the stores.

Monitoring of the system

The third phase of this project involved auditing the client’s own monitoring program. In particular the audit assessed the client’s current monitoring mechanisms and procedures. Our goal was to enhance the procedures for managing and fully resolving the root causes of non-compliances.

Our independent reviewers conducted shadow audits, observing monitors during assessments to evaluate their technical skills and effectiveness in assessing food safety culture and management systems. The feedback from these shadow audits would feed into a continuous improvement loop, enhancing the auditors’ performance and the overall audit process.

Review of the system

The final part of the review focused on identifying whether the client’s food safety standards were evolving to meet the client’s specific needs and comply with regulatory requirements. It examined whether the client was effectively using the most relevant technologies and industry best practices to enhance their food safety standards. The audit outcomes were analysed to detect any recurring issues or trends in non-compliance, which could indicate underlying problems that need addressing. In doing this, the review aimed to identify areas where improvements could be made to ensure the food safety standards remained current, comprehensive, and effective.

The results

The audit concluded that the food safety management system was reasonably robust and effectively managed. Recommendations were made by our food safety consultants to align the system with legal requirements and international best practices. Specific suggestions were made on how to improve monitoring and record-keeping to further enhance compliance and traceability.

Additionally, the audit identified areas for improvement in communication, training,  and support ultimately enabling the client’s organisation to continuously improve and strengthen to a point where food safety culture is fully embedded across the entire supply chain.

Building better food safety standards

At Farrelly Mitchell, we comprehensively assess business operations to ensure that food safety management systems are appropriately and effectively implemented. We work closely with stakeholders, including farmers, producers, distributors, and retailers, to identify and address food safety hazards and emerging risks. Additionally, we assist policymakers in designing and implementing new food safety policies and developing risk-based programmes for effective monitoring and enforcement.

Contact Farrelly Mitchell’s experienced food safety consultants today to ensure your food safey systems and standards fully compliant and capable of protecting public health and consumer trust.

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