Interview with Chryssa Dimitriadis, Head of IFS Standard Management
IFS has just released version 7 of its food standard. In this interview for the IFS Blog, Chryssa Dimitriadis shares her views on the strengths of the IFS Food Standard version 7 and her personal experiences in developing it.
Congratulations to the publication of the IFS Food version 7. It must have been an exciting time for you to come to this point. What were your main challenges while developing the new version?
I started working on the new version at the beginning of 2019 when I became responsible for the IFS Food standard.
I remember that one of the first challenges was to go through the checklist to finalise its review. The checklist is one of the most important parts of the standard and its review is very important for all our stakeholders. A lot of work had already been put into that before I jumped in. Together with the extended core Group, I was able to manage it.
Another challenge was to organise the next steps of the review: reviewing the other parts, arranging the test assessments and the public consultation.
I realised that taking over the review of our main standard was not going to be easy. At the same time, I was very excited to be able to organise the next steps we were going to make. The IFS technical team supported me very strongly on the way. To me, each step was an excellent opportunity to learn more. I'm thrilled to see that we have reached our goals and completed this challenging process.
What are the strengths of IFS Food?
When starting the review of the standard, we shared a questionnaire with our stakeholders in order to understand their expectations and needs for the new version. During the review process, we worked together with different working groups where all IFS stakeholders are represented (the national working groups, the extended core group and the international technical committee (ITC)). That's one of the main strengths of IFS; we work with specialists from the field with a lot of professional experience and with different cultural backgrounds. This way, various aspects and insights are brought into the process. You can also say: the standard is made by professionals for professionals.
So one of the strengths of IFS Food is that the new version meets the needs of our stakeholders much better: following a risk-based approach, spending more time on the on-site evaluation, reducing operating costs and increasing efficiency.
In addition, the new IFS Scoring System drives continuous improvement. It indicates how an assessed company can further improve its performance, helping it to reach the next level in product safety and quality management. At the same time, the requirements are written in a way that enables companies to determine methods for controlling hazards that are best suited to their unique conditions.
To summarise, it's all about continuous improvement and adaptability to all the different types of companies as well as meeting customer expectations regarding product safety and quality.
Why should suppliers have IFS Food Certification?
In my opinion, there are two main reasons why a food supplier would want to be IFS certified.
The first reason is that the IFS certification is an opportunity to drive continuous improvement within a company. It is aimed at strengthening its food safety and quality management system within the production according to its characteristics. All companies, small, medium and large ones can put in the work and reach IFS Certification. It's all about setting goals and aiming to increase their level.
The second reason is that being IFS certified means that a supplier has achieved an international recognition according to a high-level standard. It helps retain existing customers and gain new ones, as it proves that this supplier can produce safe products according to its customers' specifications.
What does IFS do to support food producers who are going to be assessed according to IFS Food V7?
Food producers are important stakeholders and also the ones who implement the IFS requirements to achieve IFS certification. Therefore, we want to support them and explain what is new in this version, why we changed it and what we expect from them. To do so, we plan to organise many presentations for industry federations and associations worldwide over the coming months. We will also publish some explanatory documents and guidelines in addition to providing training via our training providers and the IFS Academy.
Apart from that IFS will update the IFS Audit Manager App and our auditXpress software to version 7. It will support internal audits and helps them to prepare for the certification assessment. With the IFS Trend Risk Monitor and the monthly IFS Trend Risk Report, we provide a unique service that strengthens the risk management of certified companies. The IFS Database is a tool that the producers can use for their own supplier management. It informs them about all relevant status changes of their suppliers.
We want to make sure that quality managers of food suppliers have enough information to improve their system and support them in their daily work. We want to help them to achieve the best possible result, always to deliver safe and trusted products.
What drives you as a person regarding your work as IFS Food Standard Manager?
Being responsible for this unique and ambitious standard which aims to ensure food safety and quality on a worldwide basis is a real honour to me. It allows me to work with proven experts in this field and motivates me to go forward and invest more so that we can achieve our goals.
Summarising it, I would say that the technical work itself with the perspective of contributing to more food safety in the world as well as the teamwork with our stakeholders and the IFS colleagues is what drives me as a person regarding my work at IFS.
What will you be working on next?
Well, after the publication of version 7, we plan to organise several presentations for industry federations and associations/food exhibitions worldwide to explain the main changes, our intentions and how to implement this new version to our stakeholders.
Also, I just started my new position as Head of Standard Management. So, I will dedicate time to go deeper into the other IFS standards and programs together with the respective standard managers. We will work on the harmonisation of all versions with our mother standard, the IFS Food.
At IFS, there are always new challenges. That's what I like most, especially when it comes to working with other colleagues and the different departments. It makes things even more interesting and exciting!
I am looking forward to a new challenging and exciting year!
About the author:
Chryssa Dimitriadis started working for IFS as a Technical Project Manager at the Paris Office at the end of 2016. Since the beginning of 2019, she is the manager for the IFS Food standard and since September 2020 she is responsible for the harmonisation of all standards as the Head of the IFS Standard Management. Chryssa is a food technology engineer. During her studies she specialised in food safety and quality. She has two master degrees in microbiology and bioengineering from AgroParisTech in France. Before joining IFS, she worked for the retail and catering market at Mérieux NutriSciences. This company offers testing and consulting services to the food & nutrition, agrochemicals, pharma and cosmetics industries.
IFS Food version 7 and other documents: https://www.ifs-certification.com/index.php/en/standards/4128-ifs-food-standard-en