NSF International’s food programs

Posted: 13 June 2008 | Sarah Krol, Business Unit Manager, NSF International and Greta Houlahan, Corporate Communications Manager, NSF International | No comments yet

Since its inception, NSF International has established itself as the company of standards – one that has been setting the bar in public health and safety for nearly 65 years. As a world leader in the testing and certification of products, NSF develops standards, tests products, certifies compliance as well as provides educational opportunities through its Centre for Public Health Education.

Since its inception, NSF International has established itself as the company of standards – one that has been setting the bar in public health and safety for nearly 65 years. As a world leader in the testing and certification of products, NSF develops standards, tests products, certifies compliance as well as provides educational opportunities through its Centre for Public Health Education.

Since its inception, NSF International has established itself as the company of standards – one that has been setting the bar in public health and safety for nearly 65 years. As a world leader in the testing and certification of products, NSF develops standards, tests products, certifies compliance as well as provides educational opportunities through its Centre for Public Health Education.

NSF International is a designated World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for water quality, food safety and indoor environment. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, NSF International and its subsidiaries have offices in throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America and Asia. NSF’s stakeholders include industry and the regulatory community as well as consumers.

How NSF got started

NSF has a history of making the world safer by improving public health. It all started back in the 1930s in the United States, when the general public discovered its passion for dining out.

At that time, state and local health officials monitored public food establishments for sanitation, utilising widely varying criteria to evaluate equipment. This resulted in inconsistent rules and regulations for food equipment design throughout the country. It became obvious that consistent national standards for foodservice equipment were necessary to prevent health problems resulting from “dining out”. To address this issue, in 1944, two professors from the University of Michigan and a public health official from Toledo, Ohio established The National Sanitation Foundation, known today as NSF International.

NSF formulated a framework to allow research and participation from all interested parties – regulators, manufacturers and users – in the consensus development process. From its very first efforts in the areas of soda fountain and luncheonette equipment, NSF used this consensus process to develop public health and safety standards. This program has since expanded to include accreditation by both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). Today, there are 22 American National Standards for food equipment, including a standard for water heaters, commercial refrigerators, freezers and vending machines, even dishwashing machines and dinnerware have a standard.

As a Nationally Recognised Testing Laboratory (NRTL) by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NSF also offers electrical safety certification for foodservice equipment to several UL standards. This includes motor-operated appliances, drinking water coolers, ice cream makers and motor-operated commercial food preparing machines, just to name a few.

Nonfood Compounds Registration

NSF International’s dedication to public health grew into another phase when NSF launched its voluntary Nonfood Compounds Registration Program in 1999 to re-introduce the previous authorisation program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The new program was a natural fit with NSF’s food programs, as the products eligible for NSF Registration include compounds used in and around food establishments including, cleaners, sanitizers, water treatment chemicals and lubricants. Products used in the pre-processing stages of food production, such as fruits/vegetable washing agents, are also covered by the Nonfood Compounds Program. This voluntary program provides product manufacturers, users and regulatory inspectors with a proven method to determine acceptability of products that may be exposed to food during processing or handling. The Nonfood Compounds Registration Program was a natural evolution for NSF, as it complements NSF’s food processing equipment certification and NSF’s food safety evaluations.

NSF recently expanded the scope of its evaluation services for cleaning products by collaborating with the U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment program (DfE) to help recognise environmentally preferable cleaners. NSF prepares product ingredient profiles for partnership candidates and reviews cleaning product formulations for environmental and human health attributes using criteria developed by DfE. If the review is successful, DfE will then recognise these formulators that design products safer for the environment and human health, than others in their class.

As part of its Nonfood Registration Program, NSF also offers certification to ISO 21469- Safety of machinery – Lubricants with incidental product contact – Hygiene requirements. ISO 21469 certification provides lubricant manufacturers with the option of having an independent and comprehensive, third-party product assessment performed, as well as evaluation of hygiene measures.

ISO 21469 specifies the hygiene requirements for the formulation, manufacture, use and handling of lubricants, which may encounter products during manufacturing or processing. This includes lubricants used in the food, food processing, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and animal feed.

NSF Cook & Thurber

When NSF acquired Cook & Thurber in 2001, it became the leading provider of comprehensive food safety services for the food, beverage, animal feed and packaging industries. Today, NSF Cook & Thurber provides process-based food safety and quality audits. These independent evaluations determine that manufacturers have designed systems that are being operated under continual control to assure product safety, quality and consistency. NSF also provides specialised services such as ISO 22000:2005 Standard: Requirements for a Food Safety Management System and the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program, which is recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), an organisation representing over 70% of food retail revenue worldwide.

In late 2007, major global retailers took a major step in this effort by requiring all food suppliers to achieve audit certification against one of the recognised Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards and other internationally recognised standards. To continue to meet the needs of global food safety, NSF will strive to ensure confidence in the delivery of safer food to consumers. The goal is for continuous improvement in food safety supply chain management. GFSI also provides a benchmark to ensure consistency between countries and the products that have been certified.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is included as part of GFSI and NSF Cook & Thurber can provide certification to that standard as well. This global standard for food and ingredient manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors was developed to evaluate food and ingredient manufacturers of retailers own brand food products.

The ISO 22000:2005 Standard: Requirements for a Food Safety Management System helps an organisation demonstrate its commitment to food safety. ISO 22000 applies to all organisations that influence the food chain. This includes ingredient suppliers, equipment manufacturers, package suppliers, service providers, farmers, food processors, and catering and retailing organisations.

The Safe Quality Food (SQF) is a quality program that also requires compliance on three certification levels – Level 1: Food Safety Fundamentals, Level 2: Food Safety Plans and Level 3: Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management Systems Development. SQF Certification provides assurance to retailers that the food from suppliers has been produced, prepared and handled according to internationally recognised standards.

NSF David Fresh

Not only has NSF expanded its range of services globally, it has also expanded its services to more industries, including the produce industry. With the recent reports of food recalls and outbreaks, NSF has stepped up its efforts to help businesses reduce risk, increase confidence in food safety systems/procedures and demonstrate compliance with government regulations and customer requirements. From the fields where produce is grown and throughout the supply chain, NSF Davis Fresh works with clients to meet food safety needs.

In October of 2006, NSF announced the acquisition of David Fresh, the premier provider of food safety audits and consulting for the perishable food industry. The acquisition was a natural complement to NSF’s other services, including NSF Cook & Thurber, which provides food processor consultative auditing services. Davis Fresh Technologies, founded in Aptos, California in 1999, is an independent third-party organisation with technical expertise in all aspects of the produce industry and is accepted by major grocery retailers. NSF Davis Fresh’s leading position in Chile and Peru has also given NSF a significant presence in the South American market, and will provide additional audit services to meet the individual requirements of customers worldwide. Now, as one company, NSF Davis Fresh continues to provide unmatched certification and audit services to the food industry.


In 2007, NSF acquired CMi in an effort to further address growing global food safety concerns. Founded in 1985, CMi plc is one of the largest specialist food assurance and consulting companies, working across the entire supply chain. CMi is now the market leader for UK agriculture and retail audit and is rapidly consolidating its position as a worldwide provider of certification and related services, with a premier position in global fresh produce. NSF CMi provides key services to the food industry in efforts to reduce risk and demonstrate compliance with international standards and regulations. Clients across the food supply chain, from processors and producers to supermarkets and restaurants benefit from these comprehensive farm-to-fork food safety solutions. CMi works for clients across the spectrum of agriculture, food processing, distribution, retail, catering and leisure industries, and CMi operates through two divisions: UK and International, with offices in 17 countries and works in over 40 countries worldwide.

Laboratory services

In addition to expanding its global reach, NSF International continues to be true to its public health and safety mission to protect and improve public health. NSF has made great progress in the areas of public health and safety, and to maintain its leadership position, NSF has developed impressive laboratory capabilities to match the calibre of services they provide.

NSF’s toxicology consulting services includes Global Lifescience Solutions™, LLC (GLS), a contracted research and consulting firm offering integrated technical services for companies focused on product innovations in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, dietary supplements, food and nanotechnology. With clients ranging from innovative start-up companies to Fortune 100 and multi-national corporations, GLS provides comprehensive research services that address client needs for basic research, proof of concept, product regulatory registration, and field trials and validation.

Since 1944, NSF has provided a broad range of microbiology lab services including aerobic and anaerobic microbiology, mycology, virology and parasitology. Ongoing services include development and participation in validation studies for the USEPA, AOAC, USFDA and private organisations, as well as contract research. NSF’s microbiology labs are fully accredited to ISO 17025. ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation defines requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.

Every year, NSF’s Engineering Labs evaluate over 4,000 products and materials. These products are evaluated for material properties, performance and safety of the finished product. Accreditations include: American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).

NSF offers leading edge chemistry laboratory services to help our clients establish product stewardship by confirming content and purity, compliance, and assessing public safety and environmental concerns. The chemistry laboratories are utilised by nearly every program at NSF and facilitate compliance to several standards including: NSF/ANSI, EPA and FDA regulations, and EU and other international regulations.

As new standards and improved tools for protecting the food supply emerge, NSF International will continue to provide unique service offerings to help meet the increasing needs of the food industry.

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