by Katie Das
As someone coming from the food industry I take it for granted that everyone understands why food safety compliance is an essential requirement for food manufacturing. Regulations (such as FSMA and others) and retailer or customer’s suppler assurance program require most operations to ensure compliance (via 3rd party audits to standards such as GMP, GFSI benchmark or a private standard established by the customer). Unlike food industry, Cannabis industry is unregulated at the federal level and the state regulations for the 29 states where cannabis is legal the health department requirements make it difficult and confusing for the emerging industry to establish common rules.
It is my personal objective to coach and partner with cannabis manufacturing community to help develop strong food safety practices for all links of cannabis supply chain, from seed to sale.
Here are 3 reasons why growers, extractors and manufacturers of cannabis products need to consider building a strong food safety system:
Protect your customers: Often cannabis edibles are consumed by people who are already weakened by a chronic illness (Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn and Parkinsons’s disease and others). Providing them with safe, consistent , traceable product that is made in clean facility will ensure their benefit and satisfaction and prevent a food borne illness outbreak.
Build brand reputation: Clean facilities, well defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Sanitation Standard Operating procedures (SSOP) ensure product consistency which helps with product differentiation. As you build your cannabis brand, food safety and consistency measures must be included in your brand KPI’s. Consistent, safe products leads to higher customer retention.
Stay ahead of the curve: As the market is becoming more attractive, the product competition for shelf space will only intensify. It is only a matter of time before dispensaries (like most of the large retailers) will start putting in place suppler assurance programs aimed at establishing common expectations of quality, packaging and adherence with quality practices. Implementing good food safety practices will allow you to stay ahead of the trend and be ready to meet most dispensaries expectations.
Compliance with food safety standards will help the industry improve consumer and regulators’ confidence, come out of the shadows and take it’s rightful place beside food, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Removal of cannabis from schedule 1 is not a matter of “if” it happens but when. Let’ make sure that as an industry we are ready to demonstrate our compliance and be ready for full legalization at a federal level.