Approved Supplier Program

It makes sense to move on to the Approved Supplier Program from Allergen Management and Control.  What is an Approved Supplier Program and why is it so important?

An Approved Supplier Program is an integral part of the food safety management system.  It is a protocol aimed to provide confidence that raw materials received from suppliers are of the highest quality to ensure safe quality finished products to the consumer.

Having an Approved Supplier Program in place minimises the risk of the following issues from your suppliers:

  • Inconsistent quality of raw materials
  • Inconsistent pricing of raw materials
  • Unreliable delivery of raw materials
  • Inconsistent information supplied to you, the customer
  • Unregistered, therefore may not be practicing basic food safety standards

In this article, we are going to infer the following:

  • The supplier supplies raw materials
  • You, the reader, are the customer of these raw materials
  • As a customer, you purchase these raw materials to store, prep, cook, cool, pack your finished product for human consumption
  • The consumer is your customer

Some businesses may have “Ordering” or “Receival” as the first process step in their HACCP plans.  Whichever you wish to commence with, it is important that you have in place an Approved Supplier Program that is both realistic and effective.

The Approved Supplier Program is also known as a “prerequisite” or support program” to the HACCP plans.  Whichever buzz word you wish to use, stick to it.  We use “support program”.


Delegate the responsibility of the Approved Supplier Program to a staff member.  To ensure its effectiveness, this program requires commitment and consistency.  This support program is a significant element of your food safety controls, therefore the level of commitment and consistency supported is key to its success.  We suggest responsibility is delegated to a member of the QA team.

[1] Supplier Selection

When selecting your suppliers, consider the following attributes based on legal, safety and quality criteria:

  • Must be a registered business and have relevant industry qualifications
  • Must have safety or quality assurance certification
  • Must have a knowledgeable contact person for quality assurance issues
  • Must have a good business reputation
  • Must supply premium product quality and customer service
  • Must be reasonably priced for its quality of products and services
  • Must pass supplier audits

[2] Supplier Evaluation

When you evaluate your potential suppliers, consider the following criteria for supplier approval:

  • Copy of certificate or licence received and current
  • Copy of product specifications or safety data sheets received and current
  • Pre-Approval Supplier Questionnaire: sent to high and medium risk suppliers that have limited certification or are in the midst of certification

Have a risk level in place.  For example, all raw materials that are food ingredients should be considered high risk.  Packaging that is food contact may also be considered high risk.  Acceptance of the appropriate minimum certificates may depend on the level of risk you have attached to the raw materials products.   An example of risk levels and required certification:

Grade Item Evidence required
[A] High risk ·         Food raw materials

·         Primary packaging (food contact)

·         HACCP certification by a third party

·         Product specifications

·         Food contact packaging abides by AS 2070 Plastics materials for food contact use

[B] Medium risk ·         Transportation

·         Secondary packaging

·         Laboratory services

·         Chemicals

·         HACCP or quality certification by a third party

·         NATA certification (for laboratory)

·         SDS | Safety Data Sheets

[C] Low risk ·         Warehouses

·         Trade services (plumbers, electricians, etc)

·         Council registration

·         Trade licenses

·         Business registrations

·         SDS | Safety Data Sheets

[D] No risk All other suppliers Must be a registered business


[3] Supplier Approval

All products and services provided must require approval to enable the achievement of the Approved Supplier status.  The staff member of the QA team is to determine the capability of each supplier to provide safe and quality products.  Suppliers should be approved on the basis of their ability to meet your requirements.  Note: Approved status expires when their certificate does.

Item Criteria for Approval
·       Raw Materials

·       Packaging

·         HACCP certification

·         Product specifications

·         Certificates of analysis

·       Maintenance / Engineers

·       Utility Service Providers

·       Distributors

·         Appropriate industry qualifications

·         Service reports

·         Service agreements

·       Pest Controller ·         Appropriate industry qualifications

·         Contract, map, SDS

·         Individual contractor license

·         Public liability insurance

·         Service report

Product Specification

Ensure your supplier product specification has the following information:

  • Document control – so you know how old the document is
  • Ingredient listing
  • Allergen declaration
  • GMO | Genetically Modified Organism status
  • Irradiation status
  • Storage conditions
  • NIP | Nutrition Information Panel
  • Any claims you are claiming on your own finished product such as religious status, vegan status, etc
  • Country of origin

COAs | Certificates of Analysis

Certificates of analysis are microbiological results that are supplied with every raw material batch.  These are important documents to have supplied with your raw materials as they provide evidence that the raw materials were microbiologically tested and are fit for use.

COAs may be supplied with the following types of raw materials:

  • Shelled raw eggs
  • Herbs and spices
  • Grains
  • Sprouts

[4] Supplier Performance

Supplier evaluation should be conducted on a regular basis, minimum annually, and each supplier subjected to review to ensure all requirements as outlined above are complied with.

Control Measures

  • Visually check the supplier vehicle and raw material for product integrity against quality, microbiological, chemical, and physical concerns
  • Ensure all allergens are declared on packaging and product specification
  • Ensure product specification matches raw material packaging – this is a very big issue with suppliers
  • Ensure correct product is received from purchase orders
  • Review the following documents: supplier certification, approved product specifications, certificates of analysis, safety data sheets, performance evaluations, contracts, tax invoices

Identify Issues

Any issues should be documented within the Approved Supplier Program by a member of the QA team for review.   Issues that should be monitored:

  • Any issues with products received?  Any contaminant issues?  Any quality issues?
  • Expired product ever received?  Short shelf life product ever received?  Any service issues?
  • Has the supplier ever interfered with your production schedule due to non-arrival of products?
  • Can supplier supply emergency orders?
  • Has the supplier passed their regular food safety audits? Are they audited by a third party?
  • Are the product specifications continually consistent with the raw material received?
  • Are there issues with the supplier’s allergen statements?

Corrective Actions

  • Any issues at receival should be duly noted on the receival register and promptly reported to a member of the QA team. Product should be rejected if outside its critical limits.  Example: meat delivered in a non-registered vehicle or cream delivered above 5°C
  • The supplier should be notified of any issues
  • Be confident to request a corrective action plan where necessary
  • Remove a supplier from the Approved Supplier Program at any stage of the process, based on loss of confidence in the ability to provide a safe, quality product or any other issue relating to supply

[5] Emergency Non-Approved Suppliers

Sometimes, circumstances may arise where a new supplier is used who is not part of the Approved Supplier Program.  Compliance should still be achievable to ensure safe raw materials are used in your finished product.  When using an emergency supplier, consider the following:

  • Must be a certified business
  • Obtain certification and, if applicable, product specifications within one week of receipt of raw materials
  • Products received must be checked for integrity prior to usage
  • These suppliers can only be approved by management
  • Depending on nature of the product, the raw material may be subject to laboratory testing prior to usage

[6] Approved Supplier Program Register

We use Microsoft Excel.  Examples to include in your file:

  • Contact information (contact name, communications, address, etc)
  • Certification details with expiration notification
    • HACCP certification
    • Other safety and quality certifications
  • Product specifications, SDS, COA with expiration notification
  • Service agreements, pre-approval supplier questionnaires
  • Performance reviews


Examples below

Tab 1: Supplier Contact Details

Category Company Name ABN Address Business
Contact Details
Sales Contact Person
Quality Contact Person


Tab 2: Performance

Date Opened Supplier Specify Item Particulars Date Closed Approved By


Tab 3: Certification Details

Category Company Name Supplier Risk Product Risk ABN Certification Certification Body Certification Number Expiry Date


Tab 4: Food Product Specification Details

Item #
Item Name
Item #
Item Name
Supplier Manufacturer Issue Date Expiry
Back Up


… continued same line…

COA COO GMO Halal Kosher Vegan Vegetaria Organic Allergern
May Contain
Ingredient Listing


… continued same line…

Energy Protein Fat,
Carb Carb, sugars Sodium


Tab 5: Packaging Product Specification Details

Item #
Item Name
Item #
Item Name
Supplier Manufacturer  

AS 2070

Food Contact Issue Date Expiry
Back Up


Tab 5: Safety Data Sheet Details

Type Product Purpose Supplier Manufacturer Back Up Supplier Food Grade? Issue Date Expiry Date


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