We start 2021 with a timely and succinct description of Norway's food safety system, contributed by Gry Sørensen, the IFPS immediate past Chair.
All Norwegian enterprises are obligated to have a system for self-monitoring, regardless of size or trade. Norwegian agriculture is a trade with many small enterprises, an immensely broad spectrum of managerial responsibility structures and a comprehensive demand for competence. It is a fact that small enterprises, regardless of trade, face challenges concerning organizational functions like administration, self-monitoring and HSE systems.
Aiming at simplification of the farmer’s administrative tasks, Norwegian agriculture has established its own quality system: Agricultural Quality System (KSL). This system is meant to assist the individual farmer in complying with the laws, regulations and rules set by authorities, industry, and the commodity trade. The KSL standard consists of checklists and guides which the farmer uses in his self-monitoring of the farm. All this being systematized in one place makes KSL a versatile tool helping the farmer to comply with current laws and regulations. It also contributes to far less time for the farmer spent on administrative work.
The word ’farmer’ derives from the Old Norwegian language and originally means ’owner of land with housing’. Today ’farmer’ denotes a person who runs a business on the same level as other business enterprises in Norway. The farmer has turned entrepreneur, and KSL is a managing tool for the farmer. Besides assisting with implementation of favorable routines for production, KSL aids the farmer in solving tasks related to documentation of the production process, keeping employees, administering quality control and risk analysing of the enterprise. KSL is also a system which verifies that the raw materials are produced in accordance with laws and regulations – in this respect in line with good animal and plant welfare – and in a way that secures HSE for the persons involved in the production. Last but not least, this system ensures that the farmers can change recipient of goods without swapping quality system.
In today’s society, the authorities, consumers, trade organizations and non-governmental organizations make demands concerning where the food is produced, how it is produced, whether it is produced within the framework of good animal welfare, whether the production affects climate and environment, and whether the food is healthy to eat. It must be considered most expedient that the agricultural sector has a common quality of standard which the farmer, the industry and the consumers can have confidence in. In Norway, all this is integrated in one system, KSL.
The agricultural sector, the food industry and the authorities agree on a common "standard of trade" as an instrument for documenting a farm’s production. This is the KSL, which the farmer can bring into use without any more ado. It is not necessary to develop a separate system or choose between many systems. For all food related businesses, it is important to be fully aware of the regulations, interpret them in the same way and execute the follow-ups of deviations in a similar manner. KSL gains the consumers’ confidence through the fact that all users who have implemented KSL, can prove that the food comes from a farm where laws and regulations have been followed.
As a system, KSL supports the individual farmer in complying with the laws, regulations and other instructions which are set by the authorities, the industry, and the commodity trade. KSL helps the farmers in fulfilling their social mission, something every business in Norway is obligated to do. The farmers’ tool in this purpose are the KSL standards, which consist of checklists and guides that the farmer uses in his self-monitoring of the farm. KSL can be regarded as the quality department of the agricultural sector, and thus contributes to this sector’s ability to solve system related challenges in a way totally on a par with any other large enterprise in Norway.
What sets Norway apart from the other countries, is that HSE is integrated in KSL. Thus, here in Norway the farmer needs to relate himself to one system only. This entails simplification of the farmer’s everyday life, and the agricultural enterprises save substantial costs when they do not need to handle several different routines and systems for documentation. Simultaneously the industry and the grocer’s business have an easy job backtracking food to the individual farm, enabling them to document product quality towards the consumers and safeguarding that the enterprises take their public responsibility seriously as an obligation imposed upon all Norwegian businesses by the authorities.
KSL is a managerial system developed with the aim of securing quality in food production, good animal welfare and proper implementation of the HSE aspects. KSL ensures that all the links in the food chain structure comply with the requirements which the society at large put-on animal welfare, safe working environment and protection of the natural environment. This system is unique for Norway. KSL is constantly being further developed and improved in accordance with broad trends in society. Of particular importance is that KSL mirrors the actual production on the farm so that the production at any time complies with the requirements set by the society at large.
KSL is funded by the authorities (through the Agricultural Agreement) and the market participants. The system is approved by The Norwegian Food Safety Authority, The Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, Directorate of Agriculture and the food industry through formalized agreements.