With no universal standard that would fully address our requirements for produce we introduced our own programme, Field to Fork, in 2003 to cover the management of our supply chain for fruit, vegetables and salad crops. The programme originally covered traceability, minimising pesticide use, ethical trading, environmental protection, support for non-GM foods and food safety.
In 2015, we re-launched this programme as M&S Select Grower which has been revised to focus more on food safety and to avoid duplication with other schemes such as LEAF
. Our M&S Select Grower Assurance standards are set out in our Codes of Practice and cover a much wider range of product. They now now apply to suppliers of basic fresh produce, prepared produce, nuts and dried fruit, frozen produce, and produce in chilled/short shelf-life products.
The fundamental approach is to ensure that the produce entering our supply chain is safe, grown in a way that ensures it is free from contamination and is harvested, packed and processed to ensure that no contaminants are introduced. It is based on a risk assessment and a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach which considers the following:
- Physical including foreign body management
- Allergen (particularly nuts and peanuts)
The following elements are also covered:
- Manure use
- Chemical use
- Water sources and water use
- Composting protocols
- Planting and drilling guidelines
- Harvesting protocols
- Equipment hygiene
- Worker hygiene
- Allergen control
Different crops present different food safety risks so we classify fresh produce according to different categories – Category 0 Produce is considered the highest risk (i.e. increased likelihood of a food safety risk associated with this produce) and Category 2 the lowest (i.e. produce is always cooked prior to consumption). This also drives the frequency of audits that take place which can be between 1 and 2 years. In addition, some produce intended for further processing may only require a desktop audit.
Every stage of the produce supply chain supplying into M&S needs to be audited (e.g. grower and packers). In principle, each layer in the supply chain is required to audit the layer below. Our direct suppliers can do the audit themselves, or work through a secondary supplier as long as they are competent to do so. The ultimate responsibility for compliance rests with the direct supplier though.
There are seven sections of the audit which cover a maximum of 80 questions dependent on risk category. Of the 80 questions, 30 are categorised as Essential, 46 as Major and 4 as Minor. If a question is classed as Essential results can be recorded as Fail, Acceptable, Fully Compliant or Leading Standard. Any sites scoring Fail on an Essential question will automatically fail the M&S Select Grower Audit and cannot supply M&S until they pass.
Successful audits are scored as Bronze, Silver or Gold Standard. The standard has been written to be deliberately stretching for primary producers (e.g. growers, packers, etc) to achieve Gold standard.
Audits are carried out and reported using audit and reporting platforms especially developed for M&S by Muddy Boots