The owners and managers of food service businesses strive to provide the highest-quality meals to their customers. Part of achieving that goal is using the best possible equipment, both in terms of effectiveness and safety. For the latter, one of the most trusted names is NSF International, which is an organization that specializes in product testing, inspection, and certification. Because food safety is essential for a business to remain in operation, it’s helpful to be familiar with the NSF and its processes.
NSF International Overview
NSF International, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, was founded in 1944 and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI. The organization, which operates globally, specializes in developing public health standards and certification programs to protect food, water, consumer products, and the environment. The NSF has a staff that consists of engineers, microbiologists, toxicologists, chemists, public health experts, and certification specialists. To date, the organization has developed more than 90 public health and safety American National Standards and over 30 protocols for appliances, food equipment, drinking water filters, and other products.
Food Equipment Standards
Food service professionals should be aware that the NSF offers one of the most accepted and trusted certification and verification programs for commercial food service equipment, specified by health departments, restaurant buyers, and other specifiers. Equipment tested by the NSF goes through a thorough certification process to ensure high quality with a dedication to food safety. The certification process consists of five steps:
- Application – Manufacturers apply to have their products certified.
- Product Evaluation – The product is inspected and tested by the NSF to ensure it meets all necessary requirements.
- Certification/Listing – If approved, the product will become certified and listed on the NSF website. The product may then display the NSF Mark on the product label.
- Manufacturing Facility Audit – The plant at which the product is manufactured is audited to ensure the products are manufactured with only authorized materials and a commitment to quality assurance.
- Annual Compliance Verification – Each year, the NSF performs an audit to verify the manufacturer has remained in compliance with all necessary standards.
To see a complete listing of NSF Standards that are applied to commercial food equipment, click here.
How Important is NSF Certification?
One of the questions business owners have with regards to the NSF is whether or not certification is necessary for each of the products they use. Obviously, food safety is a top priority, and the NSF is an organization that makes sure equipment, when utilized properly, will keep food safe. However, it is not essential for all products in the kitchen to be NSF-certified. For one, health department compliance is the goal, so if your local health department doesn’t require NSF-certified products to be used then you can be at ease. In addition, NSF certification isn’t the ultimate determining factor in whether or not a product promotes high levels of sanitation. Uncertified products can be just as safe and offer just as much quality as certified products, and even more — the manufacturers of those products just haven’t applied for certification from the NSF. It’s up to you to decide if you want all NSF-certified products or if you are comfortable with the sanitation levels of your business even if you don’t have them.
More Sanitation Information
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