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April Cartoon: Finding Approved Suppliers
Illustration of food manager frowning at an unapproved Easter egg supplier

What is an approved supplier and why is it important to food safety?

In the food industry, there are many farmers, local suppliers, etc. to choose from. An approved supplier follows strict food safety procedures and has been reviewed and inspected by a regulatory authority. This is done to ensure the food is safe to prepare and consume. The supplier also keeps careful records so that it’s more efficient to execute a food recall if needed.

Which supplier should I choose?

Choosing which supplier to go with can take some research. Use these 3 tips to help you determine which supplier is a good fit:

  1. Ask for approval records
  2. Conduct supplier audits
  3. Make a list of product-specific requirements

If you are new to the food industry or searching for a different supplier, you could also ask other local establishments which suppliers they use. You should also ask the supplier representative questions to ensure they would be a good fit for your establishment.

Be cautious when using food from roadside vendors, local farmers, and farmers markets. Check that they are considered an approved supplier and have documentation to prove it.

I chose a supplier. Now what?

Once you choose a supplier, it is important to maintain a good relationship with them. Giving them adequate time to process orders, paying bills on time, etc. can help. In addition, check with them often to see if ingredients or labels have changed, especially any allergens that may have been introduced. This can help you keep your customers informed and avoid allergic reactions.

If there are any issues with the supplier, such as a food recall, follow their instructions. Ask questions to ensure you are following their guidance properly. Often, recalls occur because the food was mislabeled (i.e., misidentifying allergens or ingredients) or a biological, chemical, or physical hazard was introduced. The supplier will usually work with a government entity, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to correct the mistake.

What supply records should I keep?

There are some records you need to keep from your supplier. For example, if you prepare or serve certain seafood items, the FDA Food Code requires shellstock records to be kept on file for 90 calendar days after the container is ready. Some of those shellstock records include product tags, labels, or invoices.

Contact your local regulatory authority if you have questions on what other records you need to keep from your suppliers.

For more information on food suppliers, visit

— Janilyn Hutchings

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