Driven by Sainsbury and Safeways, the Standard for Food Packaging Materials _ launched last October _ is sure to become the benchmark by which all inspections are undertaken and will help to see a move away from smaller hygiene inspection schemes that are far less productive in such a critical industry.

Its importance cannot be overstressed, particularly to companies who have yet to apply for accreditation and particularly to those companies who know full well that they may not pass muster. Many will have to make adjustments to meet the standard and all this will take time to accomplish so the sooner industry acts, the better.

Those who needlessly bury their heads in the sand are not helping themselves, particularly as food-packaging companies are required to be accredited by the end of this year. And those that are not accredited at that time run the risk of being ostracized by the retail sector. So it would seem wise for those who know they may have problems to face up to them now and give themselves plenty of time to make the grade.

Accreditation companies are already building databases that constantly keep retailers abreast with supplier performance. From this database, a retailer will know when a supplier was last inspected, the results of that inspection, and whether advice was given or taken.

In a highly competitive industry such as the food packaging industry, ammunition like this will only serve to enable retailers to weed out the men from the boys. There was always going to be a number of companies that will wait until the last minute before applying for an audit and those that do will suffer the ultimate price.