Having an effective food safety program in place is a non-negotiable for businesses operating in the food and beverage industry today. Once implemented, businesses must also make sure that program continues to be relevant and effective as the business grows.
There is certainly considerable time, effort and investment committed to establishing and implementing an effective food safety management system, however at this point, the work has only just begun. Maintaining an effective food safety program that grows and develops with the business is as fundamental to ongoing operations as anything else the business may do. Systems and processes must be constantly monitored, assessed, and evolved in the pursuit of excellence and all of it must be underpinned by a healthy and deeply embedded food safety culture.
In this blog, we will uncover:
Every operator across the food and beverage industry knows the strength of their business lies in the integrity of their food safety management systems. For this integrity to be achieved, a program of regular internal audits is essential.
Food safety audits shouldn’t just be conducted because they are a requirement of standards. They are a great opportunity to identify issues, explore ways to resolve them and continuously improve processes. There are some key questions to consider that really are the foundation of any good audit.
- Do we have a system? Intention)
- Are we following it? (Implementation)
- Is it working? (Effectiveness)
Inherent in a food safe business is a commitment to establishing, implementing, and maintaining food safety. The answers to these questions will ensure a robust process of monitoring, measurement, and evaluation is in place and continuously evolving. A regular internal audit program means an organisation can be truly empowered to not only remain operational but to grow in a sustainable way.
When establishing and implementing an effective food safety management system, there are some key areas where most challenges will arise. These include cleaning, hygiene, and sanitation; supply chain management; sustainability; food safety culture; and business continuity. As each of these areas is developed over time, mistakes are commonly made, however avoiding issues and non-conformities altogether is the ideal. Maintaining an effective food safety program means mistakes are treated as learning opportunities and the culture’s growth and improvement is driven by strong leadership and a rich and evolving food safety culture.
With this aspiration in mind, there are some key solutions that will support and strengthen the potential of a food safety program’s pursuit of greatness.
1. Commitment from management
- to put food safety first every day and walk through the facility daily.
- to provide adequate support and resources to not only proactively protect consumers, but also the organisation, their employees and their supply chains.
- to maintain a directive that products unsafe for consumption don’t leave the facility.
- to encourage an ‘every day could be audit day’ approach.
2. Fully trained and informed senior management and general staff
- continuously reviewing the training programs to ensure they continue to be relevant and effective.
- in HACCP, preventative controls for human foods, GMPs, allergen controls and environmental monitoring where relevent.
- in an approach that is multidisciplinary and multileveled to build a resilient culture that can adapt strategically as needs change over time.
3. Root Cause Analysis and preventative actions
- by conducting various measurements and assessments to determine if the product, and other components within the FSMS, are operating within the defined parameters. For example, conducting environmental microbial swabs, mock recalls, or ensuring measurement equipment is properly calibrated.
- by establishing the underlying cause of a problem (Root Cause Analysis) to identify and resolve the issue.
- by recognising systematic issues that prevent innovative and progressive problem-solving.
- by correctig an issue in a different way to implement a preventative action, rather than setting a precedent for repeated failures.
4. A deeply ingrained food safety culture
- that is evident as soon as you enter the facility.
- that understands food safety culture depends on everyone. Active engagement is essential from the most senior management to the casual employees.
- that manifests as an intangible focus across the organisation on the shared values, beliefs and norms that affect the collective mindset and behaviour towards food safety.
Steps to Building an Effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS)
An FSMS is more than just a legal requirement. For food businesses committed to the lon-term viability and success of their operations, it is a ncessity. This 8-step checklist ensures all the relevant processes, policies, and workflows are in place to identify, control and eliminate hazards in any food processing facility.
1. Food safety management training
A great FSMS is developed by a skilled and knowledgeable leadership team. Your staff should be appropriately trained and informed to establish and maintain whatever your systems require, including incorporating HACCP into your operations.
Training needs to be ongoing to ensure compliance against your existing FSMS and its development. Hence, training programs should be reviewed to ensure they remain effective and all staff (including contractors) are up to date with current processes and procedures.
2. Food safety policy setting
Clear policies not only set the parameters for working; they reinforce the collective commitment to maintain a food safe facility. This includes defining responsibilities for staff and ensuring everyone understands their designated roles.
3. Understanding scope and the business’ potential for food safety hazards
The scope of a business refers to its type, size, location, and clientele. The potential for hazard should be clearly understood based on these foundations. Risks around production, storage, food preparation and so on will differ between, for example a food truck and a childcare centre.
4. HACCP building
The most common and viable way to bring a FSMS to life is with a HACCP system. Drafting it usually involves flow charts and tables that identify and reduce risk across hazard categories, and corrective action planning for resolutions.
5. Pre inspection checklists
One of the most powerful tools in a food safe facility are pre-inspection checklists – every day as well as in preparation for an audit. Their implementation literally ensures all boxes are ticked at regular intervals, from staff training and hygiene to processes and procedures.
6. Setting up complaint and incident procedures
A clear system that ensures diligent recording, correction and prevention of mistakes and incidents protects staff as well as the business. It should also detail how incidents are investigated and the usual processes to follow for corrective actions.
7. Consistent and continuous review
For improvement to be consistent, management shoud continuously review policies and procedures, as well as the laws and Standards the business must be adhering to and adjust where necessary.
8. Gathering and storing required evidence
Documentation will need to be provided at various standes of operation – particularly when an incident has occured. All records must be kept up to date, safely and securely stored, and able to be accessed quickly when required.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a benchmark that ensures food safety equivalence is established globally. GFSI recognition of food safety schemes from different regions mean that business’ food safety practices are easily translatable from one country to another. GFSI recognition tells a foreign market that a business is operating to a set of commonly recognised food safety standards and practices.
In Australia, the food safety schemes that were among the first to be recognised by the GFSI include:
- FSSC 22000 – Food Safety System Certification
- SQF – Safe Quality Food
- BRCGS – British Retail Consortium Global Standards
Food safety practices have been revolutionised as a result of the Global Food Safety Initiative. Food safety as culture is now the defining feature of food safety management systems globally, with ‘culture over compliance’ empowering everyone to strive for better. Food safety culture drives a commitment from senior management to establish, implement and maintain food safety, which is in turn strengthened by an organisation-wide alignment towards continuous improvement. The end goal is elevated beyond just having bigger and better food safety programs – it’s a collective belief in the value and importance of food safety culture.
There is more detail available on the topic in the GFSI’s position paper A Culture of Food Safety.
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With over 25 years of experience and a global reputation built on first-class delivery and technical support. SAI Global has partnered with the food industry for decades, engaging with hundreds of food and beverage suppliers, manufacturers and contractors throughout their assessment and certification process – while making the process as seamless and simple as possible.
Adding value is at the core of our business and our processes. Let us show you how assessment and certification can add value to your business. Australia-wide, delivering over 60,000 audits each year, your local SAI Global team is equipped to support your unique requirements.
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This blog forms part of a series outlining what food safety management systems are, how to implement and measure it, enhancing your programs with training, audit and certification, and continuously improving your food safety culture.
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