For a successful Food Safety and Quality Assurance program, there must be management commitment and measurable expectations set. Senior management has to be committed to the program. They are the foundation for everything in food safety. They have to provide resources to develop and implement the plans across different departments as well as provide for training and encourage communication, advises Robert A. Savage, President and Founder of The HACCP Consulting Group.
Sharing some lessons learned from decades of HACCP implementation experience, Savage spoke at a recent webinar on FSQA: Creating HACCP Excellence, presented by SafetyChain Software. We present excerpts below.
A few years ago, there was a very serious Salmonella outbreak in peanut butter. It appears that company shopped around for negative salmonella results and then shipped the product. It’s a worst case scenario, but in this case, short term profitability at the expense of food safety resulted in the over 600 illnesses and a few deaths as well as the bankruptcy of the company, described Savage.
Role of GMPs in Creating and Minimizing CCPs
Without good GMPs, facilities tend to have more CCPs than necessary. There has to be a good balance between GMPs and CCPs. When companies understand the the relationship between HACCP, GMPs, and CCPs, typically the HACCP plan would not have more than 3 or 4 CCPs and everything else is covered by GMPs.
Best practices for HACCP management must be committed from the beginning and throughout the process. GMPs should be in place prior to even beginning to revamp the HACCP plan. Multidisciplinary HACCP teams, including QC, QA, Lab, Sanitation, Product Development and Sales, experts, should contribute to the process in developing the plan. Having a multidisciplinary team helps with achieving buy-in or company-wide commitment to the plan.
Companies have been pretty good with monitoring, but there’s still some confusion between verification and validation. Verification is a check of the checkers. When CCPs are identified and monitored, verification is making sure that the company says what it’s doing and is doing what it says. Validation asks if the company has the right CCPs and how can they prove it.
Best Practices for Audit Prep
USDA regulated plants have routine inspections to verify what the companies do on an everyday basis. Separate from these routine inspections, USDA also performs food safety assessments which can take days or weeks to complete. Companies under USDA jurisdiction should do their own food safety inspection to prepare for these FSIS audits. FDA regulated plants may go months or years between inspections. These facilities should have third party audits such as SQF or other audits.
GFSI schemes have taken hold in the US and around the world. The popular one in the U.S. is SQF. Companies that meet SQF standards should have no problem meeting new FDA FSMA regulations.