Tag Archives: GFSI

ASI Food Safety
FST Soapbox

Top Five Questions When Building a Comprehensive Food Safety Plan

By Matt Regusci
No Comments
ASI Food Safety

Over the last 20 years, I have helped thousands of companies prepare for food safety audits. You can only imagine the plethora of questions that my team and I are asked by the food companies as they build their food safety programs. Many revolve around the basics of building an initial food safety plan. Here are the top five food safety plan questions I am asked regularly that I will address within this article:

  • What are the foundations of a good food safety plan?
  • Who should be involved in the process of building the food safety plan?
  • Can I convert my HACCP Plan into a food safety plan?
  • Are there resources and tools available to help build my food safety plan?
  • Should I add food safety culture to my food safety plan?

What Are the Foundations of a Good Food Safety Plan?

FDA dictates that a food safety plan is a set of written documents that are based on food safety principles and incorporates:

  • Hazard analysis
  • Preventive controls
  • Supply-chain programs
  • Recall plan
  • Written procedures to be followed for:
    • Monitoring
    • Corrective actions
    • Verification and validation

A food safety plan is developed for every individual facility based on the unique issues at each facility. For example, if a company has multiple processing plants processing the exact same product in multiple areas throughout the country, each facility will need their own unique plan. The reason for that is each facility may have different risks based on process flow layout, equipment used, suppliers and even employee and management cultures.

Each facility will have a separate HACCP plan detailing each chemical, biological and physical risk for the layout of the operation and equipment used. Recall plans will need to be created for each facility’s unique customers. Supplier monitoring will need to be developed for each facility’s unique suppliers.

Who Should be Involved in the Process of Building the Food Safety Plan?

Creating the team to build your food safety plan is one of the most important steps in the process and probably the most overlooked. Most teams I have seen include the QA and/or food safety person, the operations manager and the maintenance manager. This is too limited and often leads to risks being missed and processes that are either too simple or over complicated. A food safety team should have a member from each of the following departments:

  • Food Safety/QA
  • Operations
  • Maintenance
  • Crew or shift lead
  • Executive management (preferably the CEO)
  • Sanitation
  • A line worker or two

Why the CEO, a shift supervisor and line worker(s)? The CEO creates the company culture and should be funneling information down from the top. If the CEO is part of the team, the whole organization will see the importance of the food safety plan.

Line workers and crew leads are on the floor working the processes day in and out. They will be key to implementation of the plan. As processes are created, the line workers and crew chiefs can provide amazing insight on the processes and reporting tools that will be most effective on the floor. Having this information before implementation will save hours of time and minimize the risk of having to alter processes that don’t work in reality.

Can I Convert my HACCP Plan into a Food Safety Plan?

Many companies have a basic HACCP plan for their facilities. Often the question is, “Isn’t my HACCP plan a food safety plan?” The answer is yes and no. Basically, you can have an HACCP plan and not have a food safety plan, but you cannot have a food safety plan without an HACCP plan.

A food safety plan is more encompassing than an HACCP Plan. Looking at your facility floor plan and analyzing chemical, biological and physical risks is a key part of a food safety plan. The food safety plan adds another layer of monitoring for all risks and provides added processes for preventative controls, recalls and supplier monitoring.

Also, companies that have only an HACCP plan often have not been keeping that plan up to date with an all encompassing team described above. Once the new, more robust teams are created and they start building the food safety plan, many find they need to significantly alter their HACCP plans.

Are There Resources and Tools Available To Help Build My Food Safety Plan?

Luckily, we live in a technical world full of inexpensive or free tools. There are many very smart people that have services available to assist in creating a food safety plan as well. Here is a list of some free and low cost solutions:

Free Solutions:

  • The FDA created a free solution, the “FDA Food Safety Plan Builder.” This solution walks you through the process of creating a food safety plan step-by-step.
  • If you need a food safety plan for a specific GFSI Standard, walking through the individual check lists provided by the standards you choose will lead you to the creation of a food safety plan, albeit a very robust one.
  • If you do not need full certification, building a food safety plan based on GFSI Global Markets is a great stepping stone and they have a free toolkit.

Paid Solutions:

  • There are many software tools that you can purchase. The pricing and features will vary based on the company. Google “Food Safety Plan Software” and you will see the many options available.
  • Working with a consultant is a great option if you don’t have the time to learn the process of creating, building and implementing a food safety plan. There are many great and not so great consultants in the industry. If you decide to go this route make sure you interview at least three consultants and ask the following questions:
    • “Are you going to coach us on how to own and maintain our food safety program or do you do everything on your own?” Many consultants think they “own” the programs they develop, as if they are proprietary systems. Some will charge you year after year to use their program. Avoid these consultants.
    • “How long have you been consulting?”
    • “May I talk with a couple of your past clients?” If they are unwilling to provide testimonials that may be a red flag.

Should I Add Food Safety Culture to My Food Safety Plan?

Recently, I wrote an article for FoodSafetyTech.com titled “The Costs Of Food Safety: Correction vs. Prevention,” and the opening sentence is “Every company that grows, produces, packs, processes, distributes and serves food has a food safety culture. In the food industry, when looking at food safety culture there are essentially two groups: The correction and the prevention groups.”

By starting the process of creating a food safety plan, you are already crossing the chasm into the “prevention group.” Adding elements of food safety employee training, recognition and food safety behavior management into your food safety plan and implementing those elements will alter your organization in some of the most positive ways.

Every food company has a food safety culture, some are toxic and others are refreshingly positive. If you have read this article to the end I assume you either have a positive food safety culture or would like to create one. Incorporating key teams members in your planning and taking advantage of the resources available will place you on the path to developing an effective food safety plan and a company culture that embraces food safety.

Fraud
Food Fraud Quick Bites

GFSI to Share Comments on New Codex Guidance on Food Fraud

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Fraud

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is participating with the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) to support the development of its new guidance on food fraud.
GFSI has been a longstanding partner of Codex and appears in the first draft guidelines of the Codex Guidance on Food Fraud as a key reference for its work on food fraud via its food fraud position.

GFSI notes that while there is some existing guidance that addresses fraudulent activities, there is a significant need for CCFICS, which deals with ‘horizontal’ issues, to develop definitions and update its guidance to better reflect current food fraud initiatives.

To support this work, Codex has created a dedicated working group, Chaired by the United States with co-chairs from China, the European Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United Kingdom. GFSI acts as an official observer to Codex, providing input and recommendations on this work through its GFSI Codex Working Group. The group, which currently consists of representatives from Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Danone, plays a key role in underpinning GFSI’s Benchmarking Requirements and reinforcing Codex’s mandate of valuing collaboration, inclusiveness, consensus building and transparency.

The group is also observing to help ensure this work does not reinvent the wheel, but identifies, collects and utilizes existing work from experts within the scientific and academic industries and regulatory community that have been working on this topic for the past decade.

In regard to the feedback provided on the Codex Guidance on Food Fraud, the GFSI Codex Working Group stressed:

  • The importance of including industry as a key partner in managing food fraud
  • The need for clarity around the roles of respective Codex committees in the prevention and detection of food fraud, specifically around analytical and testing guidance to prioritize the detection of food fraud (i.e. the role of CCMAS – Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling vs. the role of CCFICS in food fraud)
  • The importance of collaboration between all relevant stakeholders to manage food safety risks in the event of genuine food fraud incidents
  • The absolute need to include ‘feed for food producing animals’ in the scope of this work
  • The view that existing food safety processes and networks provide a good basis for managing communication of food fraud incidents and share good practices
  • To define numerous terms that are also being proposed, defined and considered with the development of agreed terms and conditions.

Codex is hoping to finish this work in 2024/2025. Between now and the last final draft, which is planned to be submitted for final approval to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, there will be multiple draft versions developed.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

GFSI Conference Unites More than 600 Food Safety Professionals

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

This year’s annual GFSI conference took place in person (in Barcelona), for the first time in two years. The event, which focused on the theme of sustainability, welcomed more than 600 food safety professionals and stakeholders.

“I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that after a life-changing pandemic, GFSI has managed to bring us together for a face-to-face, handshake-to-handshake, smile-behind-the-mask, non-Zoom event,” said The Consumer Goods Forum’s GFSI Director Erica Sheward during her opening speech.

During day one of the event, stakeholders discussed the responsibility of the food industry to help people who are affected by humanitarian crises, more effective food safety capability building to address supply chain challenges, and GFSI’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (no poverty, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, and responsible consumption and production). The conversation around food safety capability building also delved into challenges for emerging markets as well as small-to-medium sized organizations in developing economies that want to join the global market.

Day two addressed GFSI’s strategic priorities, including the organization’s Benchmarking Requirements for Professional Recognition Bodies. Experts also talked about data sharing between public and private sectors, and the importance of technology to enhance company operations—not replace humans and their expertise.

The final day of the GFSI conference featured discussions around how to reach sustainability goals and the involvement of food safety regulations and other legislative components, as well as the need for sustainability initiatives to be accessible and affordable in order to have a global impact.

GFSI compiled a full review of the event in its Executive Summary, which is available on the organization’s website.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

GFSI Conference Returns In-Person, in Barcelona

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Returning for its first in-person conference in two years, the GFSI Conference kicks off March 29 in Barcelona with key insights from the world’s largest multinational food organizations. GFSI leadership will discuss its current agenda within the scope of global food supply chain challenges, as well as the connection between food safety and sustainability. During the event, subject matter experts will participate in panel discussions that address recall readiness, audits, building capabilities, multi-stakeholder efforts in the public and private sectors, trust and transparency, innovation across the food safety ecosystem, sustainability and GFSI’s strategic priorities.

The full program, along with registration, speaker and partnership information, is available on GFSI’s website.

Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

2021 FSC Episode 4 Preview: Food Safety Supply Chain Management

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series

This week’s episode of the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series will discuss the challenges that the industry faces in managing the supply chain, including in the realm of audits. The following is the agenda for this Thursday’s session:

  • Food Safety as a Supply Chain Management Problem, with John Spink, Ph.D., Michigan State University
  • Supplier Certification in Today’s Supplier Quality Management Programs: A Discussion with Gary van Breda, McDonald’s; Jorge Hernandez, Wendy’s; and moderated by Kari Hensien, RizePoint; Sponsored by RizePoint
  • What Needs to Change in Food Safety Certification: A GFSI Panel Discussion moderated by Erica Sheward, GFSI
  • Auditing Update in the Age of COVID: FDA Standards and Regulations Alignment Pilot, with Trish Wester, AFSAP

This year’s event occurs as a Spring program and a Fall program. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! Registration includes access to both the Spring and the Fall events. We look forward to your joining us virtually.

Roberto Bellavia, Kestrel
FST Soapbox

How Integrated Compliance Management Systems Maximize Efficiency

By Roberto Bellavia
No Comments
Roberto Bellavia, Kestrel

Managing the complexities of a management system is challenging for any food and beverage company, particularly for the team tasked with implementing the system throughout the organization. That is because every regulatory agency (e.g., FDA, USDA, OSHA, EPA) and voluntary certification (e.g., GFSI-benchmarked standards, gluten-free, organic, ISO) calls for companies to fulfill compliance requirements—many of which overlap. Supply chain and internal requirements can create further complications and confusion.

In today’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” having a common system to organize, manage and track compliance offers an ideal solution. Dynamic tools are becoming available—systems that can manage employee training, pest control, laboratory testing, supply chain management tools, regulatory compliance and certification requirements, etc.

Unfortunately, these systems are often not set up to “talk” to each other, leaving company representatives to navigate many systems, databases, folders, and documents housed in many different locations.

The Solution: Compliance Management Systems

An integrated compliance management system (CMS) is intended to bring all these tools together to create one system that effectively manages compliance requirements, enables staff to carry out daily tasks and manage operations, and supports operational decision making by tracking and trending data that is collected daily by the team charged with implementation.

A CMS is used to coordinate, organize, control, analyze and visualize information to help organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A successful CMS thinks beyond just access to documents; it manages the processes, knowledge and work that is critical to helping identify and control business risks. That may include the following:

  • Ensuring only authorized employees can access the right information.
  • Consolidating documents and records in a centralized location to provide easy access
  • Setting up formal business practices, processes and procedures
  • Implementing compliance and certification programs
  • Monitoring and measuring performance
  • Supporting continuous improvements
  • Documenting decisions and how they are made
  • Capturing institutional knowledge and transferring that into a sustainable system
  • Using task management and tracking tools to understand how people are doing their work
  • Enabling data trending and predictive analytics

CMS Case Study: Boston Sword and Tuna

In early 2019, Boston Sword and Tuna (BST) began the process of achieving SQF food safety certification. We initially started working with BST on the development, training and implementation of the program requirements to the SQF code for certification—including developing guidance documents for a new site under construction.

The process of attaining SQF certification included the development of a register of SQF requirements in Microsoft SharePoint, which has since evolved into a more comprehensive approach to overall data and compliance management. “We didn’t plan to build a paperless food safety management system,” explains BST President Larry Dore, “until we implemented our SQF food safety management program and realized that we needed a better way to manage data.”

We worked with BST to structure the company’s SharePoint CMS according to existing BST food safety management processes to support its certification requirements and overall food safety management program. This has included developing a number of modules/tools to support ongoing compliance efforts and providing online/remote training in the management of the site and a paperless data collection module.

The BST CMS has been designed to support daily task activities with reminders and specific workflows that ensure proper records verifications are carried out as required. The system houses tools and forms, standards/regulatory registers, and calendars for tracking action items, including the following:

  • Ambient Temperature
  • Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA)
  • Chemical Inventory/Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • Compliance Management
  • Customer Complaints
  • Document Control
  • Employee Health Check
  • Food Safety Meetings Management Program
  • Forklift Inspections
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Audit
  • SQF Register
  • Maintenance (requests/work orders/assets/repairs)
  • Nightly Cleaning Inspections
  • Operational/Pre-Operational Inspections
  • Sanitation Pre-Op Inspections
  • Scale Calibration
  • Sharp/Knife Inspections
  • Shipping/Receiving Logs
  • Thawing Temperature Log
  • Thermometer Calibration

Key Considerations for Designing a Successful CMS

An effective CMS requires an understanding of technology, operational needs, regulatory compliance obligations and certification requirements, as well as the bigger picture of the company’s overall strategy. There are several key considerations that can help ensure companies end up with the right CMS and efficiency tools to provide an integrated system that supports the organization for the long term.

Before design can even begin, it is important to first determine where you are starting by conducting an inventory of existing systems. This includes not only identifying how you are currently managing your compliance and certification requirements, but also assessing how well those current systems (or parts of them) are working for the organization.

As with many projects, design should begin with the end in mind. What are the business drivers that are guiding your system? What are the outcomes you want to achieve through your system (e.g., create efficiencies, provide remote access, reduce duplication of effort, produce real-time reports, respond to regulatory requirements, foster teamwork and communication)? Assuming that managing compliance and certification requirements is a fundamental objective of the CMS, having a solid understanding of those requirements is key to building the system. These requirements should be documented so they can be built into the CMS for efficient tracking and management.

While you may not build everything from the start, defining the ultimate desired end state will allow for development to proceed so every module is aligned under the CMS. Understand that building a CMS is a process, and different organizations will be comfortable with different paces and budgets. Establish priorities (i.e., the most important items on your list), schedule and budget. Doing so will allow you to determine whether to tackle the full system at once or develop one module at a time. For many, it makes sense to start with existing processes that work well and transition those first. Priorities should be set based on ease of implementation, compliance risk, business improvement and value to the company.

Finally, the CMS will not work well without getting the right people involved—and that can include many different people at various points in the process (e.g., end user entering data in the plant, management reviewing reports and metrics, system administrator, office staff). The system should be designed to reflect the daily routines of those employees who will be using it. Modules should build off existing routines, tasks, and activities to create familiarity and encourage adoption. A truly user-friendly system will be something that meets the needs of all parties.

Driving Value and Compliance Efficiency

When thoughtfully designed, a CMS can provide significant value by creating compliance efficiencies that improve the company’s ability to create consistent and reliable compliance performance. “Our system is allowing us to actually use data analytics for decision making and continuous opportunity,” said Dore. “Plus, it is making remote activities much more practical and efficient”.

For BST, the CMS also:

  • Provides central management of inspection schedules, forms, and other requirements.
  • Increases productivity through reductions in prep time and redundant/manual data entry.
  • Improves data access/availability for reporting and planning purposes.
  • Effectively monitors operational activities to ensure compliance and certifications standards are met.
  • Allows data to be submitted directly and immediately into SharePoint so it can be reviewed, analyzed, etc. in real time.
  • Creates workflow and process automation, including automated notifications to allow for real-time improvements.
  • Allows follow-up actions to be assigned and sent to those who need them.

All these things work together to help the company reduce compliance risk, create efficiencies, provide operational flexibility, and generate business improvement and value.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Reimagining Food Safety Through Transparency and Open Dialogue

By Maria Fontanazza
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Last year’s annual GFSI Conference was held in Seattle just weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This year’s event looked very different, as it joined the virtual event circuit—with hundreds of attendees gathering from across the globe, but from the comfort of their homes and offices. The 2021 GFSI Conference reflected on lessons learned over the past year, the fundamentals of building a better food system, and the idea that food safety is a collaborative effort that also encompasses training programs, effectively leveraging data and capacity building.

The pandemic provided the opportunity to reimagine safer, more resilient and sustainable food systems, said Dr. Naoki Yamamoto, universal health coverage, assistant director-general, UHC, Healthier populations at WHO. She also offered three clear messages that came out of the pandemic:

  • Food safety is a public health priority and a basic human right. Safe food is not a luxury.
  • Food safety is a shared responsibility. Everyone in the food chain must understand this responsibility and work towards a common goal.
  • Good public private partnership can bring new opportunities and innovative solutions for food safety. We need to seek more collaborative approaches when working across sectors to achieve foods safety.

During the session “Ready for Anything: How Resiliency and Technology Will Build Consumer Trust and Help Us Mitigate Disruption in the 21st Century”, industry leaders discussed how the pandemic reminded us that a crisis can come in many forms, and how applying the right strategy and technology can help us remain resilient and equipped to address the challenges, said Erica Sheward, GFSI director.

“When you think about business resiliency—it’s about our own, but most importantly, it’s about helping our customers become more resilient to those disruptions,” said Christophe Beck, president and CEO of Ecolab. He added that being able to predict disruptions, help customers respond to those disruptions, and provide real-time control to learn and prepare for the next pandemic or serious crisis is critical. Companies need to ensure their technology systems and contingency plans are ready to go, advised David Maclennan, chairman and CEO of Cargill. The key to a resilient food supply chain system is access and the ability to keep food moving across borders. And above all, whether dealing with a health crisis or a food safety crisis, consumers must always be front and center, said Natasa Matyasova, head of quality management at Nestle. “In short term, [it’s] first people, then business contingency, and then help the community as needed,” she said.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Trust, Transparency and Collaboration Are Highlights of 2021 GFSI Conference

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

The second and third days of this year’s virtual 2021 GFSI Conference (see GFSI Day 1 Wrap) took the opportunity to recognize the impact of COVID-19 on the industry but more importantly, addressed the future of providing safe food to a global population. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an exceptional challenge to public health and food systems and everyone in the world, but it has also been an opportunity to reimagine safer, more resilient and sustainable food systems,” said Naoko Yamamoto, M.D., a physician and epidemiologist at the World Health Organization. “We need to seek more collaborative approaches to be inclusive and innovative when working across sectors to achieve food safety.”

Speakers discussed the importance trust and transparency related to food safety and sustainability. With the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals deadline set at 2030, GFSI developed a new code of ethical conduct in its new Governance rules. “We need strong engagement from the private sector for our agrifood systems to become more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

In addition to networking breaks during the event, concurrent special sessions targeted auditing, chemical hazards, pest management and technology solutions. Day three also featured Ask GFSI sessions, which were conducted in Zoom, and allowed speakers to field questions from the live attendees.

Read GFSI’s full update of Day Two of the conference.

Read GFSI’s full update of Day Three of the conference.

 

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Day 1 of 2021 GFSI Conference Reflects on Leadership and Resilience

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

The 20th annual GFSI Conference convened yesterday, but instead of bringing together an international group of food industry stakeholders in one central location, the event was held online, streamed throughout offices and homes across the globe.

Day one kicked off with a welcome from Wai-Chan Chan, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, who addressed the humanitarian and consumer perspective of food safety. “We need a strong engagement of the private sector for our agrifood systems to become more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” Chan stated. The conversation about the global importance of sustainability continued with a conversation led by Erica Sheward, GFSI Director, and Howard Popoola, vice president, corporate food technology and regulatory compliance for The Kroger Company and Roy Kirby, global director, microbiology, food safety and toxicology for Mondelez International. They talked about GFSI’s program, Race to the Top, and the /global Markets Programme capability tool, which was established more than 10 years ago to help companies implement continuous improvement to develop an effective food safety management system, and its potential in developing markets. “Think about what this could do for farmers, think about what it could do for families in Africa, in those places described as countries of opportunity, producing niche products, who just need an opportunity to be able to sell their products into the world stage,” said Popoola, who is also a GFSI steering committee member.

During the course of the day, stakeholders also discussed pandemic-specific issues including supply chain disruptions, and the role of crisis communications and messaging to consumers related to the safety of the food supply.

More exclusive updates will be available from Food Safety Tech. Read GFSI’s full update on Day One of the conference.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Reset, Rethink, Recharge: First Virtual GFSI Conference to Address Urgent Topics in Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

This year’s GFSI Conference will take place March 23–25 and bring together experts, decision makers and innovators in the food industry. With the theme of “rethink, reset, recharge”, the three-day virtual program includes online networking features to allow attendees to connect with professionals across the globe, and sessions that explore COVID-19; supply chain disruption and public health; building consumer trust and transparency; sharing best practices; and technologies shaping the future of food safety.

“Collaboration to ensure safe food for consumers everywhere and sustainable food systems has never been more critical – and this event provides a major opportunity to learn from an unprecedented period and move forwards in the best possible way. We’re excited by the chance to help colleagues across the industry build on the ingenuity, resilience and dedication shown by the food industry over the past 12 months,” said Erica Sheward, director of GFSI, in a press release. “With the conference taking place virtually for the first time, it’s easier than ever before for food industry professionals to get involved—and we’re urging people from all corners of the globe to ensure they’re part of this unique and collaborative forum. Food safety is everyone’s business, and we must continue to work together to build consumers’ trust in the food they buy.”

More information about the GFSI conference, along with registration, agenda and partner details, can be found on the event website.

GFSI is a partner organization for the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series.