Tag Archives: GMP

FSMA

Are You Ready for the Produce Rule? You Just Might Be

By Marsha Madrigal
No Comments
FSMA

At last the new Produce Rule is out, issued on November 13, 2015.  For the first time in FDA history, the rule establishes a science-based minimum standard for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.  The rule can be found in Part 112 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It applies to both domestic and imported produce.

The new rule provides assurance that produce on the market is not adulterated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  It will accomplish this by establishing procedures, processes and practices that are known to minimize the risks of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans, and to prevent the introduction of known biological hazards into and or on produce.

The definition for a farm, covered under the rule, includes two kinds of farming operations, primary production farm and secondary activities farm. The primary production farm operates under one management, and the secondary activities farm is an operation. Where as the primary production farm owns, or jointly owns, a majority of interest in the secondary activities farm.

Food Safety Consortium
During the FDA Town Hall, an audience member asks about the Produce Rule and the work being done with Mexico. Watch the video

For the most part, the new mandated FDA Produce Rules, mirror what farmers, packers and others in the farm business have been doing all along.  For years now, produce buyers have required some kind of written guarantee from their suppliers such as a third-party audit certificate showing that the supplying farm or packing shed is complying with the farm food safety standards. Most farms and packing sheds have already undergone, if not one, but perhaps two or more third-party audits such as a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) or, one of the Harmonized GAP audits, or a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) audit, or one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) audits such as GlobalGAP, Safe Quality Foods (SQF) or BRC Global Standards (BRC).

This means that those covered under the Produce Rule for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption and have received a third-party audit should have no trouble achieving compliance with the new Produce Rule.

The above-mentioned third-party standards cover most aspects of the key requirements of the Produce Rule regarding agricultural water, biological soil amendments, domesticated and wild animals, worker training, health and hygiene, and equipment, tools, and buildings.

However, some key requirements of the new rule not noted in existing third-party standards include:

  • Water testing of untreated water, sample collection and survey creation for agricultural water.
  • Microbial standard limits for detectable amounts of microorganisms to include Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella species, and E. coli 0157:H7 for the treatment process of soil amendments, including manure.
  • The final Produce Rule includes requirements to help prevent the contamination of sprouts. For example, requires testing of spent sprout irrigation water for pathogens and requires environmental monitoring for Listeria. Documentation or letters from seed and/or bean supplier for the prior treatment of seed and beans are acceptable.
  • The requirements of Domesticated and Wild Animals relies more on monitoring and assessing conditions during growing season. If you find evidence of potential contamination like animal excreta, you must take action and evaluate whether produce can be harvested or if there is a likelihood of contamination. The produce must not be harvested.

This rule does not apply to:

  • Farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three year period of $25,000/yea
  • Produce for personal or on-the farm consumption
  • If the produce is on the list of “rarely consumed raw commodities” such as sweet potatoes and
  • A food grain such as wheat or oats

The rule provides also for exemptions:

  • Produce that will receive commercial processing (kill-step) to reduce microorganisms of public health concerns.
  • Provides a qualified exemption and modification requirement for farms that meet certain requirements based on monetary value and direct sales to qualified end users such as consumers or restaurants. The farm must also meet associated modified requirements like establishing and maintaining certain documentation.

Under certain conditions the FDA may withdraw a farm’s qualified exemption.

The rule focuses on sources of produce contamination found in the past: Agricultural water, biological soil amendments, domesticated and wild animals, worker training, health and hygiene, and equipment, tools and buildings.

This rule and others under FSMA such as Preventive Controls for Human Food, Preventive Controls for Animal Food, and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program are a long overdue yet great achievement for FDA. The agency now shifts its gear into focusing on preventing food safety problems instead of reacting to food safety outbreaks.

FDA estimates that about 348,000 illnesses per year will be prevented by the implementation of this rule.

The compliance dates for the new rule are staggered and based on business size.

Resources

  1. Produce Rule: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption
  2. FSMA Webinar Series: Final Rules for Produce Safety, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), and Third Party Auditors
Timothy Ahn, LRQA
FST Soapbox

The Real Cost of Not Having an Effective Food Safety Management System

By Timothy Ahn
2 Comments
Timothy Ahn, LRQA

If you watch the evening news or read the local newspaper, the chances are pretty good that you will read or see something about a food safety concern or incident.

Consumers and Foodborne Illness
An estimated 1 in 6 Americans fall victim to a foodborne illness annually.

While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually—the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year, according to Foodsafety.gov. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Five types of organisms—Salmonella, Toxoplasma, Listeria, norovirus, and Campylobacter—account for 88% of the deaths for which the cause is known.

We watched from the sidelines when major retailers faced public scrutiny over their practices on safeguarding consumer credit card information when their websites were hacked. Today, consumer and regulatory interest in food safety are the new focus areas for the news media, especially in light of the Blue Bell Creameries Listeria and the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella outbreaks. Unlike consumer credit information, serious missteps in our industry can kill people, and in the case of PCA, can put you permanently out of business.

In 2008, peanut butter paste manufactured by PCA killed nine people and sickened 714 others, some critically, across 46 states and was one of the largest food recalls in American history, according to the CDC. Although still under appeal, PCA CEO Stewart Parnell was convicted and sentenced to a 28-year prison term for his role in knowingly shipping out salmonella-contaminated peanut butter. Parnell received one of the toughest punishments in U.S. history in a foodborne illness case.

In the Blue Bell case, a total of 10 people with Listeriosis related to this outbreak were reported from four states, with three deaths reported from Kansas, according to the CDC. Blue Bell pulled their products from store shelves on April 20, 2015. On May 7, the FDA released findings from inspections at the Blue Bell production facilities in Brenham, Texas, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and Sylacauga, Alabama. The FDA reports highlighted serious problems across multiple sites.

Both cases shine a spotlight on what can happen if you don’t have an effective food safety management system (FSMS). So what makes up a good FSMS, and is it enough to keep you out of trouble? An effective FSMS is built on three elements: Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and a management system. Food safety issues are avoidable, and good processes and a strong culture within an organization make them more unlikely to occur.

Does your leadership  recognize the importance of your FSMS?
Does your leadership recognize the importance of your FSMS? An effective FSMS should be established before a product incident or recall occurs.

Implementing a FSMS does not happen in a few months; it may take up to two years to establish one. No doubt, foundational activities need to be in place for factory operations. In addition to focusing on foundational elements such as making sure equipment is cleaned properly and procedures for allergens are implemented, the leadership team needs to make it clear that it is never acceptable under any circumstances to take shortcuts that could jeopardize food safety. This policy needs to be indoctrinated throughout the organization and thus does not happen overnight.

Underlying an effective FSMS are strong HACCP and GMPs, but food safety should always be the top priority for management and its employees, not share price, earnings or profit margin. Although financial performance is important, food safety must take precedence in the organization, and leadership at all levels needs to send that message loud and clear to all employees. In today’s environment, HACCP is pretty much mandatory from a regulatory standpoint and is an essential part of a FSMS. But the missing piece in many organizations is the support from the top—this is where culture becomes embedded in the organization.

The FSMS culture is the collective behavior from the organization around shared values and beliefs. The organization will follow the actions of leaders, not necessarily what they say—we all know actions speak louder than words. A good food safety culture is one where best practices are openly discussed, defined and rewarded. Food safety culture has become a buzz word and there needs to be a focus on making it come to life through a structured FSMS.

At this year’s Food Safety Consortium conference, Tim Ahn will discuss advancing food safety training and harmonization (November 19). LEARN MOREFood safety training is important not only for first line supervisors and operators, but also for senior managers and leadership, because they define the objectives and policies of the FSMS. What does it mean to conduct an effective management review? What does it mean to do an internal audit? What’s a good corrective action process? Training often misses the mark, because organizations fail to embed it correctly.

For FSMS to thrive, management must commit to the FSMS being a required way of doing things throughout the entire organization. A FSMS is most effective when it benchmarked against a proven standard and verified by an independent third party. Certification against a proven standard will reduce risk within your business.

Select your independent third-party verifier carefully. Do they have the resources and time, and do they know what they are doing? Do they add value to your organization? This is important since once you get certified, your journey starts and it doesn’t end. The value comes in two areas: Identifying risks and developing the appropriate control measures, and ensuring that the process drive continuous improvement in your organization. FSMS is focused on how continuous improvement applies to the management of risk and business operations.

The most effective way to establish an FSMS is to have leadership that recognizes its importance. The worst way is to have a recall or an incident, which draws attention to the fact that there is a problem and something needs to happen. In the case of Blue Bell, they probably understood the importance of food safety and thought they were taking the right actions. However, their management system led them to problems. FSMS must be independently verified against world-class standards to ensure effective performance.

Auditing and FSMS
A thorough auditor won’t look the other way and will find the problems. Call it as you see it–don’t be too soft when getting an assessment.

Companies can develop blind spots where they cannot see their own bad practices, and they become institutionalized over time. Fortunately, experienced independent third-party assessors can shine a spotlight on those bad practices. That is the true value in bringing in outsiders to look at your operations and culture to uncover those blind spots.

At PCA, their poor culture and actions to the problem sealed their fate. In some ways, this criminal case presented a wake-up call to boardrooms across America and highlights how badly leadership mismanaged matters. This case came to light in the context of the public complaining to the regulators that they were not doing enough following several highly visible food poisoning cases. A FSMS would have prevented these problems because the structure would not allow such bad decisions to be made and would have been verified by an independent third party that would test and check everything. A reputable third-party verifier would not miss poor GMP/ HACCP processes.

A good assessor can help a company understand what is really important and what is not so important when it comes to findings (i.e., context). We don’t waste a client’s time with insignificant issues and that is where the experience and judgment of the auditor becomes critical. Last year I met with a client and said, “you need to be checking for Salmonella in your environment—how do you know it is not there?” I pushed them into checking because I understood the changing regulatory environment. I came back a year later, and they had confirmed that regulators were interested in their Salmonella monitoring program during a recent inspection. As an auditor, you have to be confident enough to provide advice and context to the client in a way that is understood and accepted, and that helps to build trust.

With FSMA, the government can now take specific actions against companies. If I am plant manager or CEO, how do I know for sure that I am in compliance with the requirements? How do I know that I don’t have any of these potential issues? The only way to know for sure is to have the FSMS assessed. Just like a bank or publicly traded company hires financial auditors to assure everything is done correctly, companies need to audit their FSMS to ensure compliance. Get a process audit and ensure they drill down deep into the organization—that is where we find issues and gaps. A thorough auditor will find your problems instead of looking the other way. It is important to call it the way you see it and not be too “soft” when getting an assessment.

If I am the CEO, I want to know where those problems exist. Independent third party assurance is the best way to find out how compliant you are with regulations. No CEO wants to deal with the inevitable lawsuits and lost business impacts. At least with an effective FSMS, you can show a level of due diligence when the regulators show up at your doorstep and the culture is such that you want to address any problems.

We have entered an important time for the food industry with FSMA implementation and other food safety regulatory requirements in the United States. These new rules place an emphasis on management accountability, risk assessment and control of supply chains. The bar for due diligence has been raised and it up to all us to show that we have done everything possible, and the best way is with an effective FSMS.

Jim Lassiter, president and COO of Ingredient Identity

Will FSMA Push Ingredients into a New Era of Scrutiny?

By Maria Fontanazza
No Comments
Jim Lassiter, president and COO of Ingredient Identity

In June FDA officially deemed the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as unsafe, or technically, not generally recognized as safe (GRAS). The use of PHOs has been debated for more than a decade, and as a result of FDA’s latest ruling on PHOs, food processors must remove these ingredients from their products within three years.

From preservatives to artificial sweeteners to natural flavors, the list of ingredients that go into processed foods can be quite extensive. Consumers are becoming more vigilant about what they put into their bodies, and FSMA will give FDA the authority to act immediately in instances related to safety. Does this mean that some ingredients could be in danger? The answer is yes, according to Jim Lassiter, president and COO of Ingredient Identity.  “[Ingredients] are products that you literally take inside your body, and there is nothing more personal than that,” says Lassiter. Combine this simple yet fundamental fact with consumer awareness and the entrance of FSMA, and food and beverage manufacturers may be entering a new era of scrutiny.

Food Safety Tech: From an ingredients perspective, what challenges are the industry facing?

Jim Lassiter: Implementation of FSMA. Although it’s being implemented at a slower pace than Congress desired, and I believe slower than [FDA’s] original intent, that pace is accelerating. And while the increase in challenges related to the composition and manufacturing of products will be significant, FSMA will be an overall benefit to consumer confidence.

Consumer confidence. Whether the issue is bioengineered foods or disclosure of bioengineered foods through the business of trans fats, or just the general composition and healthful nature of foods. Slowly but surely, increasing consumer awareness of food choices and diet will have a significant impact. Regardless of the type of product, this is going to be universal and will increasingly play a role in decisions that food companies make during product development.

The unknowns. We don’t know what is coming around the corner, whether it’s positive or negative. A lot of effort is being extended within the food sector to discover the next big thing—whether it’s probiotics or prebiotics; addressing product reformulation in light of the elimination of trans fat [requirement]; or something that strikes out of the blue. That is always the most challenging aspect of the ingredients industry. Foods themselves, regardless of what country you are in, are cultural in nature; they are the most personal consumer good that you can obtain. As a result, our awareness as an industry of what we do to products must bear both of those pieces in mind. We have to recognize the cultural nature of food and simultaneously recognize the personal nature of products. As a result, we won’t necessarily have insights into the great unknown or the next big thing, but at least we will have the perspective necessary to deal with any unknowns as we move forward.

FST: In the coming year, what overall effect will FSMA have on food and beverage manufacturers related to ingredients themselves?

Lassiter: From an ingredients perspective, what’s going to happen is simple and straightforward. FSMA grants FDA the broad authority to assist and act in instances where there are issues with safety. That is, however, still nebulously defined and interpreted. So, there’s potential for FDA to suddenly make a determination that an ingredient is not safe or [that it] poses some degree of safety risk. FSMA authorizes FDA to take immediate action rather than [submit] a new process notification, etc. They will also have the authority to take immediate action in the case of violations of good manufacturing practices if the perception can be tied to any aspect of safety. FSMA stands for safety; that is the hinge point on which all of this occurs.

For example, with the revised good manufacturing practice for the manufacturing of food products coming out and the full implementation of HACCP across all food categories, it’s conceivable that FDA will take immediate action on inspection deficiencies in the food manufacturing realm. I think that’s one of the big issues. I don’t want to make it sound like the boogey man is out there, but it is a very real possibility. Ingredients themselves can suddenly be identified as unsafe. I don’t see that necessarily being a very radical reaction. The potential impact is more likely to be broad, but I suspect that at some point in time, there will be an ingredient that pops up out of a FSMA ruling that will suddenly be declared to be unsafe and [consequently] removed from market.

Second, I think the implementation of HACCP across all food categories will have notable impact, initially through common regulatory action (i.e., via inspection deficiencies reports, which are very common in terms of dietary supplement manufacturer inspections). I think you’ll see those becoming increasingly common in food manufacturing operations, because of the implementation of HACCP more broadly. The first round will be more likely for increased regulatory activity in food manufacturing inspections. If that message is not received and implemented rapidly, then the extension of FSMA is that [FDA] can shut down the plant without any due process whatsoever. That looms as part of the implementation. In terms of ingredients, you’re likely to see [some] that folks may not have previously thought about [as unsafe] identified as potentially hazardous. I’m not sure in what area it will occur, but I’m fairly confident that it will happen at some point in time.  

Part II of Food Safety Tech’s conversation with Jim Lassiter takes a closer look at GRAS self declarations and the areas of confusion among companies.

Sangita Viswanathan, Former Editor-in-Chief, FoodSafetyTech

Pet Food Safety: Regulations and Challenges

By Sangita Viswanathan
No Comments
Sangita Viswanathan, Former Editor-in-Chief, FoodSafetyTech

Alan Baumfalk is Pet Food Safety Specialist and food safety Auditor at Eurofins US Foods Division. After more than three decades of experience in human food production facilities, Baumfalk began inspecting and auditing pet food companies with a fresh pair of eyes and in his opinion, “pet food plants typically are very well maintained, embrace technology, are highly automated, have great productivity and are very efficient with their sanitation and production.”

In an interview with Food Safety Tech, Baumfalk talks about differences in production of human food and pet food; lessons learned from historical incidents such as melamine in pet food and contaminated chicken jerky; what are some gaps in pet food safety he’s noticing and impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA on this sector.

Food Safety Tech (FST): What are the differences between the production of human food and pet food?
Baumfalk: In most cases, pet food facilities are dry facilities, making kibbles and similar products, and their cleaning sanitation processes are mostly sweeping and dusting, with very little water involved. When it comes to regulations covering pet food facilities, most of these fall under FDA jurisdiction, and pet food facilities need to have in place risk-based HACCP plans to ensure food safety. Some of the challenges involved in pet foods are how do you do sensory testing on dry pet food or test for taste or consistency? Pet food testers look at certain quality attributes such as color, look, smell and taste of the product. They look for data such as amount of protein in the food etc. They also need to consider if humans – especially the elderly, or children – would consume the pet food product, because this can have many food safety implications.

FST: Humans have allergic reactions to certain food ingredients. Do pets have similar concerns of allergens?
Baumfalk: We don’t know if pets suffer allergic reactions to any specific food ingredients similar to humans. Pet food manufacturers are not subject to allergens and are exempt under FDA’s allergen management regulations. However, there are strict GMPs maintained in pet food production facilities, so that known allergens are identified. Pet food manufacturers give attention to allergens though they are exempt because it’s possible that the allergens could get transferred to a human in the house who could be allergic to nuts or soy, and this could be a huge problem. In our experience, we have seen that pet food can be occasionally consumed by a child or an elderly pet owner, out of curiosity.

FST: How about pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli, are pets susceptible to these?
Baumfalk: Pets are not typically affected by pathogens such as Salmonella or E.coli, and this goes back to their genetic background, which is, dogs coming from wolves, and cats from tigers and lions. These animals are used to eating things with pathogens, fecal matter etc. However, humans are at risk of infection by Salmonella and E.coli, so while the end consumer of pet foods are not affected by these pathogens, their handlers are. Hence, pet foods are tested for Salmonella and E.coli to make sure they are pathogen free. They have Critical Control Points (CCPs) and kill-steps just like human foods, and pet foods are diligently sampled before they are released in the market. Environmental monitoring is also strictly carried out – such as extensive swabbing of processing floor, walls etc. to test for Salmonella/ E.coli/ mycotoxins etc. If a raw material exceeds FDA guidance for mycotoxins, then they are rejected. Many manufacturers test for mycotoxin levels in finished product as well.

FST: Are there differences in auditing pet food companies versus human food manufacturers?
Baumfalk: All pet food companies are looking to get certified and audited under a GFSI-recognized scheme. SQF is probably the biggest standard though some choose BRC. Eurofins has close ties with the American Feed industry Association (AFIA) which recommends SQF, and so we follow the same standard when auditing pet food facilities. SQF has modules specific to pet food category and dry pet food products. There are a lot of similarities with requirements for human food – for instance, pest control within a pet food plant is the same as within a human plant. The commitment and requirement for compliance is the same.

FST: What are some gaps or challenges in pet food safety?
Baumfalk: Most of the folks working in the pet food industry have a background in human food and are very much aware of the technical and regulatory requirements for making human food, so they end up carrying it over to pet food production. They typically follow GMPs and HACCP, and safety plans to ensure there are no food safety gaps. While most pet food companies meet, or even exceed, compliance requirements, there are always some people in the industry that don’t get the message.

FST: When we think about pet food safety, the history of melamine contamination of pet food, and tainted chicken jerky from China come to mind. What are lessons learned and how can the pet food industry be prepared for the unknown?
Baumfalk: The melamine adulteration and chicken jerky contamination incidents have taught the industry to be on guard. The industry has to make sure that they are in close alignment with their industry association which speaks for them, read technical documents, hire and train knowledgeable staff – all of which helps constantly look for the next thing that we weren’t aware of. Apart from diligently monitoring the global supply chain, it would help to have strict audit specifications for global suppliers. If something is coming from the other part of the world, where there’s a history of food safety standards not always being up to par, the pet food industry needs to make sure to buy only from a known and approved entity. Also look for lessons that can be learned from the human foods industry. Read about recalls and withdrawals and find out why that happened, if the pet food industry has similar exposure, and how this can be addressed.

FST: What will be the impact of the proposed pet food safety rule under FSMA be on this industry?
Baumfalk: FSMA is going to tighten things up, paying a lot of attention to the global supply chain and any vulnerabilities. While regulations are still being finalized, the pet food industry is already aligning itself with these proposed regulations. The technical and regulatory folks in the industry are following it; they are reading food safety journals and interacting with their associations for guidance and for making comments on the regulations. We are also updating our auditing checklists to see how we can align better with new FSMA requirements.

For more information on Eurofins, it’s pet food and auditing capabilities, click here.

5 Tips for Conducting a Successful Internal Audit

By Michael Biros
No Comments

A strong internal audit program will help drive continuous improvement, promote a food safety culture within the organization, and help improve the external audit score.

Beyond achieving compliance with the SQF program requirements, internal audits help drive continuous improvement and can facilitate a food safety culture throughout all levels of an organization. Gary Smith, Senior Technical Director at SAI Global, discusses 5 key factors to successfully conducting an internal audit.

What is the SQF Standard: Item 2.5.7 Internal Audit?

This requirement includes methods and responsibilities for scheduling and conducting internal audits to verify the effectiveness of the SQF system including facility and equipment inspections, PRPs, food safety plans, food quality plans, and regulation controls. Companies must have an internal audit schedule with scope and frequency and records of internal audits, corrections, and corrective actions. The internal audit must be conducted by staff trained in internal audit procedures and the audit results must be communicated to relevant management.

In the SQF program, a major nonconformance indicates a systematic failure where an element is failing or not existing. Some common major nonconformances include not having a schedule of internal audits, having verification and validation activities defined but not having an internal audit program, not having a facilitator for an internal audit program assigned, and having the internal audit only cover GMPs, but not the SQF system. Some of the minor nonconformances include not having an internal auditor training for the lead auditor, not defining how results are to be communicated to leadership, not taking corrective actions for internal audits, or not having records of corrective actions.

5 Keys to Success

  1. Reach out to leadership. Work with your leadership to define objectives of the internal audit program with management to facilitate management commitment. Build the internal audit program with management objectives. Remember, it’s not the QA’s program certification, it’s the entire company’s.
  2. Formalize the audit process. Set an audit schedule and keep to it. Assign an audit team with responsibilities. Use an audit checklist. Develop an audit plan. Conduct interviews during the audit. Conduct opening and closing meetings with staff.
  3. Communicate well. Regularly provide updates to leadership at routine meetings. Provide the audit plan and checklist to auditees one week prior to the audit. Take photos of good practices and nonconformances. Provide the audit results in a timely manner.
  4. Manage internal audits as its own program. Have standard operating procedures describing the responsibilities and procedures. Have the facilitator be trained as a lead auditor and appropriate training for all team members. Include as many people as possible in the audit team from all departments within the company.
  5. Use corrective action management program for all internal audit findings. Keep an internal log of all your internal nonconformances. Use root cause analysis to understand why nonconformances occur and include internal audit findings, regulatory audit findings, nonconforming products, and customer complaints in the corrective action management plan.

A strong internal audit program will help drive continuous improvement. It will help promote ownership of the entire SQF system and promote a food safety culture within the organization. Lastly, a strong internal audit program can improve the external audit score.

For more information, see this archived webinar: SQF 5 Tips for Conducting a Successful Internal Audit 

Bob Savage, President and Founder of the HACCP Consulting Group

FSQA: Creating HACCP Excellence

By Michael Biros
No Comments
Bob Savage, President and Founder of the HACCP Consulting Group

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.