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Compliance

Preventive Controls for Animal Food: What Does this Mean to Pet Food and Feed Manufacturers?

By Debby L. Newslow, Erika Miller
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Compliance

The Final Rule on Preventive Controls for Animal Food (21 CFR 507) was released in September 2015. The first compliance dates for CGMPs arrived in September 2016. All facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold animal food for consumption in the United States are required to comply (see Figure 1 information on compliance dates.) Non-compliance is considered a prohibited act, but nonetheless this rule has not received the same amount of press as its human food counterpart. We must begin to spread awareness, because this rule has the potential to fundamentally change the pet food and animal feed industries over the next four years. Unlike human foods, animal food is typically intended to be fed as a sole source of nutrients. Thus, the regulation is fairly comprehensive and strict.

Business Size CGMP Compliance Date PC Compliance Date
Business other than small and very small One year Two years
Small business (fewer than 500 full-time employees) Two years Three years
Very small business (averages less than $2.5 million per year, during the three-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of animal food + market value of animal food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale Three years Four years except for records to support its status as a very small business
(January 1, 2017)
Figure 1. Compliance dates for CGMPs and PCs for Animal Food (from fda.gov).

During the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, Debby Newslow and Erika Miller will instruct: FSPCA Preventive Controls for Animal Food (21CFR507) Training | REGISTER FOR THE WORKSHOPSimilar to the Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation (21 CFR 117), there are two parts to the Animal Food rule: Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) and Preventive Controls. Figure 2 provides more detail on the Subparts of the Regulation. Also, animal food covered by specific CGMP regulations must still comply with those regulations (specifically low-acid canned food and medicated feed).

Those who have taken a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) course will notice the remarkable similarity to the structure of the Human Food Rule. This is by design, for our animals are often a part of the family for whom we want to provide the highest level of quality and safety possible. That said, there is some overlap between the two regulations. For instance, when human food byproducts are diverted to use in pet food or animal feed, the human food CGMP rules apply to that food intended for use as animal food.

Subpart Topic
A General Provisions
B Current Good Manufacturing Practice
C Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls
D Withdrawal of Qualified Facility Redemption
E Supply Chain Program
F Requirements Applying to Records that Must Be Established and Maintained
Figure 2. Subparts of 21 CFR 507, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.

What Does this Regulation Mean for the Pet Food Industry?

Large companies that produce commercially available pet foods available in grocery stores and big box retailers (such as Pedigree, Iams, Nutro, Purina, etc.) are typically already compliant to a voluntary GFSI-approved food safety scheme (FSSC 22000, SQF, etc.). These companies already have most necessary processes in place to be compliant. There may be adjustments related to terminology, documentation, records and hazard analysis expansions to include mention of Preventive Controls.  However, most of the work has been completed already and only clarifications, in most instances, should be required.

However, there are many small “mom-and-pop” type establishments making niche pet food with high-quality, organic ingredients that may not have much knowledge about this regulation. These types of manufacturers want to make the best, safest, highest quality product they possibly can, but without knowledge and education, they may not know the questions to ask to point them in the right direction. When an inspector arrives and asks to see the written hazard analysis, even a high-quality niche processor may end up with the deer-in-the-headlights stare if they do not understand the question. This regulation has the potential to significantly impact their business, but in a small business most folks wear many hats, and it is not always possible to just jet away for a few days to attend a specialized training class.

It was indicated during our Lead Trainer course that FDA is developing a clear proactive approach to their inspections related to this rule. Our Lead Trainer courses also emphasized that the inspectors’ focus will be on the reasonably foreseeable hazards and potential hazards to ensure that each is in control. Control can be achieved through a Preventive Control or some other process, such as a GMP based pre-requisite program.

In order to be as effective and efficient as possible, it is critical that an organization understands the requirements of this regulation. For example, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) does not apply to food for animals, nor are there allergen provisions included in 21 CFR 507. Certainly there are specialty manufacturers that make special recipes for those pets that may have an allergy or sensitivity (i.e., wheat, rice, etc.); however, this is completely different than the required approach to allergens for the production of human food. The pet food or feed manufacturer is not bound by these restrictions. However, an uninformed processor may take it upon itself to redesign a label to include an allergen declaration assuming that requirements for human food also apply to them. This could result in a great expense for graphic design, reprinting, disposal and wasting of previously printed labels, and of course the time spent on the project.

Measuring effectiveness is one oft-overlooked part of a mature and robust food safety program. Even experienced managers sometimes overlook this crucial step, so it is unlikely that most people would be able to come up with the concept on their own without assistance. If a facility has a rule in place that people must wear gloves, but do not have the experience to train on proper glove use and the reasons gloves are worn, confusion and improper glove use will result. This results in the company wasting money on providing the gloves in the first place. No matter how conscientious a program is, it still requires effective programs for identifying and maintaining records. These provide evidence of compliance with the regulation. There must also be documents in place that define the operational requirements and explain how to demonstrate effectiveness.

Industry representatives also must fully understand how to distinguish between Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), other prerequisite programs and preventive controls, and to determine where they fit into their operation and the regulatory framework. The logic used to determine whether a specified hazard is reasonably foreseeable is based on science, experience and education. There are different record-keeping requirements for different types of controls.

It is critical to the process to ensure that reliable resources are used to develop the foundation of the program. This is considered so important that the PCQI Preventive Control for Animal Food material references examples of credible resources in each chapter. Examples of these include trade associations, universities, industry-focused events, relevant informational emails and webinars. We have experienced first-hand that expanding a professional network using these types of resources increases the rate of attrition for knowledge when a sink-or-swim situation is presented.

Keep in mind that an operation must take an active role in defining, implementing and maintaining its food safety program. It is usually recommended that a consultant knowledgeable in your food sector be engaged to assist. However, the word of the day is “assist”.  If the consultant writes a turnkey program, then whose program is it? And better yet, where are they going to be when you are in an audit and can’t explain (justify) what is stated in the program?

How Not to Fail at Online Food Safety Training

By Maria Fontanazza
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Training plays a crucial role in the FSMA Preventive Controls rule. As online learning becomes a more integral part of employee learning, companies may want to reexamine the methods they use to boost more effective outcomes. And for companies that currently use face-to-face training, investing in a virtual approach could encourage a more proactive employee learning experience.

Kathryn Birmingham, ImEpik
“Industry research tells us that company leaders want training that is relevant, in which employees can apply skills right away.” – Kathryn Birmingham, ImEpik

“Under the [Preventive Controls for] Human Food rule we have legal roles that didn’t exist before—we must create smarter career pathways for these new positions and responsibilities, such as the Qualified Individual under the PCQI, the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual, and the auditor,” says Kathryn Birmingham, vice president, research and development at ImEpik. “The compliance required for these new positions is a great opportunity to use innovative and scalable training models. This becomes even more important for ROI (return on investment) in training, when turnover is likely or when companies want to attract new talent into the food safety industry.”

In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Birmingham explains how companies can navigate some of the additional training requirements under FSMA and how interactive online learning may offer both employees and companies more successful results.

Food Safety Tech: What employee training challenges do today’s food companies face?

Kathryn Birmingham: As an educator, business owner and researcher who has designed certification and degree programs for workforce training in several industries, I see [that] the food manufacturing industry must move from lifetime experience training to training standards. For the first time, the evidence of QI training and PCQI credential are owned by the person as they move from company to company.

Food companies need a cost-effective training system that can assess knowledge, skills and competency standards. Industry research tells us that company leaders want training that is relevant, in which employees can apply skills right away. They want to be able to test the knowledge of persons in these new roles who are accountable for regulatory compliance. Thus they expect valid assessments in their certification training.

The demand is for smarter pathways to reach these new legal roles in the legislation for the QI and PCQI. Assisting in this area, we need to remember that food manufacturing companies view their number one job as making food, not completing paperwork or digital documentation, so when it comes to FSMA we have to come up with relevant training that can be applied right away.

FST: In what areas do you think companies are unprepared for FSMA implementation and compliance?

Birmingham: Companies seem to be least confident in terms of training in a few areas: For the legal role of the PCQI, they seem to be least confident about the record keeping requirements and foreign supplier verification areas.

For the role of the QI, standardized training doesn’t exist, but we know from the PCQI training that if the QI is required to implement the food safety plan under the PCQI, then QIs must understand components of the food safety plan and the hazard analysis. So it follows that the QI must also understand some scientific and regulatory factors related to the preventive controls along with the new language that must be used in the food safety plan and documentation.

FST: What tools or technologies should companies leverage?

Birmingham: Research and successful practice in workforce training tells us a few things. In order to speed learning and verify the trainee’s learning, knowledge and competencies, we recommend instructional methods that are immediately relevant, engaging and motivating. Effective training for food safety regulatory compliance helps the learner with stronger critical thinking for decision-making and encourages the learner to apply the skills right away. Modular instruction allows time for practice and reflection while increasing the odds of retention of the material. Relevant work simulations can teach technical and scientific knowledge as well as communication skills.

We recommend online training that demonstrates proficiency and mastery rather than passive learning. The learner must engage and practice what they’re learning, show an understanding, practice critical thinking, and pass valid assessment exercises.

Food safety online training, ImEpik
ImEpik’s survey aimed to understand expectations as well as effectiveness of online training. Infographic excerpt courtesy of ImEpik.

FST: Do you think a lot of passive learning is happening in the food industry?

Birmingham: [Birmingham cites a food safety online training survey conducted by ImEpik earlier this year; see Table I.] Survey responses from a sample of 140 companies are telling us that they’re not satisfied with lack of engagement in training offerings. Those overseeing training would like to see more valid assessments. In terms of passive learning, they don’t want to click through voice-over narration for training or have face-to-face training that is lecture style without a lot of engagement. They want to understand the learning outcomes and what they should be getting out of the curriculum as they move through the training.

Preference for Specific Online Learning Attributes
I Dislike It I Can Tolerate I Expect It I Like It
Multi-languages  10%
Valid Assessments  —  91%
Research-based Instructional Methodologies  —  79%
Learner Engagement  —  —  77%
Interactive Activities  —  —  73%
Certificate of Completion  —  65%
Supplementary Manual  —  55%
Animation  —  —  35%
Learning Analytics  —  —  55%
Table I. Results from ImEpik survey about food safety online training. While animation and learning analytics are not as expected in  online learning, these attributes are an important part of simulating the work experience in order to apply new knowledge, test specific content areas for clarity and assist the learner in remediation as needed. Data courtesy of ImEpik.

In the 2015 survey, 73% said they expect interactive activity in training while 91% expect valid assessment. People are looking for feedback as they progress through training. In the end they want to have the ability to prove what they know and can do.

With the emphasis now on FSMA, for companies to develop their entire food safety team, we need to rethink training and remember that it is possible to look at other industries and see what they’ve done with these career pathways for new roles that have been legislated. We can compare online training that is accessible anywhere and agile enough to train for new concepts quickly. Science and GMPs change. This is where a tool like online learning—not only full-course certification courses but also micro-learning modules—can really help the industry. And in the long run, it could be a better return on investment than face-to-face and long-term experiential learning.

Rachel Montgomery

Keep Calm and Be Sure You Have a PCQI—Soon!

By Rachel Montgomery
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Rachel Montgomery

You will hear some new abbreviations being tossed around in questions by executives in food manufacturing and processing these days. “Do I need a PCQI? Who is my PCQI? What is a PCQI?”

Strangely, many of these executives do need a PCQI, and they need one very soon. A PCQI is the “Preventive Controls Qualified Individual” needed to oversee implementation of the HARPC rule under FSMA. Last September FDA published the final rule “Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food.” Unless a food manufacturer is specifically exempt, the date for compliance with implementation of the rule’s preventive controls portion is September 19, 2016. A facility’s PCQI is responsible for overseeing the implementation process. For companies that have yet to prepare for compliance, the good news is that several organizations, such as the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, offer training to meet the requirement for having a PCQI.

For large companies (those with more than 500 employees), time is of the essence to meet the September 19 compliance date; for companies with less than 500 full-time-equivalent employees, you have more time to prepare, with September 18, 2017 being the compliance date.

Whether your due date is this year or 2017, your food safety plan is the primary document that guides your preventive controls food safety system. It must be developed using a systematic and risk-based approach that uses scientific principles to identify the hazards that require preventive controls to prevent foodborne illness or injury. It is most effectively prepared not only by a single PCQI but also a cross-functional food safety team that includes individuals with executive support and leadership. In addition to including the hazard analysis in which you must analyze for hazards requiring a preventive control for your product(s), your food safety plan must have preventive controls for your process and for food allergens, sanitation, supply chain and any other appropriate areas where you identified that preventive controls were needed.

Further, your food safety plan must include a recall plan, procedures for monitoring, corrective action and verification when a hazard requiring a preventive control is identified, along with science-based validation for process preventive controls. Of course, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and other prerequisite programs must be in place to provide a solid foundation for your food safety plan. And there’s more news: FSMA includes significant changes in the GMPs. For example, all formerly non-binding provisions are now binding, including education and training. One of the new GMP requirements is cleaning of non-food contact surfaces “as frequently as necessary” to protect against allergen cross-contact and contamination of food contact surfaces and food packaging.

Back to the possibility that you may qualify for a specific exemption, if you heard that processors subject to the low-acid and acidified canned foods regulation are not subject to the preventive controls rule, the exemption is only for hazards that are microbiological. For physical and chemical hazards, including allergens, a hazard analysis must be conducted to determine whether hazards are an issue and whether preventive controls are needed. This analysis must be documented, even if you determine that no preventive controls are needed. And if preventive controls are needed, they must be developed and documented with verification and possibly validation as previously described. Of course the new GMPs also apply to low-acid and acidified canned food manufacturers.

If you heard that warehouses are in the clear due to a specific exemption, there is more to the story. Only facilities such as warehouses that store strictly unexposed packaged materials for which refrigeration is not required are exempt from preventive controls. Facilities that store raw agricultural commodities that are fruits and vegetables are not exempt from hazardous analysis and risk-based preventive controls. All of these facilities, and even those subject to seafood and juice HACCP and not required to do preventive controls, are not exempt from updated GMP requirements.

Take the obvious first or next step for your organization’s compliance with FSMA: Ensure you have a PCQI and start working on your hazard analysis and food safety plan now.