Tag Archives: qualified individual

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FSMA: What Does ‘Qualified’ Mean?

By Maria Fontanazza
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The term “qualified” appears a few different ways in the FSMA rules. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Cathy Crawford, president of HACCP Consulting Group, was invited by DNV-GL to clear up some of the ways the term is used in the FSMA rules.

Food Safety Tech: Can you break down the difference what “qualified” means as it relates to a qualified individual, qualified auditor and qualified facility?

Cathy Crawford, HACCP Consulting Group
Cathy Crawford, president of HACCP Consulting Group

Cathy Crawford: Explaining the term happens all at once. I think it’s not clear in the preventive controls or sanitary transportation [FSMA] rules; they use the word in two different ways. “Qualified” sometimes means that you’re officially recognized as trained or suitable for something, but “qualified” can also mean modifications or limitations or exceptions. That’s why it is confusing, because it can seem like it has opposite meanings.

“Qualified” [means] trained or ready to do a certain job—that’s the most common meaning. The preventive controls rule talks about a qualified individual, as a person who has the training, education or combination of those needed to manufacture, process or hold food. That’s appropriate to their duties—meaning not everyone has to be qualified to do everything, but individuals have to be qualified when it comes to doing their job when it pertains to food safety.

The regulation goes on to say that it might be education and experience, but there is also some mandatory training. I think a lot of companies aren’t paying attention to this—that all qualified individuals have to be trained in food safety, hygiene and the specific duties of their job, and because that’s a regulatory requirement, they have to have documentation to support that they did this. The regulation also says that supervisors should have the education or experience necessary to supervise, so their training should demonstrate that it’s a little more in depth than what other qualified individuals would get.

Then there’s the PCQI, the preventive controls qualified individual. That’s someone with the education, experience or training to be able to perform specific functions that are called out in the preventive controls rule—meaning they can create a food safety plan, they can conduct or oversee verification, validation and corrective action, or they can reanalyze the food safety plan. The regulation specifically says the PCQI has to do those things. So that’s a different sort of qualified individual; it’s another step basically.

The other term is the qualified auditor. That definition starts with a qualified individual (QI) and elevates from QI to supervisor to PCQI and then to a qualified auditor. A qualified auditor is a QI who has the technical experience needed to conduct audits. That’s about as far as it goes in the regulation, except that they give examples such as that it could be a government employee or an agent of a certification body, but you have to take it in context. The regulation doesn’t say those are the only examples, so I think there’s some flexibility in those examples, and we have yet to see how FDA is going to implement the rule going forward.

When we talk about these qualified individuals, we mostly think about the preventive controls rule, but it also pops up in the sanitary transportation rule. In that rule, the term isn’t defined at all, so I suspect they would share the definition that’s in the preventive controls rule for a qualified individual. But under the sanitary transportation [rule], only the qualified individual can make decisions about what to do when there is an unusual circumstance in transportation such as an accident or a refrigeration unit that breaks down.

FST: Can a “qualified” person be company staff or is there an inclusion that someone can be brought in to take care of these duties, for example, on an outsourcing basis?

Crawford: That’s certainly an option. I haven’t experienced any companies that have chosen that option. I suspect maybe smaller companies or those that are members of a strong affiliation like a coop or trade association might reach out to get someone to play the role of PCQI. But it’s a very significant role, and there’s a certain level of responsibility and therefore liability associated with it, so I think it’s best that the person is a company employee.

I also highly recommend training. Although the two-and-a-half-day class on the preventive controls rule isn’t technically mandatory, it’s extraordinarily helpful.

At first when our company (as a consulting group) was teaching this course, many of the classes contained 50% or more of participants from FDA. It was interesting because industry and FDA were learning together. I think most companies are sending one or two people so they can get the information and share it when they come home.

FST: Discuss some of the confusion surrounding the term “qualified facilities”.

Crawford: This is where “qualified” has almost the opposite meaning. Here’s an analogy: There’s the concept of a lifeguard—you can be qualified to be a lifeguard like a person can be a qualified individual in a food facility, but you could also have a qualified lifeguard certificate, which means you’re limited and can only do lifeguarding when there’s no more than 25 people in the pool; versus someone who has more training and can do it anytime. It’s a limitation.

In the regulation, a facility is the qualified facility when it meets certain characteristics that don’t have to follow the entire rule, but can follow a smaller piece of it.

“Qualified” is based on size. If a facility is very small, with inventory less than $1 million in food assets and sales annually, then they are a qualified facility, so they don’t have to follow the entire preventive controls. They follow a modified version, which is primarily around having the GMPs in place but not necessarily having a food safety plan like the larger facilities must have.

FST: When a company is uncertain about their status, where can they go to get help?

Crawford: Many companies ask their own attorneys and FDA. The FDA has a website called the TAN (Technical Advisory Network) where companies or citizens can submit questions. It takes a bit of time but you will get an answer, and that’s a good way to go.

FST: With all the differences and nuances in these terms, what can companies do to better familiarize themselves with what these terms mean as they relate to FSMA so they can effectively execute required tasks?

Crawford: Number one: Either read the regulation on your own or attend the class that goes over the regulation like the two-and-a-half-day preventive controls course.
Second, companies need to document their training activities, because it’s required to demonstrate that someone is qualified. FDA has said they don’t intend to visit a facility and then document a 483 due to lack of a PCQI or a QI. That’s not the focus of their inspection—it’s an important part of the regulation, but they wouldn’t write a 483 just for missing training records. What they’re looking for is an effective system. If they visit and the system isn’t in place or it’s not documented, then they might back up and realize the reason it wasn’t done right is because they don’t have a QI or PCQI.

Finally, understand the terms, and make sure you have qualified people in place and that you can prove with records that they really are qualified.

ImEpik

ImEpik Launches Food Safety Training

ImEpik

ImEpik is launching an online training course HARPC for the Qualified Individual, and a second option through AIB International as a reseller, HARPC Online for Your Preventive Controls Support Team. The courses delve into the challenges faced by food facilities that must record and verify food safety training in their food safety plans.

“The direct connection between ImEpik’s state-of-the-art interactive learning program and AIB’s proven training and auditing success allows food companies to more efficiently train their personnel, fix gaps and document the content of HARPC training,” said Company CEO Tim Wilson in a press release. “The impact of this partnership on food safety education will be profound.”

According to ImEpik, online HARPC training for food processing employees in the food manufacturing industry was nonexistent. As a result, the company created the first interactive assessment-based training that is accessible via desktop, laptop or tablet.  The courses already underwent pilot testing in United States and globally. The course features include animation, self-paced modular content, online supplementary manual, performance assessment for certificate of completion and learning analytics. It can also be integrated into a Learning Management System.

Course enrollment is open for HARPC Online for Your Preventive Controls Support Team through AIB’s website.

Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC
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FSMA Preventive Controls Corrective Action Requirements

By Bill Bremer
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Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC

FSMA Preventive Controls and Food Safety Plans must document specific use and management of corrective actions within Food Safety programs to satisfy the regulations and meet associated compliance dates. This requirement recently took effect under the Preventive Controls Rule on September 19, 2016 for companies with more than 500 corporate employees; food companies with fewer than 500 corporate employees have an additional year.

TEST YOUR FSMA SMARTS! Take the FSMA IQ TESTAs the FSMA Preventive Control rules move to enforcement status, food companies must prepare to best respond to the requirements and, correspondingly, to add the required written corrective action programs and records within Food Safety Plans. This may include providing an additional level of evidence that the company distributes safe food products to and from the United States.

With pending scheduled inspections on the horizon and the expanded authority of the FDA to conduct at-will inspections, it is critical for these programs to be written, verified and maintained at all times.  Important to note, even if this is a previously established program, you must be in compliance with the provisions of Section 117 of FSMA.

Learn more about FSMA Preventive Controls  at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL | December 7-8, 2016 | REGISTERThe more formalized programs and supporting evidence of compliance must include internal audits by Qualified Auditors, with coordinated oversight by your Qualified Individuals. Inspectors now have the authority to enforce the “letter of the law”. Additionally, organizations under the Preventive Control Rule must have multiple Qualified Auditors, in addition to Food Safety Plan Qualified Individuals, to oversee corrective action audits for evidence assurance.

Self-Diagnostic Assessment Tool

The following self-diagnostic assessment tool can help organizations better determine their current state of planning when it comes to implementing and managing corrective actions under FSMA Preventive Controls. To complete your own assessment, review and compare your programs to the questions below.

FSMA, Corrective Actions checklist
Table I. Kestrel Management’s self-diagnostic tool can help a company assess its level of corrective action programs for FSMA compliance.

Get Compliance-Ready

Companies must have the appropriate programs to comply with FSMA corrective actions or face possible willful non-conformance, which can include fines and criminal penalties under FDA enforcement. The questions in Table I will help companies identify areas to consider regarding their corrective action programs. Kestrel can also help answer questions, provide input on solutions, discuss how to better manage all of your food safety requirements—and change “No” responses into “Yes” responses that promote best practices for FSMA and food safety compliance.

Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC
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Qualified Food Plant Safety Individuals

By Bill Bremer
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Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC

The new requirements under Section 117 cGMPs of FSMA mandate that a “Qualified Individual” oversee the hazard analysis, preventive control process and Food Safety Plan. The expectation is that a plant operator designates qualified resources who are adequately represented during all food processing and handling at registered sites. In addition, the Qualified Individual stipulation requires that the organization provide resources to maintain the company’s GMP program and food safe processing, and to oversee key regulatory activities.

Learn more about FSMA compliance at this year’s Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL | December 7-8, 2016

Qualified or Competent Individual under FSMA Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls

The organization must provide Qualified Individuals in all areas to ensure the food safety of product processing, production and distribution. The key roles under “Qualified Individual” are described under Subpart C Section 117.126. This statute requires that the food safety system and plan requirements must be overseen by Qualified Individuals. This includes development of a Food Safety Plan—prepared, or its preparation overseen, by one or more preventive controls Qualified Individuals. Additionally, the statute, as described in cGMPs, indicates that experience, education, certification and other qualifications are appropriate for companies to determine Qualified Individuals.

Other FSMA requirements under Section 117 include the following (as summarized and aligned for specific cases):

  • 117.160(b) (1) Validate that preventive controls required under 117.135 are adequate to control hazards in the facility’s Food Safety System prior to development of the Food Safety Plan by Qualified Individual, or:
    • 117.160 (b) (2) validation of preventive controls within 90 days or a reasonable timeframe after production of applicable food begins by Qualified Individual.
    • 117.160 (c) food not applicable based on factors such as the nature of the hazard (including allergen, sanitation controls, recall plan, supply chain program or determined non-applicable hazards), as determined by Qualified Individual.
  • 117.165 (a) (4) As appropriate to the facility and its role in the Food Safety System, review records that are effective and make decisions about corrective actions by a Qualified Individual.
    • 117. 165 (a) (4) (i) Maintain records of monitoring and corrective actions within seven working days after the records are created by Qualified Individual.
  • 117.170 (c) (2) (ii) Reanalysis by the Qualified Individual every three years for the written justification of the Food Safety Plan exceeding 90 days after production of applicable food.
    • 117.170 (c) (2) (e) Preventive controls Qualified Individual must perform (or oversee) the reanalysis.
  • 117.180 Requirements applicable to a preventive controls Qualified Individual and Qualified Auditor are described in this section with the introduction of the Qualified Auditor-level resource.
  • 117.180 (a) One or more preventive controls Qualified Individuals must do or oversee:
    • Preparation of the Food Safety Plan
    • Validation of preventive controls
    • Written justification for validation that exceeds the first 90 days of production.
  • 117.180 (a) General processes and controls.
    • Overall sanitation of the plant must be under the supervision of one or more Competent Individuals assigned responsibility for this function.
  • 117.190 Implementation records required for this subpart.
    • Records that document applicable training for preventive controls Qualified Individual and Auditor.

These requirements under FSMA list the necessity of multiple Qualified Individuals, Qualified Auditors, and Competent Individuals for sanitation. Accordingly, all management and personnel must know, understand and be trained for the food safety aspects of their jobs.

Self-Diagnostic Assessment Tool

The following self-diagnostic assessment tool can help organizations better determine their current state of planning when it comes to determining and deploying the various Qualified Individuals in meeting FSMA. To complete your own planning assessment, review your progress compared to the questions below.

Food Safety Plan, Qualified Individuals, Checklist
Table I. Kestrel Management’s self-diagnostic tool can help a company assess its level of Food Safety System and Plan preparedness for FSMA compliance for the Qualified Individuals and personnel necessary to meet FSMA requirements.

Get Compliance-Ready

Companies must have the appropriate resources to comply with FSMA or face possible violations, fines and penalties under FDA enforcement. The questions in Table I will help companies identify the areas in which they need to focus attention. Kestrel can also help answer questions, provide input on solutions, discuss how to better manage GFSI certification—and change “No” responses into “Yes” responses that promote best practices for FSMA compliance.

FSMA Preventive Controls: Are You Prepared?

Get the checklist to assess your company’s readiness level. It’s a crucial part of the compliance process.

Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC
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FSMA Preventive Controls: Are You Prepared?

By Bill Bremer
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Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC

Compliance to FSMA has presented a new and difficult challenge for industry, the public and the FDA since it passed on January 4, 2011. With compliance dates for the initial FSMA rule—Preventive Controls—coming in September 2016, food sites must establish plans now to meet the impending deadline.

Complying with the Preventive Controls Rule

The Preventive Controls Rule was published September 17, 2015, with the compliance date for registered companies (more than 500 employees) scheduled for September 19, 2016. The compliance date is one year later for companies with fewer than 500 employees, unless otherwise specified under FSMA.

Under the FSMA rules, registered food facilities must evaluate and implement preventive control provisions and meet the requirements and the approaching deadline. The most urgent concerns for companies subject to the Preventive Controls Rule include developing a Preventive Controls Program, identifying a Preventive Control Qualified Individual (PCQI), and implementing a Food Safety Plan.

The following areas are all included under the FSMA Preventive Controls Rule:

  • Hazard Analysis. Companies must identify and evaluate known and reasonably foreseeable hazards.
  • Preventive Controls. Preventive controls must be implemented to significantly minimize or prevent the occurrence of hazards.
  • Monitoring. Preventive controls must be monitored for effectiveness.
  • Corrective Actions. Procedures for addressing failures of preventive controls and prevention of affected food from entering commerce are required.
  • Verification. Facilities are required to verify that preventive controls, monitoring and corrective actions are adequate.
  • Recordkeeping. Records must be kept for two years.
  • Written Plan and Documentation. A written plan must document and describe procedures used to comply with requirements.
  • Qualified Individual. A Qualified Individual who has been adequately trained must be present at the facility to manage the preventive controls for the site and the products processed and distributed at/from the site.

Failure to implement Preventive Controls (a.k.a., Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC)) for qualified sites may result in fines and possible jail sentences.

Self-Diagnostic Assessment Tool

The following self-diagnostic assessment tool can help organizations better determine their current state of planning for FSMA compliance (see Table I). To complete your own planning assessment, review your progress compared to the questions below.

Table I. Kestrel Management’s self-diagnostic tool can help a company assess its level of preparedness for FSMA compliance.
Table I. Kestrel Management’s self-diagnostic tool can help a company assess its level of preparedness for FSMA compliance.

Get Compliance-Ready

Companies must have their training, planning and development underway to comply, or face possible violations, fines, and penalties under FDA enforcement. The questions in Table I will help companies identify the areas in which they need to focus attention. Kestrel can also help answer questions, provide input on solutions, discuss how to better manage the preventive controls program—and change “No” responses into “Yes” responses that promote best practices for FSMA compliance.