Tag Archives: supplier control

Participating in VQIP a Gold Star in FDA’s Eyes

By Maria Fontanazza
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Acceptance into the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program serves as proof that your company has a best-in-class food safety program.

As is evident in the name, the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), is just that—voluntary. However, participants in the program are showing that they are going above and beyond the requirements (i.e., FSMA’s Foreign Supplier Verification Program), which in the long run, is good for business and their marketing.

“VQIP is meant to be a step up—it’s almost a push for regulators to offer incentive programs for those suppliers and a way to reward good behavior,” said Melanie Neumann, executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Acheson Group. “VQIP is looking for a best-in-class supplier control program, and it’s meant to incentivize those companies who have it and can prove it.” During a recent FSMA Fridays session organized by SafetyChain, Neumann and David Acheson, MD, CEO and president of The Acheson Group, discussed the basics of VQIP and the benefits of participating in the program.

Under FSMA, FDA is required to develop a voluntary and fee-based program that enables expedited review of foods from importers that have achieved specific criteria related to supply chain safety and security.  The agency released the draft guidance in June. The annual fee to participate in the program is estimated to cost $16,400, and FDA has also requested comment as to whether this fee will pose a burden on smaller businesses. Applications are filed online.

To qualify for participation in the program, companies must meet several requirements. Businesses must:

  • Have a record of importing foods into the United States for at least three years
  • Have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number
  • Use a paperless filer/broker that has received a pass rating from its FDA filer evaluation
  • Have a quality assurance program and submit documentation of assurance program
  • Be compliant with FSVP

Businesses must not:

  • Have any imported food that is subject to either an import alert or Class I recall
  • Have any ongoing FDA administrative or judicial history of significant noncompliance
  • Be subject to any safety or security customs and border protection penalties and sanctions

One of the most important elements of the eligibility requirements is proof of a quality assurance program, according to Acheson. He highlighted several components that companies must have as part of their quality assurance program, including:

  • Corporate policy quality statements, relating to food safety and security explaining how a company is controlling risk in its supply chain
  • An organization chart (or a written explanation of management structure)
  • Policies and procedures that will be implemented to ensure a company’s system is producing safe food
  • Written description of the food defense system
  • Documentation of a company’s experience in employee training for those responsible for implementing the quality assurance program
  • Procedures for assuring the program is current and appropriately implemented
  • Written procedures for maintaining records relating to structures and process and procedures of the program
  • References to sources used to develop the quality assurance program

“The message here is that FDA is saying we really want to make sure you have a robust system,” said Acheson. He added that although businesses must apply each year, once the initial heavily lifting is done the first year (and assuming the company has maintained the required standards), reapplication should not be as onerous.

Once a company has been accepted into the program, it can expect expedited entry of imported foods into the United States and limited examination or sampling of VQUO foods (unless there is a “for cause” situation).
“If you have qualified for this program, you’ve really got the FDA gold star,” said Acheson. “That’s a marketable item. If you can say your product is VQIP approved, it’s a leverageable opportunity for the importer for their customers.”

Top 5 Reasons Organizations Fail Audits and How to Not Be One of Them

By Chelsey Davis
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When it comes to audits, there are plenty of reasons for failing, especially in the food and beverage industry. To help shed light on some of the reasons companies fail audits and to help prevent future failure, here’s our top 5 reasons to why organizations fail.

When it comes to audits, there are plenty of reasons for failing, especially in the food and beverage industry. Whether it’s an audit for GFSI, FDA or an audit required by any of your customers, the consequences of failing can be very costly. And while the whole team receives praise when an audit is successfully completed, there are a select few that bear the burden of audit failure (QA professionals). To help shed light on some of the reasons companies fail audits and to help prevent future failure, we’ve listed our top 5 reasons to why organizations fail.

1. Human Error

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, human error is bound to occur. The key here is to be able to minimize the chances of human error as much as possible. As a quality assurance manager, it’s important to make sure all employees are well-trained and fully understand the reasoning for performing certain functions of the job in a particular way. When employees understand the why regarding processes, it will be easier to remember going forward. Additionally, you should have systems and internal audits in place to ensure that what is supposed to happen is happening.

2. Compliance vs. Business as Usual

During audit time, there is often a conflict of interest when it comes to quality assurance managers and making sure the business is still operating as usual. As part of the process to prepping for an audit, management needs to ensure everything is up to standards, and this can possibly include stopping production lines, which interferes with the operation manger’s strict schedules. The important thing to convey here is the fact that compliance should come before anything else. The consequences of failing to meet compliance requirements will surely cost more than a delay in product delivery.

3. HACCP Failure

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a management system that helps prevent foodborne diseases and essentially operates to protect consumer safety. When it comes to audits, HACCP documentation is incredibly important, which is why it’s crucial to have it complete and comprehensive. Not doing so can be enough to cause your organization to fail. (Download this HACCP checklist as a guide to help you get started).

4. Lack of Supplier Control

All the guidelines and processes in the world you use to keep your organization compliant wouldn’t help much if your suppliers weren’t in sync. And with today’s global food supply chain, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage risks of food fraud and contamination. One way to help tackle this issue is supplier scorecarding. Automated scorecarding helps both parties examine data and results based on the same information, fostering closer collaboration, information exchange, review of standard and best practices, as well as the occasional review of ingredient specifications, so that all stakeholders involved can work toward the same goals.

5. Lack of Documentation and Organization

“The best part about prepping for an audit is gathering all the required documents,” said no one ever. Not being organized can definitely hinder your chances of successfully completing an audit. And with multiple suppliers providing multiple different documents, staying organized can be a challenge. A filing cabinet just won’t cut it anymore. As a quality assurance manager, you were not hired to be a paper clerk, but agile document management is critical to the success of your business. This is where automation comes into the picture. Are you getting the data and information out of your documents that you need to improve your business? Can you satisfy an auditor with just a few mouse clicks? Automating this process not only helps your organization overall, but also helps you—the quality assurance hero—save time and energy.

Check out our chat with John Paul Williams, Director, Enterprise Solutions and Market Development, Americas, at Polycom, to learn more about why automation is so important for evolving businesses.