The FDA report makes a compelling argument that food service has plenty to do to ensure the safety and quality of food products along the supply chain. So, what’s the best way to go about it?
First, take a hard look at your current food safety plan in place. Do you have one? If not, there’s no time better than now to get started. Does the plan meet all of the FDA and USDA regulations? If not, bring it up to code. There’s no excuse for any food company to take a risk with public health by not implementing a compliant food safety plan.
Second, once that work is accomplished, ask yourself: where can we go from here? That is, how can your company move beyond compliance into the realm of excellence? Based on Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recommendations, the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) has already established a code for retail establishments and is developing a code for food service with the participation of many stakeholders, including restaurants, hotel chains, airlines, and retail organizations. Following those guidelines will establish even higher benchmarks.
Additionally, set goals for your new safety standards. Create a common language across all divisions to correct the current patchwork approach caused by different national, state, local and tribal rules. Add credibility with audits accredited by GFSI. And finally, fill in the gaps overlooked by most government regulations, such as document control, crisis planning, traceability, and maintenance.
The FDA report specifies that accurate, up-to-date, and easily retrievable records is imperative for a highly developed food safety management system (FSMS). Document control can prevent:
Planning ahead reduces the likelihood of a crisis and helps respond to one as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible. Proactive crisis planning reduces the risk of:
Recalls are a fact of life in the food industry and not restricted to companies with poor food safety controls. Sometimes they occur because of an error, sometimes a genuine food safety risk, and sometimes because a company cannot prove that a product is safe.
Food safety effectiveness checks that result in poor outcomes can lead to regulatory enforcement actions. For instance, if one of your suppliers has initiated a recall, and you are a food service or retail organization, that supplier’s food will be in your inventory. If you’re still selling that food during a recall, that means either the supplier did a poor job of notifying you or you did a poor job of removing that food from sale or service – and that’s illegal.
Traceability using documentation is important to prove you are doing the right thing when the safety of any food in your supply chain is in question.
Like crisis planning, maintenance should be proactive before rather than reactive after a breakdown occurs. Planned maintenance:
At this point you may be worried that an FSMS has an awful a lot of components that sound intimidating. But based on studies, we know they work. The key is practical implementation of the right tools. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
The FDA report concludes that implementing a well-developed FSMS is the #1 factor statistically correlated to better food safety. The presence of an FSMS cut the average number of out of compliance items by half, providing a clear strategy to preventing foodborne illness.
These systems are already common in the manufacturing environment. The next step is for food service and retail establishments to follow suit, both to increase consumer trust and demonstrate that they can continuously and consistently maintain food safety.
The benefits of investing in an FSMS far exceed any costs to implement one. These include:
The bottom line: an FSMS will undoubtedly save you time and money in the long-term. An FSMS not only helps ensure safety compliance, but also improves the quality of your product, and therefore increases customer confidence and satisfaction, and ultimately profits.
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