Consumers’ expectations of retailers and suppliers have never been higher, especially relating to the safety of their food. An ongoing evolution of new technologies especially drive a connected consumer to redefine the global business environment, including a retail market shift from a supply-driven world to a demand –driven one where the consumer is in charge. Not only are they wired to receive immediate news related to the safety of their food, but they are armed to simultaneously respond to any given situation through social media, making the situation especially vulnerable to misinformation.
When customers buy food products this holiday season they will do so with the fundamental belief that the food is safe. Are you ready to deliver on that lofty expectation? There’s no doubt that this complex challenge requires clear standards, effective communication, a culture of compliance and tight coordination and innovation among an ecosystem of suppliers, retailers, government agencies, product testing labs and third party solution providers. It requires leveraging the latest technology to mitigate risk, improved efficiency and keeping pace with mounting regulatory requirements from federal, state and local agencies.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration issued a guidance document to assist businesses with less than 500 employees to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act preventive controls regulation. According to a news release, the 47-page guidance document will assist small companies to implement the preventive controls rule. The FDA said that small businesses, with fewer than 500 full-time employees, must comply with the rule by Sept. 18, 2017. Very small businesses, typically those averaging less than $1 million per year in human food sales, are required to maintain records supporting their Qualified Facility status. Qualified facilities need to come into compliance with the human and animal food rules by Sept. 17, 2018, according to the release.
In summary, the rule revises the definition of ‘farm’ and expanded it to cover more operations. It requires a written food safety plan for all covered facilities unless an exemption applies written by a “preventive controls qualified individual” and must include: a hazard analysis; preventive controls; a risk-based supply chain program, if appropriate; a recall plan, if there are any hazards associated with the food; procedures for monitoring the implementation of the preventive controls; and procedures for verifying that the preventive controls are consistently implemented and are effectively minimizing or preventing the identified hazards. In addition, manufacturing/processing facilities must have a risk-based supply chain program for those raw materials and other ingredients for which a hazard has been controlled before receipt.
According to FDA, their primary focus will continue to be on education, training and technical assistance to help companies comply with the new requirements by working to create a culture of food safety, compliance with procedures, processes, and practices to minimize the risk of serious illness or death. Companies are encouraged to recognize vulnerabilities and proactively take action by promptly responding to problems, even if they aren’t yet violations. In addition, facilities should set up a thorough system for documentation to demonstrate compliance with the legal standard. Proper processes and procedures can prevent problems, while some redundancy in the system if one measure fails encourages another one to take its place. Finally, the management of a company must create a safe food culture by attending to the facility and its production processes to assure that everyone in the production chain understands what is expected and has the training and education they need to succeed.
So, what are food companies doing to lead in the safe food arena? According to General Mills’ 2016 Global Responsibility Report it spent $13 million on food safety during 2015. General Mills has a legacy of food safety leadership, dating back to the 1950s when the company established a raw material vendor management program. In 1980, the company established a food safety regulatory affairs role, and in 1996 it pioneered allergen labeling on all products.
The company continues to emphasize and invest in training focused on sanitation and sanitary design principles. In 2015, the Sanitation Center of Excellence piloted a video training format to reach more people around the world. The video content was translated into four languages to provide more effective, consistent training to all General Mills production facilities.
One of the food safety goals General Mills has set is to achieve Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification for all General Mills-owned facilities by 2020. Providing an update on the company’s progress toward that goal, General Mills said 72% of its company-owned facilities are GFSI certified. Additionally, 75% of co-production sites and 49% of ingredient supplier sites also are GFSI certified.
Cavalier Candies spent two years customizing plans to attain its SQF certification to bolster food safety and gain customers in the confectionary industry. From creating procedures unique to its candy making operations, to updating nearly every part of its facility, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based candy maker received its Level Two SQF Certification.
Cavalier Candies spent six months upgrading its 40,000 sq. ft. facility to meet or exceed the SQF standard. Included in these upgrades were renovated and improved storage areas, processing areas, floors, ceilings, drains, ventilation, and equipment storage areas. Additionally, hands-free sanitizing stations were added and all of the cleaning and maintenance equipment was upgraded to the latest color-coded, food-grade standard. In addition, as part of the SQF system, the company performs frequent microbiological testing of raw material ingredients, work in process, and finished goods, as well as shelf life studies and cleaning validation through swabbing and visual inspections.
An SQF qualified food safety professional was brought in to take control of the program and manage it through to completion. Under his direction, rigorous documented controls were developed and put into practice, including a training program for staff, shipping and receiving logs, internal audit procedures, cleaning, confirmation, and validation programs, as well as a complete food traceability program.
On another front, software companies are developing programs that help food processors and retailers reduce waste by measuring company data more effectively. Since Americans toss out the equivalent of $165 billion in food every year, USDA recently announced a plan to help businesses and consumers cut food waste in half by 2030 by educating consumers about food date labels and safe food storage, and work with the private sector to reduce the amount of unused food sent to landfills. Retailers and consumers alone throw out almost a third of our food supply! Where can you look to mitigate waste? Start at improperly handling product, incorrect labeling, lack of traceability, poorly approved supplier programs, poor equipment operations and customer complaints.
Safe Food Alliance is making sure to stay on top of industry news and updates. We will continue to keep our readers in the know. If you have any questions about your food safety program please contact us at email@example.com.