Food industry expectations today are at their highest levels ever. In order to meet customer and regulatory expectations each part of the food supply chain is expected to exercise due diligence in maintaining product safety and integrity. Global sourcing has made the supply chain so complex and diverse, that the traditional “hand shake” agreement with a supplier is no longer acceptable for ensuring that specifications and expectations are being met. Compliance with food safety, quality, legality, and most recently product authenticity, are of paramount importance for all food industry stakeholders. Because of this, food processors are expected to implement practices which will mitigate risks throughout the supply chain. Two of the most important programs are supplier control programs and process control programs.
Supplier control programs are an effective tool to ensure product integrity at the front end
Supplier control programs are an effective tool to ensure product integrity at the front end. They allow for the identification of risks from the supplier itself as well as those inherent to the materials being sourced. By recognizing these risks, the buyer (you) should be able to conduct a comprehensive analysis. Then, based on the results of this process you can put controls in place to prevent, eliminate or control the identified risks or hazards. All potential risks have to be taken into consideration including, but not limited to, the following: foreign materials, microbiological hazards, chemical hazards (allergens, sensitizing agents and radiological hazards included) as well as the risk for fraud or substitution.
A supplier control program should include the following: a supplier approval process, validation of raw and packaging materials, material receiving inspection and testing protocols based on risk, a supplier monitoring program based on performance criteria, analysis of trends, procedures for handling exceptions, auditing or certification of suppliers, and formal contracts and specification agreements, as well as any other aspects identified as necessary.
Special protocols might be needed in cases where raw materials are susceptible to economically motivated adulteration (food fraud). The same may be needed when ingredients are to be used in identity preserved products, or products with origin or suitability claims, e.g. Non-GMO, Organic, Kosher, Tequila, Gluten-free, Sugar-free, No artificial flavors, Sea salt, etc.
Service providers that may impact the integrity of the products should not be excluded from the approval and monitoring process. These type of suppliers should also be subject to formal contracts and/or agreed service specifications. The following is non-exhaustive list of service providers that should be considered:
- Temp employment agencies
- Uniform and laundry
- Contracted cleaning and sanitation
- Contracted maintenance
- Pest control service providers
- Certification bodies
- Subcontracted process and co-packing
- Third-party laboratory testing
- Calibration services
- Consultancy and training
- Equipment commissioning
- Brokers, storage, transport, distribution, etc
DFA of California can assist the food industry providing training and consultation on the development and implementation and of these supply chain programs. DFA’s ISO accredited Laboratories can provide testing solutions for raw materials and finished products.
Process controls are of the greatest importance, in order to ensure product integrity throughout processing and value added activities. An exhaustive analysis of each step of the process is an effective approach to ensure appropriate controls have been implemented. The analysis should also enable the identification of gaps were controls need to be added or processes need to be modified. Validated process parameters are assigned to each controlled process and verification procedures are adopted to ensure controls are effectively implanted and your processes produce the best food products possible. Corrective and preventive actions must also be part of the system. Statistical Process control is a great tool for ensuring process and product compliance. Process control may involve parameters such as cooking times and temperatures; mixing times; weighing of ingredients; recipes and formulations; fermentation time and temperature (and pH); storage conditions such as controlled or modified atmospheres; processing room temperature; concentration; conveyor speed; weight, volume and quantity accuracy; packaging and labeling controls; etc.
Verification of product packaging, labeling and coding are key activities in the production environment. Making sure all products are being packed and marked accordingly is crucial. Nowadays, most food product recalls and withdrawals share a common theme: misbranding, wrong packaging or label, or undeclared allergens or ingredients. Good process controls are intended to help ensure that this sort of issue does not occur. Specific control systems may need to be developed for products subject to particular requirements or codes of practices, such as organic products in a non-dedicated facility or non-dedicated lines where allergens are processed. Special attention is to be payed to controls when such product claims are made.
The goal for implementing supply chain programs is to ensure all raw and packaging materials meet the required specifications so that they can be used for the intended purpose in the production of safe, wholesome food.
The goal for implementing supply chain programs is to ensure all raw and packaging materials meet the required specifications so that they can be used for the intended purpose in the production of safe, wholesome food. Keep in mind the old industry saying “garbage in, garbage out.” Similarly for process controls, the ultimate purpose is to meet finished product specifications (food safety, quality, legality and authenticity included) and regulatory requirements by monitoring and controlling each step of the process. Implementing proper Controls can significantly reduce the risk of manufacturing products which are out of specification, and releasing them into the marketplace. These control measures can also decrease time and materials waste, reworking or repacking activities and risk of product adulteration. Lastly, the likelihood of food safety events such as recalls or foodborne illnesses are significantly reduced by implementing appropriate, validated controls.
DFA Global Certifications (DGC) offers food safety and quality certifications by means of globally recognized GFSI Certifications (BRCGS & SQF) as well as HACCP verification audits. DGC is also an approved CB auditing Costco suppliers.