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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, June/July 2009

The Food Safety Revolution

A food safety management system can help the food industry comply with new safety initiatives

by Brenda Percy

The food and beverage industry has recently experienced an increase in regulations. Some unfortunate food-related events led regulatory bodies to examine their internal processes and set forth initiatives to increase safety in the food production process. Many food chain stakeholders now require their suppliers to demonstrate compliance with initiatives such as safe quality food (SQF), hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22000 food safety management standard. An automated food safety management system (FSMS) is the best-in-class method for implementing these initiatives and for increasing safety and quality in the food chain.

Automated systems allow organizations to measure quality more frequently and holistically than manual systems. According to a study conducted by AMR Research, 47% of organizations use fully automated systems for HACCP programs, while only 7% continue to use completely manual systems (see Figure 1, p. 34).1

HACCP is incorporated into the ISO 22000 standard and involves identifying and controlling hazards through prerequisite programs (PRPs) or critical control points (CCPs) throughout the food production and preparation processes. SQF combines HACCP and ISO processes into its certification standard and is the only food safety initiative that incorporates both safety and quality.

Many food chain stakeholders now demand that their suppliers demonstrate SQF certification because it provides assurance that the food a supplier has produced, handled, prepared, processed, and distributed has been held to the strictest food safety standards available and is of the highest quality.2 Less exacting quality or safety processes may result in recall.

A recall is an unforgiving, undesirable public relations event; therefore, a timely approach is key if prevention fails. Companies using automated systems can recall products in one third of the time it takes using manual systems.1 By incorporating HACCP, ISO 22000, and SQF processes into the FSMS, stakeholders increase quality throughout the process, ultimately decreasing the chances of a recall. In fact, companies that can analyze quality data hourly through the use of their quality management platforms are able to reduce the amount of products recalled by 10%.3

The Food Safety Supply Chain

The food and beverage industry relies heavily on supply chain planning solutions to track and manage supplier and product quality.1 An FSMS that incorporates automated supplier rating and supplier quality management adds another layer of assurance to the food safety process and helps stakeholders track suppliers, supplier compliance, supplier food safety, and supplier quality initiatives.

Food chain stakeholders using an automated FSMS are able to incorporate suppliers directly into their business processes, enabling suppliers to collaborate in related quality and safety events within the stakeholder’s system. Furthermore, stakeholders can rate their suppliers using these quality and safety events and, based on their overall rating, select the safest and highest quality suppliers for their brand. Similarly, suppliers can review their ratings and take action to improve compliance and become a preferred vendor for the stakeholder.

This automated supplier collaboration through an FSMS provides a high level of visibility into supply chain quality, faster collaboration on quality and safety events with suppliers, and continuous improvement through supplier rating systems.

A Best Practices Approach

HACCP is critical to food safety and can be implemented on its own or as part of an ISO 22000 program. For a smooth implementation, consider the following:

Conduct a Hazard Analysis: A hazard analysis allows a food chain stakeholder to identify points in the production process where a risk is likely to occur, determine risk severity, and identify control measures for significant risk. A risk assessment must also be conducted to determine severity of risk. Incorporating risk-based technology such as quantitative risk assessment or decision tree analysis enables a stakeholder to identify potential hazards within its system. The ability to track the hazard type, associate it with material type, identify the roles involved, and determine the control type to mitigate the hazard is key in providing accurate hazard analyses.

Identify CCPs: If a hazard analysis determines that there is a significant risk that is not controlled by either a PRP or a certificate of analysis from a vendor, a CCP may be needed. If so, the organization must ask a series of specific questions to decide whether or not the process warrants a CCP. Use of a risk-based decision tree analysis and control plan/failure mode and effects analysis walks the user through the process of determining if a hazard is a CCP and provides a revision-controlled environment to establish the conditions for CCPs.

Establish Monitoring Procedures: Monitoring procedures allow staff to determine whether all CCPs are under control, provide a verification record for future use, and ensure an organization’s compliance with the HACCP plan. They enable organizations to set up test plans, which record the results of the monitoring process and notify users exceeding limits. Should the CCP result in a failure, an automated FSMS will automatically generate a nonconformance, look for deviations, and recommend action based on data given. This automation aids in the decision-making process, streamlines time to react, and provides a level of risk mitigation manual systems cannot provide.

Establish Corrective Actions: If a nonconformance is generated as a result of exceeding CCP critical limits, a corrective action will need to be established to bring the process back to a controlled state. A corrective and preventive action (CAPA) module routes through review, root cause, corrective action taken, and verification stages, and generates reports automatically, providing an effective method for tracking the source and cost of all problems. Furthermore, CAPAs can incorporate quantitative risk assessment to determine the level of impact on the business and allow stakeholders to prioritize CAPAs based on the risk and resulting business impact.

See Figure 2 (p. 36), for a detailed depiction of how HACCP and traditional quality management system functions can create a holistic FSMS.

Automating ISO 22000 Compliance

A good FSMS will automate the processes required by ISO 22000, while an automated FSMS with a robust set of modules will streamline business processes, thus reducing compliance costs and risk, while providing a robust framework for ISO 22000 compliance. The automated FSMS results in effective mitigation of the cost and compliance risk associated with manual systems. Examples of the FSMS’s ability to automate ISO 22000 requirements include:

Demonstrate a commitment to food safety and document food safety procedures: A document control system automates procedures by managing the creation, approval, distribution, revision, and archiving of all controlled documents.

Provide competent food safety personnel: An easy-to-use employee training system manages identification, authorities, responsibilities, training, and certification requirements for all employees.

Specify acceptable food hazard levels: Quantitative risk assessment and decision tree analysis tools provide quantitative methods for identifying potential hazards in order to determine the best method for control. Monitoring and inspection tools allow for the coordination and implementation of test plans to test and record the results of the control process and notify appropriate resources of deviations.

Given considerable increases in regulations, the food and beverage industry must adjust its processes accordingly to keep an edge on the competition. Through the implementation of automated HACCP, ISO 22000, and SQF processes, food chain stakeholders can ensure the creation of a safe, high quality product.

Percy is the product marketing analyst for EtQ Inc. Reach her at bpercy@etq.com.

References

  1. AMR Research. Enterprise quality management in food and beverage. Boston: AMR Research; February 12, 2009.
  2. Safe Quality Food Institute. The SQF program: a basic guide. SQF Institute. Available at: www.sqfi.com/SQF_Brief_Guide.pdf. Accessed June 10, 2009.
  3. Cecere L, Jacobson S, Draper L. How safe is your food supply chain? Boston: AMR Research; September 13, 2008.

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