Putting food safety into action

Putting food safety into action

Over the past decade, there have been significant advancements to create a more proactive, preventative approach to food safety under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

It has been a time-consuming and demanding process for many businesses to adapt to the new rules and regulations, but reports are showing positive progress. 

A recent report released by the Food and Drug Administration shows the majority of companies are demonstrating compliance and food recalls are at a five-year low. 

But, the real value is yet to come. 

Up to this point, the focus has been about the implementation of FSMA rules and getting new checks and balances in place to gather more information and drive accountability, not necessarily the value beyond what the additional data can do to influence more specific preventative action across the industry.

As we look forward to 2020, data will begin to take center stage, bringing a whole new level of accountability. The most important driver of success will be food processors’ ability to understand not only how to track and report, but how to analyze and apply the data in new ways. 

With the development of the new FDA-Track: Food Safety Dashboard, both regulators and processors will be able to measure progress and put strategies in place to refine implementation of the FSMA rules. 

Ultimately, this Food Safety Dashboard will allow for key decisions to be made focusing on the continued refinement, implementation and maintenance while providing baseline data and trends linked to the FSMA rules.

The decisions and actions from information gathered from the Food Safety Dashboard may spearhead the reduction of foodborne illnesses, increase compliance with preventative control rule requirements, and increase recall effectiveness.

As the role of food safety management becomes more and more dynamic, these are important items to consider.

Do you have the right experts in place?

Having a dedicated food safety team is essential to your brand’s short-term and long-term success. Food safety professionals with specialized training can help your plant monitor data to identify gaps and work together to implement proactive solutions. This is especially important as we’ve started to see an uptick in environmental monitoring for listeria, a key area of emphasis by the FDA. 

In addition to the right resources, it is also important to have a plan for how to train and share knowledge across disciplines. Sanitary design impacts so many different areas of the plant, including traffic patterns, facility and structural environment, equipment, air flow, chemicals, etc., so it’s important to make sure everyone is involved and aligned. 

How are you messaging food safety to your employees?

The true foundation of food safety starts with the culture of the company. Communication is a critical element to success. Make it a central focus of both internal and external communications. 

Consider creating an internal newsletter or hosting regular all-hands meetings to share industry news and communicate important information from your food safety experts. Increased messaging across your company around key food safety topics can help embed and maintain a culture of food safety throughout your organization.

How do you know if you are winning or losing?

Success should not be driven by performance on third-party audits. Be proactive and own your success. Set your own internal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to test and monitor on a regular basis. 

This not only provides supportive data for audits but helps hold teams accountable. It forces teams to put numbers to small areas that can have a significant impact on the overall sanitary design or food safety plan. 
Celebrate success, but use data to identify gaps and implement solutions quickly. 

The bottom line is don’t stop at compliancy. Now is the time to dig deeper and learn how to apply data at a higher level to manage food safety inside of your plant. One small change can be the difference between winning or losing. 

Jake Watts is vice president of food safety for PSSI.

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