Food safety is one of the greatest concerns for the companies who lie in the domain of food and beverages for important reasons. Food safety ensures the safety of all the consumers of the foods and also prevents consequences such as irreparable damage to the reputation of the company in case of food poisoning, hefty fines, and loss of human life due to food consumption of the company.
All companies are unique in terms of working standards, policy following, and the produced products. So they all make their own approaches to accomplish food safety. There are a few practices that can be used as starting points for designing specific food safety programs to ensure that the food is safe and healthy for consumption.
What is Food Safety Compliance?
Food safety compliance makes use of strategies, which include regulating food safety making sure it is fit for human consumption, food quality that makes the food consumable with a distinct quality of the food being associated with a certain company, and food compliance which makes sure that the food is compliant with local, national and international safety compliance standards for foods.
Ensuring food safety compliance makes sure that the food supply is safe from contamination. To meet these demands, companies follow robust approaches as there are several links in the food supply chain and the food products undergo several processes in a single food facility.
For example, the preparation, storage, and handling of the food in working conditions must all have preventive measures that are able to promote food safety compliance.
Each company has its own internal food safety program that is specific to its processes and products. These processes and products are overseen or regulated by governing bodies such as the FDA and USDA, which ensure that all food safety compliance measures are met.
To ensure that companies don’t fail to comply with food safety, most of the food and process manufacturers turn to food safety software so that the company can support their unique requirements to ensure that food safety is compliant. Food safety compliance ensures that the companies are in compliance with all the state standards that are applicable to the food and beverage facility.
Also Read: 7 Key Components of Food Safety Compliance
What are the Key Elements of Food Safety?
The key elements that keep the food safe on the manufacturer’s end are necessary. There is a comprehensive food safety program that has been built on thorough and effective measures by companies. Some companies make use of a HACCP plan, this refers to the “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points”. The HACCP plans are an enhanced version of the conventional food safety plans companies follow and when this plan is followed, it promotes the compliance of food safety on the company’s production, handling, and transportation end.
The HACCP plans are designed to first preventively identify and then address the hazards and risks that are associated with specific foods or their production processes, which are required by the FDA for the seafood and juice industry.
Their goal is to try to maximize control of the likely hazards that include physical, chemical, and microbiological risks. The HACCP plans can also be streamlined and standardized across multiple departments and facilities by making use of software solutions that can support the HACCP plans.
There are multiple companies who purchase automation solutions from software companies as they are the best way to ensure that all standards are met, any discrepancies are found, and that all the records are maintained.
The HACCP includes seven core principles that go together and promote ongoing food safety compliance for companies:
1- Conducting Analysis for Hazards
In this phase, the companies add a list of all the detailed processes that are involved in the processing stages in order to identify the steps in which there is a significant chance for the hazard to most likely occur. Then the hazards that can be prevented, controlled through effective plans, and eliminated are focused on ensuring that food safety compliance.
2- Determining the Critical Control Points in the Procedures
The determination of critical control points is procedures, points, or steps at which these actions can be taken to reduce the food safety risk.
These phases include the chilling of the food which includes storing them at a temperature to slow bacteria growth, the thermal processing of the foods which is a step where the right combination of time and temperature is needed to eliminate the desired quantity of bacteria from food products.
Testing for metal contaminants that can find their way into the food in form of metal shavings, machine parts of any residue, the testing for a chemical residue which come as a result of ineffective cleaning or washing of the foods and then establishing the critical limits for the foods. If CCPs are not determined correctly, they may result in outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
3- Establishing Critical Limits
The establishing of critical limits are the maximum or minimum limits which chemical, biological, and physical measures need to be controlled to completely eliminate or reduce hazards.
These include metrics such as temperature, pH, water activity, available chlorine, time, weights, or other parameters that need to be controlled by the regulatory standards. The critical limits can be monitored, measured, and observed. These need to be scientifically and regulatory based. Some examples are
4- Establishing the Food Monitoring Procedures
The food safety teams must adopt and establish the monitoring procedures that can measure the CLs at each of the CCP in their process. The plan should detail how the measurements will need to be taken and by whom and when.
These assess whether the CCPs are being met. They provide a record of the food flow throughout their time in production. If the food monitoring indicates that the critical limits are not met, then action needs to be taken to bring the process back in control.
The monitoring systems should meet the needs of food establishments and the regulatory bodies and also be easy to use. It is essential that the monitoring is specifically assigned to an individual and that these people are trained for monitoring techniques.
5- Establishing the Corrective Actions
If there is a deviation in the critical limits and the points are not being met, there must exist a corrective action that needs to be taken. Companies must meet the standards established but if they fail they need to have a corrective action that can prevent or adequately address the hazards.
The resolution and identification of the issue must be present that can prevent the problem from occurring in the future. Corrective actions may range from “continue cooking until the temperature is reached” to “dispose of the product” depending upon the intensity of the situation.
HACCP plans include who is responsible for implementing any corrective actions needed and what action was taken. It should be established in advance as an integral part of the HACCP plan.
6- Establishing the Verification Procedures
The verification in food safety compliance are activities are procedures that monitor and also determine the validity of the HACCP plan. They also ensure that the company system in operation abides by this plan.
This includes using reviewing records, calibrating the instruments, testing the products, and auditing the CCPs. The verification is based on science and is precise. The verification is accomplished by the advice of domain experts and scientific studies.
These include the evaluations, measurements, and the flow of the foods. Verification can also review the established limits. The verification step provides the opportunity to make any required changes in the plans if necessary.
7- Establishing the Documentation and Record-Keeping
The record-keeping of the food is one of the key components of the HACCP plan. It is simple to complete and includes all the information which is responsible to illustrate that all safety standards are compliant with the food procedures.
Records detail the information about the plan for employee referencing, and this is also used as means of proof to show that food processes were made according to these safety audits.
The documentation includes the plant’s hazard analysis, CLs, CCPs, corrective actions, temperature logs, checklists, flowcharts, forms, employee training records, company SOPs, verifications, and monitoring systems. Employees need to be trained on record-keeping activities, and this is why it is a critical part of their job.
Most companies ensure food safety compliance by making use of software such as ERP. This software solution is able to help the company follow these HACCP plans. The software solutions by automation companies
Food Safety Compliance Requirements
The company’s safety requirements when dealing with food may look different. Under the FSMA, different food processing facilities, even those which are in the same company, require their own food safety compliance plans due to the different working environments.
This is because it is near impossible for two different companies to be exactly alike. Each facility has its own risks that need to be identified and mitigated separately.
The Food safety compliance requirements consist of four fundamental principles that ensure the food is safe, hygienic, and compliant with state standards.
The cross-contamination of food occurs when the pathogens from one type of food are transferred to another type of food that should have been kept separate. Cross-contamination allows the germs of one food to be spread to another food.
The medium of transfer can be many, but the most common ones are equipment, hands, and surfaces. To prevent cross-contamination, the companies try to keep the surfaces and equipment clean and differences between the foods must be kept separate.
For example, vegetables and raw meat should be kept away separately when being stored to make sure no cross-contamination takes place. Additionally, even the equipment that must be used to prepare these foods needs to be kept separate when the foods are being prepared.
Even the foods must be washed in separate areas to make sure that the washing is thorough and results in no cross-contamination.
The cleaning of the food ensures that the area and equipment that will be used for food processing and handling will be clean and disinfected. This includes the equipment being cleaned between each cooking task, and the product cycle that takes place. This cleaning must be performed before the start of the day, preferable throughout the day and at the finishing of the day. Companies ensure that they follow personal hygiene standards if the food is being handled such as the hands being washed thoroughly, the clothes being clean, the hair being tied back and contained and gloves being worn when the food is being handled. Cleaning ensures that no external pollutants are able to affect the safety, and quality of the food detrimentally.
The food can be kept safe if it is kept in chilled conditions. The food must be kept between the temperatures of 0 °C to 5 °C. This ensures that the food is safe from microorganisms such as Salmonella, E.coli, and C.botulinum that can cause botulism.
When the food is kept in this range, it is one of the best ways to prevent or slow down the growth of these bacteria. This is why refrigerators should be set at 3 °C to 4 °C. The frozen foods must be stored as soon as possible after they have been delivered.
They must be consumed before the use-by date passes to ensure that the food is safe for consumption. When the food is being de-frosted, it is best to do it naturally, use the microwave defrost settings or place it in the fridge where it is at a safe temperature while defrosting, or even placed in a sealed container under cold running water.
These frozen foods need to be defrosted unless advised to cook them frozen. It is very important to chill the food so that the microorganisms are not able to contaminate it.
When the consumers are preparing the food, they must ensure that the food has reached a core temperature of 70 °C to 75 °C for a minimum of two minutes, as this ensures that the bacteria will be killed safely.
The raw meat should be cooked to ensure that all the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left. It is best to use a clean thermometer or a probe to allow consumers to check this to be sure. If food is being served on a buffet, or if you are holding hot food back, then must keep it at 63 °C or above.
f the food is not being used for two hours, it is important that the food be reheated until piping hot or chilled to 8 °C or below. If the food is left out for over two hours, it is best to throw it away for safety. This step is required to be correctly followed by the food service industries
These four fundamentals ensure that the requirements of compliance are met, and the food is safe for consumption, and it makes use of the best food handling methods by the consumers and the producers to make sure that the food is compliant with food safety legislation.
How to Manage Food Safety Compliance Requirements
Companies must know how to manage the food safety compliance requirements so that they can work in providing the best food safety compliances with regulatory authorities.
The following methods also help provide a safe and the best consumer experience with your food products.
– Understand Which Regulations are Applicable to Your Company
Companies need to have a clear understanding of which specific regulatory requirements are applicable to your company, as it is a crucial step to ensure that compliance requirements are met correctly.
The different governing bodies are placed to ensure that the quality and the safety of food are ensured in those environments where the food is being handled.
These include from the farms to the processing facilities of the companies. It is possible that your company may fall under the category where one or more sets of regulations need to be followed, as it is important to be sure.
According to a survey conducted by the Acheson Group and the SafetyChain, more than 10% of the respondents were uncertain whether their food and beverage company fell under the FSMA. This means it is essential to know which regulations are bounded to your company so that you are able to follow the best practices.
– Develop Effective Procedures & Train Accordingly
All food and beverage companies need to take a much more disciplined approach towards food safety compliance so that they can ensure that these regulations are within the applicable regulations.
Based upon the guidelines of the regulatory bodies, companies should put into perspective their own preventive controls so that safety compliance is monitored correctly.
For instance, the companies under the FSMA develop a detailed Safety plan for their foods that outlines specific controls that are intended to mitigate the potential risks of their foods. Data such as temperature readings need to be tracked, as it is important to develop strict procedures that will prevent the contamination of the food and maintain cleanliness.
After these procedures are in place, the companies must provide thorough training for their employees so all of them have a clear understanding of their roles in maintaining food quality to ensure food safety compliance.
Food safety is an ongoing activity so once a plan is developed, and their staff members have trained adequately, it must remain their everyday priority through the enactment of protocols to ensure food safety compliance. It is best to identify the food safety compliance issues before they escalate.
A well-trained staff plays a significant role in the prevention of food safety issues, and so does technology. Companies make use of software solutions to optimize workflows and provide automation.
For example, a completely digitized software can provide continuous improvement and support food safety compliance by providing them with real-time operational data. This real-time data can transparently explain what is happening at the plant and why.
Digital Root Cause analysis can help your company pinpoint the circumstances that lead to any potential risk so that the company can address them promptly and prevent them from happening again.
The software can leverage the data from multiple inputs such as sensors that can help uncover a root cause of the problem through multiple tools such as the 5 Whys or the fishbone diagram.
These allow the company to decrease its resolution time and ensure that the corrective action and preventive action program of the company can be executed effectively and efficiently.
– Optimization of Records Management
In order to ensure that food safety compliance is met, it is of utmost importance to optimize the record management. All pieces of data from processes such as vendor approvals, checklists must be documented and be easily accessible at a moment’s notice.
These ensure that the quality program requirements and the food safety needs are met every day, while also making sure that the company is ready for audits and any external inquiries. Additionally, comprehensive record-keeping is also critical to ensure FSMA compliance.
– Emphasizing Food Traceability for Food Compliance
In case of any setback, if the company needs to recall its products on a local or global scale, it results in a quality concern that will damage the reputation of the company as it raises fingers on the company’s quality standards.
In order to dodge this shortfall, it is best to have food traceability. The implementation of food traceability systems ensures that the product recalls are quick and precise, the impact of the recalls can have a minimized scope, improve the customer protection, improve the brand protection and brand building, and also increase the quality control of the food and make production efficient.
Food traceability can be achieved through software solutions. Folio3 software solutions have been In use in Agtech, and it can help incorporate traceability systems for companies to utilize their available data to make more informed business decisions.
– Safety Compliance in Retail Stores
End consumers are going to purchase your products from the retailers. You must ensure that they have food safety-compliant standards so that the consumers consume your products safely. You can provide food safety compliance by focusing on the traceability of the food.
Furthermore, you must have documentation on the processes to prevent internal and external risks. Food safety ensures loyal customers.
Also, make sure that the foods are labelled in packaging.This plays an important factor in the purchasing decisions made by customers. These include risk awareness, allergies, diets, and a safe environment for the food.
Mention all of the ingredients transparently so that the customers can learn about the products that they will consume. Make sure hygienic practices are followed in the retail stores to offer the foods fresh to the customers.
A good and hygienic practice will help reduce the exchange and the spread of the microorganism to a level that is non-hazardous.
– Controlling and Ensuring the Best Packaging Quality
It is necessary to control the packaging of your food items. Food can be packaged in bottle jars, cans, or boxes. It is required by law that companies display their volume, net weight, and the number of pieces.
The quality of packaging needs to be controlled to ensure that the food packaging is safe and the images used are relevant. If these elements are missing, it may lead to compliance issues with the regulatory requirements. High-quality packaging ensures that customer acceptance is enhanced.
– The Clear Visual Inspection of the Food
All of the foods of the company must be identical by appearance and weight. The foods need to be defect-free. The use of a vision inspection system can help in detecting the defects of the food that it is programmed by software to capture. This can prevent the delivery of mislabeled products and defective pieces to the customers.
– Maintaining Hygienic and Clean Food Scales
The food weighing equipment needs to be designed and installed as per the safety requirements. The design must be such that the food scales can be sanitized and cleaned. This will ensure that the contamination risk of the food in the processes of production, handling, and selling is minimized.
– Meeting all Legal Metrology Standards
The company must make sure that every single ingredient in the food item must be accurately weighed to ensure that the food is safe and healthy for public consumption. It is also essential for fair taxation. Your company must meet the legal metrology standards to ensure that the weights of the ingredients are accurate.
– Taking Intrinsic Safety Measures for Products
It is essential to use intrinsically safe equipment to weigh and then process the food products. This will make it possible to accurately weigh all food items in even the hazardous regions.
– Performing the Moisture Analyzer Testing
The moisture in the environment can affect the shelf life of the food significantly, the usability of the food products, the processability of the food, and their quality as well. Any errors while conducting the moisture analysis can severely impact the quality results at the end. Additionally, there are statutory rules that are responsible for governing the maximum permissible moisture content for your foods.
– Foreign Body Detection of Elements
There can be undesirable items inside the food such as screws, metal shavings, buttons, etc. which can accidentally make their way into the food products. Detecting such unwanted elements is critical to ensure food safety compliance to ensure the safety of the consumers. This can damage their health, and even the company’s reputation, if dealt with incorrectly.
If companies follow these steps in their food production, handling, and distribution, these can help them achieve high customer satisfaction levels. These are directly going to translate to increased sales and profits.
How Does the Use of Software help in Food Safety Compliance?
Software companies help provide digital food safety compliance features that are needed to maintain the safety of the food. Automation can help decrease the human error factors, decrease operational costs and make the food safety compliance process more streamlined.
- The software can provide transparency by making use of digital checklists that provide constant transparency for all actions and ensures task completion. The increased visibility can allow for a clear understanding of all operations. Instead of compiling sheets, all the data is connected to a single repository that can store all of the information and provide easier documentation. It makes sure that all standards are met.
- The corrective actions in the digital food safety systems are required to ensure compliance. The software solutions can help include actions tailored to your processes to make sure that there is always a backup plan in case anything goes wrong. This helps manage change in environments as well. High-quality processes can be followed, and task completion can also be ensured.
- The process for inspection for these compliances can also be digitized in the form of an automated dashboard. All the data will be in a centralized database to ensure instant review at any instant. The food safety logs are available at all times without any discrepancy. The inspection process becomes effortless when all the data is organized properly. There is no need to deal with huge stacks of documents. The company can always perform internal inspections and even external inspections in case of a surprise inspection by regulatory authorities.
- The software can help companies deal with food safety compliance requirements. The software services can improve food traceability, ensure data transparency, increase food safety, organize documentation, keep the data secure, and provide a better preventive action and corrective action plan. The use of software can improve compliance and as a result uplift the standards of service for the company.
You can hire software companies such as Folio3 that can provide software solutions to meet food safety compliance requirements. This helps automate and optimize workflows to make sure that international and local regulatory body compliance requirements are met for the food companies. These ensure public safety and make sure that the company’s reputation is not damaged.
What are Food Regulations?
Food regulation is a set of laws and regulations that has been enacted by the governments to ensure that the food safety requirements are met by the food chain operators in terms of food quality.
The term food law applies to the legislations that regulate the trade, production, and handling of food and covers the regulation of food safety, food control, food quality, and other relevant aspects that are related to the trade of food across the food chains from the provision of the animal feed to accessibility for the customers.
Why are Food Standards and Regulations are Required?
Food standards and regulations are an important need for society. They are in place to prevent the hazards of foodborne illnesses from entering the food chains.
These regulations minimize such events by providing a safe outline that needs to be met. One in six, Americans fall ill and almost 3000 die every year due to foodborne illnesses.
Several cases even go unreported as symptoms resemble flu. The germs can contaminate the food in our homes, kitchens, grocery stores, restaurants, food-producing, and processing plants. Training for handlers ensures that all the safe practices are followed. People want to know exactly where their food comes from and want transparency.
Industrial food production, packaging, and production need to follow the standards to ensure that the food they produce is safe to consume. In machines and assembly lines were so many things may go wrong on a massive scale. There needs to be a criterion to outline what is a safe environment.
Food safety compliance is important to prevent the use of any dangerous ingredients, remove any unwanted elements, and reduce foodborne illnesses. These regulations protect the public, especially the most vulnerable to foodborne illnesses such as children, pregnant people, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.