10 Steps To Implement An Effective Food Safety Management System.

Implement a Food Safety Management system

Implementing an effective food safety management system can be challenging but rewarding. It requires hard work, a dedicated team, and support from top management. This process involves planning, budgeting, management involvement, and ongoing performance monitoring. It encompasses all aspects of food safety, from handling and purchasing to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption. Experienced food safety managers often find that maintaining the system can be more challenging than the initial implementation phase. In the article below, we will outline ten steps to implement an effective food safety system and provide tips on maintaining it once in place. 

Let’s begin by addressing three frequently asked questions about food safety management systems.”FAQ #1: What is a Food Safety Management System?

A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is a set of interrelated elements designed to establish and implement food safety policies and objectives within the scope of an organisation’s overall business activities. This can be used to build the company’s Food Safety System ‘House’ step by step, like building a house from foundation to roof.

All activities should be implemented according to legislation, customer requirements, industry codes of practice, and the relevant food safety standards. In South Africa, the guidelines and standards that we refer to mainly are GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) requirements, SANS 10049, relevant ISO/TS 22002 Technical Specifications for Pre-Requisite Programmes, SANS 10330, ISO 22000, BRCGS, and FSSC 22000 standards.

FAQ #2: What are the main components of food safety management?

When developing your food safety system, there are six main components to consider:

  1. Food safety policies, procedures, and work instructions
  2. Prerequisite programmes
  3. Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP)
  4. Regular inspection and maintenance
  5. Validation and verification
  6. Training

FAQ #3: What are the benefits of implementing a food safety management system?

Implementing a food safety management system offers numerous benefits. Amongst others, it:

  • Helps ensure that food safety and quality are maintained, enabling you to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and avoid costly recalls, food poisoning cases, and lawsuits.
  • Helps to meet legal and regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of fines and penalties.
  • Provides a framework for continual improvement.
  • Helps to ensure that food safety and quality standards are met, maintained, and improved over time.
  • Increases efficiency and reduces costs.
  • Helps to improve productivity and create a safe and effective work environment.
  • Helps to demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to food safety and quality.

Now that we have addressed three key questions surrounding FSMS, let us unpack the ten steps you can take to implement it effectively.

Step 1: Plan-Do-Check-Act

Start by conducting a gap assessment of your current system. Then compile a Project Plan for the implementation using the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle approach below. 

Plan: 

  • Evaluate existing system
  • Establish objectives
  • Plan the process

Do:

  • Implement the plan
  • Activate the plan

Check:

  • Monitor and measure
  • Compare results with expected results
  • Identify problems

Act: 

  • Implement corrective actions
  • Improve results

When followed consistently and continuously, this four-stage approach for resolving problems and implementing solutions helps ensure high-quality results.

Tip: Based on the findings of your Gap Assessment, we need to address the deficiencies in the following manner, while considering the requirements for Food Safety Management System documentation, staff training, and upgrading of buildings, equipment, and infrastructure. It’s important to include a plan for the internal audit process, following the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) approach at each stage of the management system documentation and implementation. The project should be completed with a Pre-certification readiness audit scheduled at least 6 weeks before the certification audit. This will provide our team with sufficient time to address any remaining issues before the certification audit.

Step 2: Food Safety Policies, Procedures & Work Instructions

Food safety policies outline the standards for food safety, quality, and legal requirements, as well as your commitment to meeting these standards and your overall strategy for achieving the desired results. Procedures, on the other hand, detail how your organisation will manage and control the necessary processes to ensure that food safety, quality standards, and legal requirements are upheld.

In this step, identify a food safety team leader and establish a food safety team. Gather and organise existing documentation and checklists into a framework based on your reference standards. Map out your processes, identifying and addressing any gaps in the documented system. 

Remember that all documentation related to the FSMS, such as policies, procedures, work instructions, logs, records, and forms, need to be numbered, controlled, reviewed and safely stored. 

Here are four Golden Documentation rules to follow:

  1. Say what you do
  2. Do what you say
  3. Prove it
  4. Improve it

Step 3: Implementation of the PRPs (Pre-Requisite Programmes)

Here are examples of your PRPs that need to be documented. Records are essential to demonstrate effective management and control of these fundamental programs before you begin implementing your HACCP system.

Examples of PRPs: 

  • Personal hygiene
  • Food defense and food fraud
  • Housekeeping and hygiene
  • Chemical and physical product contamination
  • Product control
  • Process control
  • Traceability
  • Product flow and segregation
  • Production risk zoning
  • Staff training
  • Pest control
  • Cleaning and sanitation
  • Allergen management
  • Waste management
  • Utilities: water, ice, air and other gasses
  • Construction and layout of buildings
  • Maintenance
  • Storage and transport

Step 4: HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points)

HACCP is a systematic approach to food safety management. It is a structured system designed to mitigate the risks posed by food safety hazards (whether chemical, biological, physical, or allergenic) in the final product. Proper implementation of PRPs is crucial to identifying, managing, and controlling these potential hazards. Failure to establish effective PRPs can result in product contamination, potentially leading to illness, injury, or even death. HACCP is all about prevention. This means that you take action before something goes wrong rather than being reactive after the fact.

There are 12 Stages of HACCP. 

In the first Five Preliminary Steps, you will:

  • Assemble the HACCP team
  • Describe the product and its distribution
  • Describe the intended use and the users of the product
  • Develop the process flow diagram
  • Verify the process flow diagram

Then, you will need to follow the Seven Principles of HACCP:

  • Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis
  • Principle 2: Determine the Critical Control Points (CCPs)
  • Principle 3: Establish Critical Limits (CLs)
  • Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures
  • Principle 5: Establish corrective actions
  • Principle 6: Establish a verification plan
  • Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

Step 5: Training & Education

Staff training should align with each individual’s role within the food safety system. Training should include:

  • Basic hygiene for food handlers
  • GMP training for the food safety team, supervisors, and managers
  • HACCP training for the food safety team
  • CCP training for the CCP operators
  • Training on the relevant food safety standards such as ISO 22000, FSSC 22000, etc.
  • Refresher training for seasonal staff
  • Induction training for new staff
  • Training on the company policies, procedures, and work instructions

Step 6: Traceability System

A traceability system should be in place to trace all batch numbers of raw materials across all product ranges at all stages of the processes, including storage and distribution to customers and vice versa. Records should be kept to ensure an effective product recall in case of a food safety incident.

Step 7: Monitoring & Verification

In this step, ensure that all identified areas of product and process control undergo regular monitoring and verification to uphold ongoing compliance with the objectives of your food safety system. This includes establishing an internal audit program and implementing an Environmental Monitoring Program to verify compliance with microbiological safety and quality criteria.

Step 8: Incident Investigation

Investigate any deviations from process and product criteria promptly, and establish an effective customer complaint system. Maintain records of all deviations, investigations, and corrective actions taken. Work towards implementing systems where you can trend your results to identify patterns that may require further management action.

Step 9: Communication

A food safety management system cannot work without effective communication. Establish communication protocols that detail who should communicate what information, how, and when, to enable transparency, avoid duplication, and prevent things from slipping through the cracks.

Step 10: Continuous Improvement

Once you have achieved your food safety and quality objectives, your aim should be to not only maintain the system, but also to optimise its performance through continuous improvements.

How can you maintain an effective Food Safety Management System?

Regular monitoring and verification are key to ensuring that your system works correctly and that food safety risks are effectively managed and controlled. Ongoing staff training and development are equally vital to ensure that staff stay abreast of system updates and changes to legislation, customer requirements, industry codes of practice, and revisions to relevant food safety standards and guidelines. Finally, your organisation should also strive for continuous improvement, optimising performance using the best systems, tools, and technology available.

Download the eBook for more information on implementing an effective Food Safety Management system here

How can Entecom help you?

Developing and implementing an effective food safety system can be complex and time-consuming. Entecom has experienced consultants armed with digital solutions and a vast range of training courses, tools and tips to make the process easier, faster, and more affordable.

We provide customised in-house workshops, aligning content with your company goals and operational requirements to help drive improvement. Our digital compliance solution, Entecom online (EO), is also designed to make food safety compliance easier, faster and more affordable. 

Contact us at info@entecom.co.za today to discuss your compliance needs in more detail.

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