8 Ways to optimise your Food Safety Management System

Effective food safety management is essential for any food business. It not only protects consumers from food-borne illnesses and substandard quality products, but also aligns your team with company goals, instills a culture of discipline, and helps drive continuous improvement in your organisation. Investing time to overhaul your food safety system can transform it from sluggish to slick. In Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the 7th Habit emphasises “sharpening the saw.” Join us as we explore eight ways to sharpen your Food Safety System.

1. Conduct a Self-Assessment to Identify Where You Can Improve as a Food Safety Team Leader

Before finding ways to “sharpen your saw”, it’s crucial to cultivate a proactive mindset and commit yourself to becoming the best leader possible. Start by pinpointing the aspects of your work that frustrate you and take up most of your time. Utilise tools like the “5 Whys” to uncover the root causes of frustration. The 80/20 principle often applies, where 80% of your headaches stem from just 20% of your tasks.

Put yourself in your manager’s position to assess whether you’re providing timely, accurate, and meaningful performance reports aligned with the company objectives, identifying any areas for improvement along the way. We also recommend seeking mentorship from respected leaders within your management team or exploring resources such as courses and books to enhance your leadership skills. 

2. Select the Correct Food Safety Team Members and Delegate Food Safety Tasks

We know that food safety leaders often strive for perfection, but maintaining a controlling mindset can result in unnecessary stress for both you and your team, which isn’t beneficial for your FSMS in the long term. 

When selecting food safety team members, look for individuals who consistently attend meetings, arrive punctually, participate actively, and contribute positively towards your FSMS. Review your team’s Job Descriptions and update them to accurately reflect their food safety responsibilities. Additionally, link their roles as food safety team members to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to integrate food safety into their performance management process.

3. Select Internal Auditors Who Are Methodical and Meticulous

Select your Internal Auditors carefully as they play a crucial role in maintaining and improving your FSMS. When selecting internal auditors, look for individuals who understand the importance of food safety and take pride in upholding your company’s certification. Avoid choosing unsuitable staff for internal audits, as they may conduct them superficially, treating them as mere checklist-ticking exercises. One tip we have is to consider training your accountants to assist with internal audits. They often bring valuable insights to the table, including identifying gaps in financial controls.

Structure your internal audit program to allow auditors to focus on specific areas of the system. This helps ensure thorough preparation, including reviewing relevant documents, formulating questions, and observing operations to check for alignment. When executed properly, this approach ensures the efficiency of each audited process, preventing a sluggish FSMS system.

Remember to establish performance measures and publicly recognise auditors who conduct high-quality audits. You may also implement incentives to reward auditors for outstanding work, further motivating them to uphold FSMS standards.

4. Compile an FSMS Document Matrix

As your system grows, you may accumulate numerous documents and records, a surprising portion of which may be unused or outdated. An FSMS Document Matrix will enable you to identify compliance requirements and relevant documents efficiently.

What is an FSMS Document Matrix?

  • A document matrix is where you tabulate the clause requirements of the particular audit standard against the FSMS references to documents or records that provide evidence of conformance to the particular requirement. Though time-consuming, this exercise provides you with a compliance map, revealing potential gaps or overlaps in your system.
  • This matrix will be very useful whenever there are updates to the standards since this enables you to identify the affected documents whenever there are changes to any clauses in the standard. It also aids in audits, offering a quick cross-reference from clause to FSMS documents.
  • A document matrix is also useful for integrating food safety systems with other management systems like ISO 45001 or ISO 14001, allowing you to identify common and new elements needing additional documentation.

5. Involve the Food Safety Team to Help Declutter, Organise, and Update Your Food Safety Documents and Records

Using your FSMS Document Matrix, allocate food safety documents and records to team members for review of relevance and applicability. During this process, you may uncover numerous work instructions, recipes, and records that are no longer applicable or in active use. Remove any documents that no longer serve a purpose and place them in an obsolete file for archiving. Additionally, identify records that have surpassed the required legal, customer, and standard retention periods, and dispose of them safely according to your company’s Document and Record Control Procedure. 

Assign food safety team members to review department-specific documents and records collaboratively with each department. Update lists of raw materials, ingredients, chemicals, packaging, and approved suppliers, cross-checking against all specifications and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on file. Foster team involvement in documenting the necessary information to enhance ownership and accountability, and establish review target dates for each department, allowing them to present the outcomes of their collaborative efforts.

6. Involve the Food Safety Team to Help Train Their Department’s Staff on Updated FSMS Documents

The more closely aligned your staff are with documented procedures and practices, the fewer non-conformances you should have. Identify new staff members by department and arrange training sessions for both new hires and existing staff on updated policies, procedures, and work instructions relevant to their roles in the FSMS. After each training session, conduct brief assessments to gauge staff comprehension effectively. Remember to maintain comprehensive records of all training sessions and assessments.

7. Establish Performance Measurement Criteria for the Management of the Food Safety System

Establish clear performance targets for your food safety management system to uphold accountability in maintaining food safety. These targets should be reviewed regularly and updated to reflect changes in the business. 

Implement real-time tracking of key data points related to food safety management to swiftly identify areas for improvement and potential risks or issues, while also fostering a culture of discipline among staff to inspire peak performance and dedication to food safety standards.

8. Implement a Digital Food Safety Management System

A digital food safety management system offers immediate remote access to all relevant reports, records, and documents essential for compliance, enhancing transparency and interdepartmental communication. This system boosts FSMS efficiency, eliminates errors, prevents oversight of crucial tasks, and frees up time for other responsibilities.

Download our eBook here for more information: https://www.entecom.co.za/optimise-food-safety-management-system/

How can Entecom help you?

Entecom is a FoodBev SETA Accredited training provider offering a wide range of credit-bearing SETA Accredited Skills Programmes starting from Level 1 and progressing through to Level 5. We also 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.

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