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Food Safety Improvements for 2016: A New Year’s Resolution

By Laura Dunn Nelson   |   

Need a new year’s resolution that will pay huge dividends throughout the year? Now is the perfect time to take a hard look at the results of your operations in 2015 to identify areas for improvement. Where were your successes and failures in safety, product, and people? What pictures does your data paint in the areas of quality, yield, and productivity?

Improvement efforts take time. Assessments should go well beyond recalls, accidents or near misses, and status quo on customer complaints. In fact, establishing key leading indicators/metrics can help move your organization out of ‘fire-fighting’ and into a more predictive and smooth operation.

To achieve a real resolution for improving food safety, your assessment should include a thorough review of:

GFSI, GMP, and/or HACCP audit results

Be sure that your GFSI food safety programs are properly designed. This will help you to prepare for FSMA’s final rule requiring a robust food safety plan.

Internal audit results

Identify gaps and apply the appropriate corrective actions to ensure continuous improvements. Assess the following:

  • Historical plant observations
  • Microbiological test results
  • Sanitation records
  • Additional control records

Pathogen control performance

Reassess your environmental monitoring programs and celebrate the positives. Identifying any pathogen presence enables mitigation steps to be effectively applied and reduces product risks.

Antimicrobial intervention validation logs

Identify important processing factors that may require additional intervention measures. To achieve the desired levels of pathogen reduction this may include:

  • Antimicrobial pre-treatments
  • New available chemical applications
  • New technologies


Allergen validations

Undeclared allergens contribute to food waste and costly recalls. Be sure that allergen validation procedures effectively prevent unintentional cross-contact as well as ensure proper labeling requirements are met BEFORE you become one of the recall statistics!

Conduct an evaluation of:

  • Possible incorrect formulation
  • Poor line scheduling
  • Unapproved processing aids
  • Unexpected presence of allergens in ingredients


Supply chain/ingredient management program

Supply chain management is a key focus for FSMA compliance. Execute a thorough review of your suppliers and the products they provide. Establish a risk ranking for those suppliers that pose a possible food safety risk, and manage your vendor relationships by concentrating your control efforts on the highest risk vendors.

As you consider the data, ask yourself if there are areas for continuous improvement or focus.

  1. Is your food safety program delivering the results you expect?
  2. Is this a good time to include additional cross functional staff on your HACCP and internal Audit Team
  3. Are your people trained to perform important assignments?
  4. Do you need to introduce additional testing sites vs those sites with no historical risks into your environmental monitoring program?

Take some dedicated time to truly assess your operations and set clear program objectives. This will help move you and your operations from a fire-fighting, crisis management mode to proactive management. It will also help you prepare for new FSMA and USDA requirements.

If you find yourself struggling to get your arms around the amount of information you’ve collected, then your first objective should be to streamline your data collection requirements to effectively identify key insights.

The new year is an excellent time to make sure your entire team is trained on defensible record-keeping. Having actionable, defensible data delivers the mechanism to anticipate operational challenges and proactively address them. 


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