Solutions for food recalls

Opportunities exist for food processors to strengthen their food safety system. The challenge is to identify the key factors that will leverage the greatest effect. This entails identifying what are truly effective policies and practices.

The first step is to separate the practices that will bring very small, if any, improvements in food safety, from practices that will bring large improvements. There are two practices that will bring only small gains, more testing and more inspection.

Food safety cannot be tested into the product. We have seen this with the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) recall. A lot contaminated with Salmonella tested both positive and negative for the pathogen. Therefore, just because a lot tests negative, it does not mean the lot is free of pathogens.

Traditional inspection procedures do not provide enough assurance that the plant’s food safety management system is being managed effectively. The plant can prepare for announced audits. In addition, the traditional audit gives only a picture of what is happening on the day of the audit.

Unfortunately, when there is a food safety incident in the U.S., we hear the cry for more testing and more inspecting.

Several best practices that can bring large gains to food safety include:
• Building food safety into the product design and manufacturing process
• Use process control techniques to monitor performance of internal processing
systems and supplier performance
• Use process audit techniques to assess internal processes and suppliers
performance.

These techniques have been tested throughout the food industry. Building food safety is accomplished by using HACCP. HACCP is further strengthened by having sound Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that are validated and verified. Currently, a number of food safety management system standards such as ISO 22000 provide the structure for sound implementation.

An article on HACCP and ISO 22000 is published on the ASQ web site

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