Audits & Analytics – Know for Sure

Emily Sohn’s column Peanut Butter’s Checkered Food Safety History chronicles the recent history and scope of bacterial contamination and recalls focusing on four food products – peanut butter, cantaloupe, ground beef and spinach.  Each food stuff has its particular problems be it the rough rind on cantaloupe or the multiple animal sources of ground beef plus their own favorite pathogen problems with Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria.

She rightly points to the large scale extended and complicated food supply chain as a major contributor to the outbreak problems we face in today’s food market. Our experience suggests that best first line defense is the current Food Safety Management System model contained in standards and regulations such as ISO 22000, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative.

These depend on a well defined system bolstered by analytics and real-time role specific reporting for timely and well informed decision making. This is summarized by a three step program:

  • Know your production and quality systems
  • Know your supply chain
  • Know for sure – verify with audits and use analytics to get maximum results from audits.

In our direct experience we have observed that integrating HACCP programs and SPC improves food safety results and in the case of ground beef purchase by the National School Lunch Program results in supply chains that delivered ground beef that never tested positive for the pathogens monitored. We also believe the additional step of extracting actionable information from audits with analytics helps maximize the food safety outcome.

Will these strategies eliminate all possibility of food safety events? No. Will they give us the best chance of a good outcome? Yes.

Surviving Close Encounters with the Committee

Food safety and quality management systems are a necessity if you are going to satisfy customer and regulatory requirements and meet corporate performance goals. While it is easy enough to review current best practices in food safety and quality systems and choose the options that will meet your compliance and performance needs, getting project sign off and budget approval from management committees can be an entirely different matter.

Much of that challenge comes from communication problems between two cultures, the technical and operational staff who develop the proposal and management who must understand it and sign off. The technical staff is most comfortable and fluent with the technical discussion. Management is fluent in the language of business and finance and evaluates the project in the context of corporate goals and ROI. Never were two groups more likely to have a failure to communicate.  

How do you reconcile the two groups to make the project happen?

Several proposal strategies have been used to bridge the gap and move forward to get the job done. The article “Justifying the Manufacturing Intelligence Project examines the most common strategies, where they work and how to maximize your chance of success.

Food Safety: Romney and Obama Focus on Different Solutions

In Christine Groman’s recent Scientific American blog, she reported on the presidential candidates responses to the food safety question in a larger questionnaire. The question was:

Question #7. Food. Thanks to science and technology, the United States has the world’s most productive and diverse agricultural sector, yet many Americans are increasingly concerned about the health and safety of our food.  The use of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, as well as animal diseases and even terrorism pose risks.  What steps would you take to ensure the health, safety and productivity of America’s food supply?

The Republican response not surprisingly tended to minimize government and regulatory role. One of the secrets to the success we have enjoyed in the food safety arena is that there has been a long term collaboration between public and private sectors to produce the substantial increase in food safety levels we have observed. FDA and GFSI both deserve kudos. We should strengthen the abilities of all not minimize any.

The Democratic response focused on the changes in bacterial infections as shown in the chart below.

foodbourne bacterial infections 2010

It would be great if the food safety community can leverage this questionnaire to bring greater awareness the status of food safety programs. These data should be emphasized in public discourse so the public can see where we have had success and where we need improvement.

Perhaps we can even get to the point of explaining that active process management programs in conjunction with HACCP based food safety programs are at the heart of the modern FSMS as defined in ISO 22000, the GFSI audit schema and the Food Safety Modernization Act. John Surak and I first demonstrated that linkage in a 1998 article Integrating HACCP and SPCwhich examined the role of an SPC based process management program in maintaining safe food production in a Butterball Turkey plant. As we said about those findings, food safety is ultimate justification of high capability manufacturing. 

Food Safety Webinar – How to Apply Analytics to Audits for Process Improvement

On Thursday December 15 at 11 AM PST, 2 PM PST, John Surak will present the webinr, “Applying Process-based Analytics to Audit Results for Process Management and Improvement” .

Operational audits and inspections play a critical role in assuring the effectiveness of the Food Safety Management System (FSMS). But that’s merely Step One.

Step Two and beyond involve leveraging the results from these audits to maximize value and effectiveness for process management and improvement by identifying the key process indicators, assessing them for trends, and taking action before a food-safety incident occurs. 

How to Use Audits for Process Improvement

The proper linkage and operation of the FSMS components enables successful certification audits. Additionally, it bolsters the view by Senior Management and other stakeholders that the plant has a robust food-safety management system in place.  By applying process-based analytics, management can continuously monitor the FSMS performance, improve compliance and reduce risk to the company.

The webinar will examine the data available in audits and pre-requisite program inspections and how applying analytics such as SPC can extract useful process management information. This method provides actionable feedback on the manufacturing processes and establishes a solid foundation for process management and continuous improvement. You can change audits from an unpleasant necessity to a positive contributor to your performance and bottom line.

Register now.

Can You Help With Audit Analytics Case Studies?

ISO 22000 requires the analysis of results of verification activities, and SQF and BRC require annual validation of the Food Safety Management System.  The analysis of the data for either of these two activities can be easily done using SPC. 

John Surak and I presented a poster on this topic at the IAFP annual meeting this summer (http://slidesha.re/uBnW1i  ) and John will present a webinar on the topic, “Applying Process-based Analytics to Audit Results for Process Management and Improvement” on December 15, 2011 ( http://www.nwasoft.com/resources/webinars/applying-process-based-analytics-audit-results-process-management-and-improvement ) .

We are looking for additional data which to develop case studies which demonstrate the power of SPC based analytics in conducting verification activities in the food industry. If you wish to participate in the project contact John Surak at jgsurak@yahoo.com or Jeffery Cawley at jcawley@nwasoft.com.

How to Apply Process-based Analytics to Audit Results

On August 1, John Surak and Jeff Cawley presented “Applying Process-based Analytics to Audit Results for Process Management and Improvement” at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. The Slide deck is attached

Operational audits and inspections play a critical role in assuring the effectiveness of the Food Safety Management System (FSMS).  To realize the maximum value and effectiveness for process management and improvement, key process indicators should be identified and plotted on control charts.  The control charts can then be assessed for trends, so actions can be taken before a food safety incident occurs. 

The proper linkage and operation of the FSMS components enables successful certification audits and gives confidence to Senior Management and other stakeholders that the plant has a robust food safety management system in place.  By applying process analytics such as SPC to sanitation data management can continuously monitor the FSMS performance.

Applying Process-based Analytics to Audits

Audit Analytics

audit analytics - swab sampleThe data gathered from food safety operational audits and inspections frequently goes no further than the summary report. The process information contained in this data can and should be used in continuous improvement programs.

On August 1, Dr. John Surak, Surak Associates, and Jeffery Cawley, NWA, will present “Applying Process-based Analytics to Audit Results for Process Management and Improvement” at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the International Association for Food Protection in Milwaukie, WI. The authors will be available for discussion at poster session P1-138 from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM and 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

The presentation will examine how applying process analytics such as SPC to sanitation data provides more effective monitoring of the Food Safety Management System (FSMS) performance. This method also enables effective improvement of FSMS compliance capabilities.

The presentation is the latest in a series of studies on improving food safety by applying SPC and process improvement methods which began with the 1998 article, “Integrating HACCP and SPC”  and continued with such projects as ground beef purchase for the National School Lunch program (see Feast or Famine, “Food Safety in the Supply Chain“).