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.

Analyze the Audits for Better Compliance

Swabbing floor drainJohn Surak gave his webinar, “Applying Process-based Analytics to Audit Results for Process Management and Improvement” yesterday. The recorded presentation is now available for you   and the slide deck is available at SlideShare

An important takeaway is that using analytics on the audit findings and applying the results to your continuous improvement program is an excellent way to strengthen your FSMS. This implies better performance on subsequent audits and improved compliance with GFSI and ISO 22000 standards.

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“).

FDA Warning Letters: Lessons for Industry

David Acheson has begun a regular feature in the Leavitt Partners blog where he be examining the warning letters that the FDA has issued to the food industry. As he discusses, these should provide an insight into enforcement behavior as the Food Safety Modernization Act comes to bear.  It is instructive that among the FDA warning letters from January 1, 2011 to May 24, 2011. the largest category is for current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) violations. This implies that food processors will be well advised to have their food safety plan up to snuff and that they have implemented a competent Food Safety Management System.

You can view a recording of a webinar “Comprehensive Strategies to Protect Your Brand” we did with David on these topics.