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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.


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“).

GFSI Compliant Food Safety Management Systems Webinars Now Available


Webinars investigate how food processors successfully deploy and use ISO22000 and GFSI compliant systems to enable quality operations and safe food. 

Commercial standards such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and ISO22000 dramatically shape how food processors run their operations.  Implementing a food safety management system compliant with these audits and standards is essential for market success. The Northwest Analytical webinar series, The Compliant FSMS enables food-industry management to design reasonable strategies to comply with these requirements and dependably produce safe food while protecting the company’s brand.

Four webinar recordings are now available:

1. Comprehensive Strategies to Protect Your Brand

David Acheson, M.D., Managing Director Food and Import Safety Practice, Leavitt Partners

Dr. David Acheson began the series with his insights into the food industry regulatory and commercial landscape. In his talk he:

  • Discussed the current pressures and challenges facing the food industry
  • Defined the changes from a regulatory and congressional perspective
  • Discussed the status and implications of pending US food safety legislation
  • Provided insights into future trends
  • Presented a forward looking strategy for brand protection.

2. Building a Corporate Food Safety Culture

John G. Surak, Ph.D., Surak and Associates

Building a culture for food safety starts with top management developing a strong commitment for food safety. In this webinar, Dr. Surak focused on using the elements of ISO 22000 to accomplish the following:

  • Linking the food safety management system to the corporate business system
  • Linking the quality policy to the corporate culture
  • Developing effective food safety objectives
  • Increasing the effectiveness of management review

3. Process Improvement with GFSI Compliant Management Systems

Tatiana A. Lorca, Ph.D., Manager of Food Supply Quality Assurance, EcoSure

Dr. Tatiana Lorca discussed the Global Food Safety Initiative and how their benchmark and recognition process drives improvement and cost efficiency. Topics presented:

  • What is the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)?
  • How the benchmark and recognition process drives improvement and cost efficiency across the food supply chain
  • How the GFSI requirements incorporate the principles of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle into the recognized programs and thus help drive improvement within a certified business
  • Four of the most widely used food safety management systems (SQF, BRC, FSSC and IFS) and their requirements highlighted from a process improvement perspective

4. Increase Food Safety, Reduce Risk, and Achieve Operational Effectiveness and Compliance

Deborah Kacera, Industry Solutions Director, Pilgrim Software

Deborah Kacera discussed how following the process requirements of the GFSI schemes yield analytics that foster growth and compliance and support:

  • Management Reviews
  • Supplier Performance Inputs and Ratings
  • Decision-making based on predictive actionable intelligence
  • Feedback into your Food Product Design and HACCP Plans

All four webinar recordings are available for immediate viewing at: http://www.nwasoft.com/FSMSWebinars.htm .

Process Control Verification – Making Sure Your FSMS is Working

Rick Stier and John Surak have published “Process Control Verification – Making Sure Your Food Safety Management System is Working” in the April/May 2010 issue of Food Safety Magazine. The article explains the elements and process of FSMS verification.

“Principle 6, Verification, as defined in the harmonized Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles from Codex Alimentarius[1] and the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF),[2,3] may be the most complicated HACCP principle. From audits that we have conducted, this is the one principle that many companies do not quite seem to grasp. Significant gaps in food safety management systems (FSMS) are often found when one examines how different processors define verification activities even among companies with “certified” HACCP plans. ”
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