As the demand for certification audits increases around the globe, food manufacturers along the supply chain are wondering what they can do to achieve certification and reduce shortcomings. GFSI certification requires several key elements reflected in each of the approved certification standards. Check out these seven warning signs that you won’t pass a certification audit, so you can eliminate deficiencies in your plant before the big audit day arrives.
- Your facility doesn’t foster a food safety culture. Creating a culture of food safety is vital for a successful GFSI certification program. What does your company value and believe in? Is your mission statement reflected in the daily actions of employees throughout your plant? Culture defines right and wrong. It’s what’s talked about in the board room, at the water stations, and in the cafeteria. If a culture of food safety does not exist in your facility, it will be the most challenging aspect of GFSI certification to overcome. Every employee, from the top down, must be part of this culture and committed. Senior management must demonstrate its commitment by participating in plant activities, providing necessary resources, and rewarding excellence.
- Resources haven’t been allocated for investing in improvements. Creating a food safety culture and achieving GFSI certification will require new resources. Consider these to be an investment in the company’s stability, growth, and market recognition. Depending on your starting point, building and equipment upgrades and additional personnel may be needed. Technological advancements can also play a significant role and must be available.
- Your full staff hasn’t been trained. Training is critical in any food safety and quality management program, and GFSI certification is no exception. No matter what scheme you implement, the first step is to train all employees at appropriate levels. The team responsible for program development must have undergone formal training to understand the standards and be able to apply them to your operation. All other employees must have a basic understanding of the overall standards and specific knowledge of their own areas of responsibilities. When required training is missing, GFSI certification is not practical.
- Key documentation is missing from your formal programs. All GFSI schemes require that formal programs be developed. Policies, procedures, and work instructions are critical tools to convey a consistent message to employees and ensure regulatory, customer, and GFSI compliance. These documents must be supported by forms and records that provide evidence of program implementation. A well-defined document-control program provides the most current information to ensure product safety and integrity. Electronic or printed copies must be available to employees. A register or list of documents and records is useful to prevent things from falling through the cracks.
- You haven’t implemented HACCP. HACCP is the most widely accepted food-safety approach which is globally recognized and implemented. The system ensures a science-based, systematic evaluation of food safety hazards associated with your raw materials and processing steps, and assigns critical control points or prerequisite programs to reduce or eliminate the risk of each hazard occurring. A team approach to HACCP ensures program ownership and a thorough hazard analysis that results in a robust food safety system.
- You aren’t appropriately using GMPs to control potential hazards. Each developed country has its own set of regulations for good manufacturing practices (GMPs). In the United States, FDA Regulation 21 CFR Part 110 includes GMPs for manufacturing, packing, or holding human food. GMPs provide a foundation for an effective food safety system and are required by most food safety certification audits. Most potential food safety hazards are controlled by GMPs, so it is extremely important that these programs are developed and implemented effectively.
- You haven’t conducted an internal audit. The internal audit is a critical tool to verify the food safety system and identify gaps and weaknesses. If done correctly—not just to satisfy your certification auditor—the internal audit will ensure compliance to established programs. A team approach to your internal audit helps maintain impartiality and objectivity, resulting in true evaluation. Internal audits must be scheduled; reports must document conformance and non-conformance; and corrective and preventive actions must be implemented and verified. When you begin the GFSI certification journey, the internal audit will play a key role in gap analysis and determining the areas for focus.
Whether you’re just beginning the certification process or you’ve significantly changed your food safety management system since your last audit, a gap assessment will help you bridge the gaps between your current food safety management system and a certification-level system. It is also useful when a new version of a standard is released or between audits to keep your site audit ready.
A gap assessment will evaluate established procedures, programs, and documentation to measure how well your food safety programs align with your certification standard requirements. It’s also a consulting tool that offers the best possible training and helps you discover areas for improvement so corrections can be made before your certification auditor arrives.
The author is Manager, SQF Certification