What’s on your compliance checklist – or should be for 2022? Manufacturers can benefit from creating and following a guidepost to sign off on regulatory compliance, including but not limited to sanitation, critical control points, corrective and preventive actions, verification procedures, documentation procedures and training. Although there are many pressing issues in today’s marketplace that impact the day-to-day operations and long-term outlook of a food and beverage business, compliance with food safety and quality standards is a must – and non-negotiable.
In today’s operating environment, fraught with supply chain issues, inflation concerns and ongoing labor shortages, taking steps to adhere to food safety and quality regulations provides much-needed peace of mind. The last thing a processor or manufacturer needs right now is a compliance problem.
To avoid such issues, it’s helpful to have a compliance checklist handy and check off items accordingly. Many fundamentals of food safety and quality are the same or similar, whether you’re seeking to align with what’s needed under the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program or another benchmarked plan. In fact, many of those redundancies are in place to streamline efficiencies.
Here are 6 steps to get you started:
1. A formal plan: To get to the final destination of food safety compliance, you’re going to need a good road map. Creating a plan, whether it’s your own unique food safety set of procedures and protocols or your organization’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, helps you identify hazards, corrective actions, recordkeeping, monitoring, verification, validation and recall measures. A plan is both a starting point and a measurement tool.
2. Equipment with sanitary design: Food safety can hinge on proper sanitation during production, so equipment used in food and beverage facilities must be designed and built around the principles of sanitary design. Machines with a robust sanitary construction and design, including x-ray systems designed to detect contaminants and perform quality checks, are a crucial part of a line set up for compliance, especially since auditors and other agencies routinely inspect equipment during their visits.
As part of its portfolio of inspection systems built with high sanitation standards, Eagle Product Inspection also offers machines that have been approved to meet uniquely rigorous standards, such as the Pack 400 HC 3-A Dairy that was created based on stringent dairy industry requirements or the RMI 400 for poultry inspection.
3. Interventions at critical control points: Plants with strong and diligently-followed Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs are well-positioned for compliance. HACCP plans are core to many food safety programs, and FSMA requirements for U.S. manufacturers now include both HACCP plans and prerequisite programs that span sanitation and supplier control and CCPs. X-ray machines deployed at critical control points in the production process‒from the inspection of raw materials to final checks of packaged goods‒are key to controlling contaminants during all phases of food and beverage manufacturing processes.
4. Ability to perform corrective and preventive actions: An infrastructure for corrective actions must be in place in the event that contaminants are found at critical control points. X-ray machines that automatically find, reject and remove physical hazards from a product are considered a corrective action in the case of nonconformity. For example, Unilever Canada deployed the Eagle Pack 320 PRO to detect foreign matter in mayonnaise and margarine products at critical control points on its line, opting for x-ray over metal detection to prevent more and different types of contaminants.
In addition to the defensive corrective action, manufacturers seeking to stay compliant with FSMA regulations must also go on the offense, with preventive actions. Preventive controls include the deployment of x-ray capabilities such as Eagle’s breakthrough Performance X-ray Technology (PXT™) to find even the smallest contaminants before such items move down the line in production and processing.
5. Documentation and verification: Documentation and verification are hallmarks of food safety compliance food and quality programs. To document the measures you have in place to protect products and meet regulatory requirements, you must keep meticulous, accurate logs and records. Those records can include item-level product information and images as provided by an x-ray system powered by an intelligent software platform.
Likewise, verification procedures are required by HACCP and by other food safety certification programs. In addition to providing verification through documentation, internal and third-party audits provide confirmation that a manufacturer is meeting its respective requirements. And remember: while you are keeping detailed records, don’t forget to register with the appropriate food safety agencies and regulatory bodies.
6. Training: There’s a good reason why a new and important GFSI requirement is for manufacturers to have a strong culture of food safety. All employees must hold and share food safety as a priority, which ultimately allows for food safety compliance. Beyond a holistic culture of safety, a comprehensive and thorough training program, like the Eagle Training Academy for advanced inspection, is a foundation for ensuring that you stay in compliance.
This is a basic checklist, and yours will vary based on your unique operation and requirements. If you need help determining where and how x-ray fits in with compliance, don’t hesitate to reach out directly to one of our experts. We’re here to help.