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Top Food Safety Mistakes Plants Are Making That Corporate Leaders Don
Mike Koeris

By: Mike Koeris on August 9th, 2017

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Top Food Safety Mistakes Plants Are Making That Corporate Leaders Don't Know About

FSMA  |  Food Safety

News headlines featuring popular food brands illustrate the reputational damages and profitability losses that companies can experience as a result of food safety issues in the manufacturing process. The truth is many corporate leaders don’t have the necessary visibility into what’s happening at the plant level to rectify food safety mistakes before they become public health concerns.

Unfortunately, lack of knowledge regarding these problems does not excuse corporate executives from legal responsibility. As Supreme Court case law dictates, accountability rolls up to the top. The Park Doctrine establishes that a “responsible corporate official can be held liable for a first time misdemeanor (and possible subsequent felony) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“the Act”) without proof that the corporate official acted with intent or even negligence, and even if such corporate official did not have any actual knowledge of, or participation in, the specific offense.” (FDA)

Are you prepared to take on the professional and potentially personal liability, risk the brand and incur heavy or potentially fatal losses for your company? All this because of a lack of visibility into plant-level operations? This is a dangerous path. Yet, it’s the reality that too many C-suite leaders face. You may not even realize the risk load you’re bearing if you’re not aware of the mistakes occurring within the plant.

Following are just a few of the serious issues you may be overlooking if you’re not equipped with the proper tools and processes to achieve full visualization of plant-level activities.

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Training Inconsistencies and Failures

Do you know where food safety training efforts for plant employees are falling short? Is there even a formal training program being implemented at all? Your brand’s reputation and bottom line are being influenced by those individuals carrying out operations on the plant floor. So if they’re not receiving proper, robust and ongoing training, they could be putting the entire organization (including you, personally) at risk.

In every area of your production process, you should be confident that each employee is being comprehensively trained. Consider whether you have a full, accurate picture of the training activities being executed in some the following areas:

  • Sanitation
  • Personal hygiene
  • Chemical handling
  • Quality assurance
  • Labeling
  • Control point testing
  • Documentation

Your company’s manufacturing process relies on human effort, which always comes with a risk of error. Ensuring that your people are effectively trained can significantly reduce the possibility of human involvement becoming a massive liability for your brand and your leadership team. Therefore, it’s essential to have clear visibility into this crucial component of food safety.

Undocumented Actions

FSMA regulations have heightened the requirements that manufacturing companies must meet in terms of food safety documentation. Keeping updated, accurate records of all related data components, actions and results is mandatory if you intend to maintain compliance and enforce food safety plans that both minimize liability and protect your brand.

What level of transparency do you have to ensure that everything is being properly documented? Think about whether you have the capabilities to monitor documentation on some of these critical aspects:

  • Hazard analyses
  • Preventive controls
  • Routine testing results
  • Investigative testing results
  • Corrective actions
  • Verification efforts
  • Supplier activities
  • Recall implementation
  • Auditing
  • Training

Undocumented actions and data points can cause major food safety complications down the road. Without complete visibility into the documentation efforts and oversights occurring at the plant level, you don’t have the support you need to safeguard your brand in the event of a recall and defend yourself personally against food safety liabilities.

Delayed Testing Results

How quickly does your plant receive test results from pathogen testing samples? If this process is not highly efficient, there’s opportunity for contamination issues to go unaddressed for longer periods of time. As more products are manufactured and distributed, your level of risk for causing foodborne illness increases. Ultimately, delayed testing results impede your company’s ability to protect the consumer -- and their trust in your brand.

If your team is sending out samples to an outside lab, there’s probably a significant delay in getting results. It usually takes about 48 to 72 hours to receive a test result from an external party. In that time, how much more potentially contaminated product is being processed? Faster results lead to more relevant data that can be leveraged for a proactive food safety approach.

This is a vital reason why it’s necessary to achieve clear visibility into what’s going on at the plant level. You should be able to easily access records and reports on sampling activities, results and turnaround times. With this knowledge, you can take steps to implement faster testing options, like an on-site, in-shift pathogen testing solution. Having quick turnaround times for sample testing is crucial in eliminating harmful pathogens and embracing a responsible food safety plan.

Lack of Communication Across Teams

When communication across the plant (and the entire organization) fails, so does your food safety plan. The complexity of operations inherent in your manufacturing process requires a streamlined approach to communication.

If the sanitation, maintenance, quality assurance, laboratory, crisis management and other integral teams are not fully apprised of important information and alerts at all times, they’re not prepared to address food safety concerns appropriately.    

It’s imperative to enable fluent communication between departments and provide visibility to all teams. The strength of this visibility and communication impacts the plant’s capacity to overcome food safety challenges effectively.

How does communication unfold at your facility? Are you able to see how the teams are interacting or the efficiency with which they are delivering critical notifications and reports? Do you have transparency into these communications and easy access to key information? If not, there could be communication gaps that are affecting food safety outcomes -- a reality with potentially devastating consequences for your brand and for yourself as a corporate leader.  

Concerned that you might be blind to many of the food safety mistakes happening at the plant level? Download the free CONTROL guide to learn more about key visibility features that can help you prevent serious brand and personal repercussions.

Are your food safety solutions delivering transparency and insight?

Find out how CONTROL facilitates superior visibility into your food safety risks.

Get Your Free Guide