Choosing a Food Safety Consultant

Pig number one built his plant, and because he had already been in the food business for 20 years and had never made anybody sick and had already been inspected by a local government inspector, he didn’t bother developing and implementing a food safety program.

Pig number two built his plant using an inexpensive contractor with no food experience. He realized that he needed to develop and implement a food safety system to keep his customers off his back, so he begrudgingly hired the cheapest consultant he could find, who parachuted in a finished set of procedures and documents that he promptly placed on his office shelf.

Pig number three built his plant using a reputable and recognized contractor and architect with food plant experience. He also included an experienced food safety consultant on the design/build team.

So what did pig number three know that his brothers didn’t? He knew that to be properly prepared to achieve the results he wanted, engaging the right consultant was key. He considered the following factors:

  • What work experience, technical training, education, and certifications does the consultant have?
  • What specific experience in the industry sector does the person have, particularly with the food safety project being hired for? The consultant should have successfully completed at least five to 10 similar projects in comparable industries.
  • What do references say, and how do previous work samples look?
  • How easily does the consultant answer technical questions?
  • Is pricing too low or too high? Cost is important, but don’t make a decision based solely on price. Watch for ambiguous pricing that commits to the project and then surprises with additional fees.
  • What is the consultant’s approach? If the consultant wants to do it all for the client, be wary. The best consultants foster independent and knowledgeable clients. Good consultants work their way out of projects; poor consultants keep clients dependent for the long term.

Once completed, pig number three invested in food safety training for himself and all his employees. Armed with a good understanding of food safety, he hired an eager and qualified food safety coordinator and, working with the support of an outside food safety expert, took the lead in developing and implementing a food safety system. The food safety coordinator made sure to verify and validate its effectiveness. He oversaw the entire development and implementation process and sought continuous updates and reports on the key food safety metrics. He was an engaged piggy!

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