Start a Food Safety Management System

Businesses from all links in the food chain are increasingly challenged to implement a structured food safety management system (FSMS) that is incorporated into the overall management activities of the organization. This challenge comes from the requirement to comply with a growing number of regulations, as well as pressure from customers and the ethical obligation to protect consumers from illness and injury by providing safe food.

Many business owners understand this and want to get started, but a newcomer can easily get lost in the plethora of standards, regulations, and requirements—and overwhelmed to the point of inactivity. But implementing an FSMS need not be so daunting, as you’ll see below.

A Standard to Follow

One of the first steps for an organization implementing an FSMS is to consider customer requirements and what must to be done to meet them. Most customers will require an FSMS to be certified to a recognized standard. These could include British Retail Consortium, Safe Quality Foods, ISO 22000, or FSSC 22000, all of which are approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative. Decide which FSMS standard meets your customer requirements and buy a copy. This standard should be read and understood by key personnel.

Once you decide which standard meets your customer’s requirements, ensure that it is read and understood by key personnel.

Once you decide which standard meets your customer’s requirements, ensure that it is read and understood by key personnel.

In order to develop a successful system, senior management must be committed to establishing, implementing, and maintaining the FSMS. You should begin the FSMS implementation process by having senior management prepare an organizational strategy based on customer and potential customer requirements. In this process, because responsibility for an FSMS lies with senior management, food safety policies and objectives should be generated. At this stage, the resources needed to implement, maintain, and improve the FSMS, including personnel, infrastructure, training, and work environment, should be considered and provided. As part of this process, a food safety team leader and a multi-disciplinary food safety team should be appointed by senior management to develop the FSMS.

HACCP at the Core

All food businesses should implement a documented FSMS based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles. HACCP is the systematic preventive approach to food safety that focuses on preventing physical, chemical, and biological hazards rather than conducting random finished product inspections. This means that food businesses should be aware of all the food safety hazards in their food operations and have systems in place to control them. A comprehensive HACCP system, complete with hazard analysis and assessment, is fundamental to the FSMS. The system should address customer, technical, and legal requirements in addition to physical, chemical, and biological hazards identified by the HACCP plan.

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