Preventing Food Recalls: Effective Training is a Key Ingredient for Ensuring Success

By Rhonda Wellik (Cert ID) and Lori Carlson

For suppliers and food manufacturers, the recipe for preventing a food recall requires a blend of familiar ingredients, including knowledge, diligence, transparency, and effective controls. But what shapes and binds these attributes into a finished product that can be labeled “an effective food safety management system” (FSMS), is training.

Training sets the foundation for the process, product and supply chain knowledge required to develop the components of a FSMS. It is the tool that ensures all employees are implementing prerequisite program (PRP) activities and food safety controls correctly, for every batch or lot of product. And most importantly, continuous training—like continuous improvement—helps identify performance gaps and realign employees with food safety and hygiene best practices. This reinforces a food safety culture by investing in workers and empowering them to be the first line of defense for keeping harmful products out of the marketplace.

Continuous training—like continuous improvement—helps identify performance gaps and realign employees with food safety and hygiene best practices.

Global Food Regulation
It is well-known that an effective FSMS is a requirement for the safe production of food. We see this through Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked certification programs and global food regulation such as the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). They all establish a framework for effective food safety management that includes programs necessary for hygienic operations (e.g. PRPs), and validated controls at individual process steps where a specific hazard is identified. In a food company, training has the potential to be one of the most impactful PRPs, as it gives birth to the successful development and execution of all other PRPs and controls (e.g., critical control points [CCPs]).

Food safety plan development is highly dependent on an effectively-trained team capable of accurately identifying potential hazards in products, and determining effective controls that reduce or eliminate them. Risk analysis training provides food safety teams with the knowledge necessary to assess and identify food hazards. It also helps them stay up-to-date on emerging hazards and threats so they can determine, apply, and validate controls for the identified hazards. That in itself is a key preventive step to avoiding a recall.

Safe Food Practices
Additionally, training breathes life into two-dimensional procedures and food safety plans. Training on the PRPs responsible for maintaining safe and hygienic operations is the key to implementing most of a site’s safe food practices. This includes:

  • training all workers and visitors on vital programs such as allergen management, food defense and good manufacturing practices (GMPs)
  • training sanitation and maintenance staff on PRPs governing facility and equipment cleaning and repair such as chemical control, cross-contamination control, and adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and
  • training all workers on their individual job responsibilities, in particular those critical to food safety such as control monitoring and verification for continuous mitigation of hazards

 

Training offers protection against a food recall largely because it gets everyone on the same page so procedures and practices are performed correctly and consistently; this reduces gaps in control deviations. Further, training on the site’s recall procedure and communication plan (or mock recall) reminds everyone of the grave consequences of hazardous products in the marketplace and the negative repercussions for the firm and the brand. Mock recalls are fantastic training exercises, which help keep the importance of food safety practices at the forefront of everyday operations. Lastly, training safeguards against a recall through its ability to correct inconsistent practices, provide clarity on technical subjects, reinforce food safety goals, and improve the FSMS. After all is said and done, isn’t this what we’re all setting out to achieve?

About the Authors
Lori Carlson provides independent training and consultation services to the food and beverage industry. She has over a decade of experience in food safety and quality management, GFSI benchmarked schemes, regulatory compliance, and third party certification. Lori has authored numerous white papers, magazine articles and guidance documents and has contributed to the development of various food safety standards and food professional training courses for GFSI scheme owners and certification bodies.

Rhonda Wellik is the General Manager for Cert ID North America. Rhonda’s expertise includes food safety, quality and identity preservation (IP) certification. Achievements include the development of Cert ID’s accreditation program, adaptation of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for Cert ID Japan and development of a Gluten-Free Product Standard Addendum for GFSI certified companies. She has nearly 20 years’ experience in the food industry backed by previous roles in regulatory affairs and research within the biopharmaceutical industry.