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ML3 Technical Blog

Food safety news and guidance
3 minutes reading time (601 words)

Well so much for a quite life.

Well the plan to write a regular blog hasn't gone to plan. The last couple of months have been fairly hectic writing and implementing food safety management systems for two new customers and getting other customers successfully through their Red Tractor and BRC Audits (1 AA and 1 A grade) as well as visiting fields of potatoes, cauliflowers and a tradeshow.  My work is certainly not boring and not desk bound all the time.

I mentioned above that I have implemented two new food safety management systems for customers, but what does this mean?

One definition of a FSMS is "the adoption of GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), HACCP and other such practices to be followed by the business to ensure food safety".  A FSMS is a set of interrelated elements that establish policy, objectives and to guide operators to ensure food safety is maintained.

Well that's quite a lot of blurb, but what does it mean in practice?

For me a food safety management system is all the documents that you require both legally and morally to produce safe food and be able to demonstrate it.
This will include a Quality Manual, HACCP study, staff training records, procedures to perform critical tasks, paperwork to trace product through your process, paperwork to control and check production areas, maintenance checks / amongst many other areas.

You'd be surprised when you start to look at the number of documents it takes to meet a implement a food safety management system even for a simple operation.

Where do I start?

The Quality Manual, this is the backbone of the food safety management system. It describes in brief detail how the system works, and how it is managed. Different people will have their own ideas on how their own system and manuals work. But for me I start with the standard the customer wants to achieve.

For example, if a pack house wants to work towards the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, then I would structure the Quality Manual on this and use clause numbers and requirements relevant to this standard. A grower would probably be working towards the Red Tractor Fresh Produce or GlobalGap standards, in which case, I would use these as a starting point.

The Quality Manual should allow an external auditor or customer to understand what the company does to ensure food safety, whilst it should also be available to (and used by) key staff to help inform them what they need to do, either routinely or when certain circumstances are identified.

Whilst a Quality Manual can be short, that is not always the case. Routinely for a BRC Food Quality Manual I produce will be over a 100 pages long. The full food safety management system can include over 200 documents even for a relatively simple operation.

You may be wondering if it is all worth it. Well, I had a conversation recently with one of my customers -a Yorkshire farmer who hasn't always been fully committed to the idea of the BRC he required.
He quoted  "the BRC was the best thing I have done; by putting systems and procedures in place I've doubled profitability this year and have better control over raw materials and finished products".
It may seem like a lot of pain in the beginning, but there are rewards not only financial, but from a customer perception that does justify the investment in a good FSQM.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the complexity and timescale required to implement an FSQM. Are you wanting to gain a new certification, or update an old manual? Why start from scratch when you can contact ML3 Technical services to help you.

 

October: Beetroot
From lab to quality systems......how I got here.
 

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Friday, 22 March 2019
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