– OPINION –
By Rebecca Guzy
Managing a Food Safety program in a smaller operation means making critical decisions with limited resources. In this session of the 2022 Food Safety Summit, you will gather foundational food safety ideas and contacts to surround yourself with the training and resources needed to protect your business, customers, consumers and brand. This session was developed for quality assurance and food safety managers of smaller companies with limited internal resources to accomplish all the roles necessary for a successful food safety program. Whether you are starting up a new food safety program for a growing small company or continuously improving your current food safety program there will be helpful nuggets for you. The session will focus on three learning objectives: 1) How do you know what you don’t know; 2) Filling in the resource and knowledge gaps in your food safety program; and 3) Upping your food safety game.
How do you know what you don’t know? For smaller operations, knowledge of the building blocks of a food safety program may be limited. Smaller organizations are often built upon assumptions, processes and procedures that worked when the company was just starting, less complex or under less regulatory, consumer or auditing scrutiny. Assumptions that worked in the past may not have been data driven and supported by strong science. An overview of the foundational programs necessary to ensure food safety — sanitation SSOPs, environmental monitoring, supplier approval and verification, HARPC/HACCP development, process validation, etc. — will be outlined along with resources to assist in developing robust programs.
Often times, smaller organizations do not realize they have a resource gap until they are dealing with a regulator, auditor or crisis. The second key learning objective, “Filling in the Gaps,” is meant to be a thought provoking overview of the resources and contacts needed to deal with these situations. Being a food safety professional in a smaller company requires you to have a broad baseline knowledge of many subjects — sanitation chemicals, microbiology, food science, regulatory compliance, thermal processing, statistics and many others. However, food safety professionals will often need to have expert support in making key decisions and having those decisions accepted by senior management and regulators. It is essential to have relationships with technical experts and organizations as well as access to resources before you need them. Some of the resources covered will include trade organizations and their legal and technical experts, sanitation experts, processing authorities, laboratories — microbiological and chemical/physical — and product inspection companies.
The final learning objective is “Upping your Game,” how to continually learn and keep ahead of food safety challenges. Food safety is a broad and evolving field with threats to the business, brand, customers and consumers coming from many sources. A food professional in a smaller operation needs to keep abreast of the changing issues in their industry and keep their management team updated. Recommendations will be provided for how to keep updated on critical issues affecting your business.
About the author: Rebecca Guzy is director of food safety and research for Frick Quality Meats. She is scheduled to present “Food Safety for Smaller Operations – Wearing All the Food Safety Hats at Once” at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, during the 2022 Food Safety Summit at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. To register visit www.foodsafetysummit.com.
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