In food manufacturing plants across the country, food safety and quality managers can be seen documenting, storing and accessing their vital data using cumbersome spreadsheets and outdated paper methods. They’re clambering to meet heightened regulatory needs and monitor daily operations with limited resources, overworked employees and closing windows of time. As they cling to antiquated data management practices, the risk of food safety recalls and compliance infractions only surges. If you’re one of the many organizations in this familiar predicament, the message is clear: It’s time to go digital with your food safety data!
The fact is your food safety data is indispensable to the success of your operation. In order to deliver on your compliance obligations and uphold your company’s commitment to produce safe, high-quality food, you and your team must be able to leverage accurate, up-to-date and meaningful data – and do so efficiently.
A dominant theme pushed forward by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the need to document all aspects of your food safety plan, from the written outline to the records indicating proper implementation. Particularly in the event of a government audit, your data proves whether you are applying preventive food safety processes, taking proper corrective actions and meeting all compliance requirements. Why, then, is the majority of food and beverage manufacturers across the nation allowing their gold mine of data to be managed in such a slow, error-prone fashion? Why risk putting the brand’s name on the line with insufficient approaches to collecting and reporting on food safety data?
To help you realize the immeasurable potential in digitizing your own data – and the importance of doing so NOW – we’re answering some crucial questions and uncovering critical insights about food safety data in today’s manufacturing climate.
What is food safety data?
Food safety data comprises records, measurements and testing results that help assess the effectiveness of risk and safety efforts within your operations. This data can support the development of appropriate preventive controls and food safety plans, and is required for various auditing situations. Examples of food safety data and metrics include:
- Temperature, particularly with regard to storage and shipping
- Humidity, or water content and the relative humidity of the ambient air
- Light exposure, which can result in deterioration of fats, pigments, proteins and vitamins
- pH level, an important factor for determining the survival and growth of microorganisms during processing, storage and distribution
- Jostling during shipping, which can cause food to become bruised and damaged
- Scientific, technical and observational validation to determine whether hazard control measures are capable of achieving their specified purpose (often expressed as a log reduction)
- Performance metrics on internal and third-party audits (e.g., frequency and type of audits, number and type of infractions detected, time to correction and performance on repeat audits)
- Quantitative and qualitative testing data; pathogenic and hygienic testing data; and indicator organisms, allergens, toxins and residues
- Corrective action steps with signatures and time stamps, as well as follow-up validation of corrective action outcomes
- Supply chain information, audits and logs
- Protocols for personnel cleanliness, hygiene and equipment sanitation
- Related notes, pictures, maintenance forms, statuses, progress checks, labeling records and customer complaints
- Recall efficiency numbers, such as time to recall, reason for recall and ability to trace contamination along the production line
How can I use food safety data to better my business?
Managing food safety data is a complex effort, made even more challenging by evolved regulatory requirements. Even so, ensuring data accuracy, comprehensiveness and efficiency is critical to compliance, operational improvement, brand risk reduction and the organization’s bottom line.
The ability to record, access and evaluate food safety data empowers your team to make informed decisions, take required actions and be truly proactive rather than reactive. It empowers you and your team to:
- Monitor preventive control points
- Quickly identify locations and patterns that require attention
- Stay apprised of important information regarding non-conformances
- Respond efficiently to food safety hazards
- Manage recalls properly and swiftly
- Supply necessary documentation in the event of an audit
One of the greatest business advantages of leveraging food safety data is the ability to continually improve processes. Whether you’re addressing problems with equipment, sanitation efforts, human error or something else, data gives you the platform to discern root causes and underlying issues in your process that can be corrected and improved upon.
With an investment in your data, the return is a clearer, more holistic picture of your food safety approach, which enables your company to function based on tangible information. You can pinpoint challenges or mistakes more quickly and use powerful insight to overcome and fix them, saving you a great deal in terms of expensive risk factors and added costs.
How can I streamline my data review and consumption?
A successful and compliant food safety program requires an extensive amount of documentation and data management. When you approach this effort with outdated, manual processes, you’re racking up hours of manpower and an excess of administrative resources. A dynamic food safety software solution, however, can streamline and automate these tasks so you benefit from significant cost and time savings.
This is especially advantageous throughout the audit preparation process. Properly equipped with software that generates everything you need in record time, you can cut back on wasted time, effort and money. You can also manage your entire testing program, track all new and historical data, create audit trails and reports, make informed decisions about corrective and preventive actions and document every compliance effort.
Now’s the time to take advantage of robust tools that generate industry-standard and customized reports, enable you to review results in the floor plant to see patterns or gaps, use a comprehensive filtering engine to segment your data and help you compare results between different plants, for different programs, at any point in time.
Many manufacturing companies are immediately turned off by any dollar signs associated with digitizing their food safety data, afraid that the return won’t be worth the investment. But, in reality, they’re missing out on a greater opportunity for profitability and even sacrificing the organization’s bottom line. Consider the cost-saving advantages to be gleaned from implementing a food safety software solution that supports:
- Accelerated collection of data, plus automated assessment and reporting of trends, challenges and results
- Automatic scheduling of preventative controls and testing to keep compliance and contamination prevention activities on track
- Quicker identification of and response to issues that necessitate corrective actions
- Strengthened communication between departments to speed up the relay of information and reduce duplicate or unnecessary effort
- Ability to verify food safety performance and effectiveness so that operational improvements can be made as required
- Digital storage of all your records in one centralized database, enabling you to easily access audit-related data
- Automated reporting that can provide valuable transparency and insight to your team, as well as save time and help you prepare for all of your food safety requirements
- Extraction of hidden insights and trends that can inform decisions and actions to minimize food safety risk
To get a closer look at the cloud-based, comprehensive software solution that significantly minimizes food safety, quality and compliance risk, download your free CONTROL-PRO guide now.