How to Reduce Your Recall Risk and Improve Food Quality Across All Facilities

We’ve said it before: No food production process is perfect. There are immeasurable opportunities for the safety and quality of your product to be endangered at just one processing facility, let alone multiple. And as much as we’d like to think that good intentions prevail, there’s simply no way to thwart every single one of these risks. Even so, there’s good news for you and your company: Recalls can STILL be prevented!

In fact, the better your organization is at managing non-conformances and positive pathogen detection results across all facilities, the more prepared you are to prevent a recall and optimize your product. The recipe for improved food quality and reduced recall risk involves three key ingredients: one part prevention, one part communication and one part transparency. With a streamlined way to integrate all three of these elements, you have what it takes to produce foods that are high-quality, safe for consumers and profitable for the brand.

One Part Prevention

Yes, positive test results are bound to happen, but what are you doing to minimize them across all of your facilities? Prevention is about understanding and proactively addressing the risk factors that cause lapses in food quality, safety and compliance. Do you know what these factors are?

  • Supply Chain: This is the first stage in your product’s journey. Are your suppliers producing and distributing unsafe or low-quality ingredients? Are they introducing hazards as a result of their handling and sanitation procedures? It is critical to establish a strong verification process that includes maintaining an organized list of your suppliers and importers, keeping accurate and up-to-date certifications and documentation on each one, conducting ongoing risk assessments, overseeing any necessary corrective actions and reporting regularly on the data collected from these activities.
  • Food Safety Plan: A food safety plan that lacks any degree of compliance or comprehensiveness is a serious risk factor. From the hazard analysis, preventive controls and recall plan to the procedures for monitoring, corrective action and verification, there’s no room for cut corners or oversights. You must have a well-documented and strictly followed food safety plan at each of your facilities.       
  • Training: Your risk levels are directly influenced by anyone carrying out operations on the floor at any of your plants. If they’re not trained properly, uniformly and on an ongoing basis, they could be jeopardizing the safety and quality of your food products. Training is a major contributor to prevention and must be executed appropriately at every plant, in every department and for all areas of your production process. Be sure that you’re instituting a robust training program that covers sanitation, personal hygiene, chemical handling, quality assurance, labeling, control point testing and documentation.
  • Audits: Think about your current methods for food safety management and audit planning. Is your team relying on manual tools like spreadsheets and paper to track critical data and testing results? Are you wasting time and effort pulling complex data points and assimilating complicated reports? Or, worse, are any of your plants failing to prepare altogether? As compliance regulations evolve, the responsibility of ensuring readiness is a challenging one, so it’s paramount to adopt smart, efficient, easy-to-use solutions that can be applied across your facilities.

One Part Communication

When communication across facilities, departments and levels of the organization fails, so does your ability to reduce recall risk and improve food quality. From sanitation, maintenance and quality assurance to the laboratory, crisis management and various other teams, there’s a fundamental need to keep people apprised of important information so they can make good decisions, take swift action and manage risk factors successfully. How does the chain of communication unfold both within and between each of your facilities? Are there gaps elevating the risk of experiencing a damaging recall? Are manual communication approaches causing dangerous inefficiencies? Are communication silos breaking down cooperation and unified ownership of the company’s food safety and quality outcomes? Consider the following essentials for promoting a healthy flow of communication in and across your manufacturing plants.

  • Automation: In such a multifaceted operation as food production, especially if managed across more than one facility, there’s only one way to streamline communication, and that’s with automation. Embrace a technology solution that catalyzes communication through the systematized scheduling of testing points, automatic notifications and alerts, uniformity of data collection and real-time access to information and documentation.  
  • Easy, Accessible Reporting: How are your teams reporting on sampling data, testing results and corrective action records? Choose a software solution that enables team members to store records digitally in one centralized database, easily access data to compile automated reports and extract hidden insights and trends that support risk reduction. One of the most effective ways to rectify miscommunication and embrace proactive recall prevention is by leveraging an automated reporting system that fosters control and insight.
  • Correspondence with Sanitation Crew: No risk management or food quality approach can be successful if it lacks strong communication with the sanitation department. If important information is not being relayed properly from the sanitation team to QA and upper management, you’re facing significantly heightened risks. A seamless flow of communication with sanitation workers across all facilities is necessary to ensure they are optimizing sanitary conditions throughout the manufacturing process, adhering to strict procedures for cleaning and taking the proper corrective actions in the event of a positive test result.
  • Healthy Company Culture: Food safety is owned not by a single entity, but by all departments and every facility in the organization. That’s why it’s crucial to foster an inclusive, communicative, food safety-focused culture, fully equipping every team member with the education, awareness and protocol training to be part of the solution. Practices centered on food safety and quality should be second nature to your employees; they must feel empowered to take ownership of their part in the company’s risk prevention efforts. Owners, CEOs and managers should all be actively and openly discussing foods safety with employees on a routine basis, and accepted standards need to be formalized, emphasized and reviewed regularly.

One Part Transparency

Wide-reaching transparency within and across your plants facilitates more effective monitoring and control strategies, which results in reduced recall risk. The success of your food safety and quality systems is inextricably linked to the knowledge and insight you use to support them. Knowledge and insight are only accessible if transparency is present throughout the organization, and true transparency can only be attained by employing robust software that enables:

  • Visibility into your entire testing program, across all facilities
  • Tracking of all new and historical data
  • Systematized audit trails and reports
  • Documentation of every safety and compliance effort
  • Widespread clarity on policies and workflows
  • Universal accessibility to sampling data, testing results and corrective action records
  • Verification of food safety and quality performance

If you’re serious about reducing recall risk (and you should be!), it’s critical to adopt a solution that keeps you and the necessary team members fully informed on the performance, risk and mitigation information you need on demand. It should be able to funnel food safety performance data from multiple manufacturing facilities and supplier sites to all players in the quality, safety and compliance value chain. You need a product that breeds transparency through features that help you:

  • Aggregate your data: Combine food safety test results from multiple sites to obtain a complete picture of your food safety risk
  • Analyze your data: Conduct discovery activities by effortlessly interacting with the data set in real time via complete drill-down and drill-through functionality
  • Act on your data: Investigate trends and outlier results to immediately take action before problems can cause shutdowns, poor audit results or recalls

Just because positive pathogen testing results are inevitable, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to reduce your recall risk and improve the quality and safety of your products. Focus on prevention, communication and transparency by utilizing smart, innovative software solutions that cater specifically to these needs. It’s the best recipe for success.

Wondering how a smart EMP software solution can minimize your recall risk and improve your staff’s efficiency? Fill out our free ROI calculator to find out how switching to an automated EMP can benefit your bottom line. 

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