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Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Make-it-Real Link

What links food safety theories and aspirations to the derived reality of truly safe and secure food?

Beware of the "Standards" Brand of Expertise: 
A food safety manager or consultant may be able to quote all of the requirements of certain certification schemes from memory. The company for which he or she works may have all of the documentation that addresses every element in the adopted schemes and the listed requirements. Do such things automatically mean the effective management of a company’s food safety and quality assurance programs?


Certain things in life are inevitable. As global interactions and cross-transfer of goods continue to increase, the world's food supply is becoming increasingly and inevitably communal. Isolated countries that have self-sufficient food supply are rare. What, in times past, were far away food safety issues have gotten closer to every home around the world. With many theories and expressed aspirations about making the world's food safe and secure, the agencies responsible for ensuring that safety and security still face numerous challenges. Many individuals and companies are still in need of further enlightenment.

If you visit some of the forums that discuss programs for the assurance of food safety at manufacturing sites, you may find a good number of posted questions and comments, even promotions to be quite comical. This goes even further: Have you ever wondered what would happen if food safety rule making committee members switched to earning their living as front-line managers of food operations?  This question brings the academic discourse on food safety face to face with the practical realities and everyday challenges encountered by food operations. What should food operations actually do to ensure the safety and quality of food?

Systems that are based on theories and aspirations with mostly academic discussions, boardroom assumptions and paper-based assurances about the success achieved need to give way. These must be displaced by a culture of realistic actions along with realistic methods of confirming that food is actually safe for the consumers. This is the way of the future. It is the SSQA way. The world needs systems that base food safety success on the actual safety of food as experienced by the consumers; not as assessed by people who do not use the products. Assessments on theories and pre-suppositions are useless and time-wasting. 

The era of generic assumptions about what makes food safe is passing along with presumptions about  the strength of food safety controls from the mere review of institutional setups, paper records and practices. Instead of simply assessing whether an operation has documentation that shows control food contamination, the verification and validation focus must shift to reality-check approaches that confirm whether the food offered to consumers is actually safe.

Spot-check methods for verifying implemented food safety control measures may provide a degree of customer confidence. The emphasis on achieving food safety certification that is demonstrated in some job postings for managers of food safety systems need to be re-examined and re-directed. 

Food companies should not be looking for managers that merely organize documentation to meet specific certification schemes; but managers who know and accept that they are actually accountable for the safety and satisfaction of consumers. Food safety and quality system managers should not simply be assigned the responsibility for managing associated certifications; they should be charged with the responsibility of achieving measurable reduction in food safety and quality failure incidents.

SSQA drives real, specific, targeted and consistent actions leading to products that are actually safe. With SSQA, education and training are pursued to impart the knowledge and skills for proper execution of food safety measures. SSQA motivates the consistency and efficiency of executing the measures.

SSQA links food safety theories and aspirations to the derived reality of truly safe and secure food.
If you are a manager, system coordinator, consultant, trainer or just curious, you can   
Posted by Felix Amiri
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Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.

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