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Monday, 18 August 2014

Food Safety Resource Utilization and Success

Questions for Food Industry Intelligentsia and Enthusiasts

Are you more confident about the safety of food if you:
WRONG! Doing both is not the correct answer. Pursuing both diminishes the resources that should be directed towards doing the single option that better serves the goal of effective food safety management.

Some businesses BELIEVE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE but to be “food safety certified” if they want to stay in business.

Being wise with your food safety and quality management resources, as you consider or continue with a certification program may require your answer to this question:

Is the actual food safety and quality performance of your company’s product good enough and can you keep it good enough without the certification program?

Here is a timeless advice for businesses that are gripped with the fear of business loss:
- ditch the ditch-worthy - 
In spite of your certification, you will still be instantly dropped if your product fails.

Use your resources wisely:
. . . KEEP CONSUMERS ALIVE TO KEEP THEM COMING BACK. . . 
If your product is good enough, it is not because of the certificate but because of the work you put into making it good enough. The initial certification process may help only if you lacked the knowledge to make your product good enough in the first place. If you need the certificate to keep you and your employees committed, failure is just around the corner. If your product is good enough, even without an external party certificate, customers and consumers will continue to come for it. If it is not good enough, no certification can stem the exodus of customers and consumers.

Undeniable Facts:
  • The product safety certificate that is issued to you by a third party does not provide the best promotion for your product safety and quality assurance efforts; your products do.
  • There is not one third party that can truly certify (i.e. guarantee) your consistency in assuring the safety and quality of your products; that guarantee is completely left up to you and the work that you must put into it. 
  • No third party will assume any liabilities for you in the event of a product failure; you stand alone in that regard.
  • Check the fine prints: You are abandoned to your fate regarding the safety and quality of your product as soon as the third party certificate is issued. 
Imagine what the food supply chain food safety and quality assurance landscape would look like if . . . 

ALL of the resources spent on CERTIFYING food safety programs were diverted to an honest commitment to FORTIFYING food processing operations against food safety and quality failures? Would the industry gain or lose grounds?

Unpredictable food safety failures are like storms. They are leaving trails of devastation as they continue to ravage the food industry. Even certified companies can be undone (check out some of the News Stories). Only well fortified businesses are better able to avoid the stormy paths or remain standing if struck.

You have heard it said that having a good recall program will save you a lot of money and enable you to maintain customer and consumer confidence. That may very well be true. But let me tell you a secret: Never ship out a bad product and you’ll never have to deal with the cost or aggravation of a recall. If issues can be detected after the product is on the market, the same issues can be detected before they are shipped. In fact, they can be prevented where there is a solid and consistent food safety fortification. Such fortification will not only enable you to maintain consumer confidence, it will also help you to keep consumers alive and well enough to keep coming back for more product.

5 comments:

  1. I understand your point but I disagree that a third party certification is a waste. Third party audits help to keep quality in focus, helps to increase knowledge because new ideas can be shared. Don't also forget, third party certifications can help your products! Some organisations won't do business with you unless they are sure you are safety compliant in food. Now to the main reason, if you do all it takes to put your product in order, have great team, avoid contamination and ensure proper control points, you still need a neutral party to ascertain your efforts are effective. You can not implement your own plans and still be the one to ascertain it's effectiveness. In other words, you cannot be your own judge. I respect your view but my few years in the industry has shown me that third party certifications help alot

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  2. @Ogunranti: You would not believe how refreshing it was for me to see you post these comments. I will address every point that you have raised. . . . Felix

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  3. Response to each comment by Ogunranti:

    Ogunranti: I disagree that a third party certification is a waste.

    Felix: I maintain that third party certification is a waste. Some things may be gained from the process and related interaction. However, what is gained cannot be credited exclusively to the certification process as if to say what is gained is not possible without the process. In other words, operations are able to achieve even more with less resource expenditure and, possibly, less stress. Third party certification is also a waste because the certificate is the first thing to be discarded as soon an undesirable incidence that relates to the claim of the certificate is encountered. Also, those who issue the certificates do not stand by its claim without some attending disclaimers. The points listed under “Undeniable Facts” remain true.

    Ogunranti: Third party audits help to keep quality in focus,

    Felix: Incidentally, many operations involuntarily enlist in third party audit programs because it is demanded by their customers. The reluctance is because they feel they are already focusing on meeting the customers’ needs for safe and quality products and third party audits are redundant. Where the enlisting is voluntary (albeit blindly), it is driven by a focus on product safety and quality that the operation already has. Again, the point about third party audits helping to keep quality in focus is mute. If the safety and quality of products are not already and always in focus for an operation even before enlisting in a third party audit program, how can these be expected to remain in focus after the auditor has left the scene which is, more often than not, the case? On the other hand, if the safety and quality of products are always in focus while the auditor is not present, why is the auditor needed to keep quality in focus?

    Ogunranti: . . . helps to increase knowledge because new ideas can be shared.

    Felix: . . . but so much more knowledge is available and, in many instances free of charge. Besides, the knowledge brought by the auditor is limited by that fact. The auditor is one person with only one person’s knowledge. The operation has a team. Also, the same set of requirements that the auditor reads to perform the assessment is the same set already available to the operation’s management team. If the team cannot interpret the requirements, how can they be expected to implement programs that meet them (the requirements)? If the team is that ignorant about the operation and must rely on the knowledge of one person from outside, should team be running the operation?

    Ogunranti: Don't also forget, third party certifications can help your products!

    Felix: I am still wondering how a third party certification helps my products when, under the guise of not being a consulting activity, the process of certification offers no concrete help. It offers criticism but no definite solution. If the solution is left up to you

    Ogunranti: Some organisations won't do business with you unless they are sure you are safety compliant in food.

    Felix: I agree. It is a shame to see this kind of blindness that has overtaken the those organizations. Any organization that bases its confidence about the safety compliant status of its supplier on the results of a snapshot audit, needs to re-examine the realities a bit more closely.
    . . . /continued . . .

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  4. Ogunranti: Now to the main reason, if you do all it takes to put your product in order, have great team, avoid contamination and ensure proper control points, you still need a neutral party to ascertain your efforts are effective.

    Felix: No! I do not need a neutral party. I need the actual output product evaluation results to ascertain the effectiveness of the efforts being made to ensure the safety and quality of the products offered for sale. You actually left out the usually common argument that “it is always good to have a different set of yes looking at things” In response I would say: The internal team already has many different sets of eyes that know more intimately the weak points to check. An outside neutral party can only come with a generalized and theoretical knowledge that may not be relevant to the immediate experiences of the operation at the time. The knowledge that the neutral party brings should already be what the team already has. Otherwise, how does the team know if the operation is ready for the neutral assessment? On the other hand, if the team does not know whether or not the operation is ready, should this team be running the operation?

    Ogunranti: You cannot implement your own plans and still be the one to ascertain it's effectiveness.

    Felix: I very much hope (for the sake of my safety and satisfaction) that the producers of the food products that I buy are ascertaining the effectiveness of their own food safety and quality control measures and plans before they ship their products into the market. I would certainly do this if I was selling a food product. In fact, I would ignore the 3rd party certification audit results and ascertain the effectiveness of my own failure mitigation plans daily as it were.

    Ogunranti: You cannot be your own judge.

    Felix: . . . but you are your own judge every day that the auditor is not at your premises. You are making judgment calls every day as to whether you will or will not ship products depending on your assessment (audit if you wish) of the safety and quality performance of the products. This is where the judgment calls really matter. Few third party audits/auditors actually sample the product outputs, assess them against the established specifications and judge them fit or unfit for sale. In other words many (if not all current) third party audits and the subsequent certification do not assess the actual outcomes. So what exactly are they judging that is of immediate significance to the outcome?

    Ogunranti: . . . third party certifications help a lot

    Felix: Are you able to quantify the “a lot”? Those offering these certifications have yet to publish any quantifiable data that categorically show how much food safety and quality problems were encountered before certification and how much reduction in such problems have been seen after the certifications. The statistics that they often share about how many operations have enlisted and how many certificates have been issued and in how many countries are useless in terms of the intended goal. The ultimate goal of the certification process which is to reduce food safety and quality related problems are not reflected in those statistics.

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