The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually – that’s about 1 in 6 Americans each year. Each year, these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Source: fda.gov
Question: How can you ace your food safety inspection?
Answer: Have a plan!
In this article, we'll review the general process for a food inspection and the best way to pass it. Prefer the short version? Jump to the TL;DR.
Decoding Food Safety Rules
First things first, the food processing industry is segmented into two primary categories: meat and poultry, primarily regulated by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) under the USDA, and all other food processors, subject to oversight by the FDA.
Although these categories may appear straightforward, it is imperative to accurately determine the category in which your product belongs. This ensures compliance with specific guidelines and inspection protocols, which extend to various aspects, including transportation, storage, preparation, and packaging.
We're talking about eliminating, or at the very least maintaining control of, unwelcome factors that could lead to foodborne issues. These may include:
Food Product Residue
Soil from workers
Products that can assist with these cross-contamination methods and help prevent hazards:
Boot scrubbers to clean debris and/or sanitize the footwear of employees or visitors as they enter or exit areas.
High-Volume centralized and decentralized Hand Sanitizer Dispensers to automatically dispense solution and even integrate with outputs such as turnstiles to verify that only sanitized hands are entering an area.
SLX Entryway Foamers for automated foam application of doorways for people or equipment traveling between critical zones.
Documentation and Record Keeping
Inspectors appreciate well-organized and accurate records. Document every detail, from ingredients, suppliers, process, and cleaning schedules.
To assist with log keeping, consider a tracking and traceability system such as ALX Allocation Controllers to help record chemical consumption and dispense activity.
Operational Guidelines (SOPs)
Develop clear and comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for every phase of your food production process. From the arrival of raw materials to the final packaging of products, ensure there's no room for confusion. Keep these SOPs up to date with industry best practices and any regulatory changes; consistency is key.
Your staff plays a pivotal role in maintaining food safety standards. Equip them with top-notch training in proper hygiene, sanitation, and the handling of ingredients and products. Customize training for each team member based on their specific roles and responsibilities.
Review our 7 Steps to Sanitation to get a breakdown of how to take on sanitation at your facility.
HACCP Safety Blueprint
Creating a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan is akin to having a blueprint for safety. Tailor it to your facility's unique processes, outlining critical control points, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, and verification steps to ensure consistent food safety.
Why wait for inspectors when you can conduct your own checks? Regular self-inspections are a valuable tool for identifying potential issues before official inspections. Assign a dedicated team to perform mock inspections using the same criteria as regulatory authorities. This proactive approach allows you to promptly address any deficiencies and maintain the highest food safety standards.
Regularly maintain your equipment and infrastructure to prevent contamination and ensure the safety of your products. Schedule routine servicing and cleaning for your equipment, and establish protocols for maintenance to avoid unexpected breakdowns that could disrupt production and compromise food safety.
Hygiene and Sanitation
Promote a culture of cleanliness within your facility by regularly cleaning and sanitizing all areas, including production floors and storage spaces.
For automated sanitation, take a look at the SLX Entryway Foamer. This decentralized or centralized foam applicator features a timer system to automatically apply foam to floors at doorways and other access points to aid in cross-contamination prevention. The thick layer of foam coats the floors so any shoes, wheels, or other things coming in or out of an area are cleaned and sanitized. Need to dispense foam to multiple doors? No problem, up to 5 satellites can be connected to a single timer controller to spray all entryways simultaneously.
Or if you just need to do some regular knockdown and end-of-shift cleaning the SLX line of manual applicators is the perfect solution. Foamers for low pressure (35-125 PSI), boosted pressure (125-350 PSI), or even airless are available to help get you the hose drop stations you need to clean effectively and easily.
Tips and Tricks
Place clear and informative signage near handwashing stations to serve as visual reminders for employees to follow proper hand hygiene procedures. These visual cues reinforce good practices and remind everyone to prioritize cleanliness. Consider implementing a color-coded system for cleaning tools to prevent cross-contamination.
TL;DR: Food Safety in a Nutshell
Decoding Regulations: The food industry is divided into "meat/poultry" regulated by FSIS (USDA) and "other food processors" by the FDA. Identifying your category is crucial for compliance in areas like transportation and storage.
Remove Hazards: Eliminate potential hazards like airborne contaminants, food residue, and microorganisms from your production line.
Documentation: Keep meticulous records of ingredients, suppliers, processes, and cleaning schedules for inspectors.
SOPs: Develop clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for every production phase, keeping them updated and in line with industry practices.
Employee Training: Train your staff rigorously in hygiene, sanitation, and product handling, tailored to their roles.
HACCP Plan: Create a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for safety, outlining control points and procedures.
Self-Inspections: Regular self-inspections using the same criteria as authorities help catch issues early.
Maintenance: Maintain equipment to prevent contamination and production disruptions.
Hygiene and Sanitation: Promote cleanliness with color-coded cleaning tools, signage, and proper hand hygiene procedures.
Tips and Tricks: Make documentation, SOPs, and training material easily accessible for routine review. Consider visual cues such as color or graphics to aid in ensuring success.