Why Food Safety Certificates Matter | A Brief Guide

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food server taking food using fork and knife

From the farm to the plate, food safety matters at every step of the food supply chain. Foodborne infections like salmonella and E. coli can harm customers and damage your business. While following good general hygiene and manufacturing practices can help you prevent illness, food safety certificates offer a targeted solution for addressing and preventing food safety hazards.

While you have likely heard of food safety certification, what exactly does it involve, and who needs it? Here, we discuss the content of food safety certification programs, who can benefit from them, and what a food recall plan should include.

What Is Food Safety Certification?

Food safety certification involves third-party verification that products and systems in the food industry meet accepted standards. To receive a certificate, you typically have to complete a food safety training program and pass an exam covering food protection, safety, and hygiene rules and regulations.

Some states require food handlers in restaurants, grocery stores, and other facilities with ready-to-eat foods to hold food safety certificates. In the absence of such laws, food safety certification is a voluntary process that shows customers (and others) that your business meets the basic requirements for safe food handling.

You can choose to seek a global certification, which may prove useful if you run a larger company that does business internationally. You can also choose one or more industry-specific certifications that focus on food sectors like packaging, fresh produce, or bottled water.

Why Do Businesses Want or Need Food Safety Certification?

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Businesses may pursue food safety certificates for a variety of reasons, including the following:

Complying With External Regulations

All food companies in the U.S., including restaurants, grocery stores, and manufacturers, need to have a food safety certificate. In addition, some states, counties, and cities require employees in food service to have food handler cards. Some locations also require at least one person in the establishment to hold the more advanced food manager certification (or its local equivalent).

Gaining a Strategic Advantage

In today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace, holding industry-recognized food safety certifications can give you an edge over businesses that don’t. Certifications may even help you expand your business opportunities, as some companies will only work with certified partners.

Building Consumer Trust

Today’s consumers are increasingly aware of product recalls, outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, and other food safety issues across the country (and around the globe). As a result, there is a growing demand for improvements in food safety along the entire supply chain. Recognized food safety certifications demonstrate your company’s commitment to quality and can help instill confidence in your customers.

Benefits of Food Safety Certification in an Organization

roll of dollar bills and profit inscription

Besides improving your reputation and potentially boosting sales, food safety certification can help out other areas of your organization.

Consistent Quality

Of course, the principal goal behind all food safety certification programs is to protect the consumer from illness. A properly designed and implemented safety management system helps your business consistently produce safe, quality food.

Risk Management

Food safety certificates show that your company is meeting its legal responsibilities when it comes to food safety. In some countries, the laws permit proof of an effective Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program as a legal defense against litigation related to food poisoning or food contamination.

Food certification and management plans can also help protect you against liability in other ways. For example, some insurance companies refuse to cover food businesses that do not have HACCP programs.

Cost Efficiency

Food recalls can cost your company a lot of money. Food safety certifications help you create a robust food safety management system that minimizes the risk of contamination. This can prevent or reduce costs associated with recalls, as well as those that come from legal actions or a loss of consumer confidence in your company.

By establishing standardized processes, food safety management systems can also help your company improve overall productivity by boosting operational efficiency, enhancing productivity, minimizing the risk of errors, and reducing waste.

HACCP Certification

HACCP is an internationally recognized food management system designed to identify, control, and monitor hazards in the food production process. Several countries, including the United States, legally require HACCP-based systems at all levels of the food chain.

HACCP plans involve both educational and practical aspects, from food safety training in the classroom to feedback mechanisms for floor workers to report concerns. A solid HACCP plan involves everyone in your business, from senior management to factory workers. While HACCP programs focus on the specific risks at particular locations, you can apply the preventative mindset and science-based risk assessment to the safety culture of your entire supply chain.

To receive a HACCP certificate, you will work with a third-party certification organization. The accrediting body will conduct an initial assessment followed by audits to ensure ongoing compliance. Whether you need HACCP certification and how long it lasts depends on the particular risks and requirements in your industry.

GMP Certification

hand holding sign of top service quality assurance

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) ensure that facilities manufacture products like food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals that are safe and meet specifications. In food manufacturing, GMP establishes the operational conditions and requirements needed to ensure good hygiene throughout the food supply chain.

To guard against risks in food production, GMP controls various aspects of the manufacturing process, including the following:

  • Workers
  • Quality control
  • Sanitation and hygiene
  • Buildings, facilities, and equipment
  • Raw materials
  • Documentation and recordkeeping
  • Validation, qualification, and inspections

Authorized third-party agencies issue GMP certificates. To certify your business, the certification body will first conduct a thorough GMP audit. These audits review several areas, including manufacturing facilities, personnel and equipment logs, and quality and computer systems.

If you don’t pass the audit, you will receive a list of violations or deficiencies. If you do pass, you will receive a GMP certification that is typically valid for three years.

Food Recall Plan

Despite your best proactive efforts to ensure food safety, recalls are sometimes necessary. If one happens to you, you need to have a recall plan in place. To create a recall plan, follow these steps:

  • Assemble a recall team: Prepare a list of responsibilities during a recall and determine which employee will handle each one.
  • Determine when to issue a recall: Some recalls come directly from the government, while others may come after internal monitoring reveals that a product is misbranded, contaminated, or defective.
  • Ensure traceability of products: To successfully recall a food product, it is essential to maintain accurate records to identify and track specific batches or item numbers.
  • Establish a recall procedure: This stage covers such steps as how to classify a recall, how to communicate a recall, and how to reach the relevant distribution levels affected.
  • Gain control of the product: Once you’ve identified the defective products and communicated a recall, you need to gain control of the product. You may have to destroy it completely, redirect it for other uses, or simply warn consumers or offer them a replacement.

Build an Integrated Food Safety Management System With TDI Packsys

Food safety certificates and safety training play an important role in any food safety management system. Another key component is inspection technologies like food-grade x-rays. At TDI Packsys, we offer a variety of services and products to help food manufacturers maintain quality control. Contact us today for more information on how we can put these solutions to work for you.

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