Food Safety Certification: Common Pitfalls

Registrar Corp is passionate about food safety and we know that you are too. Our goal is to make your company’s food safety certification a success!

Today we are going to share some tips with you so that you can avoid some common pitfalls that can get in the way of achieving your certification. As a food safety certification auditor, I have seen many examples of the great efforts people like you put into their safety systems in order to keep their customers safe. Hats off to you because that is such an important job!

With so much to keep track of, some things can fall through the cracks. I am going to let you in on things that I see and let you know how to avoid them, so you can have a smooth implementation journey and certification audit. I have prepared a list of 6 of the most common issues I see when I am auditing and let you know how to avoid them!

Pitfall #1: Not allowing enough time or resources for a successful project.

  • What Happens: Many companies struggle to implement a system without involving enough people, providing proper training, or allowing enough time.
  • How to Avoid: Part of Management Commitment is providing what is needed to develop an effective food safety management system.
    Prepare your implementation project plan and include a realistic timeline. Make sure enough resources are allocated to training the people involved and allowing them time to perform the implementation tasks.

Pitfall #2: Failing to fix facility issues

  • What Happens: Companies don’t have an understanding of the standard’s requirements for the environment for food processing, handling, storage, or transport.
  • How to Avoid: Make sure to do a thorough evaluation of your facility including equipment.

Pitfall #3: Not completing internal audits before the certification audit

  • What Happens: If you don’t perform your internal audits and conduct your management review meetings that follow them then the registrar won’t be able to see that you have an effective program in place.
  • How to Avoid: The internal audit program plays a key role in maintaining and improving the system. Your certification body relies on the audit program to keep the system in compliance between the certification visits. Train your internal auditors and complete your internal audits before the certification auditor arrives.

Pitfall #4: Ineffective Management Reviews, Food Safety Team meetings/HACCP Team meetings.

  • What Happens: Management didn’t hold regular required management review meetings or failed to address the required topics.
  • How to Avoid: There are specific inputs and outputs expected for management review, defined in each standard.
    Make sure that your meetings include these items, and that your meeting minutes reflect the discussion of each of them.
    The food safety team or HACCP team is also assigned specific responsibilities. Keep good records of your activities to demonstrate that the team has fulfilled the required responsibilities.

Pitfall #5: Incomplete HACCP flow charts and hazard analysis

  • What Happens: Many companies have not included enough detail on flow charts used for hazard analysis.
    Each step of the process must be identified, along with all inputs and outputs. Include air, water, and waste.
  • How to Avoid: Make sure to identify all possible hazards for each step of the process. Take a look at the step, observe it in process, and make sure all potential hazards have been identified.

Pitfall #6: Incomplete cleaning and sanitation documentation

  • What Happens: Companies have cleaning routines but have not documented them so that the certification auditor can check to see that the methods and cleansers are clearly written up and followed.
  • How to Avoid: The standards require that you have a cleaning and sanitation program and that it is documented.
    Documentation must include instructions on how to clean and sanitize, including the method and cleaners to be used. Do not depend on a checklist that states what needs to be cleaned and how often; make sure the method is also documented.

What is the difference between ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000?

What is the difference between ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000?

  • ISO 22000 is not recognized by GFSI. (what is GFSI?)
  • ISO 22000 is broad in scope.
  • FSSC 22000 is recognized by GFSI.
  • FSSC has a more limited scope. Current scopes included are farming, perishable animal products, food processing, feed production, food ingredients and food packaging material manufacturing.
Most companies will benefit by choosing FSSC 22000 and achieving a GFSI-recognized certification. This is because many companies require that their suppliers be certified to a GFSI-recognized standard. ISO 22000 is not recognized by GFSI.

FSSC 22000 is similar to ISO 22000 in that the FSSC 22000 scheme uses ISO 22000 as the requirements for the management system. However, FSSC 22000 includes additional requirements.
Follow the links below to view more details or purchase.

If you are implementing ISO 22000 you will need:

  • ISO 22000:2018 Food safety management systems – Requirements for any organization in the food chain International Organization for Standardization / 01-Sep-2005 / 32 pages.
  • and ONE of the following:
    • ISO/TS 22001-1 Prerequisite programmes on food safety – Part 1: Food manufacturing (if you are a food manufacturer/processor)
    • ISO/TS 22001-4 Prerequisite programmes on food safety – Part 4: Food packaging manufacturing(if you manufacture packaging for food products

If you are implementing FSSC 22000 you will need:

  • ISO 22000:2018 Food safety management systems – Requirements for any organization in the food chain International Organization for Standardization / 01-Sep-2005 / 32 pages.
  • FSSC 22000 Part I(Free download) – Requirements for organizations that require certification
  • and ONE of the following:
    • ISO/TS 22001-1 Prerequisite programmes on food safety – Part 1: Food manufacturing (if you are a food manufacturer/processor)
    • ISO/TS 22001-4 Prerequisite programmes on food safety – Part 4: Food packaging manufacturing(if you manufacture packaging for food products

For an efficient FSSC 22000 implementation, we recommend the FSSC 22000 Complete Online Training & Implementation Package. Save both time and money with the package. Includes training, templates, checklists and more to help you prepare for your certification audit.

Creating a Certification Project Plan

Creating a Project Plan
Once you make the decision to implement a Food Safety Management System and become certified you will need to plan your project. Start with a Gap Analysis. A Gap Analysis is an audit of your current system against the requirements of the standard that you have chosen. Make a checklist that lists requirements for the particular standard you are using, and evaluate your processes. Determine if you have processes in place to address the requirements and if the processes that you have in place are documented. For each requirement that is not addressed, you will put a task on your implementation task list. Once your task list is complete you will assign responsibilities and timelines.

  • For task lists prepared by our experienced consultants, visit our information pages for our packages (Packages also include procedure templates, form templates, a food safety manual template, PRP/GMP tables, online training sessions, and more):
  • SQF
  • FSSC 22000
  • ISO 22000

One of the first responsibilities of Top Management is to designate a Food Safety Team Leader, HACCP Team Leader, or SQF Practitioner (depending on the standard used). This person will be the project leader or project manager for the implementation. The Food Safety Team Leader and top management will identify members of management from a Steering Team.

This team, led by the SQF Practitioner or Food Safety Team Leader, should have approximately 7 members, and represent the various areas of the company. This team will work together to coordinate the design and implementation of the FSMS.

Once the Steering Team is established, the Practitioner or Food Safety Team Leader will lead the meetings and act as project manager for the implementation. The Steering Team will work together to identify a Food Safety Team or HACCP Team also led by the team leader. The Food Safety Team plays a key role in building and maintaining the system and must be made up of qualified individuals.

Resources for Food Safety Certification

What resources does a company need to build a certified Food Safety Management System (FSMS)?

Gap Analysis Audit

First, it is important to recognize the systems that may already be in place to manage food safety. Identify processes you have in place, including:

  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
  • Prerequisite Programs (PRPs)

You will incorporate these into the new FSMS. A gap analysis can help you identify what you have in place already, and highlight the tasks that need to be completed to bring your system into compliance.


Basic knowledge of food safety management systems is needed so you can make an informed choice of the Certification Scheme that you will use. Learn about the standard your company is using:

Project planning and management

The next resource you will need is project planning tools or assistance.
The project leader will need to know how to organize the project, break it into manageable steps, train the food safety team, and assign a timeline and responsibilities to each step.
Resources to use:

This tool breaks the project down into steps, outlines the steps on a chart and a project task list guides the project leader through assigning responsibilities for each of the steps, and allows the project leader to assign online training courses to other team members or employees for completion.

Employee GMP Training

Train your employees on the GMPs that they must comply with to ensure food safety. Create your own or use our online training program and quiz. Be sure to follow up your training program with a quiz to measure effectiveness.

Internal Auditor Training

Effective internal audits require thorough training of the audit team members. Train 2-10 auditors, depending on the size of your company. As you choose the number of auditors to train, remember that auditors cannot audit their own work. You should also take into account workload demands and the need to be able to pull from a pool of auditors if one area or another is particularly busy when an audit is due.
Use our proven, convenient Online Internal Auditor Training