Food Safety Certification: Common Pitfalls

Cynthia Weber, January 10, 2017

BRCGS, FSSC 22000, GFSI, ISO 22000, SQF

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.