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ISO 22000 Explained

Food safety is making headlines more and more frequently. What can you do to keep your company from negative headlines? Ensuring food safety is increasingly important in our global market. Can the Food Safety Management System, ISO 22000, help you?

Overview: ISO 22000 Certification

The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) created the very successful quality management system standard ISO 9001, used worldwide by over 700 thousand companies. So as the need for an international standard for the food industry became apparent, ISO started a working group to develop a Food Safety Management System.

The goal was to be able to encourage harmonization of the many national and private standards in existence and add the management systems approach of ISO 9001. Starting with many of the same concepts as the Quality Management Standard, changing the focus to food safety management, and incorporating PRP and HACCP principles led to what is now ISO 22000. This standard can be applied to any company in the food chain, from field to store.

How does the standard compare with other food safety standards?

You can think of ISO 22000 as a standard that takes the approach of ISO 9001 as a management system, incorporates the hygiene measures of Prerequisite programs, and adds HACCP principles and criteria. You now have the best of the management system approach added to the well established PRP and HACCP programs.

Build your food safety management system based on ISO 22000 and you will benefit from the best of both worlds- a management system approach combined with the best food safety practices. As stated earlier, there are many existing food safety standards, but they vary widely in content, levels, and evaluation. To sell in a global food market, an internationally consistent standard is a benefit to everyone. We can help you prepare for Certification

ISO 22000 is not a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked standard. This means that if your customer base or market is looking for a GFSI Recognized standard you should look at FSSC 22000, which is the most similar to ISO 22000 or one of the other GFSI recognized certification schemes.

What is FSSC 22000?
What is SQF?

What is required in order to be certified?

First of all, management must support the effort. They will need to be providing the resources required to build and maintain this Food Safety Management System (FSMS). Once you have management commitment you will need to design and document the system. Start with your food safety policy and quality objectives. The policy must state your commitment to quality, and the quality objectives must support it.

ISO 22000 is a documented system, meaning you will write procedures and work instructions to describe the approved method of performing your processes. These procedures and work instructions must be controlled, so your next task is creating a document control system. Your ISO 22000 documents will only be effective if people are using the most current, approved document. The document control system will be a critical part of your FSMS. See ISO 22000 Procedures and Forms Package

Identify what records are required for your Food Safety Management System. Consider regulatory requirements as you make your list. You will need to determine how long records must be maintained and establish a system of accumulating and storing your records so that they are always legible, retrievable and protected.

The ISO 22000 standard requires that you establish a food safety team and team leader. This team will have many responsibilities in building and maintaining the FSMS and must have the knowledge and skills to fulfill the responsibilities. Consider the make up of this team carefully. See Online Training Programs

ISO 22000 requires your organization to establish systems for internal and external communication to ensure that information on issues concerning food safety is available throughout the food chain. You will need to be able to communicate with suppliers, contractors, customers and statutory and regulatory agencies. Information may include food safety aspects of products that are relevant to other organizations in the food chain, especially as pertains to known hazards that need to be controlled by others.

An important part of the management systems approach, management review of the ISO 22000 food safety management system, must take place on a regular basis. Management review is a meeting that is devoted to evaluating the performance of the FSMS. Top management will evaluate data generated by the FSMS to determine what action should be taken to address problems and to drive continual improvement of the system.

Part of the commitment to the ISO 22000 FSMS is providing required resources. Resources include providing qualified, trained employees, and appropriate infrastructure and work environment. The facilities and conditions must be appropriate to ensure safe product.

The processes of producing your food product or delivering your service are called product or service “Realization Processes”. These processes must be carefully planned. Prerequisite programs (PRPs) must be in place to address the basic conditions and activities that are necessary to maintain a hygienic environment for the realization processes. This may include: good agricultural practices, good veterinarian practices, good manufacturing processes, good hygienic practices, good production practice, good distribution practices or good trading practices.

To establish PRPs, know what products are included in the ISO 22000 FSMS, identify what regulations apply and implement the appropriate cleaning and sanitation, personnel hygiene practices, operation and maintenance of equipment, handling of product, training of employees and other relevant practices.

The food safety team will then create and implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan (HACCP Plan) for each product or process. The HACCP plan starts with some preliminary steps such as identifying product characteristics, describing intended use, preparing flow diagrams and describing process steps. The team uses this information to identify hazards that can be expected to occur, determine acceptable levels of the hazard and select control measures. The team identifies the control point where the hazard can be controlled, and the specific step that needs to be taken to successfully control the hazard. The plan for controlling the hazard must be documented and include the hazard to be controlled, the control measure, critical limits, how the control point will be monitored, corrections and corrective actions to be taken if limits are exceeded, responsibilities and authorities and required records.

The food safety team will also establish a plan for verification activities to ensure that the PRPs are implemented, inputs to hazard analysis are updated, the operational PRPs and HACCP plan are implemented and effective and the hazard levels are within limits. Verification activities make sure the HACCP system is in compliance, helping to ensure the effectiveness of the ISO 22000 system.

A system of traceability of product is required by the standard. Make sure that you can perform an effective recall if necessary. You must also be able to control any nonconforming product. Document your process to control affected product when critical control limits are exceeded. Include taking action to identify and eliminate the cause of nonconformity and prevent nonconforming product from entering the food chain.

Once the system is implemented you will be verifying that it is working on an ongoing basis. The verification will include internal audits by your own audit team and food safety team evaluation of the verification activities.

If you are already in the food industry, and providing a safe food product or service, you most likely have many of these practices in place even though they may not be formally documented. Adding the effectiveness of a documented food safety management system will provide your company not only the benefits of recognition of having a management system in place, but also the benefits of quality management and the security of producing safe product for your customers. Take your system to the next level with ISO 22000.