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The FDA inspector shows up at your door and requests to see your approved suppliers in 2017. Can you retrieve those records easily? The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule requires you to retrieve records within 24 hours upon request. Think of the nuts, seasoning, and cheese used as ingredients requiring supplier approval. With electronic record management in the “cloud,” you can display the record on the spot.

Written procedures are required. Those four words can put the best owner or quality manager over the edge. Writing documents is time-consuming. I was recently writing a HACCP plan with a restaurant owner and trying to capture all the required written procedures. We know most training and learning at a restaurant is achieved with verbal instruction and shadowing. Restaurants operate by “do-as-I-do” methods and “this is how we do it.” It was difficult to write procedures for steps that have no written documents. Maybe you know the feeling. However, written procedures and other documents are required for FDA compliance with the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule.

Because recordkeeping and record management are so important, I have written many times about specific topics which require record management. For example, supplier verification starts with supplier approval and includes an on-site audit, Certificates of Analysis, sampling and testing and possibly more. All those records must be managed. In a previous blog post on records management, I discussed what counts as a record. The perspective of that writing was focused on worksheets, bench sheets and electronic records. In other words, that was data input. Here my focus is on written procedures.

If the procedure controls food safety, the procedure must be written.

The food industry is rising to a higher level of food safety through written procedures. Written procedures are helpful for several reasons.

    1) Once the procedures are written, the requirement will be met. You must write out the procedures to be in FDA compliance.

    2) When forced to write the procedure, the action of writing makes you question why procedures are done the way they are and if the procedure is correct. For example, let’s say you are writing the procedure for mixing a sanitizer concentrate with water. What is the concentration of the concentrate? How much concentrate is mixed with how much water? What tools are used, and where are the tools located? Finally, why? How do you know this solution is correct? Once you know the solution is correct, will the solution adequately act as a sanitizer? This type of questioning will be applied with the writing of each procedure.

    3) You will review each method at some frequency to confirm the procedure is still being done as written. With review, any drift from the intended procedure is streamlined to get back on track. Using the preparation of sanitizer solution again, what if the measuring cup for the concentrate cracks and is replaced by a different cup? The new cup looks close to the original cup, but by following up on the procedure, it is determined that the new cup is bigger and too much concentrate is being added. That is money down the drain! You may find one employee who does the procedure differently from another employee. The review is a step in continuous improvement.

    4) The written procedure will be used for training and re-training employees. The written procedure provides a recipe for training employees. Everyone gets trained by the written procedure, in addition to on-the-job training. If there is a food safety issue with a procedure, the written procedure can be reviewed for compliance by employees and changed if needed. Supervisors can use the written procedure as a guide for observations during an internal audit or employee review.

Under Expert Services (go to the bottom of the webpage) from ConnectFood, you can partner with a food safety expert for the writing and review of your company’s procedures. The ConnectFood website also has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she delivered over 20 workshops to industry. With over 35 years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an effective communicator at all levels in an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd