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Food Safety and Quality Certification Cycles

A Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Your Programs
Whether your facility is new to the manufacturing process or is a mature, multi-generational organization, managing your food safety or quality certification cycles can be challenging. In today’s post, we’ll discuss what a certification cycle is and how it acts as a strategy for continuous improvement of your programs.

What are Food Safety and Quality Certification Cycles?

A Certification Cycle is the period from initial certification to recertification, or from a given recertification to the next recertification often with 3rd party audits acting as milestones or book ends to a specific cycle.  In the food safety realm, we’re referring to HACCP and GMP audits in addition to Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes such as SQF, BRCGS, and FSSC 22000 while in the quality realm, certification cycles relate primarily to ISO or cGMP schemes.

Staying Ahead of Potential Problems

Certification audits allow your food safety and quality management team the opportunity to identify issues to correct and improve their systems on a regular cycle. 

Many companies undergo an annual audit related to maintaining a particular food safety or quality certification such as SQF, cGMP or ISO 9001. When performed by a qualified auditor, these audits provide valuable insight into the performance of the organization. These audits will identify non-conformances(NCs) either against the audited standard or the company’s own programs.

Following the audit cycle, companies perform corrective actions to resolve the non-conformances and prevent future incidents by eliminating the root cause. These corrective actions can involve quick and simple fixes such as retraining employees. The audit-correction process can also help head-off  time consuming and costly fixes such as infrastructure or facility failures.

Uncover Opportunities for Improvements

In addition to identifying nonconformances, most auditors will indicate opportunities for improvement (OFIs). These reflect areas where policies, programs, and procedures are in compliance but can be enhanced based on the auditor’s personal experience and knowledge of the process. This information can be a powerful tool to improve your programs, especially when the budget for a consultant is limited.

Why We Need to Think in Terms of Cycles

Many businesses operate in terms of business cycles.  Retail sales and consumer goods fluctuate throughout the year with peaks at major holidays.  Tax professionals work tirelessly at tax season to meet deadlines before their less rigorous schedules return.  

HVAC service providers see an influx of customers during the hottest and coldest months of the year with large gaps of reduced business in between. Smart companies take advantage of the inherent “downtime” between expected periods of increased activity whether they be marked by holidays, tax day or the winter solstice.  Food Safety and Quality Management Systems often follow a cycle dictated by annual audits. The period of time between these audits should be used to not only resolve existing corrective actions but to aggressively institute continuous improvement initiatives and other proactive means of enhancing the overall system and, by extension, the organization itself.

The Natural Cycles of Food Safety

Companies with certifications such as GFSI or cGMP tend to fall into natural rhythms with the process of maintaining certification. Before a company is certified to a given standard, a program should be put in place to keep it running properly. With the annual certification audit acting as the catalyst, the complete cycle of Audit>NCs/OFIs>Corrective Actions>Audit has the effect of continuously reinforcing and driving companies’ food safety and quality management systems.

Include Safety Cycles in Your Long Term Planning & Daily Activities

Knowing the time frames involved with maintaining certification such as the audit itself and time required to develop and implement corrective actions positions companies to better plan and budget around operational, maintenance, and quality initiatives taking place over a given year.

Evaluate 2021 to Succeed in 2022

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to assess your 2021 goals.  Have you obtained that certification needed to open up new lines of business?  Have your continuous improvement initiatives been successful?  Are you on track to complete your operational, food safety, and quality objectives for the year?  How can you best use these last few months to position your organization for success in 2022?

How Avert Can Help

If you’re putting out fires as they spring up, or struggling to get your 2021 goals met, Avert is here to help with all your program development, training, and certification needs. Contact us today to help make your goals a reality and end 2021 on a high note, positioning you and your team for success in ‘22.

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Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.

Contact us for more information:

info@avertfoodsafety.com | Tel: +1 702.706.6574

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