Core Guiding Principles of a Food Control System Series: Part 4
The Food Safety Network (FSN) is releasing an eight-part blog series on different technical topics from the Food Safety Distance Learning Module, focusing on the core guiding principles of a food control system. These principles were selected based upon the internationally accepted guidance of Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) and founded upon the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Assuring domestic food safety is becoming increasingly challenging with the growing demand and complexity of agricultural production and trade. The global fight against foodborne illness and food-related risks is complex because there are multiple factors that contribute to their prevalence and impact. However, as food safety incident data and burden of disease reports have been made available, the information highlights a common need for interventions that improve food control and help coordinate efforts throughout the food-chain continuum (Bishop and Tritscher 2012). With every country at a different stage of economic development and with differing priorities related to food safety, the process for enhancing or modernizing one’s food safety system looks vastly different around the globe. Throughout the development process, many of the actions taken and decisions being made are with consideration given to the formative work of the WHO, FAO and Codex.
In the fourth part of our eight-part series, we will explore the next two of the 16 core guiding principles of a food control system: preventive approach and continuous improvement.
National food control systems play a vital role in the prevention of and response to food safety incidents. Ideally founded upon the core elements of prevention, intervention and response, it is important to regularly assess the effectiveness of these systems to determine whether they are able to achieve their objective. Recognizing that all national systems are at different levels of modernization, it should follow that there are always areas where improvement can be found.
When considering the design of one’s food control system, there are a range of factors that should be taken into consideration, including: product risk, current scientific information, industry-based controls and system review findings. Strong systems should also provide flexibility in the application of control measures to reflect variations in these factors.
Over time, the preferred approach to the design of a food control system has changed. Earlier periodic point of inspection and end-product testing models that resulted in reacting to a food safety problem were found to be inadequate to consistently assure the safety of foods, particularly high-risk foods. A new preventive approach was proposed and developed that placed more responsibility on the manufacturer to identify potential food safety hazards for their specific products and processes, develop ways to minimize or prevent the hazard from occurring and to document that all preventive measures are consistently implemented. A key tool in this preventative approach is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. HACCP is a primary risk-management system, providing a systematic preventive approach to food safety from various types of hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe. Under the United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), HACCP is a key component used to leverage a risk-based, preventive-based food safety system. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) use HACCP extensively in their food safety control systems.
A national food control system should have the capacity to be regularly evaluated for effectiveness and to identify prospective areas of improvement. Mechanisms should be put in place that help assess whether the system is appropriately achieving its set objectives. Verifying the effectiveness of the national food control system should be targeted at the most appropriate stages of the food chain, based on risk analysis. Additionally, regular reviews should reflect changes in product risk, the production environment and technology, increased scientific knowledge and level of confidence in the industry. Development of an effective method of data collection across the food chain is important for understanding the current situation, performance measurement, continuous review and system improvement.
Did You Know?
The FDA applies the lessons learned from experience and stakeholder feedback to continuously improve the United States food safety regulatory system. In a recent example, the FDA identified a need to allow for more time to do an inspection and additional staffing to ensure a thorough review of a firm’s operations. It has been found that the average time needed to conduct a full inspection ranges from 60-67 hours. Further, they have also found that obtaining copies of Food Safety Plans and other supportive documentation (e.g., environmental monitoring program) can serve as valuable informational resources to have during the inspections process. Finally, the FDA makes a concerted effort to engage stakeholders by asking them to submit comments as part of notice and comment rulemaking and guidance development. The information submitted from members across various industries and sectors can provide valuable insight for consideration when making decisions.
Consideration of these two guiding principles are just the beginning when working through the development process. Stay tuned each week as we explore the rest of the guiding principles throughout our eight-part series. Want to learn more about concepts within food safety? Check out our free, self-paced online Food Safety Distance Learning Module, which explores the history of the United States food safety system, the value of a modern food safety system, all of the core principles of a national food control system and concludes with a case study that allows learners to walk through a fictional country’s journey to modernize their food safety system. Visit spscourses.com today to sign up for a free account and access this module and so much more! Visit the FSN home page to learn more.