Three reasons you want a team for food safety

By Linda Jackson on 17 September 2016

ISO 22000 is unique in that it requires the establishment of a food safety team. Of course this is due to the inclusion of Codex Alimentarius HACCP principles. Codex recommends a multi disciplinary team that have product and process knowledge to be able to identify any hazards. So why is the team so important and what should you, as the Food safety manager (or whatever they call you), consider when selecting the team?

For many food safety and quality co-ordinators/managers, the thought of coercing a bunch of colleagues into joining a team for food safety is about as bad as failing an audit. Surely it would be quicker and easier if you did it all by yourself. No politics, no arguments, no excuses.

Well yes…but NO! Besides the obvious clauses in the standards that require a team for be formed, there are much more valuable benefits for the company – if you handle this the right way. From what I have seen, the quality manager can actually mess this up. Your team will live up to your expectations – so rather expect the best in this case and not the worst.

The benefits for the company and food safety

  • Everyone knows something about food safety
    The principle used is that everyone sees the process from their unique perspective. So a food safety team should represent a cross section of functions in the company. If possible all areas of the company should be represented on the team on some point. Even sales and marketing add value as they fully understand the intended use of the product and labelling requirements.

    The team is required to identify hazards and determine the controls that will be implemented. A multi disciplinary approach should result in a far more thorough hazard analysis than if this was only done from one perspective. To ensure this, someone on the team should be familiar with:

- Products the organization produces or handles
- Processes taking place at the organization
- Hazards within the scope of the FSMS (Food Safety Hazards)

  • The team owns the success
    A team effort will ensure ownership of the food safety system within the company far more effectively than through an individual. Food safety can often be incorrectly perceived as the responsibility of the QA or QC department, where in fact, they do not make the product and therefore can do nothing to make it safer, as an example. You complain about it all the time. QC are not involved with production or maintenance and these activities can play a significant role in the safety of any food product. The sales team bring the customers’ requirements for food safety but often don’t appreciate what goes into fulfilling these requirements. You want to ensure that the responsibility is placed where it should lie and the team concept re-enforces that.
  • The team can integrate
    By having a team involved can help to ensure food safety is practiced daily and not as an add-on system. The team can ensure the system is practical to implement when approving PRP’s. The relevant member should then be held responsible for ensuring implementation of the systems in their area. So maintenance have direct involvement in “their” food safety requirements. You will have to guide the decisions but allow team members to take ownership for control measures.

    Not all team leaders are born – they must learn

    To get all of this working correctly, you may need some special skills. If getting people to work together is not your strong point and you don’t like conflict, you will need support and training. Don’t be embarrassed to admit it. I have met too many Quality managers that treat their colleagues like children and then they wonder why there is no -co-operation nor commitment to the system. It’s not them – it’s you. Be big enough to do a self-analysis and don’t be embarrassed to raise this with senior management. Trust me, your boss would rather send you on training than have everyone in his office because we can’t play nicely together!