FSMA Compliance for Warehouses

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Warehouse compliance in Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) should be done holistically. FSMA is a law that holds an integral role in food safety practices. Non-compliance with this law could take your business to a court order. For example, the Peanut Corporation of America. The company was responsible for a massive salmonella outbreak in the early 2000s. This company had sold tainted products and misled consumers about test results. The outbreak caused sickness in hundreds of people. Unfortunately, it also took the lives of 9 people. The peanut products used in other food products also further magnified the outbreak. Since then, the former president of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2015.

The act gave more power to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Proactive measures can now be taken by the agency when before it only had a reactive mandate. The act handles new regulations for farms and facilities that grow all sorts of food. For the food system, this means big new changes. The FDA must ensure that they install these regulations. These regulations are very important and should be done sensibly and transparently. In doing so, there won’t need to be an unfair burden on family farms and improve food safety.

This regulatory change has become a game-changer. It has brought greater oversight for warehouses and other facilities that manage food. This article can help guide you if you are someone involved in today’s food business. You’ll be able to learn more about keeping your customers healthy and your facility on the right side of the law. Let’s take a look at how the Food Safety Modernization Act changes your warehouse.

The Foundational Rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act

It should come with no surprise that there are certain rules in this act to follow. The “foundational” rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act, according to Purnendu Vasavada, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, include the following:

FSMA Warehouse compliance
Photo Credit: www.fda.gov
  • Preventive Controls for Human Food

Safety plans should be planned by food facilities. These safety plans should tackle how to identify and minimize hazards.

  • Preventive Controls for Animal Food

This rule states that Current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls for food for animals should be established.

  • Produce Safety

This rule states that there should be science-based standards for produce. This involves growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms.

  • Foreign Supplier Verification Program

This rule is for the verification of imported food. Imported food must be produced in a certain way. It should be the same level of public health protection required in entering the country it is being imported to.

  • Third-Party Certification

This rule is for establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors. Conducting food safety audits and issuing certifications of foreign facilities producing food for humans or animals will be the responsibility of the auditors.

  • Sanitary Transportation

This rule states that it is important to use sanitary practices. Those responsible for the transport of food must ensure its safety.

Adequately Educating and Training the Workers

FSMA employee training
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To follow the FSMA, every warehouse employee must go through a certain process. This requires having an adequate education or training. The experience will help employees in “manufacture, process, pack, or hold food”. The management’s employees should have the right qualities for their designated assignments. It is their responsibility. Back then, the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) were non-binding in their provision. But as of now, the Food Safety Modernization Act has made this provision binding.

It can be difficult trying to come up with what kind of training your employees might need. Food management has several kinds of activities. This includes things like producing, manufacturing, storing, packaging, and transporting food. The FDA has pointed business leaders to curricula offered by three FDA-funded alliances to help with this. The alliances are The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA), and the Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA).

Government representatives from agencies are included in these alliances. The FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are some of these government representatives. Representatives from state and local agencies are also included. Also included are academia, and the food industry as well.

The FDA, along with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, formed a collaborative partnership. This partnership is for the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program. This grant program helps in making more accessibility in food safety training.

In short, it is now mandatory to have adequate training, education, and experience. Make your employees compliant by working with these organizations. Importantly, your employee’s training must have a proper record to keep track.

Allergen Cross-Contacting Challenges

FSMA monitoring and labeling
Photo Credit: www.foodallergens.info

Undeclared allergens make up for 35% of FDA food recalls. This makes it the top reason for a recall. Due to cross-contact, these allergens wind up in food products unintentionally. Cross-contact is not to be confused with cross-contamination. Cross-contact usually refers to things related to allergens. For cross-contamination, usually refers to things related to food-borne illnesses.

Peanuts, soybeans, and eggs are some foods that contain allergens. They need to warn consumers by carrying labels. Preventing allergen cross-contact is extremely important. Warehouses (and food manufacturers) must take note of this. The current good manufacturing practices around allergen cross-contact have been made explicit. Here are some general tips for avoiding allergen cross-contact. Here’s also how to store food in a warehouse (or manufacturing facility):

  • So that the allergen isn’t in the facility, look, and source for alternative products. The alternative products should taste similar to an allergen-containing food to avoid it.
  • Equipment with machinery components that are accessible and cleanable can help. For example, sanitary design principles-based equipment.
  • Proper ventilation can help avoid allergen cross-contact that’s airborne.
  • Organized workflow based on traffic patterns within the facility. This design can help prevent the transfer of allergens. Employees and materials can avoid the allergen transfer with this.
  • Allergen-containing products and ingredients should have an established dedicated location.
  • Materials from suppliers should have inspections. This will help in making sure there are no undeclared allergens and receiving from the suppliers a letter of guarantee.
  • Making clear protocols in managing spills or damaging packaging that contains allergens.
  • Pallets and other products containing allergens should have proper labels.
  • To help in zone control, use color-coding within a warehouse facility.
  • Cleaning equipment for exclusive use with allergen- or non-allergen-related equipment or areas should be segregated.
  • To ensure the proper cleaning of surfaces for sanitation, use standard operating procedures (SOPs)

A Food Safety Plan Goes a Long Way

If you are a warehouse or distributor registered, you need to create a food safety plan even if you don’t manufacture food. Your Food Safety Plan should contain the following:

Food safety plan
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Hazard Analysis: must be written. It doesn’t matter if there aren’t any identified potential hazards. Some examples of potential food hazards are pathogens usually associated with specific foods. Without this, your facility or warehouse is considered a potential hazard. Shelf-life increasing packaging materials can introduce specific pathogens as well. Difficult-to-clean equipment and process-related hazards are also potential hazards. These are hazards because they can introduce metal fragments, allergens, or food-borne illnesses to food. When brainstorming potential hazards, warehouse managers should consider some categories. These include things like ingredients, packaging, facility design, processing procedures, storage conditions, etc.

Preventive Controls: You must put some control into place once potential hazards are identified. For example, these include process controls, food allergen controls, sanitation controls, etc. These must be both documented and implemented.

  • Process Controls – Refrigerating, cooking, and acidifying foods. These operations should have rules. Also, parameters and values such as critical limits
  • Food Allergen Controls – Documented procedures when it comes to food. These include things like receiving food from suppliers, processing food, etc.
  • Sanitation Controls – Rules based on cleaning of the facility and equipment
  • Supply Chain Controls – Verifying a supplier’s adherence to safety standards. There should be guidelines for that. A risk-based supply chain program can also help.
  • Recall Plan – A documented plan. This plan will detail how a company will handle when a tainted product recalls.
  • Oversight and Monitoring these Controls – Warehouse managers must document their plans to monitor and oversee these preventive controls. Specific actions include monitoring, corrections, corrective actions, and verification. Making sure a heat process kills pathogens by checking temperatures is one example. These monitoring activities need to be documented.

Warehouse Compliance in Storing Your Food

Storing your food in a warehouse shouldn’t be taken at face value. Warehouse compliance puts you in responsibility with the law in identifying specific risks. Each facility is different on what and how they manage different types of food products. Your warehouse compliance can come after understanding the FMSA. Your warehouse won’t have a problem applying general tips for storing food.

Also, consider other factors that play a role in food safety compliance. These include things like your facility infrastructure and inventory management practices. FSMA warehouse compliance includes regular inspection of the facility to avoid issues like windows or window frames containing holes or damage to your exterior or interior (e.g., cracks, open pipes).

FSMA Monitoring Requirement

In order to be pass as FSMA compliant warehouse, it is not enough to only focus on the preventive actions and control. Warehouse managers should also lay their monitoring and documentation plans.

The FSMA regulations require food warehouses to have a food safety plan in place. This is due to any aberrant events that could cause contamination. Monitoring and tracking temperature can detect these out of standard threshold and notify the warehouse managers. The increasing demand – from both the government and consumers – for product traceability and process transparency makes the implementation of a sophisticated monitoring system a necessity.

Production facilities and warehouses, for example, use wireless sensors to ensure goods are manufactured and stored at the appropriate temperature. The final links in the cold chain, such as supermarkets and restaurants, also rely on sensors and their recordkeeping features to document their compliance with overseeing agencies, as well as the SOPs of suppliers.

With accurate temperature monitoring, you can trust your company will meet FSMA’s standards. You’ll also receive live feedback on your existing written procedures, which you may update afterward

AKCP Monitoring Solutions

Wireless Temperature and Humidity

Wireless Temperature and Humidity Monitoring

Ensure that your environmental conditions are within required parameters, log and graph data over time, and receive real-time alerts when user-defined sensor thresholds are exceeded. Use as a data logger with data buffered and synchronized to the gateway when in range. IP66 rated enclosure provides weatherproofing for use in outdoor environments.

Wireless Tunnel™ sensors have a long-range and low power for battery life of up to 10 years. Distribute sensors around your warehouse and on racking. Sensor data is logged and broadcast at regular intervals to the nearest Wireless Tunnel Sensor Gateway. View all your warehouse temperature sensor data on the AKCPro Server.

Set thresholds that alert when temperature or humidity is outside of required parameters. Sensors broadcast immediately when the threshold is exceeded.

Monitor your complete network of sensors from one user interface using AKCPro Server Centralized Monitoring Software.

Conclusion

Complying with the FSMA is easier said than done. It can be deadly if warehouse compliance is poor when it comes to food management. It can even cause businesses to go out of business or worse, criminal charges.
Warehouses need to understand their obligations under the law. The same also goes for distribution facilities. This is especially important considering the magnified risk of tainted food because of global supply chains. Warehouses must put Current Good Manufacturing Practices into place. Through proper monitoring and documentation, warehouses can readily handle the potential risks.

We must not waste the strong legislation in the form of the Food Safety Modernization Act and ensure we follow warehouse compliance.

Reference Links:

https://www.food-safety.com/articles/1049-hitting-fsma-benchmarks-in-warehousing-and-distribution-networks 

https://www.logiwa.com/blog/warehouse-food-safety-storage-tips 

https://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/overview-and-background/ 

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