the FSPCA PCQI training. It is designed to offer smaller businesses a greater opportunity to understand the new rules as they apply them to their own food safety plan.
The approach focuses on working with food industry experienced professionals as
instructors, who also then work with small groups during the exercise time so individuals attending can use their own food safety plans for the exercises. They gain not
only practical understanding as it applies to their product but also consultation with
a seasoned food safety professional to assist them with understanding how the rules
apply in their unique situation.
Attendees leave this PCQI class with the beginning work and know-how of developing a food safety plan that meets the new FSMA rules and requirements for their
particular products. This gives the small and very small businesses’ owner/operator
a great start on what initially seems like an
overwhelming but necessary task.
Working with Importers: FSVP
When Forward Food Solutions talks to
importers, it often finds itself at a loss for
how to tackle the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) requirements. Importers are often not connected to other importers due to the fiercely competitive nature
of the business. These companies may not hear of the full regulations, or they hear
about it from their overseas suppliers. Don’t be surprised if these companies need
some guidance and if you may be the first person explaining FSVP to them.
The lack of understanding of the interpretation of the laws can be seen both in
the United States and overseas. The new FSMA laws can be a challenge for those
companies that are very new to being regulated, such as importers and trucking
companies. These are the companies that may have heard of the laws but don’t have
the technical resources on staff to know what they mean for their business, what
programs need to be implemented or where to find this information. These are often
the companies that “don’t know what they don’t know.”
The Need for Technology
The new FSMA rules brought to light the necessity of technology at every level
of the food business and for businesses of any size. Companies can no longer get by
with pen-and-paper documents or even elaborate Excel spreadsheets. This has been
a rather difficult change for small and very small food companies to implement. The
need for user-friendly software platforms to assist with navigation of FSMA rules
(document control, workflow, training, track and trace, monitoring and verification, recall and response, supplier management, foreign supplier verification, etc.)
has become a big business for IT companies. However, many of the new platforms
that have been developed to assist with FSMA compliance have been designed and
priced for large food companies. The price range has been out of reach for those in
small to very small categories.
A few software solutions have been developed for this group but still require
administrative support for onboarding before total integration and come at the business’s expense. The IT companies have decided that the small and very small category is worth the investment (one never knows who will become the next Clif Bar &
Company). They are willing to invest on the prospect of growing with the company.
Kudos to those companies willing to assist food entrepreneurs in providing safe food
to the consumer.
Fortunately, FDA recognized the need to provide technology tools for small and
very small businesses. Within the first few weeks of August 2017, FDA launched the
Food Safety Plan Builder (FSPB). This software helps businesses build their food
safety plan for FSMA compliance. A
review of this software follows.
The download for the FSPB software
is a bit tedious, but the FDA website3
provides both a short instruction and
full user guide to assist you. Be sure
your computer can meet system requirements. The red-letter warning of “do
not open the download file via your
Internet browser” is important and was
added a few days after launch.
After downloading the software, find
the file named “FoodSafetyPlanBuilder
Install_v1.0” and unzip the file. Click
to open “FoodSafetyPlanBuilderInstall_
v1.0,” click on “Food Safety Plan Builder” (file type: Application Manifest),
click “Install” and follow the prompts.
The builder has many prompts and
start dialogues to help new users navigate the system. Be sure to thoroughly
read each introduction prompt to fully
understand the capability of this software.
The FSPB includes tabs where users
are prompted to fill in company and/or
product information as necessary. Not
all tabs require information, and the
software makes it clear as you proceed
through the tabs what is required and
what is not.
The end result is a completed food
safety plan compiled from all the information users enter. The complete
food safety plan can be printed and/
or exported by section or in its entirety.
Users can choose a short report header
and header placement options as well.
Below is a quick description of the content in each tab.
• Facility Information: Users enter basic
“Another challenge that very small food companies
face is accurately conducting internal auditing and
verification of monitoring methods.”