What food processors should know about GFSI inspections

At this year’s Sprague Food Safety Pest Management Conference, the Sprague Pest Experts and some the nation’s leading food safety and pest management authorities shared the latest information on food safety and pest management trends and practices.

One of the sessions focused on the influence GFSI audit schemes, their impact on food plant pest management, and the subsequent response in food processing facilities, their staffs and pest management partners. Dr. Richard Dougherty of Food Resources Northwest brought attendees up to speed on this vital issue facing food processing and distribution facilities.

GFSI clearly stated its mission at its launch in 2000: Provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide.

The effort received a significant boost in December 2007 when retail giant Wal-Mart and several other leading global food retailers issued a letter to all suppliers requiring their operations to be certified to a GFSI standard. As Wal-Mart goes, so goes the market. Other major retailers and manufacturers followed suit and the industry realized a significant uptick in third party audits.

What does this mean to Sprague Pest Solutions’ food industry clients? According to Dougherty, their procedures and protocols must be reviewed and must hit the mark when it comes to creating a climate focused on all aspects of food safety, including pest management.

“The food industry as a whole has responded accordingly and the bar is being raised,” said Dougherty, “But they still have to remember that what might be an acceptable internal standard is not always acceptable to an auditor.”

The Food Safety Management Act has given GFSI additional credibility, as it recognizes the GFSI in the preamble of its published proposals. Additionally, Congress has given Food and Drug Administration the authority to use third party auditors for foreign activities.

Under GFSI, food processing, storage and transportation facilities require that “a system be in place for controlling or eliminating the risk of pest infestation on the site or in the facilities.”

What do quality assurance managers, sanitarians, warehouse managers and in-house pest management supervisors need to include in their pest management “system?” Dougherty’s key points include:

  • Documented program

    • Target pests
    • Plans and methods
    • Schedules
    • Control procedures
    • Training (PCO)
  • Preventing access
  • Harborage and infestation

    • Minimize availability of food and water
    • Outside storage protected
    • Potential harborage removed

  • Monitoring

    • Traps and other indicators
    • Maps
    • Robust and tamper resistant traps and bait units
    • Results analyzed to identify trends
  • Eradication measures

    • At evidence of infestation
    • Trained applicators only

  • Records

    • Pesticide use (type, quantity, concentrations, where, when, how, and target pest)
    • Inspections
  • Staff training
  • Validation or verification

Defining the difference between validation and verification is important for food industry managers to understand. Dougherty defines validation as ‘Do you have the right plan in place?’ and verification as ‘Does the plan work?’

When performing an inspection, an auditor has to see clear validation of the facility meeting the program requirements before they give a passing grade.

According to Dougherty, the food processing industry must pay close attention to employee training, pest trend analysis and critical control plans are areas of emphasis to which the food processing industry must pay close attention.

While GFSI aims to provide a consistent mechanism to monitor suppliers across the globe and gains traction, it does have its challenges in auditor competence and audit consistency.

GFSI objectives

  • Reduce food safety risks by delivering equivalence and convergence between effective food safety management systems.
  • Manage cost in the global food system by eliminating redundancy and improving operational efficiency.
  • Develop competencies and capacity building in food safety to create consistent and effective global food systems.
  • Provide a unique international stakeholder platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and networking.
  • Reduce the total number of audits.
Food Processing & Manufacturing