How can a company like SmithConnen, whose main focus is on food safety, contribute to a company's success in consistently producing quality products?
It is all about knowledge and experience. There are many monitoring and verification procedures that indicate whether required safety standards are being met. But when you have built processing plants from the ground up, you necessarily have to know the entire process from ingredient content, to critical timing of each process including temperature controls, mixing , filling, pasteurizing, packaging and as mentioned above…..storage.
Food safety typically takes center stage when it comes to producing a product or multiple products. But consumers are rarely aware of the challenge the food industry faces in retaining product quality.
Besides ensuring safe, contamination free foods, manufacturers, processors, packagers and distributors all share the responsibility in retaining desired color, flavor, texture, healthfulness, fresh appearance, consistency, shelf life and convenience of their products.
To maintain quality, it is important to control microbiological spoilage, enzymatic degradation, and chemical degradation. These components of quality depend upon the composition of the food, processing methods, packaging, and storage.
One of the most challenging aspects of food quality relate directly to transporting the product to market. This is where the manufacturers and processors have the least control.
As part of our comprehensive services, SmithConnen takes a very close look at all the variables surrounding the "hand off" and sample testing of product. Packaging, temporary storage, product off-loading and loading practices, carrier transportation environment records, and even the quality and safety practices documentation of the company's suppliers is reviewed.
Quality and Safety work hand-in-hand. If both are not associated with your products at all times, you will most likely soon be "out of business".
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What is Sanitation? Sanitation is an applied science for the attainment of hygienic conditions.
When the term sanitation is used in relation to food processing operations, it usually points to the current and continuous conditions and practices surrounding pre-start up, start up, production , and clean up phases of processing operations. On a broader scale it includes the entire environment.
When SmithConnen conducts its initial survey, it takes a very close look at both the processes (intrinsic) and the environment (extrinsic) those processes take place in. We work along side the people responsible for managing the sanitation program and the people actively involved in the processing work. Both parties are evaluated as to their alertness, intuitiveness and knowledge, and, where needed, trained or retrained to improve their ability to contribute to effective sanitation practices.
The goal of an effective santitation program is to identify and keep microorganisms (molds, mildew, yeasts, bacteria, viruses) in their early limited growth (lag) stage for as long as possible. Through effective sanitation and hygienic practices, the rate of growth of microorganisms can be significantly reduced or stopped completely.
An effective program results in higher quality products which appear better, smell better, taste better, and enjoy a much longer shelf life.
HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from
raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, processing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.
The purpose of the hazard analysis is to develop a list of hazards which are of such significance that they are reasonably likely to cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled.
SmithConnen has an extraordinary amount of experience in writing an entire HACCP plan, updating existing plans, and when necessary (which is often), rewriting outdated or incomplete plans to bring companies into compliance. But we also know that HACCP is not a document….it is a commitment to safe food practices.
With the new FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act, which becomes effective July 3, 2012) record keeping is moving center stage and will be the first thing inspectors will scrutinize to see if company's HACCP plan addresses the mandatory elements of the new FSMA Hazard List. They too want to see more than just a document.
HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards based on the following seven principles:
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
Principle 3: Establish critical limits.
Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.
Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.
When we meet with you, we will show you what a professional, compliant HACCP Plan should look like, and discuss further what we mean when we say the HACCP program is "NOT JUST A DOCUMENT"!
In California every employer has a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees, according to the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. As of 1991, a written, effective Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP), Program is required for every California employer.
What is an Injury & Illness Prevention Program?
Your Injury and Illness Prevention Program must be a written plan that includes procedures and is put into practice.
The following elements are required:
• Management commitment/assignment of responsibilities;
• Safety communications system with employees;
• System for assuring employee compliance with safe work practices;
• Scheduled inspections/evaluation system;
• Accident investigation;
• Procedures for correcting unsafe/ unhealthy conditions;
• Safety and health training and instruction;
• Recordkeeping and documentation.
As part of SmithConnen's safety programs review, we will help develop or update your IIPP and make sure all the mandatory components are included in your program including record keeping and formal "action" documents when an accident takes place.
Pre-Audits / Audits
Audits, and especially third party audits, are an integral part of the food safety verification process. Self-initiated (in house) audits are sign that a company is committed to protecting
their customers health. But suppliers, vendors and various regulatory agencies have mandated that a third party audit be conducted by an
experienced food safety company familiar with all aspects of food safety practices.
When SmithConnen is hired to conduct a "third party audit", the process begins with a short meeting with a member of the company's management team and with the person or persons responsible for that company's food safety program. A brief overview and Q & A session is followed by a general survey via a pre-audit.
The pre-audit sets the stage for the formal audit by allowing SmithConnen's food safety experts a chance to become familiar with the daily operations including receiving & shipping, start-up, processing and clean-up schedules and next-day preparations.
The Audit conducted by SmithConnen is unlike standard audits modeled after the FDA suggested template. Using a proprietary audit tool, our company looks at its comprehensive review of a company's daily operations more as a journey to awareness than a detailed checklist of activities and practices.
The SmithConnen Audit does not take place in a vacuum. We see the audit as an opportunity not just for discovery, but also to educate and improve communication between management and the production staff. Because we have built processing plants from the ground up, we have an ingrained blue print of how various processes work (or should work). So we know what questions to ask and share that thought process with management and production staff alike.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that all parts of the safe food practices puzzle are in place and to make sure that all responsible parties fully understand how all those parts fit and work together to create a high quality and safe food environment.
SmithConnen solves problems! OK! But sometimes a business is looking for guidance for reasons that are not tied to an immediate problem.
In addition to Food Safety, areas where we have extensive knowledge and can discuss options to suit your purposes include:
Engineering – including exterior and interior plant design; new construction, remodel and system repair (See "Engineering Services" on this website)Equipment – New and Used (acquisition & repair) (See "Equipment/Products Sales" on this website)
Product support - ingredient sources and services
Cleaning products for plant, equipment and human sanitation
Lab Services (and testing products)
Organizational Structure (food safety responsibility tree)
Crisis management – temporary solutions for production, revenue flow and compliance issues
Business Insurance – permanent, event and transportation related coverages (See "Insurance Sercvices" on this website)
At SmithConnen we have a lot of confidence in our ability to ask the important questions. It is a skill that can only come from an exceptional amount of knowledge and personal, hands-on experience in the food industry.
Picking a consultant:
Does the consultant:
• demonstrate the knowledge and experience you feel is necessary to achieve your qoals?
• have a demeanor and personality that you are comfortable with (easy to speak to)?
• speak of what was accomplished with other clients as a team effort (a partnership) vs. what he/she accomplished alone?
• not make assumptions about your company, its purpose and your goals?
• ask about the company's history, your vision for the future?
• give direct clear answers to specific questions?
• give examples of problem solving?
• guard his/her other clients' confidentiality?
• offer printed literature and testimonials regarding his/her services?
• speak of custom-designed programs and remedies
• offer to act as a liaison between you and the various regulatory agencies
• seem to really listen to what you are saying
• Show a genuine interest in the well-being of your company?
The purpose of training is not just to pass on
information. The goal is to make sure that those being trained actually understand what is being taught
and can apply it daily as they carry out their responsibilities in the workplace.
The best way to ensure that a company's staff really understands what is being taught is to have them demonstrate what they have learned.SmithConnen uses the plant itself as the classroom and conducts most of its training on the "floor". Whether talking about record keeping, plant environment responsibilities, production, storage, shipping & receiving or sanitation, we believe the only way to really know if the "students" have gained the desired knowledge is by having them demonstrate it.
We often use the "train the trainer" method where the production and/or management person shares what they have learned with a fellow staff person responsible for the same work (while we observe and advise).
One of the biggest challenges coming with the new FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) this year is that detailed training records are going to be key to proving that meaningful training is actually being conducted and that there are no "gaps" in training due to employee turnover. This is especially true with the loss of the people whose responsibility it was to ensure the enforcement of the company's food safety program and/or were responsible for the training.
Do you have a Crisis Management Plan?
Crisis management is not just about decision making in response to an in-progress, eminent or potential negative event. It is also about having acrisis management strategy in place long before an event takes place.
SmithConnen works with the business owner and management team to create a sound, easy to understand and implement Crisis Management Plan which will allow the company to resume normal operations as soon as possible after the negative event.
A crisis (in the business world) can be defined as a situation which triggers a threat to an organization ranging from a temporary disruption of normal business operations to the very destruction of the organization.
The nature of the food industry and its operations and products exposes companies to both ends of the threat spectrum.
Temporary or destructive negative events (crises) can impact:
- plant, equipment and materials
- products (safety and/or quality)
- people safety (employee/customer injury or illness)
- operations (processing, packaging, storage and distribution)
- administration (communication, advertising, marketing, record keeping, legal)
- financial (revenue, temporary and increased expenses, market share, customer base)
- image (reputation of company and owner)
Though some CMP's (Crisis Management Plans) can require more complex components, a sound strategy for small to medium sized business owners begins with sitting down and addressing questions related to your plan's various components such as:
What can go wrong?
Who is immediately impacted by a negative incident?
What has gone wrong in the past and how did we respond?
What is our "damage control" plan?
What is our communication plan?
What is our business continuity plan?
What is our recovery plan?
What is our "return to normalcy" plan?
There are many crisis management strategy models offered in the industry. But in its simplest form it looks like this.
All companies are exposed to potential crises. The harmful impact any negative event can have on an organization can be significantly mitigated with the presence of a well thought out crisis management strategy.
SmithConnen will use all of its experience and broad food business knowledge and business world saavy to help you create and maintain a comprehensive Crisis Management Plan designed to protect the company, your employees, your customers and your suppliers and vendors.
What Our Customers Are Saying
Vito Girardi, President - Gioia Cheese Company, Inc
"I want to thank the people at SmithConnen for their assistance in strengthening Gioia's food safety program. They reviewed our previous HACCP plan and after finding serious omissions and inaccuracies, presented management with a new, comprehensive, up to date and easy to understand HACCP plan that helps ensure Gioia Cheese Company's compliance with local, state, and federal food safety regulations."
"I welcome them as part of our team and look forward to an ongoing relationship as our company continues to grow, providing our customers with the highest quality products available."
Ray Broguiere, President - Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy
"We want you to know how pleased we are with the service you provided us. The upgrading of our HACCP program has been outstanding. We also appreciate you taking care of our Egg Nog formulation for us. Your company's knowledge and expertise in both the food and commercial insurance industry has been valuable to us."
"We are pleased to maintain a working relationship with you. It has been a great benefit to our company."
Maria de Lourdes "Lulu" Sobrino, Founder & CEO, Lulu's Dessert Corporation
"I want to thank SmithConnen for their invaluable assistance in helping our company improve its food safety program, production efficiency, and logistics planning. This unique multifaceted company, with its exceptional experience in food quality assurance, risk management and business insurance, has proven to be an important resource for Lulu's Dessert."
"Frank Smith and Rene Connen worked closely with us in looking at options for future production and growth plans that utilize our resources more effectively and identifies new ways to grow our brand; all while helping us maintain our high food quality and safety standards. Beyond the role of advisors or coaches, they've become a part of our team, working tirelessly to ensure our success."
"I highly recommend SmithConnen as a valued resource and partner. Their comprehensive approach to identifying and solving real or potential problems, plus their ability to educate and train our staff, has significantly improved Lulu's ability to raise the bar in virtually every aspect of its operations."