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GFSI Benchmarked Standards

In 2007, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) had tightened food safety procedures and standards through new benchmarking schemes in North America. Through the effort to increase the safety of all food production and manufacturing, all of GFSI’s food safety requirements are now incorporated into all procedures. With these newly recognized and benchmarked schemes, manufacturing companies must identify their internal risks to food safety and develop a process that helps reduce or eliminate those risks.

Of all the strategies that manufacturing companies have developed since then, training and educating employees and shift leaders have often fallen short. While many workers can pass classroom testing for their employers, a significant amount still shows a lack of knowledge about food safety when going through a 3rd party audit. This means that many companies are not successfully complying with GFSI benchmarks, which delays a manufacturing company’s certification process and forces them to go as far as pausing production until actions are taken to correct this.

No one is fully certain why companies are still struggling when it comes to training employees in food safety protocol. Some company training processes lack marginal passing scores, adequate proof of comprehension, and timely follow-up to ensure that their employees are still knowledgeable several months after taking the exam. According to a recent survey, 25% of audited food manufacturing companies are not adequately teaching or ensuring comprehension through their current training practices.

Companies need to look internally and understand why specific training issues are still falling through the cracks, and then they have to determine what the next steps are in avoiding those problems.

GFSI Training and Food Safety Risk

GFSI is one solution that can help several companies accomplish the same goal in training their employees, and it’s benchmark covers all foundational competencies in food safety concepts and programs. The newest version of the GFSI Guidance Document lists one of its keys in food safety competency as being consistent and efficient in all global food systems. Thorough and effective training is another key to competency because it will influence awareness of food safety in the workplace at all times.

While efficiency is required in a broad spectrum of food safety, the focus becomes more specific when it comes to a company’s particular food safety risks in each individual plant. Therefore, GFSI audits question randomly selected employees to verify safety protocols in both a global spectrum as well as those specific to their company’s plant operations. By doing this, GFSI can determine if the plant is conforming to the overall protocols required by all companies.

Unfortunately, many of the answers given by individual works have proven that companies are still showing a potential food safety hazard. From these audits, companies are now recognizing the need to make training for their plant relateable to standard operating and food safety procedures.

Individual plants are also realizing that there needs to be more emphasis on risk management in not just food manufacturing, but also processing and distribution. Through documented training, companies can reduce the risk of food safety and fulfill certification necessary for GFSI standards, giving each plant more credibility in the industry.

Yet, despite knowing what the risks are in not complying with GFSI standards, companies are still creating multiple risks through employees not trained properly in physical, chemical, and other microbial hazards. This forces the industry to question whether food manufacturing companies are actually using effective GMP training and verification with their employees. Auditors are still finding easily preventable risks and mistakes, such as employees not wearing proper attire and showing a lack of awareness of sanitation and safety protocols.

Survey Shock With Food Safety Audits

Unfortunately, auditors are finding these kinds of problems all the time. In 2011, eight auditing firms were audited about employee training by a 3rd party, with GFSI finding out that newly trained employees failed a safety protocol test and training verification on the most common issues. The audit also showed that these businesses were unable to satisfactorily document proof of training compliance, failed to validate food safety on a daily basis, and failed to provide proof of successful remediation.

The GFSI Guidance Document has raised the bar in employee job performance for companies that must comply with these protocols, weeding out those plants unwilling to follow the proper training and rewarding companies who take it to the next level.

The Need For Umbrella Plants To Become Unified

The main issue causing noncompliance within food safety training is that plants are not all unified, and companies encourage individual departments to create their own programs in order to train their employees. While this may be a good method for management to delegate tasks to other supervisors, it’s also a high risk of departments not properly using the same training methods needed for GFSI compliance.

Having non-unified plants and departments can lead to documentation issues, loss of information about classes attended and testing, as well as lack of department to department follow-ups. When there are inconsistencies within multiple departments, an entire company can be unaware of whether their employees are getting the information that they need to achieve safety certifications.

More progressive companies now understand the need to create a unified umbrella team that uses the same training method for every department. Through technological equipment, companies are able to integrate the same type of training to all employees in the company, regardless of department. Food and workplace safety can be covered in all learning plans. These technological methods can also help track training presentations, attendance, and test results of each individual, making proof of training easy to present to auditors upon request.

Ensuring Effective Training and Minimizing Risk Within Food Manufacturing Companies

The roles of training and comprehension of food safety protocol are not limited to GFSI benchmark standards. Pretty soon, unsatisfactory documentation, marginal passing grades, and delayed follow-up will be unacceptable to audits from the FSMA and the FDA. Anything that could remotely risk the safety of employees and consumers will be looked into and shut down immediately. It’s up to a management team that complies with GFSI to create an environment that reduces risk and encourages food safety within every plant employee through consistent testing and remediation follow-up.

Following Good Manufacturing Practices and Global Food Safety Initiative standards does not have to be overwhelming for your business. Here at Training Gems, we help food manufacturing businesses and their employees learn and master the skills required to comply with regulations, improve bottom lines, create a better team environment, continue providing exceptional service to their consumers, stay ahead of the competition, and so much more with our courses. Contact us today to discuss your challenges and to learn how our programs can help you overcome them.