This article originally ran in the May 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.
HACCP plan development has evolved with the changing economic and regulatory environment in the food industry. Food manufacturers are trying to do less with more while meeting new demands from customers and from federal regulations.
This month Food Manufacturing surveyed its readers to reveal their challenges and successes in developing a HACCP plan. The survey mirrors one dispatched in April 2011 and reveals interesting new data about how manufacturers are navigating the new processing landscape.
This month, 38.5 percent of food manufacturers reported that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) required them to update their HACCP plans to stay compliant with federal regulations.
When asked about the challenges facing HACCP development, readers reported:
- Confusion over determining what constitutes a critical control point—54.7%
- Confusion over regulatory requirements—39.6%
- Difficulty with employee buy-in—30.2%
- Difficulty justifying expense of plan development—22.6%
- Conflicting advice from consultants—18.9%
Notably, “confusion over regulatory requirements” and “difficulty justifying expense of plan development” jumped by 5 and 10 percent, respectively, over last year’s numbers. These changes could reflect the burden of adhering to the new FSMA requirements on still-constricted budgets.
As seen in the chart above, food manufacturers split their HACCP considerations among customer demands, regulatory requirements and an internal commitment to food safety. While customer compliance concerns remain steady over last year, reported commitment to food safety dropped off and reported regulatory considerations jumped. This data unlikely suggests that food manufacturers are no longer committed to food safety, but rather that due to strengthened regulation and continued customer demands, food companies are no longer as reliant on their own judgment as to what constitutes adequate food safety in the face of outside forces.
As seen in the chart at left, Food Manufacturing readers report a high level of satisfaction with their facilities’ HACCP plans. In fact, the number of readers who report being “very happy” with their plans has increased by 13 percent over last year.
The development of these successful plans is attributable to multiple sources that food manufacturers report consulting. This year, food manufacturers sought advice from:
- Equipment vendors—7.5%
- Government agencies—41.5%
- Internal QA/QC experts—54.7%
The number of respondents who reported consulting employees dropped by about 7 percent over last year, while resourcing consultants and government agencies increased by about 10 percent each.
These changes likely reflect the overall food industry effort to source experts in recreating HACCP plans to serve customers and meet the changing regulatory demands. While the ways in which food manufacturers develop plans may have evolved over the past year, the industry commitment to a safe food supply appears intact.