Tips for Improving Quality Incident Management Throughout the Food Supply Chain
When it comes to managing quality incidents, following these best practices can help ensure the best outcomes.
There are many moving parts in a food manufacturing facility. From receiving raw materials to palletizing finished product for distribution, critical control points will help reduce food quality incidents. Without proper incident management, a quality incident can escalate to a crisis.
For example, consider a foreign object (metal, glass, hard plastic, etc.) incident that is controlled, and the product does not leave your manufacturing facility. Compare that situation to one involving a foreign object that has been identified in product after it is already in transit or after receipt at the retail level. QA is alerted to the issue, and the incident escalates to a crisis situation.
Achieving visibility into these kinds of quality issues will mitigate the risk of incidents that can escalate to a red alert situation. In order to improve quality incident management anywhere in the supply chain, it pays to be prepared.
Incident Preparedness is Key Component to Business Success
Food companies can look at incident management under two different lenses: food-related incidents and non-food related incidents. Examples of each group include:
- Contamination of raw food or feed
- Consumer illness
- Chemical residues
- Foreign objects
- Supply chain interruption
- Natural disasters
Having an incident management plan in place will provide your team with a clear list of steps to consider when determining the best course of action following an incident. It is also imperative to foster a culture of food safety within your organization by training all employees in safety procedures. Will your team know what to do in case of an incident?
Incident Management Team Responsibilities
An incident management team looks at the risks of potential food safety incidents and how they might be avoided. The team’s responsibilities should be established as part of a comprehensive quality assurance program. When putting together this group, consider adding team members with multidisciplinary backgrounds across multiple departments. The following stakeholders should be included on the incident management team:
- Supply Chain
- Quality Assurance
- Human Resources
The role of the incident management team is to minimize the damage caused by a food quality issue and set a plan in motion to quickly recover any product that could be adversely affected. The team should be under the guidance of an incident response manager who will oversee and prioritize all actions throughout the process and communicate next steps to team members.
The Incident Management Process
Once team members are selected, the next step is to establish standard operating procedures. Successful quality incident management should follow an easily-repeatable process to identify food risks or incidents. Predetermined processes and procedures will keep team members focused on the tasks necessary to oversee a quality incident at the affected facility. Keep the processes simple and actionable, and focus on the following steps:
- What is the incident? The first step is to identify the food risk or incident. The incident could be an allergen contamination or a foreign object from the example above, but it must be identified. The next step is to determine the source of the incident. Was it internal, or did it come from an outside source? This information must be gathered promptly to minimize the damage and to initiate a speedy recovery.
- How to identify and report an incident: Once the incident has been identified, supporting records and documents should be collected and confirmed. An information gathering protocol will guarantee that the right tools are in place to accurately capture information regarding the quality incident. Finally, a report should be compiled and presented to the incident response manager.
- Initial action required to contain the incident: The incident response manager will provide a briefing once the full team is gathered. The focus of this step is on containment, eradication, and recovery. Establish a timeline to accomplish each task to contain the quality incident. The team should determine how customers are affected, and a communication strategy will need to include the best channels to reach them, as well as the kind of information they need to know.
- Communication internal / external: A communication strategy will differ for internal or external quality incidents. The team should determine who should be notified, what should be communicated, and what actions are planned. The messaging should be simple, accurate and timely.
- Corrective / preventive action: Corrective action should occur once the quality incident has been identified. This step corrects the quality issue and focuses on the containment of the risk(s). According to the FDA, corrective and preventive actions must capture the data, records, and trends to determine the proper course of action.
- Review of incidents and continual improvement: From the moment a quality incident is reported, each step toward corrective action should be captured and documented. Production data and incident reports will provide insight for the incident management team as they work to establish benchmarks to measure improvement.
Whether it is food or non-food related, quality incidents will occur at food manufacturing facilities. Having the right processes in place, along with the tools to collect critical information, can help keep quality incidents from escalating to a crisis or a food recall.
Technology That Helps You Manage Quality Incidents
FoodLogiQ offers the leading traceability software that makes it easier to capture and track quality issues. With our Manage + Monitor, you gain full visibility into your supply chain, making it easier to track suppliers, manage supplier documents, and centralize communication during quality incidents. To learn more about how FoodLogiQ can help you capture food quality issues anywhere in your supply chain, request a demo.