Food processing facilities must meet and maintain high standards to comply with food safety requirements and regulations.

This article if for use in the basic development and assessment of the food safety and quality program that needs to be implemented in a food processing facilities. 

The criteria are a combination of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), good management principles and criteria recommendations by many US food companies require of their suppliers.

Quality Assurance Program/Food Safety Program

All food production facilities need to have a quality assurance program that ensures the quality and consistency of the products that they produce. 

Responsibility and authority for assuring compliance to Federal, State and /or any appropriate regulatory law or guideline shall be clearly assigned to competent supervisory-level person or committee, and a functional organization chart needs to be maintained.  This program will include:

  • An organizational chart
  • All procedures the QA/QC personnel perform
  • All appropriate documentation

The department or departments responsible for implementing sanitation, quality control or quality assurance shall establish written procedures and maintain outlines delineating specific responsibilities of each department member.

  • Written Policies
  • Written Standards of Operating Procedures
  • Corrective Actions

Each food plant shall establish a formal food safety committee.  The committee should be multidisciplinary in membership and should operate on a predetermined frequency with complete inspection of the entire facility no less than once a month.

All departments directly involved in implementing food safety shall establish an appropriate budget and support to maintain the proper and timely acquisition of appropriate tools, materials, equipment, monitoring devices, chemicals, and pest control materials. 

Employee and equipment traffic flows are used to minimize contamination from raw and finished products.  All employees need to follow in-place activities to separate raw materials from finished product areas.  The activities may include footbaths, hand washing, changing of garments, etc.  Processing areas are designed to minimize cross-contamination (separation of raw materials, finished products, storage areas, and distribution areas). 

Employees will comply with the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Cleaning Schedule

A Master Cleaning Schedule for periodic cleaning assignments and a daily housekeeping schedule shall undertaken as a formalized written plan which must specify frequency, responsibility, and post cleaning evaluation and shall be maintained and kept up to date.

Supplier/Incoming Goods Program

A supplier monitoring program will be established to ensure that all incoming ingredients and packaging materials are from approved suppliers.  Documentation and inspection of incoming materials shall include:

  • Documented procedures for inspection of incoming raw materials shall be maintained by the appropriate department.
  • All incoming raw ingredients and packaging shall be inspected by trained personnel utilizing the proper and appropriate equipment.
  • Records indicating date of receipt, carrier, lot number, temperature (if required), amount, and product condition shall be maintained.
  • Bulk deliveries, both dry and liquid, shall include visual inspection both before and after unloading.  All findings shall be documented.
  • Incoming vehicles shall be routinely inspected consistent with receiving practices to assure product integrity.  Each incoming vehicle shall be inspected with the results documented.
  • Raw materials susceptible to mycotoxins, pathogenic microorganisms or autolysis from temperature abuse should be segregated and covered by a separate written procedure, with appropriate documentation. 

A feedback mechanism needs to be in place when supplier performance is observed to be below standard.

Records of results of examinations and/or copies of supplier’s guarantees or certifications that verify compliance with federal regulations, guidelines or maintenance standards of raw materials, food packaging and finished products shall be maintained.

All products must be able to be traced within the facility.  All incoming ingredients and primary packaging must be identified in such a manner that they can be included on production records.

Trace Back/Trace Forward Program

A formal product recovery program is required to be in place in order to recover shipped product in the event of a recall or product withdrawal.  All products shall be coded and lot or batch number records shall be maintained.  Distribution records shall be maintained to identify the initial distribution to facilitate segregation and recall of specific lots.  This recall program should be tested.

A mock recall needs to be conducted on a regular basis, at least annually.  This mock recall should include all appropriate documentation (production records, shipping documents, and recall worksheets).  A guideline to follow is that all 100% of all products should be identified within two hours.  A written evaluation of the mock recall will be included.

Customer Complaints

A formalized, written program needs to be in place to track and record all customer complaints that are related to food safety or food quality issues.  This program shall conform to company policy and should include the rapid dissemination of complaint information to all departments responsible for implementation of the food safety program.

Maintenance Program

A maintenance program this is based and focused on food safety standards needs to be developed and implemented.  Included in the maintenance program should be a preventive maintenance program with specific schedules.

Documentation needs to exist that details the type of repair, the materials used, and that the sanitation department was notified that equipment needed proper sanitation prior to placement back into production or that sanitation was performed properly and who completed the process.

Training Program

Training must be conducted for all employees of the production facility.  This must include new employee orientation, as well as regular food safety training for established employees.  This on-going training must occur regularly, at least yearly.  All training must be documented and a record shall be maintained on all training completion.


Each food manufacturer develops and maintains a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program.  All records are appropriately signed and/or initialed including the verification approvals.  All employees are aware of the HACCP-related activities in their work areas. 

Food Security

All food processing facilities need to take measures to address food security risks within the facility.  At a minimum this should include

  • Food security training
  • Control of raw materials
  • Control of access to the facility
  • Control of access to all chemicals and pesticides
  • Control of finished products during transport
  • Supervision of visitors
  • Screening procedures for employees such as background checks