Assessing Safety Risk of Food Ingredient Vendors and Raw Materials in Your HACCP Plan

March 24, 2015 By

Evaluation of potential hazards as they relate to your raw material vendors processes and the raw materials that they supply to your organization is critical in the assessment of your food safety program and the maintenance of your HACCP Plan.  Reducing vulnerability by knowing and having a comprehensive supplier and raw material evaluation procedure will ultimately reduce your company’s exposure to unwanted risk.

Vendors need to be evaluated for several areas of performance.  Primarily in the area of food safety, if they are supplying potentially inherent high risk material, there needs to be absolute assurance that their manufacturing plants have standards in place to meet your safety requirements.  At the very least, you should have written verification from your vendor that their HACCP Plan is implemented and effective.  Ideally you should conduct your own vendor qualification audit to confirm that everything that has been documented and presented to you in writing is true in reality.  Considering the international scope of the food ingredient supply chain, travel and auditing of all vendor facilities may not always be feasible.  In these circumstances, foreign vendors can be asked to supply updated HACCP Certification or GFSI audit verification reports, so that you can have confidence that any non conformance issues have been adequately addressed.  Obviously a short list of highest risk vendors will likely require a vendor audit.  Eventually the Safe Foods for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will have requirements in place to cover this as well, but until these regulations are passed, you should be preparing your organization by reviewing and expecting your foreign raw material vendors to provide supporting documentation on their Food Safety Plans, HACCP Plans or GFSI / HACCP Certifications.  This food safety review needs to include review of your vendors’ traceability, non conformance and corrective actions procedures.  Your vendor’s crisis and recall preparedness is also critical when selecting and approving your next vendor.

In addition to the assessment and verification of your vendors’ food safety system and HACCP Plan, you should be maintaining and reviewing supporting documentation for each raw material that is received and used in your manufacturing plant.  Criteria that needs to be evaluated impacting the food safety risk of the raw material include confirmation of raw materials’: country of origin, content of natural botanicals, information on import alerts, specific information on the kill step for that raw particular material, presence of preservative, availability of microbial nutrients, water activity, pH to support microbial growth, presence of allergen, presence of salt / solvents.  Documentation for each raw material used in your processing facility should be reviewed by your quality and purchasing departments to ensure compliance to your safety and vendor requirements.  Your package of documentation should include the following: raw material specification, nutritional analyses, material safety data sheet, dietary certification (egg: gluten, vegan), religious certification (kosher, halal), natural, ingredient,  allergen breakdown, organic, and GMO status. 

In addition to the operational and regulatory risk already outlined which can lead to safety issues for consumers, the reputational risk to your business that comes with a negative food safety incident stemming from your vendors’ unacceptable raw material will likely be instantly shared through social networking and digital technology.  Instant communication can be extremely damaging.  At the end of the day, it is so important to have confidence in your food safety program and HACCP Plan from farm to manufacturing to consumer. Knowing your vendors can supply you with ingredient product with consistent high quality as well as the signed affidavit guarantee that their product meets our country’s regulations. Having this in place will secure confidence in your supply chain.  Each raw material  vendor needs to able to demonstrate that what gets measured and judged as successful in his operation is in line with your organization’s mission, goals and HACCP Plan.