Case Study : Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
Country Traders recently shared its story of getting ready for the requirements of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA is aimed at securing the U.S. food supply. To ensure that imported food is held to the same safety standards as food produced in the United States, it provides the U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) with authority to inspect the facilities of foreign food suppliers and deny entry by products from facilities that fail these inspections.
To get ready for FSMA, Country Traders decided to focus on implementing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety system. HACCP is designed specifically to guarantee that the food being prepared in a given establishment is safe for consumption.
Q. Why did Country Traders decide to undergo HACCP certification?
A. HACCP certification sends the message that our product is safe for human consumption. It is already recognized in Europe. Furthermore, the FSMA has pushed companies to focus on the issue of food safety to be ready for their products to enter the U.S. market
There is no FSMA manual. But a seminar on the FSMA organized by the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) recommended the use of HACCP to meet most of the FSMA requirements.
Q. What steps did Country Traders take to begin the process of HACCP certification?
A. We began by hiring a local consulting firm to assess what we needed to do to meet the requirements for certification. We also hired an additional staff person as a dedicated HACCP employee. As part of her training she worked with the local firm to be able to understand what would be required to attain and maintain HACCP certification.
Q. What types of changes was the company required to make to meet HACCP certification?
A. We had to procure new equipment, such as stainless steel tables; we re-did our factory floor and installed extractor fans. In all spent we spent about J$5 million (approx.US$50,000) on these types of changes. However, these steps were considered to be essential.
We also had to make changes to our procedures. Our Standards and Operating Procedures manual had to be updated. Every action taken inside the factory must now be recorded with supporting documentation and verification. For example, if a table is wiped down, this must be recorded, noting the date and time, with someone verifying that the information entered is correct. The paperwork required is extensive! This is why we decided, at the outset, that we needed a dedicated staff person to be able to handle the increased paperwork for HACCP. This decision allowed us to have her trained onsite while the process was ongoing.
Q. How did Country Traders determine that it was ready for HACCP certification?
A. Our local consulting firm performed several audits. Then the Jamaica Bureau of Standards did a mock audit. Once we passed those we knew we were ready for the actual certification process.
Q. What was the HACCP certification process like?
A. The HACCP inspection was performed by a U.S. company, Perry Johnson. After the mock audits we were fairly certain that we would pass inspection, and we did.
Q. What was the main challenge that Country Traders faced during this process?
A. This was a very expensive undertaking for the company. We were fortunate to be able to apply for and receive a grant from the Caribbean Export Development Agency which will reimburse us for up to J$3 million of our costs. However, as a small company just to apply for this grant required additional costs upfront as we had to hire someone to help write the grant proposal. We’re very grateful for the grant, which will reimburse us for about 70% of the infrastructure costs. The services of the local consulting firm and of the additional staff person are added, though justifiable, expenses. Finally, we had to pay for the actual HACCP certification, including the cost of airfare and hotel for the inspector in Jamaica. However, we believe that the results have made those costs worthwhile to the company. It would also have been good to be able to network locally with other companies going through the same process.
Q. How have the results justified the expense?
A. This was a necessary expense to achieve HACCP certification. The process has also helped the company to be more efficient. It now operates like a factory. Our employees feel empowered and part of a bigger company. We have a strong team. We are now ready for FDA inspection at any time! Our customers can be assured that we are taking every step to ensure that our products remain safe.