Finally! Food Safety Team Meetings that Work!

Finally! Food Safety Team Meetings that Work!

Greetings Food Bites readers!

We sincerely hope that you are enjoying our series focusing on the food safety team and everything else that goes with pulling together a “dream team” [Click here to read our two previous blogs where we looked at the food safety team and how it functions as well as the food safety team leader].

It’s no secret that food safety is a collective effort by everyone in the organisation.  Having said that, very few organisations manage to get the level of engagement and buy-in they need to make every individual accountable for food safety.  Over the years we have realised that organisations who “get food safety right” have food safety teams who have the innate ability to communicate effectively.   One of the platforms they choose to use, is regular food safety team meetings.

These meetings take place on a regular basis, have a fixed agenda, and are attended by the food safety team and other stakeholders.

The frequency of food safety team meetings can vary depending on the size of the organisation, complexity of the processes and the maturity of the food safety management system.  Teams may even decide to meet more often when new projects are underway which may impact the safety of the product.  A monthly frequency works well since most data reported on this forum can easily be trended monthly (more about data and trending a little later on).

Having a fixed agenda focuses discussion points on the right topics and ensures that meetings do not become an extended waste of time or an excuse not to work.  The agenda is also largely determined by requirements stipulated in various food safety standards and using these requirements as a basis for the agenda is especially useful:

PRP’s and verification thereof Including data related to pest control, suppliers, water analysis, air analysis, swab results – both microbiological and allergen/protein as relevant,  environmental monitoring results, allergen testing results, GMP/PRP inspection results, internal audit results, personal hygiene issues, supplier performance, amongst others.
CCP’s, OPRP’s and other food safety control measures Including information on each of these controls and investigations where deviations were noted.
Testing of hazard levels Includes information on the tests performed on products to confirm that the levels of hazards in the products are within the acceptable level.  These tests are often done on frequencies demanded by customers, or if not, defined in a plan with frequencies of monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually.  Where out-of-norm results are discovered, root causes should be sought and amendments to processes should be made.
Changes to the system These changes should be considered BEFORE they are made, to allow for actions to be taken that would maintain the integrity of the system.  It may be a good idea to prompt the types of changes that may be possible (such as those prescribed in many of the Standards), to ensure that no information would be missed.
Objectives and results of other monitoring and measurement activities Although the objectives are usually defined for a period such as a year, it may be good to have a look at progress against the objectives on a monthly basis, to ensure implementation of interventions that will enable the achievement of the objectives.
Non-conformances, corrective actions, risks and opportu-nities This information could include the status of the issues, provision of additional resources where investigating teams cannot resolve issues and graphs to indicate the main issues that require attention.
Resource needs This topic could include training needs, structural issues, tools, or documentation that need to be created and/or amended.  The question should be:  What do people need to do the job right, effortlessly?


You can add as many discussion points to the agenda as you wish but be careful when you remove a discussion point since it may be a specific requirement from a standard!

The food safety team is in the best possible position to evaluate the data that is generated by the system – you have the information, so use it!  The data needs to tell a story, instead of looking at registers and lists of things, rather report on trends and exceptions.  Use graphs to highlight important trends or deviations rather than sharing the raw data.  The team is multi-disciplinary and is well-placed to evaluate data from different angles to ensure that the best decisions are made.

Finally, no task is complete unless the paperwork is done.  Maintain adequate records of these meetings in the form of well-documented minutes.  Make sure that each discussion point is minuted and instead of deleting an agenda point rather record that there is no information to report.  Record the actions that will be implemented with the due dates and responsible persons.  Share the minutes with all stakeholders and if the information is not too sensitive, post them on noticeboards.

TIP:  It could be particularly useful to mirror the agenda of the management review meeting in the food safety team meetings.  Although the information for food safety team meetings will contain more detailed information, it will provide an opportunity for timeous interventions and it will make the collation of information for the management review meeting so much easier.

Take your food safety team from good to great!

Food Bite greetings from our team to yours…

PS Don’t forget to look out for our blog next week – we will be sharing some thoughts on the food safety team and how they influence the food safety culture in an organisation.