Demystifying Food Safety Management Systems: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted on 
April 11, 2024
Adam Armstrong
VP, Customer Success
Learn why SDM is the future of the Food & Beverage Industry

In an era where food safety concerns are paramount, organizations must use best practices when meeting consumer and industry expectations. At the core of food safety is the need for food safety management systems (FSMS) - a systematic approach to controlling food safety hazards within a food business to ensure the food is safe to eat. This guide aims to demystify the complexities surrounding food safety and these management systems.  

What is a Food Safety Management System (FSMS)?

Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) are organized frameworks or systems designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce food safety hazards to acceptable levels. Reducing these risks ensures that the food companies are producing is safe for all consumers. 

These food management systems encompass the documentation, procedures, processes, and controls needed to address food safety throughout the entire supply chain. They also serve as a tool to ensure that organizations are meeting food safety regulations, helping to avoid fines or legal consequences down the line.

By integrating principles of hazard analysis with critical control points (HACCP) and other regulatory standards, organizations can ensure they are managing food safety risks and safeguarding public health and food products.  

Components and Purpose of Food Safety Systems

Food Safety Management Systems are made up of various components all with the common goal of helping organizations meet their food safety needs. Central to Food Safety Management Systems are several key components from hazard analysis and HACCP to production procedures and documentation. When done correctly these factors work in alignment to create the highest quality safe food. 

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, also known as HACCP, are preventative controls to food safety that identify physical, chemical, and biological hazards in production processes that can cause potential hazards in finished products. 

Organizations involved in the food industry should use HACCP principles to conduct a hazard analysis and establish critical control points for their own products. Establishing a HACCP plan will look unique across the food industry for various product lines and SKUs. This process is an important and effective food safety management practice that ensures food safety standards are being met. 

Principles of HACCP

  1. Conducting Hazard Analysis

Food manufacturers should first conduct a hazard analysis to identify food hazards that could cause any food safety issues. This process should be completed for every food product to identify any allergens, cross-contamination, or any other food risks.  

  1. Identifying Critical Control Points (CCPs)

After the completion of a hazard analysis teams should then identify all critical control points. This stage in the process sets control measures and determines how the identified hazards can be effectively prevented, eliminated, or reduced to acceptable levels.  

  1. Establishing Critical Limits

For each critical control point (CCP) determined, organizations must establish a critical limit. Critical limits serve as the threshold values that must be met to ensure that CCPs are effectively controlling a specific food safety hazard. These are typically noted as numerical values based on scientific findings.   

  1. Monitoring CCPs

Next practices for monitoring these CCPs must be put into place. Record-keeping and monitoring of each food production is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This shows who is checking each product and at what stage. The monitoring measures things such as temperature, time, pH, and other specifications. 

  1. Taking Corrective Actions

If there are any CCPs that are determined as not under control during the monitorization process then teams must take corrective actions to get them under control. This may even involve product recalls for products that have already met the market.   

  1. Establish record-keeping procedures

HACCP regulations require record keeping of all procedures in real-time is essential to ensure that changes are kept tracked and kept up to date. This includes keeping documentation of hazard analysis, CCP changes, critical limits, and any other quality management measurements. 

  1. Verification to Establish Validity 

Finally, organizations should be able to carry out verification procedures to show that the effective application of the above measures is taking place. This is necessary to ensure that any food safety policies and regulations are being met at the necessary standard. High-quality HACCP practices ensure that companies do not meet fines or legal consequences down the line.

ISO 22000 Standards and Food Safety

Regulatory requirements around the world set additional standards for food safety practices. One globally recognized standard is ISO 22000, which specifies the requirements for food safety management (FSMS) by integrating the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems. 

ISO 22000 applies to all organizations, regardless of size, who are involved in any part of the food supply chain. The standard works to align the safety of food products and provide a framework for management that is clear, comprehensive, and consistent.

By implementing standards such as ISO 22000, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to food safety to customers and regulatory bodies, while effectively controlling food safety hazards.  

Prerequisite Programs

Prerequisite programs are the basic conditions and activities necessary to maintain food hygiene and activities necessary to maintain a hygienic environment throughout the food chain. This includes the production, handling, and distribution of safe products for end consumption. 

Prerequisite Programs are the foundation upon which Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) are built and are essential for minimizing the risk of food safety hazards. These programs may include standards for facility maintenance, personal hygiene, pest control, waste management, cleaning, and sanitizing, among other things.    

Enhancing Food Safety and Traceability with Specright

In order to reap the benefits of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) organizations must first have access to up-to-date, comprehensive data about their supply chains and the products they are producing. 

With a purpose-built Specification Data Management (SDM) solution like Specright organizations can do just that. By managing product and process specifications, ingredient lists, and packaging details companies can ensure they are meeting the increasing regulatory demands and consumer expectations in food safety.

Specright enables organizations to centralize vast amounts of product and process data, which in return facilitates easier management and monitoring of critical data points such as ingredient sourcing, allergen information, and processing parameters.

With regulatory compliance acting as a moving target, with continuously evolving standards and requirements, specification data management systems help to track these changes ensuring compliance. Up-to-date records and data make it easier to adhere to all safety standards. 

As the food industry continues to navigate the complexities of safety, regulation, and consumer expectations, the value of Specification Data Management systems like Specright will on become more apparent. 

To learn more about Specright, request a demo.   


Adam Armstrong

As the VP of Customer Success at Specright, Adam has spent 8 years working directly with manufacturing, consumer goods, and supply chain leaders to drive a spec-first approach to managing packaging and product data. Adam serves as an adjunct professor for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Masters in Packaging Value Chain program, and he previously worked in digital strategy and analytics for the National Football League and Brand Affinity Technologies. Adam holds a BA and MBA from the University of California Los Angeles.

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