Can a food safety consultant benefit your food business? The HACCP certification process can be extremely challenging for any food business. There is even more pressure when business trade is on the line. A lot of the time, it’s the responsibility of the quality assurance team to create, implement and make certain certification is achieved and maintained. For a lot of food companies, this responsibility is often given to just one person. Any person who has been expected to achieve and maintain food safety or HACCP certification, knows that it is an enormous task. Food companies that are in this situation will often seek the advice and guidance of an external food safety consultant or food consultant.
In my private business, I work as both a food safety auditor and a food safety consultant. Because of this, I find that I get overly agitated when I come across other food safety consultants who clearly do not have adequate skill or knowledge to suitably advise the client in regards to obtaining and maintaining food safety and HACCP certification. To avoid being financially ripped-off by inadequate consultants here are my top six recommendations when looking for a food safety consultant.
1. Relevant Qualifications for Food Safety Consultants
As a starting point, it is advisable to engage a food safety consultant that has a university degree in either food microbiology, food technology or environmental health. Qualifications in food auditing in your particular food industry is also recommended. You can review the consultants food auditing qualifications by visiting www.rabqsa.com. This is a professional association for auditors.
2. Thorough working knowledge of the certification standard
The food safety consultant should have a working knowledge of the HACCP certification standard that the food business is trying to achieve. There are various HACCP certification standards in the marketplace which includes ISO22000, Safe Quality Food (SQF), Spotless Catering, Freshcare, Organic Certification, Codex HACCP, Woolworth’s Quality Assurance and The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety to list a few.
3. Previous working experience
When deciding on engaging a food safety consultant, their previous working experience should be relevant to what you are trying to achieve. A few areas to review would include the duration they have worked in your or a similar industry, were they responsible for implementing and maintaining HACCP systems, did their previous employment have certification to the same standards that your food business wants certification.
It is not necessary that that have the technical knowledge in process control as I would expect that your production staff would be the subject matter expects when it comes to how the food product is produced and the way that equipment operates. In saying this, the consultant should compliment the current HACCP team and have a good level of working knowledge of different types of food hazards.
4. Keeping up to date
It is essential that any successful food safety consultant remains current and up-to-date with trends and issues that affect the food industry. Regular professional development in the areas of food safety, legal compliance and food quality should be evident with competency based assessment results available. As a general rule, updates to certification standards occur on regular basis (annually for some), so proof of professional development in the latest version should be available.
5. Previous Performance
The food safety consultant should provide a list of references or testimonials from food businesses that they have undertaken consultancy work for. It is very important that you contact the reference to obtain a first-hand account of the scope of works that was completed and the food consultant’s performance outcome.
6. Development and Implementation Time
Steer clear of any food consultant that tells you that they can write and implement your entire HACCP system or HACCP plan in a matter of 2 weeks. It takes time to change the behaviour of workers and you should allow at least 3 months for HACCP systems and procedures to be implemented once they have been written. The completion of the “7 Principles of HACCP” is a massive task in itself especially with the correct identification and assessment of food safety hazards.
By spending adequate time researching the credentials of your chosen food safety consultant, you can save your food company a large amount of money.