Product changeover in the food industry

Essentials of a food product changeover process

    Implementing an effective food product changeover process is essential for all food businesses that manufacture multiple products. Without it, not only could your customer be at risk of food injury but your food business could face regulatory action. In this article, find out about what product changeover is and the key areas that you need to focus on.

    Defining product changeover

    Before we jump into what should be included in your product changeover process, let’s get an understanding of what it is. For a food business, product changeover is when you switch from producing or packing one food product to producing or packing a different food product.

    Controlling the risk

    Most GFSI recognised standards require that you have product changeover procedures documented and implemented. So, why are they needed? Product changeover procedures are an effective measure for controlling several different risks related to allergens, foreign matter and regulatory compliance.

    Key product changeover activities

    A food business is required to produce safe and suitable food. To support this goal, there are several activities you will need to implement during the food product changeover process.

    • Product Removal
      The most obvious activity is making sure that all food product from the previous run has been removed before starting the next run. You don’t want your customer getting something that they are not expecting so effective cleaning must be a priority in this case.
    • Food Packaging Removal
      Checking to see that all previous run packaging has been removed will lessen the likelihood of the food product being packed into the incorrect packaging.
    • Allergen Cross-contact
      Thoroughly cleaning the production lines between different products is essential. This is even more so when there are different allergens present in your food products. You do not want any unintentional allergens finding their way into a product that does not contain that food allergen.
    • Food date codes
      I have written about the application of food expiry dates and traceability codes before. Checking that the correct dates and codes are applied during the packing process helps to avoid mislabelling issues. This is an area to be mindful of especially if your food business produces 24/7.
    • Metal detector systems
      Metal detectors or other detection equipment may require changes to their settings depending on the type, temperature or density of the food product being assessed. Rechecking the equipment’s sensitivity is required during each product changeover.
    • Avoiding foreign matter contamination
      The operation and vibration of equipment can cause nuts and bolts to become loose. Checking that all parts of the product line are secure and intact can help to avoid any potential for physical contamination. Don’t forget to check for fraying of belts as well.

    Verifying product changeover

    The most common way of verifying that product changeover procedures have been implemented is through the inspection or checking process. Visually check that:

    • no previous product or packaging is left on the line
    • the right packaging or food labels are being used
    • the line is visually clean
    • no target food allergen residue remains after cleaning
    • any detection equipment has been set for the correct product
    • no potential sources of physical contamination exist

    Documenting your procedures

    Documenting your food product changeover procedures is an easy process. Make sure you include the methods or “how-to” for all the activities listed above in the key product changeover activities and verification section.

    Review time

    Take a moment to review your current product changeover procedures to see how they compare. To add more suggestions to what has been discussed in this article share your thoughts with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.


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