Food safety records form an important part of your HACCP food safety program. They are an essential record to support the implementation of your food safety management system and the application of HACCP Principles.
In this guide, I refer to both records and forms. By way of a quick explanation, a record is really just a form that has been filled out. In this guide, you will find:
- Designing your food safety forms
- Information that needs to be recorded
- Reviewing and verifying records
- Record management system
- Auditing food safety records
- Training in good record keeping practices
- Take Action and accept the challenge
Designing your food safety forms
The key to a great food safety record is in the design. This quote by Samuel Johnson sums my feelings on form design in a nutshell.
The design of your food safety and quality compliance forms can have a real impact on their completion success rate. The easier it is to fill out a monitoring form the higher the likelihood the form will be completed. If your form is poorly designed, food handlers will find it hard to complete. This then has an effect on the ability for your business to provide completed records during an audit.
Form Design considerations
When designing food safety forms, especially those that will be completed by hand, maintain a balance between readability and aesthetics.
- There should be adequate space to record the required information. Make sure that the monitoring form is not cramped.
- Text on the monitoring form is a font size that is readable and legible. If you have photocopied forms for use, make sure you can actually read the printed information.
- Good use of white space around each entry field and the border of the form. Good spacing contributes to better form completion.
- Ideally, stick to one colour in your form design. Using a dark colour will contribute to better form photocopying.
- Don’t try and capture too much information on your food safety form. Whatever information you do need to record, make sure it is relevant.
I use an electronic platform called HACCP Records for my clients which takes care of the majority of design issues.
Before you design a form for implementation in your business, you first need to determine it’s purpose and the purpose of the information to be collected. To determine relevance of information ask yourself the following questions:
What are we trying to achieve by filling out this food safety form? Compliance with law? Compliance with a certification standard requirement? To capture critical business information? If you can’t track relevance back to one of these, you would have to think – why are we even recording this stuff?
This is not an activity to do by yourself so include other people from within your food business. The information recorded may be used and analysed by other sections of your business.
Have you ever heard of the term ‘double-data entry’? It basically means recording or entering information more than once. Who has got time for that! Before you design any new food safety or quality compliance form check to see if you are already recording the information needed.
To help with this process having a guiding document which outlines all of your forms and what information is recorded on what form, can be a great referral point and time saver.
Information that needs to be recorded
Food safety records are your evidence that a mandatory activity has been completed. However, many food businesses fail to include key components to ensure effective record keeping has been implemented.
At a minimum, your food safety forms, and subsequent food safety records, should include the following:
1. Document control information
Including the name of the form and some type of document control is a basic requirement. The method you use for document control needs to align with the document management policies for your business. Examples of document control can include issue dates, version numbers, document dates.
2. Date and time
Recording the date and time demonstrates when the event was undertaken. All records should be completed in real time. This means, that information would be recorded at the time of undertaking the event, for example, GMP check or CCP monitoring. Make sure that that the date includes the “year” and the time includes “AM or PM”.
3. Result of monitoring
The main purpose of completing food safety records is to capture process information. When information is not captured on the record, it is very difficult to justify or evidence that the activity was completed. In a nutshell, make sure that all results are recorded as required (good or bad).
4. Name and signature of the person completing the record
It is a requirement of the recognized GFSI standards to include the name of the person completing the monitoring and in the majority of cases the signature or initial of that person as well. It makes it easier to follow-up with a staff member if there are any issues with the food product later down the track.
5. Product Name and lot code
Recoding the product name and lot code not only assists with traceability it is also a legal requirement where appropriate.
6. Facility name and/or location
Get into the habit of recording the facility name and/or facility location. This can be included in the initial form design to save having food handlers complete this information. If you have forms that are used across multiple sites, record the site location as well. This is a legal requirement if you are required to comply with FDA Human Food PC Rule.
7. Food Safety Record Verification
Another person in authority should check all food safety records. This process aims to verify that there are no issues missed, process parameters have been met and the record has been completed effectively and correctly. Issues can be more quickly identified when a robust record verification system is in place.
Reviewing and verifying records
Reviewing food safety and quality compliance records on a regular basis can provide an insight into the status of critical elements of your food safety system. Review provides the opportunity to identify trends in the monitoring data. Through identifying trends, we can ask ourselves many different questions like:
- Are we still on track to produce a safe food product?
- Is the system starting to get out of control?
- Is this piece of equipment starting to fail?
- Do my staff require retraining?
Asking ourselves these questions can allow us to act before a deviation occurs and potentially save our customers from consuming an unsafe food product. To read more on how to complete record verification in your food business, please click here
Record management system
The purpose of a document management system should be to manage all of the information that is collected by or generated by your business. This also applies to your food safety and quality compliance records. Your system should consider:
- Retention time
- Control of records
- Storage, both short term and long-term
- Retrieval, and,
You can read more on how to manage your food safety records by clicking here.
Auditing food safety records
As part of your internal audit procedures, you should be auditing the food safety and quality compliance records generated within your food business. The goal of this audit is to check that your record keeping policies, procedures and practices are following both regulatory requirements and recognised GFSI standards (if relevant).
In recent audits I seem to have had a run on identifying CCP monitoring records that do not actually record the critical limits actually identified. By this I mean, what the company have documented as a critical limit in their HACCP plans, is not reflected in their CCP monitoring records. It may be that, say, 3 critical limits were identified and documented for a particular CCP but the CCP monitoring form only records one of those critical limits.
Record falsification is very easy to detect to the trained and astute auditor. A lot of the time is it really just about common sense. Click here to see ways that food handlers have been caught out falsifying records.
Training in good record keeping practices
When food handlers have been properly and adequately trained there is a greater likelihood of compliance to business systems. This is no different with record completion. All staff and relief staff should be trained in:
- What food compliance records need to be completed
- When they are required to be completed
- Why they have to complete the record
- Who is responsible for completing particular food compliance records
- How the record is to be completed
You may also want to include training on corrective action and/or consequence of not filling gout food compliance records correctly.
Courses to grow your knowledge
Our courses, webinars and workshops are designed to grow your knowledge and enhance your skills. If you are just starting out or work on the production floor, check out our Express Learning on Understanding record keeping.
Take Action and accept the challenge
Are you willing to accept my food safety record challenge? I challenge you to check that your HACCP or Preventive controls monitoring records actually record the critical limit you have defined in your HACCP or Food Safety Plan.
Step 1: Grab a copy of your HACCP Audit Table, CCP Table or Preventive Controls.
Step 2: Grab a copy of each of your CCP / QCP monitoring forms.
Step 3: Review the critical limit that is documented within your HACCP Audit table or Preventive Controls table and see if it is actually being recorded on the monitoring form.
Step 4: Make any adjustments to your monitoring forms if you find issues.