At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March 2020, many of us made the shift to working from home and social distancing, and consumers rushed to the grocery stores and stocked up on food and essentials. With this surge in demand came increased pressure on food manufacturing plants to provide goods quickly and safely. But when it came to safety protocols for the employees actually manufacturing this food, how could food manufacturing plants mitigate risk?
The COVID-19 global pandemic underscored the critical importance of keeping food manufacturing plants open and in compliance with safety regulations. With new FDA regulations and guidelines, and the added threat of an infected employee or contractor coming onsite and putting others at risk for COVID-19, food manufacturing plants must place an even greater emphasis on screening every individual entering the workplace.
Standards are changing
FDA regulations continue to change to strengthen and protect the food supply. Food manufacturers under FDA oversight are expected to meet the requirements of the Food Modernization Act.
According to Karine Lawrence, Founder and Principal of food safety consultancy Sirocco Food + Wine Consulting:
“The FDA has implemented phase three of their prevention regulations for food. This is a big deal because it has an impact on all the food safety certifications around the world. Everyone manufacturing food for the US market needs to implement these rules and needs to make sure they have the right tools in place to monitor them.”
Lawrence is a certified food safety compliance and Safe Quality Food (SQF) expert and an industry veteran. Her business helps clients with mitigation strategies to protect food supplies and meet SQF Code Food Defense Requirements. Sirocco has partnered with Traction Guest to provide food manufacturing companies with access to visitor and employee management solutions that support the technology component of their mitigation strategies.
According to Lawrence, “You have to picture the food manufacturing environment like a fortress.”
Food safety is about more than keeping the food safe. Equally important is keeping the entire facility, its employees and perimeters safe. A proper food defense strategy must include controlling individuals’ access to sensitive areas inside a facility. Without proper screening and reliable access controls, a bad actor could potentially tamper with food production, putting consumers at risk, or gain unwarranted access to an electrical panel, perhaps igniting a fire and causing significant product and financial losses.
How Traction Guest supports risk mitigation and compliance for food manufacturers
When it comes to bringing employees and contractors on-site, Traction Guest’s technology is well aligned with the FDA’s Food Defense Mitigation Strategies Database (FDMSD) and can be used by food manufacturing plants to manage every aspect of an individual's entry and exit. Traction Guest supports the following stipulations from the FDA’s mitigation strategies database:
- Require driver check-ins
- Restrict access immediately around the step to authorized personnel
- Restrict access to equipment and controls to authorized personnel
- Restrict access to ingredients, products, and/or cargo to authorized personnel
- Restrict access to openings or access points (e.g., to bins, tanks, vats, ports/valves, inspection points, system openings) to authorized personnel
- Restrict access to transport operations to authorized personnel
- Restrict operations to authorized personnel
- Use personnel (e.g., guards, supervisors, trusted employees) for visual observation
- Use personnel identification (e.g., colour-coded uniforms, badges) to clearly identify authorized personnel around restricted locations, equipment, controls, and operations
Food manufacturing plants frequently engage with contractors for a variety of jobs, meaning non-employees are continually on-site. This brings risk not only in terms of health and safety but also verifying up-to-date permits. It’s critical to pre-screen who is entering a plant and ensure those who are granted entry have met the specific requirements mandated by industry regulations and each individual plant’s guidelines. With Traction Guest’s visitor and employee management platform, food manufacturers can proactively confirm which contractors are allowed onsite through pre-registration invite emails and health screening questionnaires. By partnering with Ident Solutions and Contractor Compliance, Traction Guest also provides access to watchlists and the ability to verify contractor credentials and whether someone is compliant and allowed to be on site.
Streamline and automate health and safety protocols for visitors and employees
Whether during a pandemic or not, threats to food manufacturing plants can have grave implications on regional and global food supplies. These threats can come in many forms, including food adulteration, employee health and safety, access to intellectual property and food research or innovation technologies, and more. A visitor and employee management system enables manufacturers to execute their food defense plans and reduce the complexity of meeting stringent industry regulations, thereby keeping the food manufacturing industry safely operating and producing food for consumers around the world.