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    Risk Assessment and Management, Part 6: Recordkeeping and Training

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is Julia Stewart, PMA PR Director, here with PMA Chief Science Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” Today we’re continuing our series on risk assessment and risk management.

    Bob, in several previous posts you have alluded to the value of recordkeeping, as well as training. What exactly do our listeners need to know about both these areas as they relate to risk assessment and risk management plans?

    Bob Whitaker:
    Well Julia, companies need to have a plan to store and catalog their food safety data, because this data can be vital to the success or failure of the company’s food safety program. Remember, in the event of a food safety incident involving your products, your food safety data will be your best means of demonstrating to regulators your adherence to your written food safety program, and it should be accessible and clear. Should the food safety event move to a legal setting, your data can be subpoenaed so you want it to be complete, accurate, and evaluated properly.

    So what are some of the things to keep in mind as you consider data storage? First, make sure your data is collected and stored properly and securely. Put checks and balances in place to be sure the integrity of the data is maintained. Only your food safety professionals should be authorized to collect, verify and store food safety data. It’s wise to have written policies in place describing how to handle the data, who should read and verify if the data are complete and properly reviewed, and where the data are to be stored.

    It is worth considering both short-term and long-term storage options for food safety data. Most food safety standards call for keeping data at least 2-3 years. You may also want to consider storing data in multiple locations to avoid losing data should a disaster compromise your facility.

    Another of the key tools you have in implementing your risk-based food safety program is training. Training is an important aspect of any food safety program and an activity that will permeate any company that is truly integrating food safety into its culture. I have always found that employees generally want to do the right thing — they just need to be trained properly. Employees learn best when the training is made personal. Don’t just train them to do something, also explain why the task is important and why how it is done is important. If you are training on the importance of hand washing, explain why it is important: Talk about the bacteria that could be on your hands, and how these can make people sick. Talk about how those most likely to get sick, the old and the young, and relate that to the employee’s favorite grandparent or younger sister. It will have more impact and serve as a constant reminder to them.

    Another important piece of training is to then empower employees to do their jobs once they are trained. Setting goals and communicating responsibilities related to food safety – and then following up to ensure the goals and responsibilities are being met – helps with empowerment. Remember, your company is only as food safe as your weakest link. You want that minimum wage employee working on the third shift, when you’re home in bed, to be as well trained as possible.

    Thank you, Bob. Training is such an important part of so many processes. PMA offers great food safety and other training resources and platforms to help our members and you can find more information on these at pma.com.

    To our listeners, thank for joining us! When we come back next time, we’ll have the last post in our series on risk assessment and risk management, on the importance of continuous improvement.

    Until then, goodbye for now.

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