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    Risk Assessment and Management, Part 7: Continuous Improvement

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” PMA’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker is with me today to continue discussing risk assessment and risk management.

    Bob, in several of your posts on food safety you have talked about the need for continuous improvement. What exactly does that mean and how can companies incorporate it into their risk assessment and management process?

    Bob Whitaker:
    Julia, Risk assessment and management is never really finished. If you add a new ranch, change harvesters, re-organize your cooler, add a new process line, contract a new transportation company, change the traffic flow in the distribution center, or change display cases in your store, then you need to re-examine your risk management program — to take a fresh look and be sure it is still accurate. Continuous improvement should be a key attribute of that process, and of any good food safety program.

    Absent true kill steps, food safety will always be a process of risk assessment and management – so food safety managers are challenged then to be innovative thinkers and search out new ideas and technologies to help manage those risks. There are exciting new technologies out there poised to have an impact on food safety performance. But first we have to test these new technologies, verify they work, and understand how they can impact food safety. We also have to look internally, to strategize, plan, train and implement, then do it again. These are concepts you use every day in your sales groups and production teams, why not food safety?

    Continuous improvement means never being satisfied. If you stand still on food safety, you’ll most assuredly get run over. This is not a static issue. I always think of it as a “ripple effect”. A little drop of information obtained at a conference, off the internet, or at an agricultural extension service can be shaped, molded and implemented in your business, and have a tidal wave impact on the food safety performance of your company.

    The information is not simply going to find you, you need to search it out. You can do that by getting involved with your trade associations, by visiting Web sites like PMA.com to get food safety updates, by obtaining links to other useful sites, and by supporting the research efforts of the Center for Produce Safety or a local university actively engaged in food safety research.

    Always remember, as your business changes, so does your food safety risk profile; you are constantly in the mode of updating and re-evaluating. A continual process of risk assessment and risk management is a chance for your employees to learn, and a chance for your company to improve your food safety performance. This mind set of continuous improvement can and will also transfer to other aspects of your business activities, and have a positive impact on your business culture.

    Julia:
    Thank you, Bob. PMA is committed to continuously improving the food safety culture of our industry, and our members can take advantage of the wealth of information we have available on food safety.
    Thanks very much to our listeners, please join us again next time!

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