Essential Ingredients in Food Safety: Making the Most of GMP and HACCP

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Informed by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), manufacturers are required to implement processes that actively reduce the risk of foodborne illness, both from known pathogens and unknown agents. These processes are critical track the type and nature of these illnesses and mitigate their impact — according to the CDC, 48 million Americans fall ill with food-related sickness each year. Of those, more than 100,000 are hospitalized and on average 3,000 will die.

To help standardize the creation and implementation of food safety processes, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created two best practice guidelines: GMP and HACCP. Here’s a look at what they are, where they apply and how your business can make best use of these essential safety ingredients.

What are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)?

According to the FDA, “GMPs describe the methods, equipment, facilities and controls for producing processed food.” Good manufacturing processes were developed as a way to standardize frameworks around facilities management, food processing and packaging operations to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness in the supply chain and provide clear directives to food processors and manufacturers.

Key components of GMPs include adequate maintenance of facilities and buildings, the design and maintenance of equipment, record keeping, the development of reliable sanitization processes and controls and the establishment of defect action levels (DLAs) that may prompt responses from the FDA.

Worth noting? Some GMPs are general, while other are more specific. For example, plumbing must be of “adequate size and design” to support facility operations, but companies are obligated to install self-closing doors for all toilet facilities.

What are Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)?

While food processing regulations have been in place since the early 1900s, modern GMPs weren’t developed until the late 1960s. Since then, the FDA has regularly reviewed and adjusted these practices to meet the demands of more advanced food processing facilities.

Current good manufacturing processes (cGMPs) refer to the most recent iteration of these practices and are designed to help businesses meet evolving regulatory expectations. For example, new updates to GMPs include additional instructions for bottled water, canned foods and infant formula manufacturers. Food service organizations should regularly review cGMPs to ensure operations meet current guidelines.

What is a GMP Audit?

A GMP audit is an end-to-end evaluation of GMP processes by a third-party to ensure compliance for food processors. The goal of these audits is to identify any potential areas of concern and help companies remedy regulatory deviations to boost overall food safety and ensure compliance. It’s worth regularly conducting GMP audits to asses compliance, since the cost of bringing in a reliable auditing firm is typically far less than the potential downtime that comes with a failed FDA audit.

Best bet? Start with a GMP checklist to see where your processes meet expectations and where they could use improvement.

What is Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Practices Management (HACCP)?

HACCP is defined as a “management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product,” according to the FDA.

In practice, HACCP guidelines (hazard analysis critical control point), a HACCP program and HACCP plan look to implement preventive controls to avoid food safety hazards, contamination and other hazards from occurring, rather than assessing finished products. HACCP targets areas such as personal hygiene, food preparation, hot/cold holding, refrigeration, food and dry storage, cleaning and sanitation, and pest control. Implemented effectively, HACCP processes – including preventive controls at critical control points (ccp) – provide a proactive approach to food safety and producing safe food by implementing preventive and corrective actions in process to reduce the risk of post-production contamination that prompts costly reviews of current practices.

What is a HACCP Audit?

Much like a GMP audit, an HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) audit is designed to help processors in the food industry identify areas of contamination risk (biological hazards, allergens, etc.) that they need to improve — before these areas are evaluated and assessed by the FDA. While similar to GMP, the principles of HACCP and a HACCP system focus more on physical concerns and businesses prepping for an audit are best serviced with an HACCP checklist designed to pinpoint common areas of concern.

GMP and HACCP as Critical Food Safety Components

Both GMP and HACCP (and GMP certification and HACCP certification) play a critical role in and are a prerequisite to food safety a food safety system. Typically part of a quality management system, alignment with these frameworks not only improves the quality and safety of food production outputs, but in combination with regular food safety inspections can help food providers with improved safety management and avoid the need for costly downtime and substantial process changes.

GMP and HACCP compliance can also help boost customer perception of business best practices. Consider Longo’s Brothers Fruit Market, a family-owned Canadian grocer that’s been in operation since 1956. In 2021, Longo’s earned the distinction as top grocery retailer in the Ontario Leger WOW study, in part because of their award-winning food safety performance — two-thirds of customers said they were confident touching Longo’s products, even during the pandemic.

Food Safety First

GMP, cGMP and HACCP are key components in effective food safety and food safety program. By regularly reviewing these requirements for updates, assessing current compliance with in-depth checklists and auditing processes to identify potential concerns, food manufacturers and food businesses can streamline operations, ensure food standards are met and remain confident in food safety frameworks.

Ready to boost GMP and HACCP best practices? Take on food safety with Certainty.

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