Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: GMPs and SSOPs

Sunday, April 13, 2008

GMPs and SSOPs

The government monitors the food supply and tells the food manufacturers what can be added (both intentional & unintentional) safely to food, but it is the responsibility of individual food manufacturers to produce safe food. The purpose of both government and self regulation is to reduce risk. I'm defining risk here to mean uncertainty, possible danger or loss; it is a way to judge the degree of hazard. What is important when looking at food safety is the magnitude of loss due to an event and how probable is its occurrence. We can't eliminate all risk but we can reduce and/or control it; risk-benefit decisions are made all the time. HACCP, the topic of last week's post, is one way to reduce risk, but there are other processes as well.

Two of the other programs food manufacturers have in place to assure food safety are current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOPs). They are considered pre-requisite programs for HACCP but are independent systems. If you are under mandatory HACCP then you are also under mandatory SSOP regulations. GMPs apply to all FDA regulated foods (since all USDA items are subject to HACCP, their GMPs are kind of intertwined in 9 CFR 416 - Sanitation Regulations). These three programs are all closely aligned and interrelated in most production facilities.

GMPs are outlined in 21 CFR 110 (the 21st title of the Code of Federal Regulations part 110). And it outlines what food companies 'shall' (must) and should have in place concerning a broad range of items including personnel, the facility, sanitation, equipment, processes and warehousing. GMPs originated in 1969 as part of the Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act and were modified in 1977 where they became section 110 of CFR title 21. They were revised in 1986 and were recently (2002) reviewed for another round of changes due to the availability of new tests and discovery of new issues. The review is specifically targeting risk-based preventative controls like those for allergens and pathogens. Although the report's findings were published in the Federal Register in 2005, none of the recommended changes have yet taken effect. This doesn't mean no one is doing anything about preventing new issues like allergens or pathogens, quite the contrary; the government is always behind the industry in these matters. They reviewed the statutes because they saw what changes the industry was making and wanted the CFR to reflect what was happening.

SSOPs are spelled out for USDA regulated companies, but not for FDA ones. They are essentially written procedures specific to a process that addresses things such as cleanliness, record-keeping, safety of the water & chemicals used, prevention of cross-contamination, etc. And like HACCP, the actual process of designing a SSOP program is very detailed and not especially exciting reading. For those so inclined, I offer you this link where you can find all the details of designing your own SSOP program. And like HACCP, the program must be tested & verified and if some part of the system fails, corrective action must be conducted to prevent the re-occurrence of the issue. Even companies for whom SSOPs are not mandatory, have programs in place - primarily because they also have non-mandatory HACCP programs in place and those programs need each other to be successful.

I hope this gives you either a new respect for the lengths companies go to provide you with safe food products or at least a new comfort level with the industry. I always tell my friends and family that we eat the same products as they, so food safety is in everyone's best interest! As I've stated before, this blog is for you to find out more about the foods you eat, the processes involved in their manufacture, or any other topic you've been wondering about. Send me an email with your topic and I shall respond.

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