Monitoring and Verification of Food Safety Programs


Monitoring and verification are important parts of a food safety program. They are essential for ensuring that you’re following your food safety program, that your program is current and that it reflects your operation.  

Documenting your monitoring and verification activities can help you identify food safety issues and the corrective actions taken to address them. Your records then serve as evidence that you’re doing everything you reasonably can to prevent hazards in your product.

The purpose of monitoring

Monitoring means observing or taking measurements to determine if an established good manufacturing practice (GMP) or critical control point (CCP) are in control. (e.g., check that the temperature in a cooler is less than 4°C or that a cook temperature meets the critical limit).

Effective monitoring has many benefits, such as:

  • identifying areas where the personnel, facility, equipment, environment or conditions do not meet the requirements of the food safety program   
  • identifying when there is a loss of control or a trend toward a loss of control (e.g., an operational limit is trending close to the critical limit)
  • identifying knowledge gaps and staff training needs

The purpose of verification 

Verification means observing or taking measurements, in addition to monitoring, to determine:

  • if monitoring is complete (e.g., check that the monitor documents temperatures at the correct frequency and on the correct form)
  • that corrective actions are documented and appropriate for each deviation (e.g., if a cook critical limit is exceeded, the monitor holds the product until a food safety assessment is done)
  • that food safety is controlled (e.g., food safety assessment results and actions taken are appropriate for the deviation)

Verification has many benefits, such as:

  • ensuring records are complete
  • assessing the monitor’s effectiveness and identifying their training needs
  • ensuring existing food safety controls are implemented and effective
  • identifying when there is a loss of control, or a trend toward a loss of control
  • ensuring that corrective actions are appropriate and effective at controlling a problem

The difference between monitoring and verification


Monitoring Verification
Responsibility
(Who)
Monitor (e.g., equipment operator or lead hand) Verifier must be someone other than the monitor (e.g., supervisor of quality assurance)
Frequency (When) Must be done in real time. Can occur during or after monitoring.
Procedure (How) Monitoring can be done by:
  • observing employees (e.g., hand washing)
  • observing the production environment (e.g., looking for pooling water)
  • measuring CCPs or process controls
Verification can be done by:
  • reviewing records to make sure they are completed correctly
  • observing monitors to make sure that established monitoring procedures are consistently followed
Records Monitoring record, such as:
  • Personnel Practices Monitoring record
  • CCP Record
Seperate records to document verification are not necessary.
Tip:
  • Provide a space on the monitoring records to document verification.  This helps to reduce paperwork (e.g., sign and date a pest control contractor's report.
 

Other types of verification

There are many other types of verification activities. Some examples are:

  • implementing an environmental monitoring program to ensure cleaning and sanitizing is effective
  • conducting mock recalls to ensure your traceability system is effective
  • ensuring that equipment used to monitor food safety parameters is properly calibrated
  • testing to ensure that data on a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for an incoming ingredient is accurate
  • conducting a trend analysis to determine if the program is effective over time
  • conducting internal audits
  • conducting a  program review

Monitoring and verification challenges


Although monitoring and verification are critical parts of a food safety program, there are often challenges in implementing them.  The following are some common challenges and possible solutions to those challenges:

  • Having a monitor and a verifier is difficult in small plants with few staff.  Possible solutions are: 
    • designating one person to monitor, and another person to verify
    • hiring an outside consultant
  • Monitoring and verification tasks can be time consuming.  Possible solutions are:
    • streamlining similar monitoring and verification tasks (e.g., combine similar checks onto one record)
    • adjust frequencies based on trends (e.g., if records show few problems over time, reduce your frequency)
  • Monitoring and verification can be stressful for employees who are uncomfortable with having their work assessed. Possible solutions are:
    • keep staff informed
    • be sure staff understand the importance of what is being checked and its impact on food safety in your plant 
    • communicate successes as well as problems
For more information, email the CVO/Food Safety Knowledge Centre or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.