In its mission to help Lebanese agri-food innovators thrive, the QOOT Cluster seeks to create the ideal environment for agri-food businesses to strengthen their expertise, fuel their ideas, build fruitful partnerships, and establish themselves in new markets.
In a recent virtual workshop organized with Boecker, QOOT hosted Michel Bayoud – founder of Boecker, and Rasha Hteit – head of food safety department, who shared with QOOT Cluster members the different food safety services and required certifications to export.
Boecker: leading food safety management experts
The implementation of a food safety management system in an agribusiness is a crucial decision to any business owner to ensure the success of their business. In 1998 Boecker established the first fully fledged Food Safety Department in the Middle East out of Beirut, Lebanon. At that time people had hardly heard of hygiene standards, and HACCP standards and Assured Safe Catering (ASC) were just being implemented in England. Today, Boecker is the largest Food Safety Training and Consulting Body around the world, with more consultants, trainers, and resources than any other center. Ever since, the Boecker food safety department has been working in the Food & Beverage sector and has been advising companies on how to guarantee safe food production, storage, and distribution.
Top Tips to implement a Food Safety Management System
Below is a list of recommendations shared by the experts for any food business owner to secure the sustainability of their businesses while improving the quality of their products to be able to export:
Understand what a Food safety management system is about: Having a food safety management system in place means the company has set clear standards and procedures communicated and followed by everyone in the company, ensuring a well-balanced environment at work where staff and senior management are motivated, well trained and properly supervised.
Choose the system that best suits your company: Before implementing any food safety management system, choose the system that suits your production and target depending on your objectives: Some systems are easily implemented to your scope of work, others are more complicated or not applicable, some systems are recognized by GFSI, others are not. Choose the system that best suits your company needs.
Build a food safety culture among the staff: Creating and fortifying a food safety culture is crucial to achieve and implement a process: personnel are the key to success. Having good hygiene habits, as well as attitudes and beliefs in food safety will be reflected in the company image and enhance its reputation. Food safety needs to be an integral part of working practice and should not be considered a chore or someone else’s responsibility.
Involve everyone in the implementation: Everyone should be involved in the food safety certification. Top Management should intervene for context, requirements, policy and objectives setting. A food safety team with valuable competence should be assigned to work on the hazard analysis and risk assessment, process control, and procedure writing. To ensure a successful implementation, it is recommended to provide relevant trainings to enhance personnel competencies.
Do not underestimate the pre-requisite programs: Good hygiene practices are the foundation of a good food safety program. Among those pre-requisites, it is worth mentioning that having effective cleaning and disinfection programs in place will reduce the occurrence of hazard. Pest management is also a vital investment any company should do to prevent infestation. Also, traceability is becoming an essential step in the success of the business as it allows tracking of production history.
Recognize that not all expenses are the same, some costs can be avoided: It is true that working on a certification generates additional expenses that might not been budgeted at first (e.g consultancy fees, lab testing, infrastructure renovation, trainings, etc.). However, facing a food poisoning outbreak, or having to dispose or recall suspicious products, will cause more harm and lead to many more costs not previously accounted for.
Select your suppliers wisely: Quality, price and responsiveness are important criteria to assess and select suppliers. A good food safety management system is a key factor in the decision making, since some suppliers will help you enhance the FSMS, while others will increase the risks.
Keep a record of all communication and implementation processes: Documentation in any food safety management system is the only proof of what has been agreed on. It should be appropriate to the size and nature of the business. All documents and records should be available and suitable for use, whenever they are needed. Sometimes, such documentations are needed for due diligence!
Stay connected and up to date: In order to be well established and keen on all food safety practices, agribusinesses should always be alert and up to date, as new scientific data, standards or updates might emerge at any time.
Be ready to be audited: Run your business as if it will be audited daily, always make sure that all documented procedures are followed. Food Safety cannot be postponed or put on hold.
About the authors
Michel Bayoud founded Boecker in 1994, a brand that has consistently grown to become the largest provider in the Middle East and one of the largest 20 similar companies in the world. Boecker provides world class services in Pest Management, Food Safety and Germ Control and is present in 7 countries in the Middle East and Africa employing 1,200 employees. Bayoud graduated from the faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at AUB.
Rasha Hteit, holds a B.S. degree from the faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at AUB and an Executive MBA degree from LAU. She is currently the Head of Food Safety Department at Boecker. Having more than 15 years of experience in the Food Safety and Public Health fields, Rasha is
responsible for implementing all types of food safety management systems in addition to assisting, auditing and training different food industry sectors.