Handling non-conforming product to insure food safety

Processors must handle non-conforming products in a manner that will enhance food safety, and reduce risk.

From time to time a food processor will create or receive product that does not meet quality or food safety standards. It is the responsibility of the processor to remove the product from the logistics chain. This responsibility includes discarding the non-conforming product, or perhaps reworking the non-conforming product to create an acceptable product that can safely be sold. It is also the responsibility of the processor to accurately record the handling of this type of product. 

If the decision is made to discard the non-conforming product it must be disposed of in a manner that would reduce or prevent the inadvertent use. For instance, the processor would not place discarded product in a dumpster, where someone might come and remove the product from the dumpster and consume. Proper handling might include keeping the dumpster containing the product behind a locked fence, or in an area that is covered by security. 

The processor must conduct a reasonable search to determine the reason that a non-conforming product is produced. This search would include a review of purchasing procedures and working with suppliers to determine if the materials received had some type of issue that is causing the problem. The processor may need to research all the way back to the farmer’s field where the materials were grown or produced. In the processor’s kitchen, sanitation processes should be reviewed as well as the performance of equipment used in the food production process. The processor would need to make the necessary repairs and corrections. In the case of equipment, it may need to be repaired or replaced. 

Documents need to be kept concerning the quarantine of the non-conforming product, equipment used in making the product. Records also need to be kept regarding the disposition of the product. This is necessary to mitigate risk and demonstrate that the processor has adequate measures in place to deal with manufacturing problems.

Educators at Michigan State University Extension and innovation counselors at the Michigan State University Product Center assist businesses in the establishment of good practices to improve product development and business effectiveness. For further information and assistance with employee communications please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office. 

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