The Advantage of the CFSQA Credential

At a Glance

Many of us may have enjoyed a cup of coffee with our breakfast cereal this morning and it’s a testament to our food safety standards regime that you don’t have to check your cup or your bowl for stray twigs, pebbles, or worse. Up and down the supply chain, there are food safety standards and regulations in place to address issues of food fraud and food safety.  Recently, I became a key link in that chain by obtaining my Certified Food Safety and Quality Auditing (CFSQA) credential.

Manufacturers who prep food for consumer use, produce raw materials which enter the food supply chain, and produce food products for the consumer market are subject to regulation by agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration  and the United States Department of Agriculture, among others.  Additionally, food manufacturers may have to meet standards set by their customers to whom they sell their raw materials or food products and also rely on third-party food safety certifications (i.e. ISO 22000 Food Safety Management, Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000) to demonstrate that they hold themselves to a high standard regarding food safety.  

Food safety interests me as both a consumer and an EHS professional.   I’ve spent much of my career conducting EHS compliance audits and conducting audits of environmental, health, safety, security and quality managements systems such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, RCMS and RC14001. The combination of my interest in food safety and my experience as an auditor were a natural lead-in to the Certified Food Safety and Quality Auditor credential.  Many of the auditing skills and experience I have developed over the last 20 years naturally aligned with obtaining the CFSQA. 

Much like other management system implementations, a food manufacturer conducts an initial hazard assessment in order to evaluate risk and ascertain the necessary controls that need to be put into place.  The baseline for assessing hazards and implementing controls to address risks in the food supply chain is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan.  The HACCP Plan serves as the basis for developing critical set points, standard operating procedures, training, quality assurance, and a means for routine checks that the plan is working as designed.  In order to ensure compliance with regulations and standards and to verify that the HACCP Plan is effective, food manufacturers conduct routine internal audits.   That’s where I come in.

As a CFSQA conducting an internal audit, my role is to familiarize myself with the facility’s operations, the standards which have been implemented, and the HACCP Plan. I conduct a review of supporting documentation to ensure that the HACCP is well designed and that it is being fully implemented. Additionally, I look for verification that the applicable standards are being met. Verification may be accomplished through employee interviews, reviewing standard operating procedures and records, observations in the facility, and a variety of other means.

In my experience, many companies do not have the internal resources or expertise to conduct their own audits. Utilizing an outside party not only offers the proverbial extra pair of hands, but often results in a much needed outside viewpoint. An external auditor can bring years of experience in a wide variety of industries into the fold which can result in improved recommendations for the client. 

Marianne Payne joined GZA as an Associate Principal after twenty years of independent consulting work and a broad portfolio of EHS compliance and permitting experience in the government, corporate, and entrepreneurial sectors, with a focus on air permitting, Management Systems (ISO 9001/14001, RC14001, EMS) implementation and auditing (CPEA-Environmental Compliance, Management Systems, Responsible Care). 

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