Baking & Snack - May 2018 - 83

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING
Len Heflich
heflichfoodsafety@gmail.com

PREPARING FOR THE

Careful planning and training can make the best out of a bad situation.

T

The goal of crisis management is simple: Minimize the
loss due to a failure that has already occurred.
The first steps occur long before any crisis happens.
In a comprehensive food safety risk assessment and
HARPC program, a company does its best to anticipate what can go wrong and has put in place controls to
prevent failures. It also should incorporate monitoring
steps to detect failure quickly, train people to recognize
if one has occurred and identify what corrective actions
to take.
I define a failure as a situation in which a system or
process has gone wrong resulting in the production of
out of specification material. A crisis, on the other hand,
is when that failure has the potential to cause significant
loss or harm to an employee or a consumer.
Some crisis preparation steps involve assembling and
maintaining an up-to-date catalog of information that
includes lists of the ingredients of all products made.
The catalog should also provide immediate access to
formulas, names and contact info for suppliers and comanufacturers and a list of all locations where products
are shipped. It should include the names and contact
information for sales managers and the local Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) Recall Coordinator.
Baking companies need to form a crisis team and
train in advance to manage situations. Team members
must understand their roles and responsibilities and
develop a system for rapidly contacting and forming
the team and identify backups in case someone cannot
be reached. There will be no time to do these things
once a failure has occurred. The team's goal is to prevent a failure from becoming a crisis, if that is possible,
and minimize the loss if it is not. If the failure is already out of control, then the best the team can do is to

act quickly to minimize the inevitable loss.
Rapid communication enables effective action during a crisis. The first question should be, "Where is the
product now?" If the defective product is still in the
company's control - in the plant, in shipping, in distribution or on a truck - it can be held to avoid delivery
to the market and eliminate the risk of being purchased
and consumed. Nothing moves until the company
knows enough to decide if it has a crisis or not.
If the defective product is already on the market, it
creates a different situation. Now the company needs to
decide if a recall is necessary and, if so, define the scope
of potentially defective product. Immediately notify the
local FDA Recall Coordinator by phone and then enter
the information into the FDA Registry online.
Avoid being overly prescriptive in defining the steps
that the crisis team will take. Every crisis is different,
and the team must assess the situation and take effective
action quickly. Prescribing those steps in advance could
cause the team to waste time on unnecessary initiatives
or miss taking a crucial step that wasn't identified. There
is no substitute for critical thinking during a crisis. Be
careful not to make decisions too quickly.
There is an unavoidable tradeoff between speed and
accuracy with the quality and quantity of information.
Not waiting for a full investigation of the failure results
in decisions made without complete or reliable information. Assemble the available facts into a coherent and
logical explanation of what is known, what is unknown
and what the team needs to know. Facts that don't fit are
probably wrong or incomplete. When you think you
know what happened, decide and act. Waiting too long
could deny you the opportunity to take effective action
and may increase the loss.

*

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