As a growing company, selecting the correct consulting partner to work with is paramount. Hiring the best quality assurance (QA) consultant will help you ensure that your operations are ready to meet customer, distributor, and government requirements. What’s more, you will be able to produce safe and consistent high quality product that consumers demand.
Here are some considerations for screening food safety and QA consultants:
- Product specific experience: consider the nature of the product you are manufacturing. Whether you make beverages, salsa or cookies, it’s best to hire a consultant with category specific experience. Most food safety consultants have experience in a few specific product categories. Beware of those that may tell you that “they know it all” as this might be a sign of questionable integrity. Ask for their resume proving your category experience or review their LinkedIn profile to get more details. A qualified consultant will help you to develop and to implement your system and as an added bonus; a good consultant will have a hand in evaluating your equipment and processes as well.
- Credentials matter- there are very specific food safety accreditations that help organizations select the most qualified consultants. Here are some of the most common credentials to look for:
- Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) programs certifications- the most applicable ones include lead auditors and consultants for SQF (Safe Quality Food), BRC (British Retail Consortium), FSSC 22000 or ISO 22000 among others. These auditors and consultants undergo rigorous evaluation by their respective standard owners. Evaluation and determination for certification includes strict requirements for product category specific expertise, practical hours in the field and theoretical understanding of developing quality systems. GFSI program certified auditors and consultants often have between 10-25+ more years of experience in food manufacturing, making them particularly valuable for the growing company.
- Registered Sanitarians – issued by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), registered sanitarians (REHS) are highly qualified individuals who have exhibited knowledge and expertise in developing and maintaining food safety and quality systems in a wide range of operations, from retail to food service, manufacturing to catering.
- CP-FS- Certified Professional, Food Safety- Also by NEHA, this credential was created specifically for the food safety professionals and designed for individuals within the public and private sectors whose primary responsibility focuses on the protection and safety of food. The exam for this prestigious credential integrates food microbiology, HACCP principles, and regulatory requirements into questions that test problem solving skills and knowledge.
- PCQI – Preventive Controls Qualified individual. This certification is more relevant to have for someone who you are considering hiring full time to oversee your compliance; however, your consultant should also have this certification as it provides great base level knowledge, especially for FSMA requirements.
- Willingness to work on-site: each facility is different, and your consultant must be able to come out and spend a significant amount of time identifying your needs and working with your team.
- Work history and references: Your consultant must be able to provide you with references on previous jobs or clients. Some of the questions to ask previous clients is about the consultants follow up, ability to create and implement customized programs (in food safety there is no one size fits all), and communication style.
- Responsiveness: as a food safety consultant myself, I know we can be busy traveling and working with customers. However, there is no reason why I cannot answer a customer call within 1 business day. As a customer, you should expect a timely response from your prospective partner as well.
Once you have located a qualified individual, ask for a specific project proposal containing clear scope of work, needs and resources from each party along with a timeline and rates.
As always, I am here to help with any questions.
Food Safety and Quality Consultant
SQF Certified auditor