All food businesses must establish a food safety plan to protect public health. Here is a compliant step-by-step guide for establishing a food safety...
Food safety consultant: traditional vs innovative
Food safety consultants are experts who undergo comprehensive training on food safety to gain specialization and offer ...
Food safety consultants are experts who undergo comprehensive training on food safety to gain specialization and offer their expertise to food business owners.
- Food safety consultants or specialists provide technical knowledge on food safety to help business owners comply with food safety policies.
- A food safety consultant analyzes the gaps in your operations and forms an action plan to address these gaps.
- FoodDocs HACCP plan software can help you create a comprehensive HACCP plan in 1 hour, even without the help of a food safety specialist.
When starting a business in the food industry, whether it is a cafe, restaurant, pub, canteen, bakery, food truck, or retail shop, you will soon realize how many documents are required to show that your business is compliant with health and safety standards. These legal requirements include the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan creation. Some new business owners always resort to seeking the help of a food safety consultant. These learned individuals offer valuable information and insight on how to build a food safety plan properly.
In this article, we dive deeper into the pros and cons of seeking the expertise of a food safety specialist. We also introduce the benefits of using digital HACCP software that can shorten the time that you need to build a HACCP plan by at least 500x less.
Here is a list of the topics discussed in this blog post:
WHAT WE'LL COVER:
- Who is a food safety consultant?
- What does a HACCP consultant do?
- Why is a food safety consultation for HACCP needed?
- Factors to consider when selecting a food safety consultant
- Who needs HACCP consultancy?
- Food safety consultant vs. AI-based HACCP software
- How to get HACCP certification?
- Traditional and innovative solutions together
- Maintaining compliance with digital software
Who is a food safety consultant?
A food safety consultant or a HACCP consultant is a specialist in terms of technical knowledge of food safetyregulations. Food safety consultants are trained individuals with advanced degrees in food science. Consultants help enforce federal guidelines from food safety and regulatory agencies.
They are responsible for providing technical knowledge to food business owners. One of their main jobs is to help businesses implement food safety regulations and promote public health and safety.
They are learned individuals in the field of food safety and can offer information from the definition of HACCP up to the main requirements for establishing your plan.
What is the difference between a food safety consultant and a food safety specialist?
Food safety specialists work in-house and can be vital employees of your food business. On the other hand, food safety consultants are third-party specialists that a food business hires to help in managing food safety and implementing a food safety plan.
A food safety specialist and a consultant both aim to promote food safety in food businesses. They are both individuals with deep knowledge of food safety regulations and may have a degree in food science.
Both of their jobs mainly highlight ensuring that food is processed and served in compliance with food safety standards.
What does a HACCP consultant do?
A HACCP consultant's main task is to provide a food business with the necessary knowledge and expertise to implement food safety regulations. A consultant is a certified practitioner who has received a significant amount of food safety training in laws, implementation of food safety programs, assessment of food businesses, and other systems that will help protect public health.
Below are some of the main roles and job duties of a HACCP consultant in the food industry:
- Analyzing and evaluating the current approach of a food business in terms of food safety.
- Drafting an action plan for implementing a food safety program that will address the identified gaps in your food supply.
- Guiding your team with the necessary documents for basic and advanced food safety documentation.
- Developing prerequisite programs and a HACCP food safety system.
- Providing constructive feedback on your existing food system.
- Providing training tools and training employees on how to implement a HACCP system and its prerequisite steps.
- Preparing your food business team for audits.
- Providing food safety consultancy on updates on food safety laws and regulations.
Nevertheless, hiring a HACCP consultant does not mean that he or she will do the job. Their task is to guide your team and teach you how to implement the system on your own and maintain it consistently. As a food business owner, you must be involved in every step of the development process to understand it well.
Learn more about the mandatory rules and useful tips for food safety that every consultant will share with you from our detailed article.
Why is a food safety consultation for HACCP needed?
The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system consists of very technical steps. Each step in writing a HACCP plan is vital to the success of the program, and missing one may make the program ineffective.
A consultation program runs systematically to ensure that all areas of your food business are covered. Consultant works closely with federal and local health agencies; therefore, they are knowledgeable about the flow of the development and review process.
Check out how a detailed HACCP plan should be made and use our free HACCP plan template.
Factors to consider when selecting a food safety consultant
Not all consultants are alike. Similar to other professions, consultants have their strengths and weaknesses. The suitability of your HACCP program may depend on how your hired consultant will work and how they cooperate with your team.
Here are a few factors that you need to observe when choosing the appropriate HACCP consultant or food inspector for your business:
- The consultant must have the necessary credentials and relevant experience to perform the job (e.g., training, certifications, and commendations, if any).
- The consultant must have technical knowledge regarding the nature of your business, your food products, and the food safety industry. Different industries have different requirements.
- They must be able to present references or a history of previous consultations.
- They must be willing to work on-site.
- They must have a list of relevant contacts and connections.
- They must have comprehensive organizational skills.
- The consultant or food inspectors must have great communication skills.
- They must be open to a clear communication line and encourage clarifications.
Consultants with experience in the food service industry may have greater insights if your business has the same nature. Similarly, those with experience dealing with food production companies will be able to offer more valuable information to production businesses. Choosing your consultant properly can make the process easier.
Before hiring any consultant to develop your HACCP plan, you must understand that consultants will not know everything. Despite this fact, it is their job to understand the needs of your operations. As such, it is important to select a food safety consultant who has prior knowledge and background of how your system works.
Who needs HACCP consultancy?
In the U.K.
A food business that is required to implement a HACCP food safety program is expected to need HACCP consultancy. In the U.K., all food businesses are required to implement a HACCP plan. This requirement means that if your business is located in the U.K. and you still do not have a HACCP plan, you will need to seek consultancy to develop a fitting program.
In the U.S.A.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., HACCP is not a fully voluntary process. The requirement to establish a HACCP plan is conditional. All businesses reporting under the USDA are required to build a HACCP plan. In addition, seafood and beverage businesses under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are also required. Businesses in these industries are expected to need the help of HACCP consultancy.
Below is a clear representation of which businesses in the U.S. are required to implement a HACCP program.
Documentation guide for food businesses in the U.S.
It is a food safety guide that is used to identify and evaluate any potential food safety hazards and ensure that food is safe for consumers. This is necessary to control or eliminate any potential hazards present during the production process and for all aspects of food safety.
Environmental health officers or EHO inspections also require a HACCP plan just before or after starting your business, so you always need to be ready for food safety inspections. Your HACCP plan will be reviewed periodically by authorities and needs to be updated if there are any food-related changes in the menu, production, or when new products are used.
Food safety consultant vs. AI-based HACCP software
In this section, we discuss the following metrics for choosing your HACCP-making method:
- Additional features
Traditionally, the more popular option is to hire a food safety consultant, food safety specialist, or food safety expert to help you compile all the required documents and provide the technical knowledge. Also, when the budget is limited and there is a lot of free time, you can compose all the needed documentation by yourself according to governmental instructions.
Sometimes a HACCP consultant provides electronic documents (word, excel), but in some cases, all you get is a bunch of papers. Fortunately, due to the rapid growth of digital solutions, new, innovative food safety programs are available to help you cut costs, save time, and support you after compliance has been completed.
Let's compare traditional, paper-based solutions and innovative, digital HACCP software.
As written above, getting your HACCP compliance documents done is a must, and there is no way you can avoid them, regardless of the already long pile of tasks you have when running a business. It is important to keep in mind that safety compliance is the backbone of a thriving business.
As governmental instructions are lengthy, complicated, and full of difficult phrases to understand, business owners often hire a local food safety specialist to take care of all required compliance documentation. All you need to do is interview your HACCP consultant and provide them with all the required documents to build a HACCP plan.
Getting your HACCP plan from a food safety specialist takes approximately 3-4 weeks. There is a significant amount of work to do. A food safety expert will need to book a meeting with a client, visit the site and interview your team.
Once they have collected all the necessary information, they will create a risk assessment, make decision trees, produce a plan of the premises, equipment, water, and sewerage, etc. All of these take time - to assess the information, formulate a plan, and create the necessary documents.
On the other hand, HACCP software works like a food safety specialist but is around 500 times faster. It uses artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program to become smarter day by day. It means the only thing that takes time is inputting your data at any time that suits you, which only requires 1 hour. The software needs to know the same information as your food safety consultant, which includes the following:
- What is the nature of your food business?
- What raw materials do you use?
- What do you sell?
- How much food do you sell?
- What kind of processes do you have?
- Who are your customers?
Using FoodDocs digital HACCP software, answering these questions becomes more efficient. All answers are listed in a dropdown menu. All you need to do is select your answers.
According to your answers, a HACCP builder automatically creates all necessary parts of a HACCP plan, including the 7 principles of HACCP, hazards assessment, a flow chart, and the set of food safety tasks you need to complete in your business activities.
The platform has built-in solutions to create different plans and layouts: location plans, waste plans, premises plans, allergen management, and water & sewerage plans.
All this makes HACCP software much faster than any HACCP consultant can ever become.
Operating a food business can be financially draining. It involves a lot of costs every month, like rent, utilities, equipment, dishes, raw materials, staff, stock systems, marketing, and other aspects. The most challenging part is that all costs need to be covered before the money finally comes.
To get your compliance documents done for free, use local governmental instructions, but please keep in mind that these need time and know-how to work through. With all the required documentation, a paper-based HACCP plan from a health and safety consultant for small businesses costs approximately $17,000 (14,000 GBP) without the annual plan review. Food safety consulting fees can increase depending on the needs of your business.
Some HACCP plan consultants may charge per hour even if there is not a lot of work. The price depends on the size of the job, how complicated your business is, and how high is the food safety risk.
Getting your HACCP plan done with the help of HACCP software starts at $1000 per year. This price also includes the access, editing, downloading, and storing of your HACCP plan, in addition to a 14-day free trial.
It's crucially important to edit your HACCP plan because things change, especially in the food business after Covid-19, so the more flexible it is to modify, the better.
In conclusion, considering the average prices of food safety consultation services, a digital HACCP Plan software would be around 15 times cheaper than hiring a HACCP consultant. In addition, it is also significant that by using the software, you can create your HACCP plan, modify and download it independently, on your own.
A HACCP plan must be formulated according to your company's current status. This means that you need to change your HACCP plan if you make any changes in your company related to food - menu changes, starting a food delivery service, starting a food donation program, or adding new high-risk raw materials. Your HACCP plan needs to reflect any changes that are made to your business.
If you use a paper-based system, you will need to go through the governmental instructions again or hire a food safety specialist to apply the changes that have been made. Normally, verifications and revisions from annual reviews cost separately from the initial implementation of a HACCP plan.
In the digital HACCP software system, you can make all the changes yourself, any time you wish. With a few clicks, your system is up to date again. For example, if you want to start a food delivery, you simply log into your account, add the "food delivery" process to your business profile and confirm the amendments. The software will let you know if you have any new additional critical control points.
When hiring food safety consulting experts, you would normally outline the tasks that the consultant will be responsible for. Based on your agreement on the scope of the activity, the consultant will create a price quotation. Additional activities that are not included in the initial agreement with your consultant may result in additional charges.
When using our digital HACCP software, you can get all of the necessary parts of a HACCP plan with one payment. Included in the package are prerequisite program documents, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and the feature to create floor plans and other layout tasks. All automatically generated documents are based on your operations and can be further customized for improvement anytime.
At FoodDocs, we take food safety one step further. Once you set up your digital HACCP plan, you can also get a HACCP-based food safety management system. Our software can automatically generate critical monitoring logs and checklists for maintaining compliance. It also features smart solutions such as product management, a system for the traceability of food, smart notifications, and a recipe management program.
After creating your HACCP plan, you can easily set up your food safety management system also. The process will only take approximately 15 minutes, as the software already knows your business from a machine-learning program.
HACCP software vs. Manual HACCP plan
How to get HACCP certification?
After developing your HACCP plan and implementing it in your food business, the next step is to get your HACCP system certified. The HACCP certification process ensures that the developed plan complies with the local and federal regulations of your location.
This is a vital reason why you should ensure that the HACCP consultant that you choose is very knowledgeable about the HACCP system and food regulations. Some parts, such as the food safety and HACCP training, are your team's responsibility, whereas preparing your team for the HACCP audit program is part of the consultant's job.
Third-party certification organizations or food safety consulting companies will evaluate the HACCP plan that you developed and verify if the plan is implemented according to regulations. The entire certification process goes as follows:
- Assessment of documented HACCP plan.
- Onsite inspection of the food facility.
- Interview of your food safety team.
- Verification of monitoring records.
- Evaluation of the HACCP system with a written report.
The cost of a HACCP certification can be anywhere between $400 to $3,000 depending on the extensiveness of the program.
After the process, the food safety auditor will communicate with the team regarding any improvements or non-compliance that needs to be addressed. Your team will be given a certain period of time to comply, and another round of audits will be performed.
How to become HACCP certified?
The HACCP certification process involves undergoing a series of food safety training programs about the HACCP system. After attending the basic food safety training courses, your food safety team must prepare all documents related to the HACCP plan, such as the following:
After preparation, your team must satisfy all requirements for food safety during an on-site audit to prove that your business is operating under an effective HACCP system.
Some organizations offer programs for HACCP certification online.
Get your HACCP plan done in just 1 hour. Using FoodDocs' digital HACCP plan builder, you can automatically get a comprehensive digital HACCP plan template with all of the critical elements and parts of a HACCP plan and more.
You can further customize the HACCP plan according to your business operations with just a few clicks. Our system will base the template suggestion on similarly-natured food businesses so that you can get an accurate template.
Traditional and innovative solutions together
Although digital solutions are a great option, they may seem too complicated, and you may not know how to change from paper to a digital system. The great news is that many food safety consultants work tightly together with HACCP software companies. They know how to use the software and help food businesses implement digital solutions. At the same time, they can help their customers with other services like HACCP training, completing food analyses or food safety audits, etc.
At FoodDocs, we understand the struggle of switching to a digital platform if you have been used to the manual process. That is why our team of food safety and technology experts combined the benefits of artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program to create smart software.
Using our digital HACCP plan builder, you can get a comprehensive HACCP plan in just 1 hour. Our software can automatically generate all of the necessary components and prerequisites of a HACCP plan.
When you use our software, you can get the following components:
- 15+ SOP templates
- 10+ comprehensive prerequisite program templates
- Location plan
- Kitchen layout
- HACCP plan flow chart
With our software, you can fulfill all of the key principles of a HACCP plan based on your operations. Using artificial intelligence, our system can generate the following parts for you:
- Hazard analysis based on the hazard matrix method
- Critical control points with established critical limits
- Monitoring procedures
- Corrective action plan
- Verification procedures
- Recordkeeping procedures
Digital HACCP plan from FoodDocs
Our digital solution is proven to be 500x faster than hiring a food safety consultant and making the HACCP plan manually. In just 1 hour, you can get a comprehensive plan that can help you get compliant fast.
Maintaining compliance with digital software
Food safety compliance is a continuous task. You will need to monitor your operations every day to ensure that your business complies with regulatory requirements. The monitoring documents that you collect serve as proof that the HACCP plan that you established is working.
To ensure that your monitoring system is working in accordance with your HACCP plan, use our HACCP-based digital monitoring system. Based on the nature and needs of your business, our system can automatically create a food safety management system with intuitive features for you.
Our system provides the following benefits:
- Automatically generated monitoring logs and checklists equipped with detailed instructions.
Monitoring log from FoodDocs
- A smart notification system that alerts food handlers of tasks that need to be done.
- A recipe management system that allows you to organize your most important product-related information.
- A traceability system that allows you to track the movement of your food materials and products.
- A real-time dashboard that offers a quick overview of your operations.
- Cloud storage space where you can store and organize all food safety documents.
Food safety system set up by FoodDocs
One of our main objectives at FoodDocs is to make food safety compliance accessible to all food businesses. Using our smart software, you can achieve compliance without the intensive help of a consultant.
All generated documents are completely customizable to accommodate changes and improvements. Make HACCP certification processes easier by applying revisions and suggestions from the auditor for food safety straight away.
Don't know where to start with your food safety documents? Feel free to use our 14 days free trial to experience our services.
Also, check our free HACCP plan template hub, where you can download the most important and wanted parts of your HACCP plan – totally free of charge.
Frequently Asked Question
Are you still not familiar with the roles of a food safety consultant? Here are some frequently asked questions regarding this topic.
What is the role of a food safety consultant?
The key role of a food safety consultant is to provide your team with the technical knowledge needed to comply with food safety regulatory requirements.
What is a food safety advisor?
A food safety advisor is an expert in terms of food safety regulations and laws. They serve as consultants to food businesses and guide them to better comply with the laws. They offer food safety consulting services to food businesses.
What does an H&S consultant do?
H&S consultants or Health and safety consultant companies are mainly responsible for guiding food businesses to minimize health risks in their workplace. They are also responsible for helping food safety teams comply with food standards and laws.
How much is a food safety specialist salary?
The average salary of a food safety specialist in the U.S. is approximately $48,164 per year.
How much does a food safety consultant charge?
Depending on the level of expertise of a food safety consultant, a food safety expert may charge anywhere between $150 to $1,500 per hour.