Food safety

The basics of a food safety management system

Every food business must have a Food Safety Management System in place to protect their customers. Do you know how to ...

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Every food business must have a Food Safety Management System in place to protect their customers. Do you know how to establish one?


  • A food safety management system aims to control the risk of food safety hazards and ensure that no unsafe product is released to the market.
  • A food safety management system comprises a hazard plan, such as a HACCP or HARPC plan, and a comprehensive monitoring system.
  • You can build your digital Food Safety Management System in just 15 minutes using our digital solution at FoodDocs.

Every food business is required to have a systematic approach to controlling food safety hazards. Managing these hazards is critical to keep a food business running. Fulfilling this task means building a comprehensive food safety management system that will protect public health from harmful food handling practices and prevent the occurrence of a foodborne illness outbreak. This requirement is a food industry standard and is considered the highest effort for any food business to ensure food safety.

Dealing with the food chain always comes with risks and potential safety issues. Despite this, the food industry is a critical component of the community and greatly contributes to society's economic and health aspects. This makes ensuring food safety an invaluable part of running a food business. 

Learn the basics and importance of building a strong food safety management system from this article.




What is Food Safety Management System?

Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is a term used to describe a comprehensive and systematic program used in the food industry for managing food safety hazards. This program consists of elaborate procedures to control food safety hazards and prove the system's effectiveness. 

An FSMS is a legal requirement for almost all food businesses, as food safety is a key concern in the food industry. A compliant FSMS covers all areas of a processing or food service facility. This means that it must involve monitoring receiving processes up until the distribution of finished products.

Food Safety Management Systems vary depending on the nature of a food establishment. Routine food safety practices and appropriate monitoring procedures will vary depending on the potentially present and identified potential food hazards in a food business. 

All operations related to the management of food safety procedures of a food business must be duly documented as proof that the business has established a line of defense. This documentation must be regularly visited and reviewed to ensure that the system is still efficient and effective. In case of improvements, the collected information can be used for every decision step needed.

Studies conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and other public health agencies have shown how proper food safety practices can significantly reduce risk factors in the food industry. A comprehensive FSMS can help ensure that these practices are performed for compliance.


Food Safety Management System


Why is a Food Safety Management System important?

The most significant importance of a food safety management system is that it ensures that the food is produced and served by a food business for safe consumption. This program protects the public from foodborne illnesses and other related injuries.

The importance of an effective food safety management system is seen through the following aspects that food companies can achieve:

1. Food safety. The predefined operations in an FSMS help control particularly identified food safety hazards. When the FSMS is followed accordingly, a food business can become more credible in the eyes of the public from compliance with food safety policies and regulations. 

Failure to comply with food safety regulatory requirements increases the risk of causing foodborne diseases or food poisoning. Because food safety risk factors are inevitable in the food industry, food businesses must use a complete FSMS to address any risk of food safety issues.

2. Food quality. While the main objective of an FSMS is to maintain food safety, it also carries with it the effects of uniform, quality products. A food safety monitoring system also takes into account changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of the food product.

Any change, whether visible or seen only through analytical testing, can affect safety as much as food quality. An FSMS promotes uniformity over the products and helps ensure that the food items are of good quality.


3. Economic value. An FSMS can help food businesses save on costs, improve consumer acceptance, and increase sales and profits.

In terms of cost, an FSMS can reduce the amount of food waste generated by your business. Standardizing the operations for safety can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of preventive controls and overall food production. The lack of a comprehensive FSMS can lead to causing a foodborne illness outbreak. This type of food safety issue costs around $95.2 billion every year just for low- to mid-income countries.

As the quality and safety of your products improve with an effective FSMS, your reputation and customer loyalty can solidify. This aspect can help promote your business as an institution that values the safety of the consumers. Loss of customers can potentially occur when contamination risks are uncontrolled.

Particularly for restaurants, a study surmised that a single foodborne illness outbreak had been estimated to cost around:

      • $3968 to $1.9 million for fast-food restaurants
      • $6330 to $2.1 million for fast-casual restaurants
      • $8030 to $2 million for casual-dining restaurants
      • $8273 to $2.6 million for fine-dining restaurants

Food Safety Management Systems goes beyond just food safety. The importance of having an effective and functioning FSMS cannot be neglected if you want your food business to succeed.


This is exactly what we envision at FoodDocs - for food safety to be accessible to all food businesses and help them flourish. Using our digital Food Safety Management System, you can ensure the safety of foods and that all tasks are done correctly and consistently on time. 

Our digital solution includes a smart notification system that alerts food handlers of food safety tasks that need to be done. You can also use our real-time dashboard, which gives you a quick overview of your progress operations. Clearly and quickly identify areas.


food safety management system

Food safety management system dashboard in FoodDocs


What is the purpose of a Food Safety Management System?

A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is implemented to ensure that all food operations are effectively working to reduce the risk of causing foodborne illnesses. The elements of food safety management systems aim to manage food safety hazards in any food business and ensure safe food products for human consumption are released to the market.

An FSMS also guides food handlers on how to properly conduct essential food safety procedures and maintain a high level of food hygiene. It lays out concrete and standard operating procedures of food handling practices, including information on how and when to perform them. 



Food Safety Management System Examples

Through the extensive effort of food safety organizations and government agencies, suitable food safety management systems have been established and are made available for all businesses. The established structures of different FSMS vary in degree of complexity and scope of management.

Some systems are less stringent than others and focus on the food safety basics, whereas some require detailed documentation and higher food safety ratings and standards.


Food Safety


Below are some of the most notable food safety systems in the industry:


Prerequisite programs

Prerequisite programs are composed of a wide range of different plans that aim to establish safe and sanitized conditions for food businesses. These programs encompass some of the most basic food handling practices, such as basic food hygiene and minimum food operations.

Although voluntary and does not require stringent monitoring, prerequisite programs are essential for food businesses. Operations included in these programs are very simple and must be observed every day.

Some of the most common prerequisite programs include:



The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system or HACCP is a systematic food management system that aims to analyze hazards and establish control measures to minimize them to acceptable levels. The HACCP program is the most widely known food safety plan all over the world. 

It is used as a standard for higher food safety systems as it encompasses all essential tasks to control hazards and keep customers safe from potential food risks. The establishment of a HACCP plan in a food business depends on the requirement of the concerned government agency regarding the nature of your business.

To create your own HACCP plan summary table, you can use our free HACCP plan template tool at FoodDocs.

This template is easy to use and follows legal food safety formats:

how to write a haccp plan example

FoodDocs HACCP plan template



Under the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA), food businesses in the U.S. food industry were mandated to establish a risk-based preventive control program in place of a HACCP plan. This program is known as the Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls system or HARPC.

This food safety system aims to address food safety hazards before they even occur. The scope of the HARPC system is broader than other food safety management systems and uses risk-based data to establish preventive controls.



The International Organization for Standardization or ISO is a non-governmental organization that establishes food quality and safety standards and management systems for the food industry. This organization has established several different levels of requirements and standards for food safety management systems.

One of the most notable requirements published by the organization is ISO 22000. This international standard lays out the most critical food safety standards that a food business must have. It incorporates elements of the HACCP system and other versions of ISO standards, such as the ISO9001.


Food Safety Systems

Food Safety Management System Examples


What do you need for a Food Safety Management System?

Achieving food safety is not a guessing game. Proper food safety management systems are composed of formulas and definite principles that need to be apparent to achieve food safety. 

As a system, an FSMS is composed of different parties and key personnel from the food industry. It takes the participation of the food service manager, food workers, suppliers, and customers to build a working food safety management system.


Here are some of the essential components of a working food safety management system:

1. Set up a proper Food Safety Team. This team will be responsible for all the documentation and food-handling tasks. All food safety team members must have sufficient knowledge and education on food safety practices and the consequences of non-compliance with regulations.

The team will be responsible for maintaining a safe working environment in your food business. As such, they must have proper training on their delegated task. Food handlers must have a proper understanding of accountability when it comes to food safety compliance and how to follow the FSMS.

Within the food safety team, at least one food worker must be certified through an accredited certification body to have adequate knowledge of food safety. In some cases, all food handlers are required to have proof of proficiency.


2. Establish prerequisite programs. There are several different prerequisite programs in the food industry. Their main objective is to satisfy the minimum environmental conditions of clean working space.

These programs include mandatory basic food hygiene practices to maintain clean and safe food preparation conditions. The operations under the prerequisite programs must be consistently delivered and performed. Although essential to food safety compliance, these operations normally do not require comprehensive monitoring logs but daily checklists and food safety posters as visual aids.

Some of the most notable prerequisite programs include the following:

HACCP plan - Allergen management plan

FoodDocs HACCP plan: Allergen Management Plan


3. Create a hazard control plan. This component contains the core of your food safety management system. Depending on the food safety legislation in your location, the orientation of your hazard control plan may vary. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program is perhaps the most well-known system. 

The HACCP program contains systematic and detailed procedures to control identified and analyzed food safety hazards. It also contains very important monitoring procedures to ensure that food safety compliance and hazard controls are always maintained.


4. Establish monitoring procedures. All hazard control procedures must be properly recorded to ensure that foods undergo safe processing. The results must be documented in monitoring logs particularly designed to capture specific data on food safety tasks.

Monitoring logs are used to record the hazard control procedures' results and prove that your FSMS is effectively functioning. Documented food safety records must be retained for at least two years in case food safety concerns arise from released food products.

Some of the most important and commonly used monitoring logs may include the following:

You can find free templates of the most important food safety monitoring logs from our HACCP plan template hub.


Food Safety Monitoring


5. Establish a recall and traceability system. As part of an FSMS, some businesses may require a recall and traceability system to address public health concerns. Your business must be prepared for any customer food safety complaints. A part of this component is a set of established procedures to control potentially hazardous or unsafe food released to the market through food safety incident procedures.

Recalls are unfavorable circumstances for any food business. Despite this, having an FSMS can help food business owners handle recalls and food incidents better. When a business receives alerts of food safety concerns, recalls are suggested and ordered by food safety agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration. A robust FSMS with extensive monitoring logs allows food businesses to track down which parts of the market where the affected products are distributed.

A complete FSMS will allow food businesses to gain visibility over the distribution of the product. This makes the food supply chain system transparent for both businesses in the food industry and the customers. 

A recall and traceability system will allow food workers to track down and reduce any additional casualties from the inevitable risks and food safety issues in food businesses. It includes an established foodborne illness investigation process and required enforcement actions to contain the situation.


6. Set up proper documentation. Food safety management systems are all about documentation. Details and information about your hazard control system are essential. Every critical procedure must be properly recorded as well as changes to the FSMS itself using monitoring logs.

Establishment documentation can be used to verify whether the FSMS needs to be improved or if it is still working efficiently. This aspect is one of the core systems of an FSMS. Documents such as food safety certificates, inspection reports, traceability logs, and training documents must all be properly collected and stored as part of your FSMS.

Having a digital food safety management system poses a great advantage when it comes to documentation. A digital platform such as that of FoodDocs allows food handlers to store food safety documents securely in cloud storage. This digital solution does not take up physical space and ensures the safety of documents from problems such as theft or being destroyed.


7. Conduct employee training. Intensive and sufficient training on food handling practices and food hygiene are integral parts of an FSMS. Food safety training highlights how to properly perform food safety tasks, the frequency of performing them, how to monitor each task, and their particular importance. Training programs are important for existing employees and new ones. Federal programs are often available for food safety training.

Use our free food safety quiz to test and train your employees on food safety topics.

Regular training on food safety ensures food safety managers that food service operators know how important these tasks are and the impending consequence of non-compliance. This also promotes accountability and a food safety organizational culture among food handlers. 


Fulfillment of these components will secure food safety in your food business. Every component prepares your food safety management team on how to handle food safety hazards and how to address cases of food safety issues. Establishing an FSMS is a continuous process. This means that your system will need to be regularly updated based on food safety audit reports or amendments to your country's most essential food safety regulations.


Effective_Food safety management system

7 Steps for composing Food Safety Management System


How to establish a Food Safety Monitoring System?

Establishing a food safety management system can be hard, especially when you do not have any experience. Despite this, a food business owner is responsible for constructing an FSMS that is exactly fit for their business operations. 

Building a food safety management system requires an in-depth knowledge of the operations and the food safety regulations applicable to the food business. The process may require consultations with environmental health officers and several rounds of improvements.


To guide you in establishing an effective food safety monitoring system, we've narrowed down the most critical stages to six core steps:

1. Analyze your food operations. An FSMS is made specifically based on the operations of a food business. Hazard control measures and monitoring logs are constructed based on the food standards that fit your food business.

For example, if your food business serves mainly chicken and poultry meat, you are expected to have a temperature monitoring log that specifies an internal cooking temperature of 165°F (74°C). On the other hand, if you have a more complex menu, you will need a cooking temperature chart and customize your monitoring logs accordingly. 

2. Identify the objectives and scope of the FSMS.

At this point, you need to identify the main objectives of your FSMS. This step is crucial as it will be used to introduce your FSMS to your team. During your operations analysis, you will identify which areas need focus.

An FSMS also includes a complete identification and critical analysis of which hazards need to be controlled. This will help your team construct monitoring procedures and identify the most effective course of action to control them.

3. Establish a food safety team and essential procedures. Your FSMS must clearly identify key responsible food handlers for food safety. Some countries, such as the U.S., require at least one food handler per shift to have sufficient knowledge of food safety regulations and procedures. This individual must possess a food handler's certificate as proof.

In addition to a key person in charge, other roles must be assigned, and each role must be clearly explained to gain effective control of hazards. Create a layout using food safety guidelines to address problems such as breaches of control limits, customer complaints, and non-compliances with inspections.

4. Fulfill all prerequisite programs. Prerequisite programs prepare your entire food business by setting up the working conditions to be clean and sanitized. All procedures included in prerequisite programs must be communicated with food handlers.

Operations such as how to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces and personal hygiene to prevent cross-contaminationare all part of prerequisite programs. Construct and present standard operating procedures for all essential prerequisite programs. 

5. Establish a hazard preventive and control system. Once a proper working environment and conditions for food preparations are established, you can now establish your hazard prevention and control plan. Most food safety regulations tailor the required structure of a preventive plan to the HACCP system.

Below are some of the critical areas of a HACCP plan:

    • Hazard analysis (check our free Hazard Analysis tool also)
    • Critical control points
    • Critical limits
    • Monitoring procedures
    • Corrective actions
    • Verification procedures
    • Record-keeping and documentation

The HACCP plan is a detailed system on how to address food safety hazards and significantly reduce their likelihood of occurrence and causing foodborne illness. 

6. Evaluate and verify the system. After establishing the hazard control system, the collected data from the monitoring forms must be evaluated if the correct information is being collected from the system. This information will also be used to evaluate whether the system is able to capture any non-compliance fast enough or if it needs to be improved.

Regular verification of the system must be done to identify any areas that must be improved. In addition, the system will also require further evaluation when new laws and regulations are established. The system must also be evaluated whether it is able to address issues such as consumer complaints and food recall if applicable.


Food Safety Monitoring


Food Safety Monitoring as the most important part of your food safety system

Every Food Safety Management System revolves around monitoring whether preventive and control measures are able to address hazards or not. Monitoring procedures are every food handler's way to assess whether hazards are controlled or not. Results are also used to release food products into the market.

Monitoring logs are made depending on the type of parameter under observation. It is critical for the logs to have important information regarding the product, such as the time of monitoring, the result of observation, the person in charge, and a section for remarks.

Despite being very tedious to make, monitoring is a must to address any concern about food safety. At FoodDocs, we understand how difficult it may be to build monitoring logs that are readily customizable to accommodate any changes or improvements. As such, we offer free tools that will help you with your monitoring tasks and more:

Use any of the free helpful tools mentioned above to build and customize your needed food safety logs. Download your food safety documents for free anytime! You can also use other free tools, such as our food safety quiz, to train your food business operators on regulatory compliance topics or refresh their knowledge of food safety.


What is the easiest way to establish a Food Safety Management System?

Establishing a food safety management system takes time. Not to mention that you need to have extensive knowledge of food safety regulations and topics to build a comprehensive one. You need to consider all the steps and components we mentioned and put them together into a cohesive plan.

The time you will use for this continuous task may have been spent focusing on your food business. Every monitoring process will require much attention and customization, and the improvements will keep coming with time. 

To help you solve this problem, what you need is a smart, digital solution that can produce a food safety management system in just minutes. Luckily, our team of food safety experts at FoodDocs offers a convenient digital solution that can help you build a comprehensive digital Food Safety Management System in 15 minutes. Skip all of the five steps to establishing an FSMS we mentioned and save more food safety efforts by using your FSMS with our digital solution.

  1. Powered by artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program, you can get your digital Food Safety Management System in just 15 minutes ready for establishing. What is even greater is that you can further customize the system to fit your operations better.
  2. Spend less time building your monitoring logs with automatically generated digital monitoring logs that our system can create. Some of the most important monitoring logs and checklists fit for food businesses that our system can generate include the following: 
    • Freezer temperature log
    • Cooking temperature log

Cooking temperature log FoodDocs

Cooking temperature log in FoodDocs' app


    • Equipment maintenance log
    • Sanitation and cleaning checklists

Sanitation and cleaning feature FoodDocs

Sanitation and cleaning checklist in FoodDocs' app


3. Save at least 20% of your time from supervising using our real-time dashboard. Using this feature, you can get an overview of your entire operations and easily perform evaluations and verifications of your FSMS. You can immediately address any concern about food safety operations with this feature.


Real-time dashboard

FoodDocs Real-time Dashboard


4. Fulfill training programs for your employees easily with the detailed instructions provided in our monitoring logs. With this feature, you can ensure that food handlers know how to execute the tasks correctly.

5. Store all important information in one place with the provided cloud storage with our digital FSMS.


This digital FSMS can be fully customized to fit any type of business, including food service, retail grocery stores, and manufacturing. Our software's monitoring system can be customized and improved to fit audit findings or when changes in food safety legislation are announced.

When you use our digital FSMS, you not only become more efficient, but you also become more sustainable. With our food safety software, you can ditch the pen-and-paper system and use a completely digital food safety system. No more piles of papers for your team while your business is contributing to saving trees.




Setting up digital food safety management system in FoodDocs


How to help my team follow food safety rules correctly?

After establishing your digital FSMS, the next step is to persuade and remind your employees to always follow food safety rules. Remember that food safety tasks must be consistently done to become effective. 

Using a digital platform can sometimes be daunting. That is why at FoodDocs, we made everything easier for managers and employees alike. We've set up our system with multiple guides and easy-to-understand instructions to help food workers become more adept with the digital FSMS.


When you use our digital solution, you can get complete food safety features and the following benefits:

  1. Ensure that all food safety processes are performed on time and never forgotten with the smart notification system that comes with our mobile food safety app. This feature allows our system to alert food handlers whenever a task needs to be done. With this notification system, food business operators do not have to memorize every task every day, which is a task that is prone to error. Improve your accuracy with food safety tasks using our digital FSMS.
  2. Our system's monitoring forms are equipped with an auto-fill feature that prefills the logs based on previously inserted data. This feature can help you save their time from doing repetitive tasks and focus on observing the operations. Now, employees would only need to verify the information. This feature will help improve the correctness and accuracy of your everyday records.

Our digital FSMS can help you achieve food safety compliance every day of the week. There is no need to worry whether your employees are doing the task on time and correctly, as our system will remind them to do so. 

Achieve a more effortless and efficient food safety management system in just 15 minutes.


Get your HACCP plan done in 1 hour

Our impressive system does not only create a digital FSMS monitoring program for you. We also feature a built-in HACCP plan template builder that can create a complete HACCP plan for you within 1 hour. Fulfill one of the most important parts of your FSMS by using our software and get a comprehensive HACCP plan.


FoodDocs HACCP plan

FoodDocs HACCP plan template software


Our software can save at least 500x more time from building your HACCP plan from pen and paper and cost you less than hiring a food safety consultant. With artificial intelligence and an extensive library of information on different food safety and HACCP operations, you can ensure compliance with the most stringent food safety regulations in no time.

Want to experience the benefits of our software and get compliant now? Use our free 14-day trial and start building your FSMS and digital HACCP plan now.



Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need more information on the Food Safety Management Systems topic, or do you have any particular questions? Here are a few frequently asked questions to help you.


What is the definition of food safety management system?

A food safety management system, or FSMS, is a collection of operations for food companies to control potential food hazards and ensure the safety of public health. This program consists of different preventive and control measures with appropriate monitoring procedures as compliance with food safety rules.


What is the importance of food safety management system?

The main importance of a food safety management system is its ability to ensure food safety and protect public health from potential foodborne illnesses with adverse health effects. An FSMS can also help food companies control the quality of their products and boost customer loyalty and consumer confidence.


What are the key elements of a food safety management system?

The key elements of a reliable food safety management system include the following:

  1. Interactive communication
  2. System management 
  3. Prerequisite programs
  4. HACCP principles


What are some examples of food safety management programs?

Some of the most widely known examples of food safety management programs include the following:

  • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
  • Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC)
  • ISO programs compliance
  • Prerequisite programs


What is the primary purpose of a food safety management system?

The primary purpose of a food safety management system is to ensure that proper food handling practices are established to control hazards and produce the safest products for consumers. An FSMS is established to reduce the likelihood of causing foodborne illness outbreaks. 



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