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Alicia Garrison

How is your preparation for FSMA going?

How is your preparation for FSMA going?

FSMA as a topic is making its way to almost every client discussion we have these days. Everyone is at a different point with preparation and the same is true for us. Teri has begun her 9 week training on Preventative Controls through Washington State University Extension and I will take a 3 day intensive course through Northwest Food Processors Association in June.

So what is FSMA? FSMA is the Food Safety and Modernization Act which was signed into law in 2011 and the regulation compliance requirements begin this year, 2016, in September. It intends to be the next step towards prevention within our federal food safety regulation. The goals of FSMA are to focus efforts on prevention of problems and implementing food safety controls throughout the supply chain.

Several people have done a great job summarizing the regulations, compliance timelines, and topics. Rather than attempt collating all of the details of the regulations, we’ve gathered together a few websites we found helpful when researching and monitoring FSMA. Below are our collection of helpful links: is a good resource for up to date information and they offer a series of different trainings on the FSMA by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable food safety experts on the west coast. If you weren’t aware, the FDA will require completion of specialized training for processors of human food and animal feed/pet food. Their next 3 day Preventative Control Qualified Individuals course begins May 23. gives a clear, concise overview on the regulation and timing. The table below is handy summary of compliance dates from the article.



Follow this link for the full article at is the complete source for complete rulings and history of the regulations. The frequently asked questions section is helpful and you can see past webinars. has some interesting information. For those of you using SQF standards, here’s a matrix comparing SQF and FSMA from the SQFI website.

SQF Level 2        FDA Preventive Control Food Safety Plan (FSMA) FDA GMPs (117 subpart B)
Overarching policy statement Yes No No
Written Plan Yes Yes No
Experienced individual in charge Yes Yes No
Trained Staff Yes Yes* Yes
Prerequisite Programs Yes No Yes
Raw material/ incoming   product safety assurance Yes No No
Supplier Verification Yes Yes, in specific cases** No
Allergen Management Yes Yes Yes
Validation of Controls Yes Yes No
Finished product testing No Yes, in specific cases** No
Sanitation Control Yes Yes Yes
Environmental monitoring Yes Yes, in specific cases** No
Corrective Actions Yes Yes No
Traceability Yes No[1] No
Recall Yes Yes No
Records Retention Yes Yes No
Food Defense Yes No2 No
Internal Audit Yes No3 No


For more information on SQF or FSMA, check out their “Are you FSMA ready?” page on their website:


If you find other sites to be helpful, please let us know. We are eager to see how the regulation roles out onto shop floors; we expect lots of learnings on all sides.

The most common 5S question has a less than desirable answer.

Lately, I’ve been thinking, probably too deeply, about this question we are frequently asked ;“What can we do to prepare for 5S?”.  This is not a question of preparing agendas or scheduling team members, but a request to get started, in a small way, before the clock starts ticking.  My first response is, “nothing”. Then, I take a step back and give ideas; buy cleaning supplies, find sanitation schedules, buy paint brushes and rollers, order coffee and crumb cake.  Generally, the questioner jots down the ideas, but we both know all of that stuff is easy and will be done within minutes.  They ask again, “anything else we can do?”.  Then the questioning begins on my part “What would you like to do? What is your goal for this 5S event? Are you concerned we won’t accomplish enough?”. This often leads us to a sincere and honest discussion about a 5S event; it’s not an event.


5S is a philosophy and 5S training events provide introductory guidance for the practice. We need to understand what goal we’re trying to achieve by taking time out of busy days to focus on 5S.  We start together on a 5S journey so we align and agree to the practice principles to be applied in the future.  The purpose of demonstrating 5S in an event is to train the team.  The practice of 5S beyond the event is the goal.  A visually impactful report out at the end of an event is nice, but a commitment to improve each day is so much more valuable.  There is no getting ahead because there is no end.  If we do our job well, in addition to a successful 5S event there will be laundry lists of ideas and action items to implement in due time and those ideas will continue to roll in each and every day.

Learning to Give Feedback

The first few times I had to give not so pleasing feedback to a direct report was like eating steamed spinach as a 6 year old; I would gag at the thought.  For hours prior to the event I would be nervous, I would practice what I would say and how I would say it.  I would also picture the other person’s response and somewhere in there I was hoping they would find an appreciation for the effort I’d taken to help them grow.  It was uncomfortable and a bit Pollyannaish.

Those first few times are hard and I learned a tremendous amount about what people want and need in terms of feedback, both encouraging and discouraging.  I see the true value of giving feedback confidently and humbly.  Both positive and negative feedback are necessary in directing desired behavior and we all need both when we are trying new things and challenging ourselves.  Positive feedback is a great place to start and while it seems easy, many managers don’t know how to do it.  One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a fantastic, quick read on how to do give feedback.  For positive feedback, don’t forget to tell them “why” they did a good job.  Negative feedback is more difficult, but just as important.  Negative feedback can be very effective when focused on compliance.  It’s important that negative feedback doesn’t take on the form of its less effective cousins; punishment and extinction.  Punishing consequences and withdraw of positive feedback (extinction) are dangerous methodologies in an organization and can lead to disengaged and disgruntled employees.  Learning to give feedback effectively is important and can be learned.

What is important about feedback is it’s consistent, it’s concise and it’s clear.

  • Consistent – your employees see you regularly and expect interaction and feedback from you.
  • Concise – feedback is not an hour long meeting.  It is simply, this is what I liked or didn’t like about your behavior and this is why.  If it’s negative feedback, add what behavior you’d like to see instead.
  • Clear – expectations for all levels needs to be defined, communicated and accepted by the team before any feedback can be given effectively and fairly.

These days, not a day goes by that I don’t find an opportunity to provide feedback. I do this at the grocery store with stressed out checkers, at the playground with kids challenging their physical abilities, or with my peers who often put too much pressure on themselves to be the best.  It’s a basic human need to belong and the feedback reinforcing whether or not behaviors align with the group’s values is critical to the success of the whole group.

Website of the Week: Brewing Science Institute

One of the things I love about lean environments is how the tools many companies use are simple and visual. When you walk in the door, you can just tell it’s a lean company because 1) it is neat, clean and organized, and 2) it is easy to find exactly what you are looking for, even if you don’t work there. I look for this same characteristic in websites, and when I find a simple, visual and easy to navigate site, it gives me added confidence about their content.

My website pick of the week comes from a Colorado company called the Brewing Science Institute. With a crafty set of visual icons up top, this site is a cinch to get around on, and immediately leads you to what you are looking for. In my case, I was looking for a yeast pitching calculator, and boom! There it was. The products and services on this site cost money, but click on the chalkboard icon to check out some excellent free education and tools to help with small brewing lab set-up.

In addition to their yeast pitching calculator, they have an awesome small brewery lab manual and a sweet little troubleshooter tool for all areas of brewing.

We work with a few small breweries, and this was a great place to get a refresher on basic brewing lab tests and troubleshooting. Check it out!