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Who is responsible for serving "safe" food in American restaurants? A larger question is — Who is responsible for serving "safe" food in international chain restaurants?

Quality control role

Most restaurant operators and executives have heard of terms like "Quality Assurance" and "Quality Control." In fact most large restaurant chains have Quality Assurance Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents – but not Quality Control Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents. Quality Control can also be described as "Quality Management," and the QC responsibility is passed on to the food manufacturing supplier. It is the Quality Control (QC) Manager's responsibility to insure that the production of the products are consistently "in compliance" with the Product Specification. Product that falls out of compliance is discarded or sold through 3rd party sales agents.

Quality control compliance

Quality Compliance is usually measured with performance metrics listed in the Product Specification. Examples of performance metrics are color, salt content, moisture content, length and width, etc. A common best practice is to build product specifications based on a Process Capability Study (PCS) — completed during the first production run and revised with tighter controls after subsequent production runs. I have worked for 8 leading restaurant chains, and sadly very few product specifications are based on a PCS. Quality compliance can demonstrate "freshness," but can also portray "consistency."

Quality assurance role

What is the role of a restaurant or food manufacturing quality assurance manager? It is the Quality Assurance (QA) Manager's responsibility to develop and monitor corporate governance business rules. To some, these terms may sound like blue sky business process consulting language. Quality business rules may dictate what microorganisms will be monitored or what quality supplier programs will be administered. Another business rule may be that all suppliers use a HACCP plan, are compliant with 2011 Food Safety and Modernization Act, are compliant with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs), implement Incident Management Plans, and are compliant with one or more Global Food Safety Initiative schemas.

Food safety role

It is RARE that restaurant chains have a trained Food Safety Manager — but why? I believe most restaurant executives don't understand the role differences between QA, QC, and Food Safety. It is the role of a Food Safety Manager to develop and implement business practices to prevent food poisoning, adulteration, personal injury and contamination once the product cases are opened in the store. It assumes that QA and QC have successfully completed their roles at the manufacturer level. If a customer does get sick or suffers bodily injury, the Food Safety Manager must immediately initiate a full-scale "Tracking and Tracing" process back to the farm or original source of every ingredient.

Tracking and Tracing (T&T) process technology innovation

Most restaurant operators and executives don't understand that T&T systems include hand written QC or QA data, as well as bar code information on every ingredient prior to, and subsequent production and distribution. In other words, T&T systems are more and more driven by information technology software systems. And the integration level of software systems, bar code data management technologies, and manual data logs define the level of T&T thoroughness.

Food litigation reality

As an expert witness in numerous food litigation cases, I can assure you that litigation attorneys are coming after restaurant chains and food manufacturers with increased expertise and sophistication. It would be wise for a CEO to hire an outside food safety consultant to perform a critical gap analysis of each restaurant's food safety program before they lose money and brand equity in court.

Food Safety Litigation Webinar

If you would like to listen to my next food safety litigation webinar June 5 for litigation attorneys that discusses the role of food safety data, log onto: https://tasaevents.webex.com/tasaevents/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=669117444.

Food Technical Consulting (www.foodbevbiz.com) is sponsoring its next industry workshop titled "How to Start & Maintain a Food Truck Business" in Denver, June 24 – 26, 2013. Contact us at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com or 303-471-1443.

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Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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