Arlen Keller, Founder and President
Food safety and quality is a critical component of success for companies in the food and beverages sector. More often than not, a company's brand reputation and financial health depend on the way it maintains safety and quality standards while adhering to regulations. However, in the light of complex regulations and standards such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and GFSI, it is not an easy task for companies to achieve and maintain broad and effective compliance standards. "Understanding what is being required by the various regulations and certification standards is the first challenge," says Arlen Keller, founder and President of Food Safety and Quality Consultants (FSQC), a professional full-service food safety and quality consulting firm.
Having more than four decades of experience in the food and beverage industry and being a registered auditor and consultant for multiple certification standards, Keller is a person who knows how to meet the requirements of the complex regulations and certifications. Through FSQC's full line of consulting, auditing, and training services, Keller and his team help companies meet the safety and quality standards mandated by industry or regulation.
According to Keller, while understanding regulations and standards is the first challenge, many food and beverage companies often struggle with the second; applying the requirements for regulation/certification into their businesses.
FSQC provides the necessary guidance, knowledge, and expertise to successfully design and implement food quality and safety programs that comply with regulatory and certification requirements. Be it preparation for FSMA compliance, certification to a global food safety standard, or preparing for a regulatory audit, FSQC has the technical prowess to support its client's goals.
FSQC follows a step by step approach in catering to its diverse clientele. According to Keller, understanding the background of the business is the first step toward implementing an effective quality and safety program. During this process, FSQC gains an understanding of the clients' business and the objectives of certification. This is followed by a gap analysis where FSQC visits the clients' facility to determine where they stand in the preparedness/journey toward complying with regulations or achieving certification standards. From the gap analysis, FSQC builds a plan and provides focused information on what needs to be done, and the changes required to obtain desired outcomes. FSQC makes sure that their support team is available both on-site and off-site to successfully navigate clients through the development, implementation, and maintenance of quality and food safety programs.
In one instance, a food packaging company approached FSQC for assistance in obtaining GFSI certification. FSQC collaborated with the client and advised them on the changes required in their company culture and work environment, along with identifying the key players and their responsibilities in making the changes possible. "Part of our job is not just saying this is where you are, and this is what you need to do, but showing them how to do it," says Keller. The client successfully implemented the changes recommended by FSQC and secured the GFSI certification. And, as a matter of fact, every company that has worked with FSQC has successfully achieved their GFSI certification within the scheduled timeframe, with the majority scoring in the top tier.
In addition to consultation, FSQC is also involved in providing extensive training programs for individuals in preventive controls for human food, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), and Safe Quality Food (SQF). Keller is a lead instructor in FDA's preventive controls for human food and a lead instructor for HACCP. He is also involved in providing training in areas such as SQF, food fraud, and internal auditing.
Through its consultation, guidance, and extensive training programs, FSQC removes another unique challenge: transferring the ownership of a program to the client. This enables companies to manage and maintain their programs even after the collaboration with the consultant ends. "The goal is actually educating the clients and helping them to build a system, not building it for them," says Keller.
Going forward, under Keller's leadership, FSQC plans to offer more training programs to help their clients tackle the growing challenges in the food safety and quality arena.