GMPs & GFPs Foundational Food Safety Concerns
In all cases ingredients should be free from hazards or processed to control or eliminate those hazards (HACCP). Buyer specifications - you may wish to create written specifications for your ingredients and supplies.
Safe Fermentation Culture: Specifications on the fermentation culture will be vital and is considered a Good Fermentation Practice (GFP). Buyer specifications or culturing specifications should be written.
EQUIPMENT & LAYOUT
Food safety is difficult to achieve when equipment is not working properly. Measuring instruments (pH, Aw, temperature, salinity, etc) must be accurate and calibrated. Equipment for incubation may need proper temperature control to +/- 1F. The layout of equipment can affect the potential for cross contamination or environmental contamination with L. monocytogenes. Note that under a Food Code HACCP plan, a listing of all equipment that is special to the fermentation process must be documented in the HACCP plan.
Recipe and process instructions - if you don't communicate the EXACT recipe/process, staff may ad lib. Create HACCP-based recipes where possible. To make a standard recipe HACCP-based, add in the critical limits and monitoring steps, e.g. cook to ≥ 145F and measure with a calibrated digital thermometer. Record the temperature in the batch log.
Have additional written standardized procedures to address risk factors. These are the SOPs mentioned above. Consider facility and equipment maintenance, sanitary food contact surfaces (cleaning and sanitizing), and handwashing-glove use. SOP level instructions will be necessary for CCP monitoring including how to operate a pH meter and measure foods for pH and how to measure salinity in foods.
Training is required under the Food Code and is highly recommended for small food manufacturers under state inspection. Management should receive training in fermentations and HACCP. In turn, management must train staff to perform their jobs safely and within the food safety program. Examples of learning objectives include: how to take pH?, why is pH important?, what are the fermentation hazards of your process?, and what are the controls for those hazards? Training can be in any form provided learning takes place.
Most of the focus on food safety of fermentation is on microbiological hazards that cause foodborne illness. However, there are a few chemical hazards that should be assessed. Fermentation vessels should be resistant to the food and the fermentation acid that will form. Most older crocks, like pickle crocks, contain lead. They should not be used. Copper or aluminum will leach into foods under acidic conditions. Raw vegetables may have pesticides or herbicide residues. Washing produce will remove ≥ 99%.