Why You (& Your Company) Need PCQI Training



According to the Food & Drug Administration, every food processing facility is required to have a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) on staff to manage their food safety preventive controls program. Although not required, advanced training is encouraged to provide individuals with the skills needed to successfully navigate the complicated process of developing, writing and maintaining a Food Safety Plan. With most courses costing between $800 and $1000 for two or three days of training, manufacturers often wonder: Is PCQI training worth it?

For some, the answer may initially be a ‘no.’ Individuals CAN be recognized as a PCQI if they, through adequate job experience, can perform all the duties required of a PCQI. After all, years of working in the food processing industry and understanding proper food handling techniques, adequate holding temperatures and sanitation practices should be enough to handle the responsibilities of a PCQI without formal training. Right? The answer is: Not exactly. 

While you may understand general food safety and be able to identify and control hazards, you may not know or fully understand all the latest regulations, recordkeeping needs and recall plan requirements that go along with maintaining your company’s Food Safety Plan. In other words, for most manufacturers, relying on experience is not always good enough. Gaining additional training develops stronger skills and allows for a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Benefits of PCQI Training
Formal PCQI training provides a variety of benefits including:

  • Understanding the significance and details of Federal Regulations. Fully comprehending the significance of new food regulations is essential. This is a main topic covered in a PCQI course. This course highlights the value behind requirements including the need for a formal Food Safety Plan and recall plan, proper recordkeeping and other responsibilities of a PCQI. By discussing the significance behind each task, participants are made to understand that these regulations are not suggestions and are not negotiable. 
  • Learning from specially trained instructors. PCQI courses are taught by lead instructors who have gone through unique training to provide the most efficient transfer of knowledge possible. In order to become an instructor, they must attend the full PCQI course, meet training experience requirements and take additional lead instructor training designed specifically for teaching adult learners. Instructors also are given several sets of training exercises with detailed instructions for how to best administer them so that participants can get the most out of their training experience.
  • Gaining in-depth knowledge about hazards and preventive controls. Training builds upon participants’ foundational knowledge of Current Good Manufacturing Practices through understanding what hazards are, where they can be found, their likelihood of occurring and their severity. Four different preventive controls are then introduced, giving participants an opportunity to decide which of the four would best control the identified hazards. Verification and validation procedures are taught next so that PCQIs can identify whether the applied preventive controls are being properly implemented and are functioning as planned. Recall plans are included in the discussion, as their main intention is to prevent more people from getting sick than necessary in the event of a recall. Participants learn many strategies for developing a robust recall plan that will account for every affected product, such as outlining a list of all names and businesses to immediately contact in order to minimize the potential impact of a recall. 
  • Improving your recordkeeping abilities. Establishing effective recordkeeping procedures is just as important as understanding and establishing preventive controls. Much time in PCQI training is spent explaining how to effectively maintain records since they are vital to the construction and maintenance of a Food Safety Plan.
  • Gaining experience through different exercises and activities. Hands-on training is provided to best encompass the types of tasks the PCQI will have to complete on the job. Through various training exercises, participants learn new tools in decision-making and strategic thinking, eventually combining all lessons learned to effectively complete their Food Safety Plan. Participants then report their findings to the rest of the class, which provides them with the opportunity to interact with other companies and learn from their experiences.
  • Speeding up your auditing process. The curriculum taught in a PCQI course, which was developed by the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA), is the same no matter where you are in the country. Since all food processors, consultants, auditors and inspectors learn the same curriculum, audits can be completed much more smoothly. Further, if the PCQI can present a certificate of course completion to the inspector at the beginning of an audit, the inspector will know they have learned all the information necessary to build a robust Food Safety Plan, without having to first go through a lengthy validation process. 
  • Receiving resources to help create your Food Safety Plan. Individuals are given several resources in training that can be used in the development of their Food Safety Plan. Sample worksheets, forms and templates are included, providing participants with the precise tools needed to outline their Food Safety Plan. 

The benefits of investing in a PCQI course are clear. While it might be possible to develop, write and maintain your Food Safety Plan without taking the time to become formally trained, the process is made much easier and will be more effective for those who do.

To gain the skills needed to confidently manage your company’s food safety preventive controls program, come to The Center’s upcoming PCQI course on February 20-21, taught by our FSPCA Lead Instructor. For more information on the benefits of PCQI training, click here or contact John Spillson at jspillson@the-center.org.

John Spillson, Food Business Development Manager
John works to develop and expand the food program at The Center. His experience operating his own business has given him knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. John comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, following both parents and grandparents in operating their own family food businesses. Prior to joining The Center, John owned and operated his own food processing company for more than 20 years.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Food Processing