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Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

5 May 2023

A Food Safety Management System is a planned and methodical approach to controlling food safety hazards within a food business. The main purpose of FSMS is to ensure the food produced/served is safe to eat. All food businesses are legally obliged to put in place, implement and maintain FSMS based on the principles of Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

The Food Safety Management System must be:

  • Put in place permanently.
  • Recorded and kept up-to-date.
  • Reviewed regularly or as a result of any changes to products and procedures.


Terms Used in Food Safety Management Systems

To better understand FSMS procedures it is important to clarify what the terms hazard, risk and control measures mean from the food safety perspective.


Hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. Food safety hazards can be:

  • Microbial (e.g., bacteria growing to unacceptable levels).
  • Physical (e.g., presence of bones in meat).
  • Chemical (e.g., fly spray being used near open food).
  • Allergenic (e.g., nut traces spread by a dirty cloth).


Risk measures the likelihood that a hazard will actually cause harm together with how serious the problem could be.

An undercooked chicken being served at a large wedding party is likely to make a lot of people very ill with Salmonella food poisoning and is clearly a ‘high-risk’. On the other hand, finding a slug in a bag of ready washed salad, though undesirable, is quite unlikely and most likely will not cause any real and serious harm. As such, this could be considered as ‘low-risk’.

Control Measures

Control measures are precautions that are taken to reduce the chance of a hazard occurring (to an acceptable level of risk). These measures could include making sure food is stored at the right temperature in a refrigerator, covering food to prevent physical and microbial contamination or training stuff on how to clean and disinfect a work surface. It is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity., an online health and safety training platform, developed and run by experienced Health and Safety professionals offers convenient and affordable full online food safety courses.

Critical Control Point (CCP)

Critical Control Point (CCP) is a step at which control can be applied and is necessary to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or to reduce it to an acceptable level.


Advantages of Food Safety Management System

Following a FSMS will give confidence of compliance to the management and can help to reduce food waste. The food regulations put an obligation on all food businesses to identify any steps in their activities that are crucial to food safety.

Some of the advantages of adopting a food safety management system are that it will:

  • Cover all food processing activities.
  • Identify potential hazards early and not after the damage has been done.
  • Highlight unsafe parts of the process that need to be controlled or changed.
  • Provide records in an acceptable form, showing that preventive action has been taken.
  • Focus resources on controlling risks where they are most effective.
  • Give greater confidence in ensuring food product safety.
  • Provide a common approach that is widely accepted and understood by all staff.
  • Allow new operations to be made safe at the design stage.

Everyone in the food business needs to know about the FSMA that is in place. This will help to assist all staff in realising their role and responsibilities in limiting risks to the consumers from food related hazards.


Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)

HACCP is the internationally recognised food safety system that was developed by NASA in the 1960s. It is developed to ensure safe food for space flights and to prevent food poisoning of astronauts in space. Since then HACCP developed and improved based on available food scientific data and has been recognised internationally as a convenient tool to manage food safety. This system is well proven in making all aspects of food production safer and is designed to make sure food businesses can identify and deal with the hazards and risks involved in the production and handling of food.

Specifically, HACCP looks at how food is handled and introduces procedures to make sure the food produced is safe to eat. HACCP plans must be kept up-to-fate and will require reviewing on a regular basis and whenever something in the food operation changes.


HACCP Principles

HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. HACCP principles have seven steps that must be followed at all times:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis – establish what could go wrong at every stage of food processing and put in controls to make sure it does not happen. For example, bacteria harmful to health could survive if raw chicken is not cooked enough. Proper cooking will control this hazard.
  2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCP) – recognise the most important points where things can go wrong. For example, thorough cooking will reduce bacteria to a safe level.
  3. Set Critical Limits for each CCP – set a measurable limit that determines safe food from potentially unsafe food. For example, make sure the core cooking temperature has reached at least 75°C.
  4. Set up Checks for each CCP – monitor each CCP to prevent problems occurring. For example, check the core temperature with a thermometer every time food is cooked.
  5. Corrective Action – decide what to do if something goes wrong. For example, continue cooking until 75°C is reached, review staff training, etc.
  6. Verification – prove that your HACCP plan is working. For example, check that control measures are being applied and corrective actions have been taken when needed.
  7. Record Keeping – maintain an accurate record of all of the above. For example, complete a record form showing all the checks that have been carried out.

The success of a HACCP system depends on educating and training management and employees in the importance of their role in producing safe foods.


Other HACCP Based Food Safety Management Systems

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has developed the Safe Catering Pack. The Safe Catering Pack is designed for caterers as a practical, easy-to-use, food safety management system. The pack was designed for caterers but it may also be used by other food businesses. It is ideal for businesses that have not yet developed their own food safety management system, but may also be used by businesses to improve existing systems.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email