Tips for Selecting the Best Food Grade Warehousing Company

Learn All About Food Grade and CGMP Warehousing and Fulfillment Services

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If you’re searching for a food grade warehouse, there are a number of considerations that are extremely important to understand in order to make sure that you select the right provider for your business. To begin with, understanding the differences between the varying types of food grade warehouses offers some helpful insights.

There are three main types of food grade warehousing companies – dry food storage companies, frozen food grade facilities, and refrigerated facilities.

  • Frozen storage usually operates its environment within the temperature range of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
  • Refrigerated, or climate control facilities, can keep food at a comfortable temperature range of 34-39 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Finally, dry food grade storage facilities usually operate within the 50-70 degree Fahrenheit range.

Between these three temperature ranges, companies can handle the different types of food needs for companies. Some warehousing companies offer all three types of temperature ranges, whereas some only specialize in one or two of the options – so you’ll have to check with the specific provider in order to determine if they can meet your needs.

Special Considerations for Fulfillment of Food Products

What are the special considerations in fulfillment for food products? If you sell food products, the locations you choose to store and package your shipments need to be food grade. This means they have to meet high standards of cleanliness and pest control.

The facilities that process, pack or hold food products for human or animal consumption must be registered with the United States Food and Drug Administration. Any owner or operator who carries, forwards, warehouses, brokers, or facilitates food delivery will be required to register. The Federal FDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is mandated to conduct continuous inspections of meat and poultry processing and to conduct periodic inspections of other food processors. State and Federal agencies collaborate and coordinate the inspection process.

Food firms subject to inspection need to be prepared for an inspection at any time and must be staffed with someone familiar with the inspection process at all times. Staff members must be prepared to accompany the inspector during the inspection. Staff must also be trained to carry out mock inspections at regular intervals to assure the company is operating as required.

Important Factors to Consider When Comparing Food Grade Warehouses

Once you find a provider that meets your needs with regard to the temperature requirements of your food products, you’ll want to investigate the potential provider’s overall capabilities, certifications, standards and procedures, and track record of success with managing food grade commodities for others. In order to feel comfortable with the vendor, it makes great sense to tour the facility in order to personally gauge the strict adherence to regulations.

Some of the items below are most important to investigate:

  • Is the facility clean and free of bacteria, fungus or health hazards: Obviously, a food grade facility should be a very clean environment. In order to keep food in the required condition for consumption, it should be free of anything that would adversely impact its condition, such as bacteria or fungus. Make sure to keep a sharp eye open as you tour the facility.
  • Condition of the building and regulations: It’s important to check the overall health of the warehouse, both inside and out. In particular, check to make sure that it is well maintained (no cracks and holes in walls and windows) and that the doors are sealed, and check the overall temperature and humidity. This will keep pests out. Furthermore, the warehouse should have a pest control plan, detailing the precautions that the warehouse staff take in order to eliminate this risk. And definitely make sure that the outside of the building is well maintained and kept, as this can have an impact on the overall health of the facility.
  • Master sanitation schedule and overall SOP’s: Does the warehouse have a master sanitation schedule? One of the best signs of a high quality food grade warehousing company is the presence of detailed procedures, and a sanitation schedule should be at the top of the list. This schedule provides the details behind what measures and steps the personnel take in order to maintain a clean facility. Furthermore, every process and procedure should be logged in the company’s SOPs (standard operating procedures). These are detailed steps to ensure the quality operation of the warehouse and its staff.
  • Personal hygiene and training: As an extension of the sanitation schedule, the warehouse company should maintain a high degree of personal hygiene, including a detailed training schedule to make sure that the facility is adequately equipped with sinks, etc., and that staff are well trained in terms of maintaining their personal hygiene throughout their shifts. As a part of this function, make sure that the company has controls over any hazardous materials, such as cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Lot tracing and FIFO: Food products must be strictly controlled with regard to its age, and thus warehouses must have the capability of tracking product based upon lots and utilizing the FIFO (first in, first out methodology). In particular, check out the company’s warehouse management system to verify their capabilities.
  • Registered with the FDA: This one is a bit of a given, but be sure to check that the warehouse is in fact registered with the FDA. Occasionally, some warehousing providers aren’t aware of regulations for common, dry food products and lack the proper registration.

CGMP Warehousing and Fulfillment

If you sell food, supplements, cosmetics, drugs or medical grade warehousing products, CGMP standards and regulations are very important to understand and implement. Especially if you use outsourced providers in the storage and distribution of your products, ensuring CGMP standards across your supply chain is critical. But what is CGMP? Does an outsourced warehouse need to meet CGMP standards? How does a logistics company qualify for CGMP? And if you’re using an outsourced warehousing and fulfillment company, how can you tell if they are properly certified for CGMP? Below, we explore all of these questions so you can make sure you choose a properly certified CGMP warehousing solution for your business.

What is CGMP?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand just what CGMP is exactly. CGMP stands for Current Good Manufacturing Practice. In the US, CGMP is overseen by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and is a set of regulations enforced to ensure that producers of drugs, medical products, food, some supplements products and cosmetics are properly designing, monitoring and controlling processes and facilities throughout the production and distribution in order to deliver products safely to consumers. The regulations include manufacturing, facilities, processing, packaging and holding products. Furthermore, the regulations are ‘minimum’ standards that the FDA believes US companies should meet.

Some companies call these regulations simply GMP, which means Good Manufacturing Practice. However, the “C” in the CGMP means that the processes and procedures are “current”, using up-to-date technologies and systems. Because technologies change over the years, CGMP standards take into account these changes and require companies to use sufficient technologies and systems to prevent contamination and errors.

The FDA in the US, and other regulatory agencies in other countries, are authorized to conduct unscheduled or scheduled inspections in order to check on a company’s processes and procedures. Furthermore, there are organizations that specialize in certifying companies in CGMP.

Not all products within the above listed segments are governed by CGMP standards. If you don’t know whether or not your specific products fit under these regulations, contact the FDA or view their online resources in order to check for sure.

Does an Outsourced Warehouse Need to Meet CGMP Standards?

Because CGMP regulations include the “holding” of products, outsourced warehousing companies that store and ship drugs, medical products, food, some supplements and cosmetics should comply with CGMP standards. If you are using or intend to use a third-party warehouse for these relevant products, CGMP standards must be met (unless it is a supplement or cosmetic product that is exempt).

With regard to warehouse standards, CGMP touches on all areas of warehousing: overall warehouse design, construction, fire safety, pest control, FIFO (First In, First Out) of products, batch control capabilities (for example, if a ‘batch’ ever needs to be recalled), training of the warehouse team, self-inspections, safety procedures in the warehouse (including fire prevention and extinguishers, sprinklers, first aid, etc.), stock counts, shrinkage of product, and even truck/forklift quality etc. Outsourced warehouses even have to consider areas outside of the warehouse, such as roads of entry/exit, the physical building (including the roof), garbage handling, and weather event procedures.

With such a wide reach within the warehousing industry, CGMP requires a good amount of planning. As such, any outsourced warehouse that is subject to CGMP should have a formal and documented set of procedures to comply with all regulations.

How Does a Logistics Company Qualify for CGMP?

Any warehousing provider can qualify for GMP certified status by simply documenting all processes and procedures governed by the regulations, implementing these standards, monitoring these standards on an ongoing basis, and subjecting themselves to and passing all scheduled or unscheduled site inspections by licensed authorities.

Some outsourced warehouses choose to be more proactive and pay a properly licensed organization to perform site visits and “certify” their facility. Whether an inspection is done by a governmental or paid for entity, the warehouse will receive a certification if passing scores are received. This serves as “proof” that the company is a licensed CGMP warehouse. In terms of properly vetting any potential outsourced warehouse, you can check with them and obtain any certifications that they received and review their internal formal documents related to their processes and procedures. As an example, WrightFulfillment is licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a fulfillment warehouse for vitamins and dietary supplements.

The stakes are high for many food, drug, medical, supplements and cosmetics products, so paying close attention to the certifications and capabilities of outsourced warehouse and supply chain providers is extremely important. Digging a little deeper in the due diligence process will ensure that you choose a company that is properly certified and capable of handling your products during all aspects of storage and distribution.

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