The SOP training on 12th September 2020 was aimed at strengthening the food safety management system and assisting operators in the food value chain to meet international standards and statutory, regulatory and customer requirements. Participants were from various fields of operations namely: agribusiness entrepreneurs (24.2%), processing (21.2%), manufacturing (21.2%), farming (15.2%), consulting (6.1%) and others (12.1%) out of which 20% had no knowledge of developing SOPs.
A food safety system is sustained by the combined efforts of all operators in the food value chain to prevent and control food safety risks. SOPs are an integral part of a successful food safety system. Any task that is routine and repetitive should have an SOP which is a written instruction that documents routine or repetitive activities and provides information that enables tasks to be performed correctly. It ensures consistency in the quality and integrity of a product or end-result of an organization. SOPs must be clear and concise with sufficient details for someone with limited experience or knowledge of the procedure to understand and successfully repeat the procedure when unsupervised. The format of an SOP consists of a header, body, footer and attachments. Its content covers the name of the person who wrote it, approval name or initials of the person approving the document, date it was written, purpose, version number if the document was modified, name of the person(s) responsible for performing the task (e.g. all personnel, sanitation crew), frequency of the described activity (e.g. daily, monthly), detailed instructions/procedures to be performed, record where the activities performed are documented and deviation/correction if applicable. The benefits of SOPs include ensuring consistent outputs from all members of the organization; reducing errors; reducing employee training time and this is useful where there is a high turnover of workers and a frequent need for retraining; enhancing productivity; boosting credibility; meeting international standards, statutory and regulatory requirements; establishing a chain of command and transferring work easily. Employees need to be aware of why and how SOPs are important for the implementation of the food safety system. Training is an important aspect of developing SOPs because even with very detailed steps, individuals could still interpret the meaning of procedures in different ways leading to inconsistency in work routines and performance. All training must be documented.