Customers and Consumers
Food safety is the heart of our business. We continuously review every aspect of our daily operations to make sure we are doing everything possible to provide safe, high-quality products for our customers and consumers.
To ensure quality product reaches consumers’ tables, Pilgrim’s makes an extensive effort regarding food quality and safety, team member training and value-chain management, including the responsible purchase of raw materials.
In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspects every Pilgrim’s production facility daily to guarantee our food products meet federal food safety standards. In Europe, our production facilities are inspected and third-party audited according to the European Union Food Hygiene regulations and any additional customer quality requirements to verify compliance. In Mexico, we follow the best practice guidelines for chicken production as defined by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) and the National Service for Agro-Alimentary Public Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA). Most facilities in Mexico have a federally inspected type (TIF) certification. In addition, many of our facilities are also subject to additional customer quality requirements to ensure our products meet their expectations. Although local government provides oversight, all Pilgrim’s team members recognize that producing safe, healthy and wholesome products is our responsibility.
Each Pilgrim’s production facility operates under a fully implemented Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. Our food safety processes consist of standard operating procedures, sanitation standard operating procedures, HACCP procedures and validated technology interventions, which are designed to eliminate or reduce foodborne pathogens. These processes are monitored by team members trained in food safety and quality assurance, as well as government officials in each production facility. Inspection and process verification by government officials occur before the mark of inspection can be placed on products that will enter into commerce.
Furthermore, all Pilgrim’s production facilities implement these additional programs:
While we proudly deliver on our food safety commitment every day, we do face food safety challenges. Regulatory requirements can often change, necessitating modifications in our corresponding policies, training materials and audit practices. These changes require that we constantly work to improve and enhance our systems, while continuously implementing the latest regulatory requirements and technological advancements to promote food safety compliance and performance.
Our HACCP systems are designed to minimize risk for consumers. We take into account intended product use and follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of our food products.
Our production facilities in the U.S. abide by the USDA FSIS regulations in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as all pertinent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations and the latest Food Code (2013). In Europe, our production facilities abide by EU regulation 852/2004 (Article 5). In Mexico, our production facilities abide by Official Mexican Standard NOM-251-SSA1-2009, Hygienic Practices for the Process of Food, Beverages or Food Supplements; Code of Hygienic Practice for Meat1 CAC / RCP 58-2005; Recommended International Code of Practice General Principles of Food Hygiene CAC / RCP 1-1969, Rev. 4-20031.
HACCP programs identify where hazards might occur in the food production process and put into place stringent actions to prevent hazards from occurring. By strictly monitoring and controlling each step of the process, including microbiological, chemical and physical contamination prevention processes, we can better assure consumers that our products are safe. While many public opinion studies report that consumers are primarily concerned about the perceived presence of chemical residues in food, for example from pesticides and antibiotics, in reality, these hazards are nearly nonexistent. The more significant hazards facing the food industry today include microbiological contaminants, such as Salmonella. With effective implementation of HACCP systems, the risk for hazards to occur is greatly diminished and public health protection is strengthened.
Over the years, Pilgrim’s has invested millions of dollars in new processing equipment, team member training and quality assurance programs to improve the microbiological profile of our products.
The Pilgrim’s management structure for Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) is designed to ensure industry-leading performance and corporate oversight at the highest level. The team is led by the senior vice president (SVP) of FSQA who oversees all food safety and quality assurance programs for each business unit, and reports directly to the global CEO. Each Pilgrim’s facility has a FSQA manager and FSQA team who report to the FSQA director for their line of the business who, in turn, reports to the SVP of FSQA.
One of the many strengths of our global approach to food safety and quality assurance is our ability to share and leverage best management practices across the company. This effort is led by the SVP of FSQA who works with each business unit to disseminate best practices around regulatory compliance, pathogen control, modernization and other innovations to improve our food safety and quality performance. In partnership with JBS, Pilgrim’s hosts an annual Global Food Safety and Quality Conference with FSQA professionals from around the global company to identify common challenges, industry trends and opportunities to support the company’s effort to serve as the worldwide leader in high-quality, innovative protein and value-added food products.
In the U.S., the Food Safety and Quality Advisory Committee is responsible for providing oversight and guidance to our Food Safety Program. The committee is comprised of senior JBS USA and Pilgrim’s team members, as well as academicians who specialize in the areas of animal science, meat science, epidemiology and food microbiology. The committee includes the heads of FSQA in each JBS USA business unit and the SVP of FSQA for Pilgrim’s and six industry experts, including Drs. Gary Smith and Keith Belk from Colorado State University; Drs. H. Russell Cross, Kerri Harris and Jeff Savell from Texas A&M University; Dr. Guy Loneragan from Texas Tech University; Dr. Mike Apley from Kansas State University; Dr. Chuck Hofacre from University of Georgia; and Dr. Lynn McMullen from the University of Alberta, Canada.
Food safety and quality system management performance are also part of all senior management goals and key performance indicators, all the way up to and including our CEO. This reporting structure demonstrates the high priority we place on food safety and quality assurance at Pilgrim’s, and allows us to nimbly implement action-oriented decisions on a daily basis, if necessary.
“I am proud of the progress our team continues to make in food safety and quality. Our ability to leverage best management practices and ideas as a global team enables us to provide our customers and consumers with products they can be confident in when feeding their families. This is not something we take for granted, and we will continue to innovate to provide products that are safe and high quality.”
Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Quality Assurance
In addition to our robust, resilient food safety management structure, Pilgrim’s focuses on training and auditing procedures to produce safe, high-quality food. Our team members undergo extensive training in both food safety and value chain management, including raw material purchasing guidelines, to ensure that quality products reach the tables of our customers and consumers. All new team members receive training on quality assurance (QA) and food safety management systems when they are hired and participate in additional job-specific training. All team members who work in our production facilities receive ongoing training on food safety policies and practices. In addition, QA team members are provided with specific HACCP, as well as additional food safety and quality assurance, training every year.
Each year, we conduct numerous food safety and quality system audits using accredited, independent auditing firms. One hundred percent of our production facilities in the U.S. and Europe and 85.7 percent of our Mexico operations have been audited and certified by audit schemes recognized by the GFSI, one of the most stringent food safety-related audits available in the food industry. These audits, which are required by many of our retail customers, necessitate that a plant meet 326 requirements before a final certification grade can be given. Internal audits are conducted regularly by corporate QA team members and rewritten annually to foster continuous improvement. The QA team members at the production facility conduct daily facility inspections.
We are extremely proud of each of our facilities for their dedication and commitment to food safety and quality standards. We believe our third-party oversight and audit results further validate that our more than 300 highly skilled QA team members are doing an effective job promoting, protecting and enhancing the safety and quality standards at Pilgrim’s.
In North America, we continue to challenge all our packaging and ingredient suppliers to use a GFSI audit to demonstrate their commensurate level of commitment to food safety. All our suppliers who provide products or services that have direct contact with food must pass the ISNetworld and GFSI audits and provide a letter of guarantee.
Even though we have comprehensive systems in place to provide our consumers with safe, high-quality food, instances can and have occurred where a product recall is necessary to protect public health. When a recall is warranted, Pilgrim’s voluntarily initiates the recall, collaborating with the appropriate federal regulatory partners to make sure all affected product is promptly tracked and removed from distribution channels where product is destined for delivery to consumers. We have detailed protocols that address situations during and after routine business hours so effective plans can be implemented and executed as needed. To further ensure effective execution of recall protocols, the FSQA teams conduct numerous practice drills throughout the year to replicate various recall scenarios, identify potential procedural gaps and prepare our recall teams to handle the rare circumstance when a recall is warranted. When we decide to voluntarily recall one of our products out of caution to protect consumer health, the Recall Committee is immediately convened to implement the recall protocol. Once initiated, the committee remains in constant communication to ensure the recall is effective and all product is removed from commerce, so that consumer and regulatory confidence is maintained. To inform our customers and consumers of a recall, we issue a notice that follows government guidelines for communication.
The protocol is dependent on where the product is located or distributed. For example, if the product is in consumers’ homes, we use appropriate media outlets to communicate the urgency of the situation and reach out to individual consumers using key account shopper card databases. In the U.S., recall information is also posted on the USDA FSIS or FDA websites.
Recalls are rare, and we work diligently to understand how they were caused and how to prevent future incidents. We perform comprehensive root-cause analysis and share our learnings across the company. GFSI verifies the effectiveness of our corrective actions as an independent third-party auditor.
Ensuring the safety of our products is considered precompetitive in our industry, and we are proud to serve in a leadership role on many industry initiatives that are working toward reducing pathogens in poultry products. Through these initiatives, we share best practices across the industry to guarantee the continued safety of our products.
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