April 14, 2017 – by Monica Watrous
MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills, Inc. increased its spending on food safety to $16 million in 2016, up from $13 million in 2015. The company in its 2017 Global Responsibility Report issued April 11 said 8% of its essential capital investment in 2016 went toward projects related to food safety.
“Safety is a priority focus area for our company leadership and part of our culture,” General Mills noted in the report. “Leading with safety — both the safety of our employees in the workplace and the food they make — is one of the key operating principles that guides our work.”
General Mills has a legacy of food safety leadership, dating back to the 1950s when the company established a raw material vendor management program. In the 1970s the company developed food safety programs for quality engineers at production facilities, and in 1996 it pioneered allergen labeling on all products.
In 2016, General Mills increased training to support compliance with the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Preventive Controls Rule.
“General Mills played a key role in providing industry perspective during development of the FSMA — the most sweeping change to U.S. food safety regulations in 100 years,” the company said. “To prepare for the FSMA requirement that each food safety plan be reviewed by a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), 125 of our employees participated in PCQI training, four employees were trained as lead instructors and one person was certified to train the trainers, helping us to scale this knowledge across the organization.
“We continually refine our training approach through our global centers of excellence focused on key food safety requirements, such as sanitation, quality engineering and auditing. We provide comprehensive, consistent instruction through our global online training academy with materials in English, French, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.”
In fiscal 2016, General Mills said it conducted Auditor Academy training sessions attended by 194 participants from 14 countries. The sessions helped improve the company’s ability to identify and fix issues, as well as prevent food safety problems from occurring, General Mills said.
One of the food safety goals General Mills has set is to achieve Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification for all General Mills-owned facilities by 2020. Providing an update on the company’s progress toward that goal, General Mills said 80% of its company-owned facilities are GFSI certified. Additionally, 80% of co-production sites and 55% of ingredient supplier sites also are GFSI certified.
General Mills conducted 10 voluntary recalls in fiscal 2016, including some for the company’s Gluten-Free Cheerios, flour and cake mix products.
To help ensure the safety of the raw materials the company uses in its products, General Mills has expanded the number of supplier and co-producer audits it conducts globally. The company conducted more than 800 supplier audits and more than 40 co-producer audits in 2016 and trained more than 50 suppliers through supplier schools and webinars during the year.