Food Safety: How do you know what you don’t know?

As a former plant manager at a major food manufacturer, I had many critical priorities on my plate. People safety, food safety, and productivity were just a few things that kept me up at night.

I heard a quote today that very much resonated with me from a regulatory, food safety and quality executive at one of the leading food manufacturers in the U.S. As we were discussing the Food Safety Modernization Act and the future of food safety in food manufacturing, she referred to a quote from Donald Rumsfeld, Captureformer United States Secretary of Defense, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.”

In my opinion, this is one of the toughest challenges as a food manufacturer. Everyone wants to do the right thing. You do everything you can to control what is known. You mitigate any risks, where feasibly possible. You collaborate globally with your industry counterparts to continue to move the ship forward and learn.

But without line of sight to real-time process data and information, like whether or not your HACCP processes have been followed, correctly, each and every time as stated in your HACCP Plan, how can you truly have peace of mind going to sleep every night?

The foundation for any solid food safety plan is standardized operating procedures. Digitizing SOPs, even for HACCP checks, helps operators on the plant floor follow the proper procedures and work instructions with greater precision and fewer errors by taking the guesswork out of the procedures.

It may be boiled down too simply, but in my mind, control the “knowns” and use real-time operational intelligence to respond faster and gain insight to reduce the “unknown, unknowns.”  Without the data to lead you down the right path and provide new knowledge, how do you know what you don’t know?

By the way, I’ll be speaking at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013, September 23rd -25th—the world’s largest packaging and processing event. If you’d like to attend, we have a limited number of complimentary tickets. Email me at to secure your ticket – we hope to see you there!

Katie Moore

Katie Moore believes that brilliant manufacturing will transform the industry, giving early adopters of connected technology a lead in the competitive marketplace. A former plant manager, Katie has managed plant operations for Bimbo Bakeries USA, Sara Lee Corporation and Anheuser-Busch.

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