Sunday, June 30, 2019


Our friends at The Chai Company, Director of Operations Simon Lam and QA Manager Barbara Jedrzejewska, were kind enough to sit down with us and discuss how they solved some of their operational efficiency challenges by going digital and creating a centralized data hub for vendor management, inventory, food safety, and quality assurance with the Icicle food manufacturing software.

Meet The Chai Company

Most chai makers use artificial flavorings to produce that rich spice flavor we know and love about chai, but The Chai Company raises the bar higher. They create chai concentrates with slow-brewed, natural, organic, raw ingredients in small batches so they can manage consistency – with no flavorings, extracts, or powders necessary and no chemical aftertaste. The concentrates are then strained, sweetened, acidified, and pasteurized to assure food safety and extend shelf-life.

All these steps take time – more than most companies would want to commit to production – and satisfy the brand’s mission of creating a healthy, natural product that everyone can appreciate. Cafes, restaurants, and regular consumers simply mix the concentrate with other liquids, like hot water or steamed milk, to create their drinks. The higher level of quality and safety – bolstered by SQF certification – makes the Chai Company stand out, but it also creates more challenges for them.

The Challenge: Inventory, Vendors, And Food Safety Were All Tracked On Paper Behind the scenes, the Chai Company’s production system is rather complex, with a single production run that involves their primary production facility, multiple co-packers to handle other aspects of production like packaging, and four warehouses (two in the US, one in Canada, and one in the UK). Each warehouse has its own management system and process. The manufacturing paradigm is necessary to meet the company’s high standards, but it is a lot to manage – especially with a limited number of employees to run the show.

Some of the challenges were in the little things (if an ingredient arrives from a supplier that is not the manufacturer, which of the labels should be scanned for their own production?) while other aspects were much more difficult. One of the biggest things the Chai Company was looking to change was the way they handled their documentation. Everything was kept on physical documents. Some things were scanned into the cloud, some things were inserted into Excel spreadsheets. Most of it was kept in folders in the office. This made audits, supplier certifications, and recalls exponentially more laborious.

“When it came to recalls, it was a lot of going through papers instead of having a program calculate what we had and where it had gone. There were also a lot of human error mistakes that made things even harder, like writing a ‘9’ where it should have been a ‘4’.” — Simon Lam, Director of Operations

The Chai Company needed a way to streamline their recordkeeping and documentation if they wanted to be able to continue growing while maintaining their high standards. The paper system had worked when they were just starting out, but it couldn’t scale with them. It was too static, too disjointed, and bound to physical folders – and it just wasn’t going to cut it for their business.

Implementing Icicle: Creating a Central Data Hub of Food Safety and Production

Icicle was recommended to the Chai Company by Karine Lawrence, a consultant who was working with the Post-Farm Food Safety and Traceability Program. They quickly saw Icicle as the fastest way to solve the problem of their disconnected records. After seeing it in action, they took the plunge without needing to evaluate other possible software providers.

The implementation process wasn’t only about solving the Chai Company’s challenges. Icicle had never been used by a business with such a complex manufacturing paradigm before. The Chai Company folks need special functions like the ability to ship between different facilities within the context of the same production run. Their small batch approach, which helps ensure the highest quality, means that they use the product produced by the small batches to make yet more products, meaning that their production run is also not linear like most companies. These complexities meant that the Icicle team had to do a bunch of development in order for the Chai Company to seamlessly integrate Icicle into their production.

“We were already SQF certified so we didn’t really want to adjust our system to Icicle. We wanted Icicle to adjust to us. And we were pretty impressed with how that turned out.” — Simon Lam, Director of Operations

Implementation began with entering the Chai Company’s database of customers and suppliers into Icicle. They then worked with the Icicle team to set up all their recipes and their HACCP plan and create tailored templates for their various processes. They continued to adopt other Icicle features, quickly moving to production checks, quality checks, sanitation procedures, and more into Icicle. Most recently, they adopted pest control reports and parts of Icicle’s maintenance management as well. They even found use for features that they hadn’t anticipated, like First Aid Reports.

While some of the employees had a rough time remembering how to insert all the data into Icicle correctly at first, the custom templates and easy-to-use interfaces eventually smoothed out those issues.

“Icicle’s team has been really responsive to our enquiries. If we’ve had any problems, we can get help and it’s quickly resolved. The customer service is great!" — Barbara Jedrzejewska, QA Manager

The Results: Fast Vendor Management, Remote Access, and Easy Audits The Chai Company is still a multi-facility operation, but that’s not much of a challenge these days. The implementation of Icicle has transformed many of the ways Simon and Barbara used to keep records organized, gather data from across different facilities, and monitor their production. And Icicle has delivered compounded results:

  • Inventory management is smooth and streamlined. The team can easily track ingredients, products, transactions, and other specific logs from any location (including four different warehouses) via the centralized Icicle app without having to find and pull up specific scanned or physical documents. They also get to see the movement of their products in real-time.
  • Supplier certifications are always up-to-date. Before Icicle, Barbara had to constantly revisit her certification folder to check what needed updating, like expiry dates, and it was a big burden for her and the QA department. Now she can easily look up certificates in the Vendor Management database and copy/paste the information that needs to be updated for the supplier, who then knows exactly what she needs.
  • No more human errors. Reading handwritten notes and reports wasn’t always easy, and sometimes the notes were simply incorrect. Now all the necessary information is recorded digitally and often automatically, so this is no longer a concern. Icicle even makes some common errors impossible; for example, if an ingredient isn’t available, you can’t record it as consumed during that production run.
  • Employees can do their work better. While the transition from writing everything down on a clipboard had its moments, by using Icicle, employees on the floor can ultimately benefit from the big picture – like the ability to see production forecasts – and are able to provide more oversight during production itself. Managers like Barbara, who are often overloaded with work, can benefit from the ability to automate a lot of their tasks and trend reports to keep ahead of the game.
  • Managers can monitor production remotely. Frequent travel used to make it harder for Barbara and Simon to keep up with QA schedules and procedures, but now that they can track those things from anywhere, they’re always informed and in touch with what’s going on at the facilities – and they can catch problems quickly, before they become big problems.

“All of us love the fact that we can access all the production and QA information from anywhere in the world. This is really needed because we are a small company – sometimes, we just don’t have a backup and we need to get involved. Even 20 minutes when you’re away is very valuable.” – Barbara Jedrzejewska, QA Manager

Like we’ve shown, The Chai Company must manage a lot of information to meet their high standards. They also have multiple certifications that all need different information: organic, Kosher, and SQF. The benefits of Icicle were clear from the start, but they really shined when it came to managing information – especially when the audit came around. There was no shuffling through dozens of documents trying to find the right ingredient. It was all right there in Icicle, with the traceability history fully available.

“The first time the auditor came, I remember that the process seemed a lot easier. The information was readily available and it made it so much smoother and easier to provide that stuff right away, without having to look it up.” — Simon Lam, Director of Operations

In the future, the Chai Company looks forward to using more of Icicle features, including accounting and IoT integration that will simplify their work even more. They see opportunities to take advantage of Icicle’s IoT infrastructure with Bell Canada by automating monitoring for things like the temperature in freezers, pH levels, and quantities of sugar.

“Overall, we are very happy with Icicle and would recommend it to other companies. It’s great when it comes to having the things we need on-hand and resolving problems quickly.” – Barbara Jedrzejewska, QA Manager

With a central data hub that simplifies vendor management, traceability, food safety, quality assurance, and more, The Chai Company is thriving as an ultra-efficient company. We’re thrilled to watch them grow and evolve further, and we’ll be there to support them along the way.

Article Source:

Superior Food Safety has partnered with Icicle Technologies Inc. to bring Icicle, a smart food manufacturing software, to the food & beverage and the growing industries.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reminder: All Courses for 2019 Now Available for Registration

July 17,18,19, 2019
Regular Price $850, ETP Price $300

August 7, 8, 2019
Regular Price $725, ETP Price $250

August 9, 2019
Regular Price $475, ETP Price $180

September 19, 20, 2019
Regular Price $725, ETP Price $250

November 13, 14 and 15, 2019
Regular Price $850, ETP Price $300

All SQF classes are official, advertised by SQF, and provided by Superior Food Safety a SQF Licensed Training Center. 

All Food Safety Preventive Controls for Human Food classes are authorized and posted by FSPCA, and provided by Oscar Camacho a FSPCA Lead Instructor.

The fees to attend these classes are subsidized through a joint venture between Napa Valley College-Superior Food Safety and funded by ETP-Employment Training Panel Program of California.

PRICE STARTS AT $180.00 + Administrative Fees PER CLASS (See each link below for details)

Please DOWNLOAD, COMPLETE and SUBMIT the forms below to before you begin the registration process.

Certification Application
Employment Training Panel

Monday, June 24, 2019

Register Now for July's FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food

NAPA: FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food - 2-1/2 Day Course #75448

Date And Time
Wed, Jul 17, 2019 - Fri, Jul 19, 2019

Napa Valley College
2277 Napa Vallejo Highway BLDG 3000, RM 3004
Napa, CA 94558

Register HERE

In partnership with Superior Food Safety, Napa Valley College is hosting this timely and important workshop for wineries.

Through the California Employment Training Panel (ETP), Napa Valley College is able to offer a discount of $550 to qualified companies. Click on the following link - and complete application to see if your company is eligible for an ETP discount (please note that an ETP 104 form must also be completed for each attendee from your company). After your forms are completed, please send all forms to Valerie Bible (707) 256-7250 / Once you are certified, you will receive the code to register for the ETP pricing of $300. If you are already ETP certified and need a code, please contact Valerie Bible (707) 256-7250/

Attend this 2-1/2 day course starting on Wednesday, July 17th and ending on Friday, July 19th.

Course Description - What You'll Learn:

  • Meet the requirements for training under Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 117.155 for the Preventive Controls “Qualified Individual”
  • Learn and understand the responsibilities of a preventive controls qualified individual
  • Learn How preventive controls build on established food safety principles
  • Understand and identify the Components of a Food Safety Plan
  • Learn how to conduct Food Safety Plan activities such as developing and reviewing a food safety plan
  • Provide the necessary skills for validating preventive controls, verifying and validating process controls among others.

Three-Day Course:

  • Wednesday, July 17th from 8 AM-5 PM
  • Thursday, July 18th from 8 AM-5 PM
  • Friday, July 19th from 8 AM-12 PM

Who Should Attend:

  • Companies, especially small and medium-sized, producing human foods that must comply with the Preventive Controls for Human Foods rule that is part of FSMA.
  • Food Industry Senior Management
  • GFSI Leads (SQFP)
  • Operation and Production Managers
  • Quality Assurance Managers and Supervisors
  • HACCP Coordinators
  • Supply Chain Management Personnel & Purchasing Managers
  • Auditors
  • Food Plant and Facility Managers
  • Risk Management Managers
  • Government and Food Regulatory Personnel
  • Food Safety and Quality Management Consultants

Oscar Camacho has more than 28 years of experience managing food safety and quality systems. Mr. Camacho's special insights come from years of first-hand experience in the food industry, and from client weaknesses he identified and solved while providing auditing and consulting services.

Friday, June 21, 2019

On-site PRIVATE Classes in English & Spanish and Consulting Services

Classes Available in English & Spanish and Consulting Services

  • HACCP Workshop
  • Implementing SQF Training - Version 8.0 - English and Spanish
  • FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Foods
  • FSPCA For Human Food Compliance
  • Produce Safety Rule Training Official Program
  • SQF Quality Systems For Food Manufacturers
  • Internal and External GFSI Audits
  • Crisis Management
  • Gluten-Free Certification Program
  • SQF Advanced Practitioner Course
  • Prerequisite Programs

Food Safety Consulting Services

We offer On-Site private classes in English and Spanish. Please email us for a quote:

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Pastry Production at P&S Frozen Foods

We called up Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager at P&S Frozen Foods, to see how their food safety journey was going and how Icicle was empowering them to thrive after being acquired. What we discovered was impressive – among other things, the facility had dramatically reduced their inspection times more than even we would have expected.

Meet P&S Frozen Foods

P&S Frozen Foods started as a family-owned business in Kelowna, British Columbia over three decades ago. Their mission was to blend Hungarian-style pastry with British-style sausage rolls and turn it into a frozen product that could be finished at home. The product became a huge success.

“What we do is we take a very difficult product to make at home and we do the hard part; all the customer has to do is put it in their oven and take all the glory.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

With their own production facility, they were able to branch out into other products and developed a brand with a wildly loyal following. Their food was so good that every now and then they still get calls from customers asking about their favorite products, even those that were discontinued decades ago.

In 2016, P&S Frozen Foods was acquired by two companies that needed a facility to produce Asian-inspired comfort foods, like potstickers and wontons, and it has turned out to be a great collaboration. The company is now growing faster than ever, expanding into new product categories, and thriving as a business. But the acquisition wouldn’t have even been possible if Paul hadn’t been proactive about food safety back in 2012.

The Challenge: 90 Minutes With An Inspector Every Single Day 

Times were changing for food safety, but most companies were – and are – still working on paper. As Paul noted, “We will kill a whole forest to check the temperature of a freezer every day.” But these changes don’t always come easy; it is necessary to make the fundamental shift to trusting the right software to do the work.

There was also the issue of the dollars and cents; big customers like Sobey’s, the second largest food retailer in Canada, require their suppliers to have higher levels of food safety and quality through third-party certifications like SQF. Paul attended an SQF training program, but by the time it was over, he realized there was no way he could get certified on his own. He was far too bogged down by other business and food safety responsibilities, including 90 minutes daily with a federal inspector from the CFIA. He knew the way forward was to digitize his food safety processes. His pen and paper systems were just too inefficient. They were the roadblock to growth.

“We literally wrote down lot codes on one piece of paper. And when we put it into production it was put on three pieces of paper and they had to somehow balance out. It’s shocking how much we had to do just to make an invoice.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

He needed digital backups, he needed better lot code tracking, he needed to get away from the inefficient spreadsheets – and he had no starting point in the current paradigm of the business. Paul knew there had to be some sort of software that could empower him to finally get on top of food safety and recordkeeping in general, so he started looking.

Research brought Paul to a few software solutions online. He downloaded a couple and tried setting things up for a few days. It was a struggle – there were no guides, no customer support, no information at all. And then Paul realized why: the software he was trying to use were just glorified Word processors. They weren’t really all that different from what he was already doing, and they weren’t capable of empowering Paul in the ways he most needed.

So Paul did what most did back in 2011. He went back to his own spreadsheets, disappointed. Thankfully, Gerry Gerbasi, a food safety consultant working with P&S, had another idea.

The Best Solution is Always in the Last Place You Look: 

How Paul Found Icicle Food Production Software Gerry referred Paul to Icicle. As a new company, Icicle was in beta testing at the time and focused mainly on food safety elements like automated HACCP plans, but that was just the thing Paul had been looking for. More specifically, Paul was looking for a food manufacturing solution that was built to put not sales or accounting but food safety first.

“The industry is demanding more from food companies and we used Icicle to get there.”-Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

We worked with Paul to bring P&S Frozen Foods’ food safety plans into Icicle, systemize inventory management, and train their staff. In just a few weeks, P&S was running a cloud-based, connected system that would make audits and food safety easier than they could have ever imagined with old school spreadsheets.

When Paul first started using Icicle in the very first stages of development, he had it set up to generate HACCP plans and prepare for audits and inspections but didn’t use it day-to-day. Since then, the software has grown immensely through the feedback of valuable beta users like Paul. Today, the staff at P&S Frozen Foods use Icicle all day and every day, Paul told us. The company now has not only food safety, but a complete warehouse management solution that they dreamed of – and more.

At Paul’s request, we added features to meet the needs of P&S over the years:

  • Adjusted For Compliance: CFIA wanted establishments to identify exact physical locations on the plant for where cross-contamination hazard could occur. When Paul realized Icicle didn’t have this ability yet (no one did), we built the functionality needed in under 48 hours.
  • Automated Inventory Reports: With inventory managed in Icicle, we were able to automate report creation for Paul. This saved him hours of time each week and helped him optimize raw ingredient ordering.
  • Inventory Unit Conversions: Previously, the shipper or receiver had to constantly convert from kilos to pounds, etc. Icicle now converts inventory units automatically so that P&S’s staff doesn’t have to devote brain power to what computers do better – automation.
  • Purchase Orders and Receiving: When P&S Frozen Foods’ new owners asked for purchase orders and shipping receipts that had previously been unnecessary, Icicle was able to roll out this new feature quickly so Paul could improve his traceability systems even further. During the work with Icicle creator Steve Burton, Paul wondered…why don’t we integrate shipping and receiving logs so that Icicle can just populate the information without manual transcription? This was a great suggestion and that’s how Paul’s suggestion formed the basis for a whole series of convenient new, interconnected features in Icicle.

“In just a short time, Icicle went from basically a nice way to present a HACCP plan to auditor to total warehouse management. All our staff now log in to Icicle and use it. From the beta phase to now, Icicle is on the leading edge and dropping new features that we didn’t even know we needed.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

Within a year, P&S Frozen Foods was running a tight operation with all their data connected and stored in the cloud – and the rewards were significant.

The Result: Automation Saves Time and Money and Dramatically Reduces Audit and Inspection Times 

For Paul, the benefits of implementing Icicle were pretty obvious right from the start.

“Automation takes a lot of my workload off my hands. Before Icicle, I’d sit with a binder to verify every document, spend days of my life signing these things that could have been digitally verified. Now it’s one click and done. It made no sense in hindsight to do it that way.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

In addition to relieving Paul’s daily workload, P&S Frozen Foods was able to be a lot more efficient in all sorts of ways. For one, because Icicle is hosted in the most secure cloud in the world, his employees can finish their work on their phones while riding the bus, get meeting updates remotely as minutes are uploaded into the cloud, and answer client requests when they’re not in the office. Another benefit is that P&S used to have two full-time bookkeepers at two different sites. With Icicle, they can easily maintain a single offsite bookkeeper part-time because all the documents are managed automatically in the cloud. Most importantly, they also save money by preventing major errors that are a constant hazard to the food industry as a whole:

“Anyone who runs a food business knows that one of the toughest parts of the job is to have the right orders at the right time and ensure that they are coming in on time. If you have a delivery of $30,000 on the dock and you can’t print the shipping receipt, it makes perfect sense to have a cloud-based system that can help you side-step the problem altogether. If you have 12 people waiting to do the work and they can’t start because one ingredient is missing and they’re waiting for someone to run to the supplier and come back…I weep for the amount of money wasted. It’s totally avoidable. A good warehouse management solution is able to help us keep track of all of this and Icicle is able to do it for us.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

Balancing Expectations of Different Auditors, Inspectors, and Clients

Icicle has improved P&S Frozen Foods’ ability to respond to the needs of their clients and regulatory agencies. Balancing all of these expectations is no easy task. As Paul pointed out to us, there is a sense in which food safety is subjective. On the base level, auditors will see things the same way, but they have different ideas about preventative measures. With Icicle, Paul can lay out all sorts of different options without having to implement them in his facility. He can run tests, keep track of data, and show the auditor all the information they want to prove that he has met his obligations.

“Icicle has made it much easier to bridge the gap between the needs of the company, the requirements of third-party auditors, and the requirements of federal inspectors, because they’re not always the same!” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

This is especially useful when it comes to inspections and the time spent on them per day. Due to Canada’s heavy regulation of the meat industry, the daily inspection from CFIA took 90 minutes on average. The inspector would arrive, ask questions, and Paul would have to chase down documents. But with Icicle, the auditor could view most of the essential documents remotely from his office. They show up for a few final daily checks and are out the door in ten minutes, reducing inspection times by an astonishing 88%.

Paul’s SQF audit, when it came around, was no different. Successfully obtaining SQF certification was crucial for P&S Frozen Food’s business because big customers like Sobey’s require SQF from all their suppliers. Without Icicle, Paul knew that they would have to hire a QC person to organize all their files. With Icicle, securing SQF certification was laughably easy (literally).

When the audit came to the traceability test, Paul was all ready to go: using Icicle, he ran through the requested traceability test in minutes. The first 30 minutes of the traceability test, however, was spent in a confusing back-and-forth with the auditor before they understood what had happened. The auditor was asking a question without understanding that the answer was already up on the screen – in fact, the information was readily available before he’d even finished asking the question. Needless to say, P&S Frozen Foods passed their first SQF audit with flying colours.

"At the stage we were at when we implemented Icicle, I don’t think we would have passed SQF audit with the score we did and that would have lost us millions of dollars in business.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager

Icicle’s benefits didn’t end there. This past summer, Paul was caught off guard when he found out that their SQF audit would now also look at threat and vulnerability assessments. The Icicle team happened to introduce TACCP and VACCP plans weeks before P&S Frozen Food’s audit and, because Icicle is built to grow with your business and easily adapts to new regulations, Paul was able to get his TACCP and VACCP plan in order before the audit, saving them from losing costly points with the auditor.

The Regulations are Coming!

One of the things that stands out to Paul about Icicle is its ability to help him adapt quickly and easily to increasing regulations, especially as the Safe Food for Canadians Act came into effect for most food companies this year. The meat and poultry industries are the most regulated in the country, and for good reason – so many things can go wrong! For that reason, other food companies should look to the meat industry for queues of what’s to come. Many of the requirements in the new regulations have been in effect for P&S Frozen Foods for years because of the inherent risks and hazards of the sector. Other companies need to be afraid of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, Paul told us, and they will need a fast solution to meet regulatory requirements.

We asked Paul if he had any advice to other food companies:

“What could go wrong with Icicle? The only thing I can think of is that new users won’t take the help of the Icicle team to get started. You need to buy in and have someone train your staff properly. At the end of the day, your products and customer service can only get better. From a small family-owned business like we were all the way to the largest corporations, the integrity and ease of access of your data is crucial for your business going forward. Icicle is necessary for your success.” -Paul Tolnai, Operations Manager


Superior Food Safety has partnered with Icicle Technologies Inc. to bring Icicle, a smart food manufacturing software, to the food & beverage and the growing industries.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

All Courses for 2019 Now Available for Registration

June 6, 2019
Regular Price $725, ETP Price $250

July 17,18,19, 2019
Regular Price $850, ETP Price $300

August 7, 8, 2019
Regular Price $725, ETP Price $250

August 9, 2019
Regular Price $475, ETP Price $180

September 19, 20, 2019
Regular Price $725, ETP Price $250

November 13, 14 and 15, 2019
Regular Price $850, ETP Price $300

All SQF classes are official, advertised by SQF, and provided by Superior Food Safety a SQF Licensed Training Center. 

All Food Safety Preventive Controls for Human Food classes are authorized and posted by FSPCA, and provided by Oscar Camacho a FSPCA Lead Instructor.

The fees to attend these classes are subsidized through a joint venture between Napa Valley College-Superior Food Safety and funded by ETP-Employment Training Panel Program of California.

PRICE STARTS AT $180.00 + Administrative Fees PER CLASS (See each link below for details)

Please DOWNLOAD, COMPLETE and SUBMIT the forms below to before you begin the registration process.

Certification Application
Employment Training Panel

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Photo Credit: Natural Grocers Facebook

Meet Natural Grocers

When the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was introduced in 2011, it became a big motive for food companies to improve their quality assurance procedures to meet upcoming compliance deadlines, one notable example being HACCP requirements. We sat down with Sheryl Grider, QA Manager at Natural Grocers, to find out how they met this challenge. This family-operated business was founded in 1955 on the idea that everyone should have access to healthy food. They currently own over 140 retail stores across the west as well as a distribution center in Golden, Colorado.

The Food Safety Challenge: FSMA Deadlines

When Sheryl started at Natural Grocers in 2012, there wasn’t an easy system in place for food safety documents: everything was email and paper, including hold and release logs, SOP documents, QA forms, and incident reports. Sheryl knew that these tasks would be made much easier and more efficient with software, so after some online research, she presented a number of software solutions to the management of Natural Grocers to show how they could save time with FSMA compliance.

Sheryl found most of the options either not user-friendly, too expensive, or lacking in functionality. One software solution, however, stood out: Icicle, the food production software developed by Icicle Technologies Inc.

“Icicle was the best fit for Natural Grocers both in terms of functionality and pricing. In particular, I was very interested in Icicle’s ability to automatically generate HACCP plans.”

Icicle Generates Automated HACCP Plans

How does Icicle’s automatic HACCP generation work? Icicle builds a virtual model of a company’s operations to manage production that enables automation of several core processes. Once Natural Grocers signed on as an Icicle client, they defined their products in the system and then used Icicle’s smart hazard suggestions feature to associate hazards with each step of the production process. Sheryl then used an intelligent, user-friendly tool to conduct hazard analysis so that she could generate a complete, internationally-compliant HACCP plan that is always ready to go for inspections and audits.

For companies like Natural Grocers that had previously been doing most of the work manually, this came as a huge help. Not only does it save a lot of time, but it simplifies the task significantly. Setting up an automated HACCP plan meant Sheryl could take advantage of Icicle’s many other features, such as incident reporting and inspections.

Icicle Makes Teamwork Easy

Before using Icicle, the food safety and QA teams at Natural Grocers had to share multiple versions of Word documents via email. Sheryl knew that this was not an efficient way to manage food safety within a team.

“I used to have to send around Word forms for corrective actions around to everybody, but it was hard to get people to complete them. With the task assigning feature, everything is streamlined – no more scanning and sending documents.”

If a deadline passes before the task is completed, a notification alerts Sheryl of the delay.

“We also recently began using the teams feature,” Sheryl told us. “We have a new employee who is dealing with all the work requests for equipment maintenance. With this feature, I can easily assign maintenance tasks to the corresponding team member.” The teams feature allows for the most efficient allocation of resources by assigning tasks to specific team members, meaning it’s useful not only for maintenance management but occupational health and safety, sales, and other areas as well.

Another team-building feature that Sheryl recently started using is the meetings interface, which was added to Icicle in 2017 to comply with GFSI requirements as well as occupational health and safety regulations. She now has the ability to define a meeting, set an agenda, indicate who has been invited, indicate who attended the meeting, and assign tasks. Minutes can also be attached to specific agenda items for easy reference.

Icicle Supports Third-Party Certifications

Natural Grocers is unique in what they purchase and sell. They reject products containing pesticides or artificial sweeteners, and focus instead on providing high-quality products like grass-fed beef and organic produce. “It’s great that we can add kosher, organic, and other requirements suppliers might have,” Sheryl said.

“We plan to move to be completely non-GMO by 2020 and Icicle’s third-party certification can help us with that.”

Third-party certification fits into the broader supplier or vendor management aspect of Icicle’s infrastructure. Sheryl’s goal is to have Natural Grocers use this feature so that they can better control their supply chain and manage suppliers. “This way, when we plug in a new supplier, they just go through certain checkpoints instead of having to analyze and make the decisions myself. This can help us implement more rigorous controls.”

Looking Ahead: Icicle’s Expanding Features and Exceptional Customer Support

For Sheryl, knowing that Icicle’s roster of features is constantly expanding is a huge bonus. “I hope to implement inventory management to manage equipment and production orders and runs,” she said.

“I know that soon we’ll have more people in the company using Icicle so we can use it to its full potential. The relatively small percentage that we do use is helping me save a lot of time.”

When it comes to understanding all the ways Icicle can help, Sheryl learns new features simply by looking around the application. “I’m getting very comfortable with it and it is very intuitive,” she said. “If I have a question, I just pop over an email. The Icicle team has been incredibly helpful and responsive.”

For other companies, Sheryl recommends Icicle for food production management. “A lot of the benefits of Icicle were unexpected,” she explained. “I didn’t realize it would be so fantastic; if you start with Icicle right off the bat, everything can be tracked from the beginning with everybody on board.”

Request a demo of Icicle today and sign up for our mailing list to get feature updates, industry analysis, and more.

Superior Food Safety has partnered with Icicle Technologies Inc. to bring Icicle, a smart food manufacturing software, to the food & beverage and the growing industries.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

On-site PRIVATE Classes in English & Spanish and Consulting Services

Classes Available in English & Spanish and Consulting Services

  • HACCP Workshop
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Thursday, June 6, 2019


Superior Food Safety has partnered with Icicle Technologies Inc. to bring Icicle, a smart food manufacturing software, to the food & beverage and the growing industries. 

There are three different layers of oversight that every food business must consider. The first is government regulations like FSMA, which are mandatory in your jurisdiction and for the purposes of exporting to others. The second layer is specialty foods regulations, such as organic, non-GMO, vegan, Kosher, Halal, and the like. The third layer is driven not by government or consumers, but by retailers. This is where the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized certifications come into play. In the North American market, chief among these certifications is the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program.

The Benefits of SQF Certification

In a recent survey, researchers found that 92% of SQF practitioners, auditors, and stakeholders believe that passing SQF certification provides trust in the food manufacturing process. The same study showed that 86% of those surveyed report that big customers and retailers demand GFSI certification, such as SQF. This is the case with big name retailers like Costco, Sobeys, Target, Tesco, and Walmart.

Researcher Tetty Havinga writes that there are several drivers for retailers to require such certifications:

  • Certifications like SQF are a safeguard against liability claims
  • Programs that focus on quality, in addition to food safety, ensure high-quality products
  • SQF helps standardize requirements across their suppliers
  • SQF helps avoid recalls and bad press
  • Higher standards help build consumer confidence in the retailer’s brand
  • SQF helps companies outsource expensive quality controls

SQF certification carries international recognition of safe, quality food that leads to worldwide possibilities with the biggest retailers. The newest version of the SQF Code reflects the demand for safer sourcing, production, and transportation of food. So why not get this certification yesterday?

The reality is that SQF certification can be difficult to attain and maintain, with lots of paperwork, procedures, and annual renewals. Icicle can make SQF certification much easier – here’s how.

Steps to SQF Certification

Becoming SQF Certified is a straightforward process of seven steps:

  1. Learn about the SQF Code.
  2. Register your company in the SQF Assessment Database.
  3. Designate and train an SQF Practitioner.
  4. Obtain proposals from certifying bodies.
  5. Conduct a gap analysis.
  6. Choose a certification body and schedule an audit.
  7. Work with the certifying auditor as they conduct two initial audits:

  • Documentation review to ensure you’re ready on paper. This also allows time to correct mistakes before the facility audit.
  • Facility audits verify that the SQF System is effective and all elements interact properly, hazards are identified and controlled, and the company is committed to meeting SQF standards.

Passing the initial audit doesn’t guarantee continued certification. Depending on your score, your company will have annual or bi-annual re-certification audits, including one unannounced audit within the first three years. SQF certified companies and those working toward certification must familiarize themselves with SQF Code Edition 8 and update their procedures before an audit occurs.

New Things to Know: Food Fraud and Food Defense

SQF (and other GFSI-certified programs) are focusing more and more on the global problems of food fraud – the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food products or false or misleading statements made for economic gain – and food defence, which is aimed at preventing intentional food contamination by biological, chemical, physical, or radiological hazards.

Two new prevention systems, closely related to HACCP, have been introduced to address food fraud and food defense. VACCP (Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points) plans address the global food safety and quality problem that has been widely reported in markets like olive oil and honey. VACCP plans can help satisfy new SQF code requirements, like Item “The site’s food fraud vulnerability assessment… shall include the site’s susceptibility to raw material or ingredient substitution, mislabeling, dilution and counterfeiting which may adversely impact food safety.”

TACCP (Threat Assessment and Critical Control Points) is a program that focuses on employee background and facility security. By systematically analyzing employee’s background checks and increasing security, threats are minimized. A TACCP plan can satisfy new parts of the SQF code, like item “Vehicles (e.g. trucks/vans/containers) shall be secured from tampering using a seal or other agreed upon, acceptable device or system.”

How Icicle Prepares Your Company for SQF Certification

SQF Code is beginning to push automation and software solutions as a way to maintain excellence. Item requires that software be validated as appropriate, and auditors will determine if the SQF system in use is truly effective. Meeting the demands for software is a small reason to choose Icicle; the big reason that users love Icicle is that it makes every aspect of managing a food business simple, including certifications.

Whether your company is just beginning or needs a better solution to earn and maintain certifications, Icicle helps you through each step with integrated and time-saving features.


Reusable templates can be created in Icicle to enable employees to efficiently react with corrective actions to events that can place the business such as recalls. This feature also improves efficiency for routine tasks such as lab tests, inspections, and preventative maintenance.


Icicle walks you through setting up HACCP, TACCP, and VACCP plans – step by step – so that you can satisfy food safety, food fraud, and food defense requirements. The intelligent system aggregates anonymized data to provide smart suggestions, which makes the whole process faster. By setting up your HACCP, TACCP, and VACCP plans in Icicle’s digital model of your facility, you benefit in the long-term as your plan can change and grow easily with your company.


TACCP and VACCP concerns are addressed in Icicle’s Assessment feature. Managers answer customizable questions about an employee’s or vendor’s potential economic or ideological motivations that could lead to food adulteration or fraud. It also looks at the potential of ingredients, materials, and packaging to be adulterated for financial gain or terrorist purposes. The feature uses statistical algorithms to generate a risk profile score, allowing risks to be mitigated.

Vendor Management

The Vendor Management feature checks for vendor certifications to ensure every ingredient entering your facility is as safe as possible. This feature also helps create plans for alternate sourcing, fulfilling VACCP requirements. Learn more about what Icicle’s Vendor Management can do here.

Virtual Audits by Remote Access

The SQF Practitioner can grant the auditor online access to facility documents, building trust and transparency and minimizing auditor time in the facility.


The most cost-effective way to prepare for audits is to never find your company unprepared. Icicle helps you continuously maintain audit-ready standards so that you’ll never have to play expensive catch-up or fail an unannounced audit.

Icicle’s Alerts feature goes a long way toward preventing mishaps by notifying users of deviations at Critical Control Points (CCP), like a refrigerator’s temperature rising above its operational limit, so that the problem can be corrected immediately. Other mandatory records, like waste storage and disposal, are readily accessible and, tied into the Alerts infrastructure, help employees stay on top of tasks before they become mistakes.

Real-time alerts are one of the reasons that Food Safety and Quality Coordinator Christopher Foster of recently SQF certified company Ontario Pride Eggs finds Icicle’s automation a worthwhile investment:

“Our immediate return on investment for Icicle is real-time reporting that can capture non-conformities as they happen. If you receive real-time information and alerts, then you can act on it within minutes instead of hours – and fix it before it becomes a problem. It’s all on my dashboard; I can access Icicle through my computer, my tablet, or my phone.” — Christopher Foster, Ontario Pride Eggs

Incident Management

The Incident Management feature quickly allows the SQF Practitioner to launch an incident and reference suggested corrective actions. Root cause analysis and preventative measures can be added to the CCP’s plan. Employees can be flagged for re-training if necessary, and documents can be flagged for review.

Task Management and User Teams

Any task, whether day-to-day preventative maintenance or one-time assignments like a major equipment overhaul, can be assigned to individuals in User Teams through the Task Management feature. Integrated with Incident Management and Alerts, supervisors can monitor and be certain that corrective actions have been taken to fix any problem and maintain readiness.

Visitor Access Component

Per TACCP, visitors to the facility are required to be fully trained in safety or be escorted at all times. Icicle’s Visitor Access Component creates an account for regular personnel like delivery staff and contracted maintenance so that they fill out entry paperwork only once, saving time and building trust. Icicle can print temporary badges for visitors, increasing facility awareness of who should and shouldn’t be in sensitive areas while also fulfilling TACCP requirements. When threats are identified, visitors can also be flagged and locked out.

Automated Traceability

Enhanced Traceability and Automatic Mass Balance Calculations identify exactly which lots contain which ingredients, and how much of that ingredient remains, and does so in 90 seconds. When responding to a potential recall or simply pulling up the data during a re-certification audit, the speed and detail of Icicle’s traceability is unparalleled. This information is centralized and available on more devices than binder or spreadsheet systems.

Icicle users report that audit times have been cut 40% due to the readiness of thorough documentation and the ease of finding information. The ease of keeping records and finding them during audits is one reason Terry Goulah, Vice President of Operations and co-Founder of allergen-free snack company FreeYumm, uses Icicle:

“To be honest, I don’t think we could have [achieved SQF certification] without Icicle. They were impressed that we could show them any information they wanted, like where those products went. From my standpoint, that made the audit go very smoothly.” — Terry Goulah, FreeYumm

Earning SQF certification is only the beginning. You need a plan to stay certified. Automation never sleeps and never takes a day off. Icicle’s 24/7 watchful eye is the easiest way to grow your brand and increase profits by earning and maintaining certifications. Your company goals are closer than you think with the right management system to help you there.


Monday, June 3, 2019

F.D.A. Sets Intentional Adulteration Rule Compliance Date

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on April 17 announced it will begin routine inspections to verify compliance with the Final Rule for Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration in March 2020. The announcement was made at a public meeting about the final rule held at the F.D.A.’s College Park, Md., campus.

Also on April 17, Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner, food policy and response, notified food industry associations by letter that their request for a one-year extension of the compliance date for the rule, set for July 26, 2019, was denied.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rule on intentional adulteration (I.A.) addresses hazards that may be intentionally introduced to foods, including by acts of terrorism, with the intent to cause widespread harm to public health.

Food facilities covered by the rule are required to develop and implement a food defense plan. Ryan Newkirk, senior adviser for intentional adulteration with the F.D.A.’s food defense and emergency coordination staff, explained defense plan components.

“First, facilities must conduct a vulnerability assessment, which means finding the points in their processes that pose the greatest risk for intentional adulteration,” Mr. Newkirk said. “Second, facilities must put in place mitigation, or preventive, strategies to address these vulnerabilities. Third, a system must be put in place for food defense monitoring, food defense corrective action and food defense verification, which together ensure the system is working as intended to address the vulnerabilities. Fourth is recordkeeping.”

Facility personnel working at the most vulnerable points in a facility, and their supervisors, also will be required to take food defense awareness training and undergo education and training in how to implement mitigation strategies.

The proposed Rule for Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration was issued in December 2013, and the final rule was issued in May 2016.

The first compliance date for the final rule, July 26, applies to businesses with sales of $10 million or more per year and that have more than 500 full-time equivalent employees. The compliance date for small businesses, those with fewer than 500 full-time equivalent employees, is July 27, 2020. The compliance date for very small businesses is July 26, 2021. The latter businesses are exempt from the requirements of the rule with the exception that they must document that they meet the requirement to be exempt.

About 9,800 food facilities are covered by the intentional adulteration rule, the F.D.A. said. The rule also applies to facilities outside the country that meet coverage criteria and export food to the United States.

On March 12, 2019, 18 food industry associations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the North American Millers’ Association and the American Bakers Association, wrote the F.D.A. to request the agency extend by one year its compliance deadline, stating that food companies do not have all the guidance and other supporting materials that the F.D.A. said it would provide and that food companies think they need in order to draft fully compliant food defense plans.

“Faced with an impending compliance date and without this critical information, our members are being forced to develop food defense plans and train employees not knowing if their efforts align with the agency’s expectations regarding compliance with this rule,” the food industry associations said. “These challenges are compounded by the fact that the I.A. rule is the first of its kind and requires significant investment beyond current industry practices. If food defense plans do not align with F.D.A.’s thinking on the subject, effective protection of the food supply will not have been advanced, and resources will have been spent unnecessarily. Simply put, we want our members to be in the best position to get this right the first time.”

Mr. Yiannas, on behalf of the F.D.A., responded, “Owing to the importance of the public health protections embodied in the I.A. rule, the availability of draft guidance and training courses on the I.A. rule, and due in part to the prolonged time period between publication of the final rule and the initial compliance date (three years), we deny your request to extend the compliance deadline.”

Mr. Yiannas continued, “As with other FSMA rules, our modus operandi as we commence I.A. rule inspections will be to ‘educate while we regulate.’ In the context of the I.A. rule, that means that our initial routine inspection activity for I.A. rule compliance will consist of straightforward ‘quick checks’ conducted during routine food safety surveillance inspections. Via the quick checks, we will verify that the facility has satisfied the basic requirements of the rule (e.g., ‘do you have a food defense plan?’). This approach is intended to serve both industry and the F.D.A. in identifying those areas of the I.A. rule that are most in need of additional educational emphasis.”

Mr. Yiannas added that the F.D.A. was “working hard” to provide additional training modules and other technical assistance materials sought by industry.

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