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Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's)

What are SOPs?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are descriptions of particular tasks undertaken in a food processing operation. A specific SOP should address the following: the purpose and frequency of doing a task, who will do the task, a description of the procedure to be performed that includes all the steps involved, and the corrective actions to be taken if the task is performed incorrectly. SSOP Programs includes an example of an SOP for cleaning an automatic labeling machine.

Are SOPs different from Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)?

Yes, SOPs represent a different set of jobs to be performed that may or may not be related to the safety of a food product, while GMPs refer to a set of procedures and measures taken by a plant to ensure that the food is not adulterated: i.e." manufactured under such conditions that it is unfit for food" (Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act section 402 a, 3), or "prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health" (section 402 a, 4). In a plant environment, all SOPs should take GMPs into account when being written and as such SON and GMPs are used in conjunction with each other.

In the SSOP Programs example given above, while the SOP for labeling machine cleaning is being performed, the employee doing the task should stick to GMPs by wearing clean clothing and a hair net, by avoiding contamination of the product with the QUATS solution, and by washing his/her hands after finishing the task and prior to handling food products.

Are SOPs mandated by regulatory agencies?

FDA mandates GMPs but not SOPs. USDA mandated Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for Meat and Poultry Operations effective January 27, 1997. The rule calls on plant management to develop SSOPs that address daily routine sanitary procedures, before and during operations to prevent direct product contamination or adulteration. Procedures should be specific for each plant and can be as detailed as the plant wants to make them.