The top priority for food-related businesses is to prepare food in a way that prevents foodborne illnesses among customers. For years, this has also been a primary concern for the FDA. Mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a law known as the Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation was enacted in the U.S. in 2015. It states all food products have to be prepared in a way that is safe for human consumption. Along with this new law came a requirement that a certified Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) would be in charge of certain risk-prevention activities.
What Is a PCQI?
According to the laws, a PCQI is an individual who has been qualified through an extensive training program that covers applying risk-based prevention in food preparation settings. This individual must have completed his or her training under the standardized curriculum that the FDA has deemed to be adequate.
Beyond the standardized training and curriculum studies, the individual may be qualified through in-person experience on the job in which he or she has directly created or implemented a food safety system. The on-the-job training and experience must be at least equal to what would be learned in the curriculum that is standardized by the FDA.
What Are the Job Responsibilities of a PCQI?
On the job, a PCQI has four main responsibilities according to the laws set forth by the FDA. This person is in charge of overseeing or performing:
- The creation of a qualified food safety plan
- The validation of preventive food safety control measures
- The review of records pertaining to food safety
- The ongoing analysis and updating of food safety plans
What Does the FDA Standardized Curriculum Include to Become a PCQI?
The FDA standardized curriculum covers a range of topics relative to food safety. Once a qualified course is taken, an individual is provided with a certification from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO). The curriculum includes components such as:
- Understanding biological food safety hazards
- Learning how to create and implement a qualified food safety plan in the workplace
- Gaining knowledge about process and allergen preventive controls
- How to handle a food recall properly
- Understanding food safety regulations set forth by the FDA
- How to properly make, keep and analyze food safety records in the workplace
In addition to these primary points of information, an individual who takes a course to become a PCQI will learn a lot more in-depth information about foodborne pathogens, chemical contaminants, sanitation basics for employees, and various other basic food safety information.
Overall, PCQIs serve a highly important role in the food and food-service industries. In the event there is a problem and the FDA steps in because of food safety concerns, the PCQI will be highly involved in answering questions about the existing food safety processes and rectifying the situation. Therefore, not only is it important for those interested in becoming certified to do so to further their job opportunities, it is vital, and sometimes legally required, for business owners to ensure they have employed a PCQI.