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Ensuring Food Safety and Compliance with Co-Packers

Ensuring Food Safety and Compliance with Co-Packers

Food safety is a critical concern for any food marketer, and working with co-packers—third-party manufacturers who produce food products to a marketer’s specifications—adds an additional layer of complexity. While co-packers offer the benefit of experienced production capabilities, it’s essential to ensure that they adhere to rigorous food safety standards to protect consumers and maintain brand integrity. This article outlines key strategies for ensuring food safety and compliance when partnering with co-packers.

Understanding Food Safety Responsibilities

In a co-packing arrangement, the marketer is ultimately responsible for the safety and quality of the products that reach consumers, even if they do not directly manufacture the product. This means that any lapses in food safety practices by the co-packer can have serious implications for the marketer, including product recalls, legal liabilities, and damage to the brand’s reputation.

Key Strategies for Ensuring Food Safety

  1. Conduct Thorough Due DiligenceBefore entering into a co-packing agreement, conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the co-packer’s food safety practices. This due diligence process should include:
    • Facility Inspections: Visit the co-packer’s facility to assess cleanliness, organization, and adherence to food safety standards.
    • Review of Certifications: Verify that the co-packer has relevant food safety certifications, such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), SQF (Safe Quality Food), or BRC (British Retail Consortium).
    • Compliance History: Check for any past violations or recalls associated with the co-packer.
  2. Establish Clear Food Safety RequirementsYour co-packer agreement should include detailed food safety requirements that the co-packer must follow. These requirements should cover:
    • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs): Ensure that the co-packer adheres to federal GMPs, which include standards for facility cleanliness, employee hygiene, equipment maintenance, and pest control.
    • Sanitation Protocols: Outline specific sanitation procedures that the co-packer must implement to prevent contamination.
    • Training Programs: Require the co-packer to provide regular food safety training for their employees.
  3. Implement Rigorous Quality Control MeasuresTo maintain high food safety standards, implement the following quality control measures:
    • Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of the co-packer’s facility to verify compliance with food safety requirements. These audits should be both scheduled and unannounced.
    • Sampling and Testing: Perform regular sampling and testing of products to ensure they meet safety and quality standards. This can include microbiological testing, chemical analysis, and sensory evaluations.
    • Documentation and Record-Keeping: Require the co-packer to maintain detailed records of their food safety practices, including cleaning schedules, inspection logs, and test results. This documentation should be readily accessible to the marketer.
  4. Define Incident Management and Recall ProceduresDespite best efforts, food safety incidents can occur. Your co-packer agreement should include clear procedures for managing such incidents, including:
    • Incident Reporting: Require the co-packer to immediately report any food safety issues or deviations from established protocols.
    • Corrective Actions: Outline the steps the co-packer must take to address and correct any food safety issues.
    • Recall Procedures: Establish comprehensive recall procedures, including the co-packer’s role in providing timely information and support during a recall. Allocate financial responsibility for recall-related expenses to ensure that both parties are prepared to handle such events.
  5. Foster Open Communication and CollaborationEffective communication and collaboration between the marketer and the co-packer are essential for maintaining food safety. Foster a transparent relationship by:
    • Regular Meetings: Hold regular meetings with the co-packer to discuss food safety performance, review audit findings, and address any concerns.
    • Shared Goals: Align both parties’ goals around maintaining the highest food safety standards. This shared commitment can help prevent issues and improve overall product quality.
    • Feedback Mechanisms: Implement mechanisms for providing and receiving feedback on food safety practices, allowing for continuous improvement.


Ensuring food safety and compliance in co-packing relationships is crucial for protecting consumers and maintaining brand integrity. By conducting thorough due diligence, establishing clear food safety requirements, implementing rigorous quality control measures, defining incident management procedures, and fostering open communication, marketers can mitigate risks and ensure that their co-packer partners uphold the highest food safety standards.

At Juris Law Group, we specialize in crafting comprehensive co-packer agreements that prioritize food safety and compliance. Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can help you navigate the complexities of co-packer partnerships to ensure the safety and quality of your products.

For more information or assistance with ensuring food safety in your co-packer agreements, reach out to Juris Law Group, your trusted partner in food law.