Dealing with unannounced audits effectively…
One thing is for sure regarding these types of audits- they are on the increase not just from your supermarket customers but from BRC too. The obvious reaction from food producers is that the audits are there to catch them out, spin that on its head for a positive outlook and they are a way of protecting business interests, brands and reputation on all sides of the agreement. We have all heard of the Russell Hume disaster and nobody needs that sort of attention.
Lets’ run a scenario…I produce pies and decide to expand by selling to a retailer. I have managed to get my business SALSA approved and have won a contract to supply a medium sized retailer. As part of that agreement I am aware that they can turn up at the unit and carry out an inspection with very little warning…
So how can I deal with an unannounced audits effectively with a positive outcome?
Firstly, know your own process and food safety system inside out.
If you understand and are actively involved in its’ implementation you are less likely to get caught out. This means being audit ready every day. If you do not know what is happening, then food safety & unannounced audits can become a nightmare experience so get all practices, schedules and paperwork in place and done when they should be and avoid the headache.
Secondly, cross train staff.
Not just one person should know how to carry out certain roles, for example someone from the HACCP team should always be on site and know the whole system so they can answer queries or step into someone’s role if needed due to sickness etc. Everyone should know how the system works, where to find the records and what policies and procedures need to be actioned and when.
Thirdly, keep on top of checks.
By having paperwork verified by supervisors/ managers any problems that present themselves can be dealt with immediately rather than showing themselves further down the chain. If needs be the food safety system may need reviewing to prevent further issues. So once my pies are made, I check that they meet the right temperature and if they don’t the process would be reviewed to discover why.
A final pointer to deal with unannounced audits but fundamental to any food safety process whether unannounced audits happen or not is forming good habits, in other words, developing a culture of trained staff who yes know what they should be doing but also the reasoning behind the rules. My pie makers handling the raw ingredients need to know why cross contamination happens, why record keeping is critical for legal reasons, why they must follow hand washing schedules etc.
Now I am no longer a pie maker, I am a food safety consultant. What can I do to help you, the food producer, with these, getting more and more frequent, dreaded unannounced audits?
You as the business owner, director, manager and enthusiast can actively do a lot, as you have just read above, but having me come into your business makes getting to the stage of being audit ready a lot easier. Getting your food safety system up and running on full steam and meeting the requirements of the standards you are to be audited against….making you audit ready everyday!
I can review your food safety system as it currently stands and report on what you need to do to be ready to deal with any inspections of the process, not just unannounced audits. You may think why bother? but having another pair of eyes looking at internal processes can highlight many things that can save you time, money and save you from embarrassment. Regular internal audits help you keep on top of your system and prevent those bad habits creeping in.
I can train and cross train staff either in person or supply online programmes. Staff are your greatest asset and liability. Having people who know what and why they are doing something goes without explanation. A food safety consultant will recommend what online training programmes your staff need to complete and which training provider to go to. As part of a visit to a food company, I often do informal short training sessions on subjects that are specifically geared to your processes, such as, hygienic hand washing.
Working with a food safety consultant can make managing unannounced audits much easier and can also help your product be the best it can be.