Four food safety audit mistakes you’re making and how to avoid them

By Douglas Fair, COO at InfinityQS

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

Related tags: Food safety, Quality management system

How do you feel when you imagine your next regulatory audit? Stress? Anxiety? Overwhelming dread?

The average recall can cost a manufacturers as much as $10m​, making compliance important to your brand as well as your bottom line.

As you manage the daily ins and outs of your quality role, dealing with a regulatory audit in the moment is just a small percentage of your role in food safety. Instead, a successful food safety audit requires extensive preparation, which can make your audit process run much smoother.

Examine some of the following common mistakes and how you can avoid them and alleviate some of the stress associated with your next food safety audit.

1. You haven’t developed an audit plan

With social media and ease of gathering information, food safety news and recalls; negative stories regarding food safety can spread quickly. Customers don’t just expect high levels of food safety, they demand it. Farm-to-fork traceability is necessary to stay compliant and competitive across the food and beverage industry.

Doug Fair of InfinityQS
Douglas Fair, COO at InfinityQS

What is your plan for achieving audit readiness? Do you have an audit plan at all? Fire-fighting and last minute scrambling for data and documentation shouldn’t be part of maintaining and documenting compliance. In contrast, you can prepare for an audit by checking the accuracy of tests as well as ensuring tests are complete and recorded every time.

2. You’re not efficiently collecting and recording data

To maintain food safety compliance, required data must be collected and maintained in a secure, efficient way. While there are a multitude of data collection methods, some manufacturers continue to rely on antiquated methods, such as pen and paper or spreadsheets.

3. You’re reacting instead of preventing and preparing

Use technology and innovative tools to collect more accurate data that is available in real-time so that you can provide documentation of compliance during your next audit. Preparing for an audit with timely reports and data will also allow you and your team to identify problems before they become real issues that can have a negative impact on audit results. Additionally, to test your organisation’s readiness, perform food safety audit drills on a regular basis.

Once you have that source of real-time data, you can then take immediate action instead of reacting to older data and cleaning up the resulting mess of unaddressed mistakes. By taking informed action in real-time, you can avoid some of the headaches associated with fighting fires.

4. You’re not adequately documenting action taken

When preparing for an audit, documenting irregularities to record the application of proper steps and action is vital. Make sure the technology you have in place not only collects the data necessary to make informed decisions, but also guides your team’s actions and documents those resolutions.

As a food manufacturer (especially if your organisation is a manufacturer of high-risk foods) may be subject to an administrative detention of its products or suspension of its registration with the US Food and Drug Administration, if you cannot produce the appropriate records to prove that products are safe.

With proper audit planning and technology-driven access to real-time data, you can make immediate decisions and document those actions. Instead of worrying about your next audit, prepare with data, action and documentation so you can stress less and breathe a little easier.

Douglas C. Fair​ - chief operating officer at InfinityQS

Fair has nearly 30 years of manufacturing, analytics and statistical application experience and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality.

As chief operating officer at InfinityQS, Doug uses this experience to drive the company’s operational performance. Prior to joining InfinityQS in 1997, he began his career at Boeing Aerospace and spent several years working as a quality systems consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 companies.

Fair earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Statistics from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. He is a regular contributor to various quality magazines and has coauthored two books on industrial statistics: Innovative Control Charting (ASQ Quality Press, 1998) Quality Management in Health Care (Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2004).

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