Below we outline five considerations for businesses looking to learn more about how to prepare for a food safety audit:
Establish and Train Your Food Safety Audit Team
An organized and well-trained team facilitating food safety audits is key to a successful plan. By identifying the appropriate roles for each team member and ensuring that all necessary in-house training is performed, the staff behind an audit will be well-prepared for a food safety audit and knowledgeable of the proper documentation of policies essential to execute the audit.
Prepare the Correct Documentation
A significant step of the auditing process is verifying and documenting food safety procedures during production and distribution. While you can manually store and handle hard copy documents, it's much timelier and more efficient to manage this information electronically. Additionally, being informed on what types of documents are needed is essential. As such, collecting the correct documents and certifications, such as audit and raw material records, approved supplier lists, and CCP monitoring records, will be necessary. Sound recordkeeping systems encourage transparency, allowing the auditor to request tracking from a good finished back to the supplier and enabling a smoother audit process.
Understand and Know Regulations
Start by reviewing your organization’s definition of regulatory compliance, then identify key focus areas before beginning a supplier audit. Often with food organizations, safety is emphasized as a prevention-oriented approach that requires food processing businesses to enforce preventive controls and food recall plans. So, ensure your organization's familiarity with relevant regulatory guidance such as FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) while also considering other requirements such as the FSVP, Third-Party Certification, and the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Regulation.
Perform Mock Audits
There is no better way to prepare for an actual audit than to simulate one. By turning your preparation into practice by executing a mock audit, you can visualize how a real-time audit will go. It can be done by accessing inspection guides for your product categories, carefully studying procedures, and setting up the systems necessary for a successful exercise. It can also be helpful when doing this exercise to think like an auditor by focusing on critical areas such as premises and equipment, purchase and raw materials, supplier evaluation, staff and training, and process controls. This exercise will improve your employees' confidence in the process by highlighting vulnerabilities and areas for improvement to perfect your procedures.
Take Corrective and Preventive Action
A food safety audit is a real-time assessment of your facility and food safety measures. It could likely reveal issues needing immediate attention. When the mock or formal audit uncovers non-conformance, you should be prepared to take corrective action to meet the audit requirements. Implement CAPAs (corrective and preventive action) to address and resolve the issues that surface during the audit. Regardless of the results, take time to review and report with your team on the audit, including any documented CAPAs and improvements. These practices will help you identify areas for organizational improvements and future audit executions.
There are tons of resources, time, and money that go into performing a successful food safety audit. Ensuring you correctly approach and prepare for an audit is key to creating a reputable and safe brand for your business. Exploring solutions to simplify your company's role in an auditwill help execute future food safety goals.