Remote Food Safety Auditing: A New Way Of Monitoring Food Safety

Remote Food Safety Auditing: A New Way Of Monitoring Food Safety

Marshalee Valentine

Thursday, May 14, 2020

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If you are a food/beverage manufacturer you may be wondering how to maintain your current local and international food safety certificates and certifications.

The truth is, regardless of the fact that COVID-19 has partially closed borders both locally and internationally, we will still need to ensure our food safety systems are being implemented effectively especially in times like these when the risk of contamination is extremely high.

It is without a doubt however that certification, accreditation and regulatory bodies will need to make provisions for alternative methods of assessing the adequacy of the systems that are implemented. We are privileged to be living in a time when fast advancing technological meeting solutions will make remote assessment possible.

While some certification and regulatory bodies may be averse to this new solution of “e-auditing”, they may eventually need to jump on this bandwagon to ensure the health and safety of our population.

As with most remote activities, this method of assessment will have its pros and cons, one of the latter being the ability to adequately audit some processing activities and storage conditions effectively.

Some advantages include saving time and money usually spent on travelling and accommodations, adequate time to improve information gathering and sharing and an improvement in the efficiency of the audit due to less time navigating through different departments and locations. My first experience with a remote audit came with a bit of uncertainty and it will for you also. Here are some tips to prepare you for what may be the new normal.

1. Choose a meeting tool that can accommodate the minimum number of individuals that need to participate in the audit and one which will facilitate the time allotted for your audit. In simple terms, you may need to subscribe to a premium package before you decide to send a Zoom invite to your auditors.

2. Check your Internet connections prior to audit as you may have connectivity issues when doing a walk-through of your facility. You can always increase your bandwidth and install modems in areas that normally have connectivity issues.

3. Create a logical audit plan taking into consideration time differences and availability of all team members. Try as best as possible to stick with your initial audit plan.

4. Prior to start of audit lay your ground rules for housekeeping. Number 1 rule: Mute your mic if you are not speaking and ensure all are in a space free of outside noise and disruptions.

5. It is always good to have an overview of your process ready to present to your auditors; this could have a summary of your organisation, organisational chart, process flows and facility layout.

6. For your initial audit opening meeting you will need to have all important members of the team present; however, limit the number of individuals on-call during the audit as this may cause confusion.

7. Have all documents in a folder ready to share, to reduce unnecessary wait during the audit.

8. I would recommend an on-the-ground internal lead auditor who is knowledgeable of all internal processes to convey information to the auditor. Only call on the experts when necessary.

9. Ensure internal/on-site auditors operate with integrity, only divulging information that is accurate.

10. If your certification body does not offer this method of assessment, you may need to make that recommendation. I would also advise that you increase the frequency of your internal audits to ensure that you are maintaining both local and international food safety requirements.


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