Food Safety Audits

Food Safety Audits in a Digital World

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How Food Safety Audits are Done in a Digital World?

The food safety audits in the world are activities that are aimed to evaluate the levels of the food safety management systems that are in place in a food business. These are carried out by private parties and government regulatory authorities at times to protect the health of the public.

The food safety audits are performed in some businesses following conventional methods for paper-backed businesses. These are the worst as they are subject to events such as document loss, and document damage and require extensive resources producing a very high cost.

The other method is following digital food safety which makes use of software solutions to manage the complete audit due to its obvious benefits such as availability, high performance, and reduced costs and resource consumption.

Have Food Safety Audits Adapted to the Times?

Food safety audits have become stricter. More regulations and rules have been added owing to the Food Safety Modernization Act. The conventional method of managing food safety programs is becoming obsolete. Its documentation and processes are becoming outdated and the Food and Drug Administration authority agrees.

When an audit process is called, the majority of the food safety managers spend their time collecting critical data, then creating documents that incorporate data, these are then printed in hardcopies and then finally stored or delivered where there is a need for the reports.

This process produces stress and uses obsolete workflows in the 21st century. The director of food safety and sustainability for California Giant, Eric Valenzuela gave an interview where he reflected upon previous methods of how he would spend his time to budget and conduct on-site visits.

He stated that this form of paper-backed food safety audit was becoming unfeasible and unsustainable. This shows that the food safety audits need to be adapted by making use of digital solutions. These can optimize operational efficiency and make audits cheaper, quicker, and stress-free.

It is best to use a digitized food safety which makes use of software solutions to manage the complete audit needs due to its obvious benefits such as availability, high performance, and reduced costs and resource consumption.

Remote Food Safety Audits are the New Standard, and May Soon be Mandatory

Digital food safety makes use of software solutions to provide complete audit documentation due to its obvious benefits such as availability, high performance, and reduced costs and resource consumption.

Remote-Audits-featured-image

The opportunities for remote food safety systems are on the rise and are setting the bars for new standards. These standards may just become legal operation procedures. The physical site visits that require paper documentation are becoming more and more inconvenient.

In the preparation of the remote food safety audit, the program managers can do regular check-ins and monitor the workflows while also reducing the amount of preparation work needed in case of government audits.

Some of the benefits of the implementation of the remote auditing plan include limited physical interactions, a streamlined program for food safety, and increased working efficiency. Physical audits will soon be wiped out and replaced by the remote online alternative for food safety audits.

Remote Audits

Remote audits will soon be a thing of the future so it is best to hire a software solution company as soon as possible so that your company can help you perform the best, safest, cheapest, and quickest food safety audits. Increasing the reputation for your products.

–  The Pros and Cons

There can be some pros and cons to remote audits. As of yet, it is a little risky to perform remote audits completely. So at least 50% of the audit needs to be carried out physically. This is because there are some inherent risks to conducting remote audits, especially since this is going to be a new practice for several businesses.

  • Technological limits. When there is an observation of the site conditions, the observation is limited by the ability to make use of live streams. So there can be some technical limitations such as if the camera used for the stream is unclear, neither the auditor nor the auditee can see clearly. So a poor quality video can impede the levels of visual clarity.

 

  • Time barriers. There can always be a problem with time zones which makes it unfeasible for both the parties to appear. This can lead to scheduling barriers depending upon the location of the auditors and the facilities where the audits are carried out.

 

  • Legal liabilities. Some companies have strict restrictions on the use of video cameras and recordings because of the protection of their rights to proprietary information.

 

  • Confusion in the communication channels. It can become difficult to read the body language or interpret the phone calls and email conversations as they can lack clarity. These may need the re-visiting of findings and details multiple times just to ensure that there is no communication barrier and that all the accurate evidence has been collected.

For some of the cases companies come across, many already have their documentation and reviews performed remotely. The shift to the remote world allows credible evidence to be acquired in ways that can offer several benefits to companies when physical audits aren’t possible such as those experienced in COVID-19. Some benefits are:

  • Flexibility in the schedule. Remote audits can be conducted on a very flexible time schedule. The auditors are not required to have all their work completed in a fixed number of days due to the physical visits. Instead, the auditors can review all areas of the question even after the physical audit is over. Any query can be cleared instantly.

 

  • Cost reduction. The remote audits can eliminate all of the expenses that are required for traveling to the location which includes meals, hotels, flights, and mileage. These can add up depending upon the duration and location of the audits.

 

  • Social distancing. When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, there was a need for social distancing. Remote audits were almost unaffected as there was no physical contact involved.

 

  • Improve system operations. One can prepare for improvement as remote audits call for better use of electronic devices and software to document the complete management of the systems with adequate documentation. When remote audits are conducted, the records have to be stored and software facilitates the users by making access quick and easy, as all documents are accessed appropriately, there is no need to have paper-backed documentation.

The Best Practices to Follow

When companies opt for a remote audit, there are several best practices to follow. The following will ensure that all the audit objectives are fulfilled.

–  Critical Planning

The remote audits require very careful and upfront planning on the part of the auditor and the facility. It is best that:

  • It is determined by both parties that the best way to present all of the data and perform the audit would be to do so remotely and clearly.
  • It is advised to plot the route for the audit ahead of time by making use of site maps to make sure that all of the areas under audit are covered. This makes the audit be conducted efficiently.
  • Interviews between the parties can be scheduled ahead of time so which can ensure the availability of both parties. They can even be scheduled on an ad hoc base if there is a need that arises.
  • The technological requirements and needs also have to be evaluated. The access and the logistics have to be tested before the audit begins. It is critical to ensure that the website meetings, a shared space for documents, cameras, a high-speed internet connection, and all other prerequisites are working perfectly. This must be made sure before the audit so that time is not wasted on troubleshooting.

–  Familiarity With the Facility

Familiarity with the site being used is necessary. If the site is new, it is best to visit it at least once. These remote audits work only if the parties are familiar with all operations of the facility. It is not necessary for auditors to visit the facility before, but it does mean that after a visit, the auditor will know what to ask.

–  Website Meetings

The briefing sessions for opening, closing, and daily briefs can be conducted by making use of website meetings. The remote audits will provide high flexibility for conducting the sessions of the audit in sections where a briefing can follow each segment.

These allow the auditors to evaluate the records, review any video footage, and ask any questions deemed necessary to make sure that the information collected is accurate and complete.

–  Videos

The video sessions need to be live video sessions. Any site visits need to be led by a site guide along with a planned routine. The video can be recorded by making use of smartphones that have live-streaming capabilities.

Auditors can also make use of any pre-installed site surveillance to have additional footage of the business operations whenever needed.

Companies all over the globe are establishing the best workflows for their businesses to ensure food safety audits are a good experience and yield the best results. They try to provide the best employee safety features and follow the best practices to make sure that their audits are successful for them helping them obtain compliance and certifications.

The audits are a component that can be transitioned whenever needed to operate efficiently. If the audits are well planned, make use of internet and communication technologies, and is executed by a team who completely understands the facility and the business operations, remote audits can be very beneficial for businesses.

What’s the Cost of Manual Audits?

According to estimates from the Wall Street Journal, a manual audit of any type may cost anywhere from $5,000 and go up to $75,000. The cost of audit depends upon the size of the organization, the complexity of the data, and other factors as well. The audit has costs double that of a federal projected allocation report for the business.

internal-audit-process

This cost can be brought down by making use of software solutions that can digitize food safety audits. It is best to use a digitized food safety which makes use of software solutions to manage the complete audit due to its obvious benefits such as availability, high performance, and reduced costs and resource consumption.

How to Effectively Digitize your Food Safety Audit?

It is best to digitize the food safety auditing and reporting processes. The age of paper-based audits is coming to a gradual end. Even government municipalities are starting to incorporate new technologies such as blockchains, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and mobile solutions so that they can help enhance the food safety management systems.

Likewise, there are developments that are shaping how the food auditors are approaching site inspections for reporting of audits. So it is best to digitize the food safety auditing process as it provides benefits that outweigh the conventional approach. You can effectively digitize your business’ food safety audit by:

–  Conducting a Gap Analysis for the Business

For businesses, it is critical to identify where the gaps in the company lie within the existing food safety audit systems and then digitize the system. When the companies will perform an analysis for the gaps, they will map out the segments in the audit that require replacement or upgrades.

For instance, a mock traceability recall may be simulated for ready-to-eat meals which can then be used to identify how the various records are tracked. It becomes quite useful to identify if the current reporting approach works for the auditee and the auditors and then digitize the system.

–  Communicating Changes Frequently and Proactively

As time goes on, it is common for the business to transition from one process to another system. The communication must change proactively which can then ensure that the auditees and the auditors be aware of the changes prior to the audit.

For example, the communication will need a secure channel with the servers so the auditors plan their visits accordingly. This gives time to the auditees where they can make sure that their operational data is correctly backed up and that these communication channels are secure.

It must be maintained that there is an effective IT department before, during, and after an audit so this can become beneficial if there is a technical glitch or error which requires solving.

–  Creating Measurable Data Points

When working in food safety, almost all parameters are perceived as critical data. When considering digitizing food safety audits, it is crucial to filter out the valuable data from the abundant ones, especially when considering the audit reports.

It is very easy to improve the measurable data points and then have a performance index or follow a scoring system that can enable the auditees to identify their strengths and the improvement areas.

–  Developing Presentation Skills as an Auditor

It is safe to assume that the already existing digital food safety auditing tools do a brilliant job recording the data, but an area that remains underdeveloped is the data presentation.

When data is represented using graphical representations such as pie charts, and bar charts, the narrative behind them needs to be built upon by the presenter. This will help the auditees to stay informed about any anomalies, and determine the root cause as well. It can also be used to assess the overall performance of the business.

–  Having a Backup in Case Something Goes Wrong

Once the new digital system is completely integrated, it is best to have a backup plan in case the system breaks. It is best to perform this before the system goes live.

After a risk management test, you can be aware of all the vulnerable points of the system. This can allow you to be prepared and provide the personnel with a backup plan in case the technology fails completely or temporarily stalls.

Conclusion

Food safety audits that are operated remotely are a thing of the future. These will help companies reduce costs, provide better document storage, streamline business workflows, and provide an alternative to the conventional paper-backed audits. It is best to have a food safety management system from a professional software solution company to make sure that your pass your food safety audits.

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FAQs

What is the role of audits in food industry?

Food safety in the food industry has an important role. The audits are used for several reasons such as evaluating their management systems, assessing the condition of products and their premises, obtaining certifications for quality standards and food safety, and confirming their legal compliances with regulatory bodies.

Several food scandals such as the Horsegate scandal, increased customer demand to ensure food safety. This meant that the public auditors and private food sectors needed to develop a variety of standards for food safety and quality assurance. For this, they make use of food safety audits.

How often are food safety audits conducted?

Food safety audits need to be held by businesses themselves. It is best to have a food safety audit each year. These annual audits can help businesses evaluate their management systems, assess the condition of products and their premises, and confirm their legal compliances with regulatory bodies.

About Folio3 AgTech Practice

Folio3 is a Silicon Valley based Digital Transformation partner for entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies with a special focus on digitization of Agriculture, Production and Companion Animal industry. Having worked with some of the world’s leading animal health companies, cattle associations, cow-calf operators, cattle feeders, beef processors and beef marketing companies, we have the design and development expertise required to help you digitize your manual procedures and practices, whether you’re a farm or a ranch owner, veterinarian, feedlot manager, nutritionist, or processing plant owner, we have got you covered.

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