An audit is very critical for any organisation and preparing for the same is a huge task in itself. Audits provide the evidence that operations are compliant with a standard. This becomes more critical in the case of a food audit , since non-compliance would imply health concerns for the consumers. In general, a lack of organization, untrained staff, and misinterpretation of compliance criteria will result in a food audit going wrong. Follow these five steps to prepare for your audit, and the auditor will be more comfortable with your implementation of the standard.
1. Take care of the small things
Make sure that conditions throughout the facility (especially storage and food handling areas) are tidy and things are properly labeled and in their designated place. Sufficient space between the walls and stored items is necessary for pest control and cleaning activities to take place. The internal food audit should be conducted at least two months prior, or a third party could be considered to assist your audit team to increase the rigor of the audit.
2. Teamwork is the key
Preparations for the food audit should being at least 3 weeks prior. It is mandatory that the employees are familiar and updated with their written job descriptions and the monitoring records they are responsible for. They must also understand the hazards related to the CCP identified in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, plan. The key staff should be familiar with terms such as “corrective action,” and the difference between verification and validation. On the Management front, trace exercises should be conducted at least one week before the food audit to make sure team members are comfortable with their roles and the exercise as a whole.
3. Avoid last minute hassles
Don’t fill out documentation in front of the auditor, or seek to correct deviations while the audit is going on. Avoid use of vague terms like “we try” or “sometimes”. A pest management service scheduled just a day before the auditor will not impress an auditor.
4. Attendance of the Senior Management is necessary
When someone in a senior role is present during the food audit, the auditor gets the image that the management is dedicated to maintaining quality. Senior management should speak with the auditor about the standard/audit and explain some of the steps that have been taken to comply with the standard.
5. Your best offense is not being defensive
Despite a great preparation, do not get offended if the auditor still feels something is lacking. The auditor is only doing his/her job. It’s highly disrespectful to challenge an auditor if there are clear non-compliance issues. If you disagree with the findings, take it up through the appeals process.
Keep the above things in mind to efficiently prepare for an audit. A good preparation would result in a smooth, hassle free audit.