How to Prepare for a Food Safety Audit in 4 Steps
By iFoodDS Team
October 11, 2021
Food safety audits are inevitable, but they don’t have to be feared. If you’re prepared, they can go smoothly and be nothing more than a brief interruption. Your company culture should support your food safety efforts so that you’re always ready. When you’re caught off guard, audits can be time-consuming and end poorly. Take the time to train now. Here are four key steps to preparing for a food safety audit:
- Review your current food safety program and plan the audit.
- Prepare your team.
- Perform an internal audit prior to the external audit to verify your food safety program is working.
- Evaluate the internal audit results and take the necessary corrective actions.
1. Review your current food safety program and plan the audit
First, review your current food safety program and documentation. You should already do this at least once a year, but it’s a good idea to take another look before an audit. Ask yourself:
- Are you using the right logs and assessments?
- Are you completing them on the daily, hourly, or even more frequent schedule that will be required by regulatory authorities?
Understand what will be required of you during an audit, and make sure you’re collecting the right data at the right frequency. Confirm you have documentation for all of your standard operating procedures.
An auditor will likely examine microbial test data, equipment sanitation test data, environmental test data, and product test data. Pre-plant, pre-harvest, and daily harvest tests are important for field operations. Audit data might also include verification records, farm or ranch maps, and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
This is a good opportunity to evaluate your current data storage system and see if it’s working or if there are areas for improvement. During the audit, you will need to quickly access the data and show it to the auditor. This can be time-consuming with paper records that aren’t properly organized. If you have a technology solution, it should be easy to use and provide comprehensive analytics. Data security is another issue to consider. Password protect your records so you can share them with the auditor in a secure manner.
Our software helps you gather food safety data and store it securely on the cloud for instant access.
2. Prepare your team
Next, prepare all team members who will participate in the audit. They need to feel comfortable with their roles and expectations, familiarize themselves with procedures and key terms, and be ready to answer questions from auditors. Retrain employees if necessary.
It’s also important to have open communication between your food safety, quality, and operations teams. Organize an internal meeting with all of the teams that will be participating in the audit so that everyone is on the same page.
While it’s critical to test employees’ audit readiness, they should be conscious of food safety every day. If you build a food safety culture in your organization, your team will correctly follow procedures all the time, not just during an audit. Consider incentivizing data capture and monitoring food safety throughout every step of the operation.
3. Perform an internal audit prior to the external audit to verify your food safety program is working
After you review your current food safety program and prepare your employees, you should perform an internal audit. Also called a mock audit, this serves as a “test run” before an external audit. It verifies that your food safety program is executed correctly and is accomplishing your goals.
Run through the full audit process with your team. This includes asking questions that might come up during the external audit, performing a physical inspection of your facility or field, and reviewing all of your food safety data.
Internal audits should be completed every six months or even every quarter, depending on the size of your operation.
4. Evaluate the internal audit results and take necessary corrective actions
Finally, evaluate your internal audit results and fix any issues that came up. Record corrections or updates to your procedures and training records. If things are not addressed promptly, they will still be a problem when the external audit occurs.
Ask yourself if the internal audit validated your food safety program. Make sure you have documentation for everything you say you are doing, because an external auditor will want to see that. Develop response plans and times.
While external audits are stressful, you can minimize the pressure by preparing ahead of time. These four steps will help set you up for a successful food safety audit. Ideally, your company culture will facilitate audit prep and ensure you are always following correct procedures. Building a food safety culture now will keep you compliant in the long term.
Be Audit Ready Anytime with iFoodDS
Audit prep is even easier if you have the right tools at your fingertips. When your food safety data is collected and organized in one place, you’ll have it ready to provide to an auditor at any time. iFoodDS offers this capability with our food safety software. Receive immediate alerts of corrective actions and get easy access to your documentation in a secure dashboard. See how iFoodDS can help you be ready for an audit 24/7 by requesting a free demo.