In this webinar, AIB International’s Earl Arnold defined inspections and audits, along with how they can complement each other. He then discussed the inspection process and resources needed to successfully complete an inspection. Finally, he offered insight into issues that might be observed during an inspection and methods used to correct those issues.
What is an inspection?
To know how to pass an inspection, you first need to understand what an inspection is and is not. An inspection is a snapshot in time of what you are seeing right now. It can identify potential issues or deviations from established procedures and also identify the things you are doing well. A third-party inspection should be unannounced to get the best outcome, allowing the inspector to see the operation or area as it is normally and not in a prepared state. Inspections tend to be more physical in nature and should focus on equipment, the overall facility and even personnel practices going on at the time.
What is an audit?
An audit evaluates documented programs to verify how formalized the programs are and whether events are recorded appropriately to support the scope and function of the prerequisite programs in the plant. For risk mitigation, audit programs can identify potential problems before they occur.
If you operate your organization in a manner that does not meet customer and regulatory requirements, what do you think will happen? It is likely that you will be making what is called, in regulatory terms, a “violative” product, which means contaminated product that is likely to be a food safety hazard. Having a strong internal audit program will uncover and correct food safety issues before they become a significant problem.
How can inspections and audits complement one another?
Because inspections are a physical activity that looks to confirm that conditions are compliant on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, they may subsequently trigger the need to audit records to pinpoint where controls were once effective and when they became non-compliant.
Conversely, an audit might uncover a condition that would prompt the auditor to go into a physical inspection mode (for example, signs of infestation). If a company relied solely on auditing records and observing activities without a physical inspection component, it is unlikely that the end result would achieve regulatory compliance. Bottom line is, plant records must accurately reflect its conditions, and those records must always be verified by a physical inspection.
The main purpose for conducting inspections and/or audits is to identify any potential issues that deviate from regulatory requirements, facility procedures, or established best practices. When identifying, you need to ensure to identify the root cause, and once an issue is identified, you’ll want to control the situation. This may require both short- and long-term corrective action. The objective here is to do your best in eliminating the issue and preventing recurrence.
This is where the ICE method can be beneficial:
- Identify – Look at your root cause of an identified issue.
- Control – Implement measures to minimize food safety issues and risk.
- Eliminate – Prevent recurrence of that issue.
How to Pass an Inspection
When conducting a self-inspection in preparation for a third-party inspection, you should start by having a defined procedure, such as our Consolidated Standards. Identifying the right procedure for your facility depends on the products produced and/or operations that are performed. Reading and understanding that procedure will assist you in conducting a detailed and robust self-inspection, which is the first step in passing a third-party inspection.
Next, you will need to gather the resources needed to conduct the inspection, which includes a method to record any observations, positive and negative, and any deviations from the established requirements. This could be as simple as a note pad and pen, or a smart phone or camera to capture the observations; if using a smart phone or camera, be sure that their usage adheres to any site guidelines regarding photography of personnel and equipment. During an inspection, some establishments use a pre-defined checklist, while others prefer to write down observations as they see them; an AIB International auditor does the latter.
In your process, you will also want to include some of these tools to conduct a detailed inspection. Something always used is a flashlight, one of the best tools to assist in identifying potential issues. Next, and most important, is the absolute best tool you can have – your ability to engage your team in identifying an issue and to teach and educate on what is seen, why it is an issue and potential recommendations on how to correct it.
Within the established procedure, you will need to schedule how often inspections should occur. The current industry best practice is once a month, allowing you to be proactive in identifying the beginning signs and evidence of pest activity, coinciding with their life cycle of approximately one month, and before it becomes an infestation. You will also want to involve your food safety team, ensuring that it includes individuals from different departments to achieve a multi-team approach. Proactive education of your team means that new issues can be identified more quickly, and corrective actions put in place to maintain compliance, allowing you to create an authentic food safety culture.
Each of these steps will successfully prepare you for passing a third-party inspection. For specific insights into inspecting product zones, exterior grounds, receiving, and other production areas, watch the webinar recording.
As you have questions or need additional insights, please contact us at email@example.com.