Audits play a key role in verifying proper food safety at food and beverage processing facilities.

An audit's true function is to provide the client with an accurate and detailed picture of the plant's performance. The client wants to know what is really happening in the plant day after day, and whether actions need to be taken to improve the plant's performance. Unfortunately, this function is not achieved when an auditor walks into a facility and conducts an inspection. This inspection does not dig deep enough into a company's activities to determine how the business normally runs from day to day.

If the traditional audit process does not work, what will work? How can a client get an accurate asessment of a supplier's performance? The key is to have process in place to allow the auditor to understand how the organization's food safety management system works, the audit process needs to assess if critical processess are not present or if critical procedures are weak.

The auditor uses a checklist to determine what elements are to be addressed in the audit. The checklist may require that the auditor evaluate a certain number of procedures, plans and documents.

Typically, a week before the audit, quality assurance (QA) personnel scurry around the plant to prepare for the auditor's visit. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans are reviewed, records are checked for signatures, and the corrective action log and other documents are brought up to date. Some training may be done to ensure employees can answer audit questions correctly. QA works with operations to ensure the plant has a thorough cleaning the night before the audit. Then, just before the auditor arrives, there is final pre-audit to ensure that the plant is looking good. Experienced QA personnel know just what to do to ensure that the plnat receives a good audit score for that snapshot in time of the auditor's visit.


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