The importance of food safety and hygiene audits

A food hygiene or food safety audit reduces the risk of unsafe food reaching consumers, decreases costly product recalls and fosters a positive reputation for your company. It also provides a comprehensive insight of your food processing facility’s ability to comply with established food hygiene and safety standards and regulations, as well as review company’s specific hygiene policies and practices in place to meet those standards.

There are several reasons why FBO’s (food business operators) should regularly perform comprehensive food safety and hygiene audits both internally and externally:

  • To identify, control, and respond to health risks associated with contaminated and unsafe food and the risks associated within the landscape in which they are operating
  • To evaluate the management systems and processes they have in place like raw material procuring, production, packaging and supply
  • To assess the condition of the manufacturing, storage and distribution of the products they are producing
  • To obtain food safety and hygiene certifications to show their customers they are independently assessed to a measurable and recognised industry standard
  • To ensure they remain compliant with regulatory and industry best standards
  • To show customers and suppliers transparency in maintaining high levels of efficiency, safety, and hygiene
  • To improve customer trust and reliability and build brand reputation

A few points to note when the auditor arrives at your premises:

  • The auditor is not there to catch you out
  • The auditor can be used as a sounding board for ideas
  • Most auditors would rather see the ‘warts and all’ – and that does include paperwork that is crumpled or a bit dirty; pristine paperwork in a working environment is rare
  • All businesses need to keep records; are your record sheets up to date, checked and verified? Are there any blanks? It’s important not to leave any blanks – create a key so you can explain to the auditor months later why something was not done rather than trying to make it up on the day
  • Are staff wearing clean, suitable, protective clothing and following personal hygiene rules, particularly hand washing? Auditors do notice if a member of your team walks off to wash their hands or replace a dropped knife
  • Are staff toilets and changing facilities clean and tidy? Auditors get a good idea of culture from these areas
  • Are staff aware of food allergy hazards? Do the employees know the rules for allergenic ingredients? Auditors can ask any member of staff during a walk around, so ensure your team are prepared
  • Are premises pest proofed and free from any signs of pests? Some premises are in areas more vulnerable to pests; auditors understand this, but they want to see that you’re taking enough action to prevent pest ingression

There are many certification bodies across the UK and beyond, and there will always be a standard that fits your operation. It may be that a new contract you are chasing requires 3rd party certification for you to win it.

Yes, there is a financial and time investment needed, but what price do you put on your reputation, your business, and your commitment to being the best you can be.

For more information on audits or a suitable certification, please contact our Head of Food Safety & Compliance, Rob Henry FIFST ACIEH:

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Published on March 29th, 2022

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