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Yikes, the food safety auditor is coming to pay you a visit. A business imposter who is literally being paid to judge you. Scary, huh? Perhaps for some. But it shouldn’t be. Sure, a looming audit can put you on edge - especially if you’ve not had one before. But a shift of mindset is required. Because, when you think about it, audits are a massive opportunity.
Audits provide a snapshot of your performance as a business. The reason they are so useful is that they highlight - in black and white - exactly where you can improve to become a safer, more efficient and more profitable business. You get to discuss your protocols and challenges with an expert. And at the end of it all you get a roadmap for bettering your business.
Sounds like free business consultancy to us! Embrace it.
If your food safety protocols are in order, you should breeze through your audit simply by doing what you would do on any normal day. But that’s not what you came here to read. So here are seven tips - that you probably know already - to settle your nerves and help you get the best from your audit. Here we go...
Make sure everyone in your team feels part of the preparation for your audit. The success of your business is a goal that should be shared by all; something to which everyone feels they are contributing. A team effort reduces stress and ensures any issues can be discussed and resolved together. Even better, it fosters a culture of collaboration and reinforces the notion that food safety is woven throughout the fabric of your business.
Make individuals responsible for different elements of your food safety protocol. It gets results.
Okay, audit day has arrived. If you see something that isn’t right while walking your site or reviewing documentation with your auditor, don’t just cross your fingers and hope they don’t spot it. Flag it and tackle it straight away. What better way to show the auditor that identifying and resolving issues promptly is part of your culture?
The auditor is going to ask you questions. If you don’t know the answer, say so. And if there’s someone on site who is better qualified to answer, go and get them. You won’t gain anything by lying. It could backfire too - undermining the entire audit and rocking the auditor’s trust in your operations.
Rehearse the audit. It might sound silly, but sometimes you don’t pick up on the little things until you put yourself in the shoes of an auditor.
Occasionally staff who know their roles inside-out crumble when they are questioned in an audit. Don’t make eye contact and hope for the best - that’s what some of your staff will be thinking come audit day. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
You can probably anticipate with a reasonable degree of accuracy who your auditor may want to talk with. Pick staff in key roles and make sure they are totally au fait with your food safety protocols. You could even do some role play. With a little practice your staff will feel far more comfortable and confident by the time the auditor arrives.
If you think a visit from a clipboard-wielding food safety expert is uncomfortable for you and your staff, imagine how the poor auditor feels. They have to poke their nose into an unfamiliar place that’s chockfull of strangers who would all be far happier if they weren’t being audited.
So give your auditor a proper welcome when they arrive. Ensure someone is there to greet them. Make them a nice cup of tea. It’s a small gesture. But one that will smooth any awkwardness and pave the way to honest, productive conversations. Milk and two?
Audits are not a witch hunt. Nobody wants to stop you producing the food you put so much time, thought and care in to. That’s not what the auditor is there for. Follow the tips above and embrace the opportunity to improve your business - you will soon see that the auditor is more friend than foe. Good luck!