Preparing for an Audit

Why do I need an audit?

Food safety has been in the headlines lately. It is top of mind for everyone in the industry. In fact, some on-farm food safety programs may require your farm to go through an audit to reassure buyers and consumers about the safety of your product(s).

By passing an audit you:

  • instil confidence in your customers by demonstrating due diligence
  • gain a competitive edge
  • protect yourself if a food-borne illness is suspected of coming from your farm.

What is the purpose of an audit?

  • To assess how well you meet program standards or vendor requirements
  • To assure you have properly implemented your food safety program and are complying with its requirements.
  • To spot problems or concerns and prevent them from re-occurring.

What happens during an audit?

1. You receive an audit notice. The auditor may send you a notice in advance to arrange your audit. This notice may also explain the audit and how to prepare.

2. The auditor will visit your farm on the date you choose. During an on-farm audit, the auditor may:

  • Fill out a farm profile with you. This requires information such as your farm's legal name, address, phone/fax numbers, email, manager, etc. Have this information ready at hand.
  • Review your food safety program with you. The auditor may ask you to present the program that you use. He or she will want to see if the information you have is up to date.
  • Review your records. This is an important part of an audit. The auditor will want to see all the records that your on-farm food safety or vendor program requires you to keep. Examples: water test and treatment results, chemical and drug use records, required written practices.
  • Inspect your farm. The auditor may tour your farm to inspect your equipment and buildings. They will look to see: Do you have proper places for hand washing? Is your operation clean? Are there any pests present? Any holes in walls? Any other concerns?
  • Interview you or your workers. The auditor may want to ask you or your workers questions about your farm.

3. Provide you with an audit report. After your on-farm audit, you may ask for a copy of the report. The report will tell you what areas scored well and what areas you need to improve to comply fully with your food safety program.

If everything is in order, congratulations! You will pass the audit.

How do I prepare for an audit?

First, know the scope of the audit. For example, does it include your farm, your packinghouse, or both? Is it just for food safety or quality as well? Will it review how well you are meeting your customer's needs, or just food safety?

Here are seven more tips to help you prepare:

1. Review your program manual, or the audit standards before the audit.

2. Review the audit checklist if there is one. It will guide you through what the audit will cover.

3. Have all the records you need at hand. Most audits ask for records going back up to a year.

4. Check your premises for food safety concerns by using the program manual or audit checklist as a reference. This includes both equipment and buildings. Look for things like holes in the wall, facilities for hand washing, light covers, chemical and medicine storage and so on. Fix the problems you spot before the audit.

5. Clean your premises. This includes floors, contact surfaces, equipment and garbage.

6. Review your last audit report if you have one. Make sure that you have fixed any concerns that came up at that time.

7. Ask for tips and advice from friends who have been through an audit or on-farm food safety experts. This is important if you find it hard to understand the program standards, or on how to meet them.

Remember: the goal of the audit is not to fail you, but to help you improve food safety on your farm. It will help you fix any concerns before they become problems. It will also help you prevent problems from recurring.

In the end, an audit gives you a competitive edge. And, it increases your customers' confidence in the food products you sell. It can be one of the best investments you make in your farm's future.

 


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: FoodSafety@ontario.ca


Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 15 March 2009
Last Reviewed: 15 June 2011