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    Risk Assessment and Management, Part 5B: Verification and Food Safety Audits

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob.” PMA’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker is with me today to continue discussing the importance of measuring your food safety program. We’ve been talking about verification as part of a series of posts about risk assessment and risk management.

    Bob, in your previous post you discussed some of the tools we can use to verify food safety programs, but are there others?

    Bob Whitaker:
    Yeah, Julia. Another tool we can use to measure adherence to our food safety programs, and assess our risk management strategies, are food safety audits. As I’ve previously discussed, sometimes the food safety discussion in our industry is over-shadowed or somehow equated with discussions on what audits are best and how many we have to do. Remember, audits are only a tool; a snap shot in time.

    Realistically, audits are like taking an exam when you know when the test will be scheduled, have all the questions already in hand, and you know what the answers need to be. But leaving aside the on-going discussions on food safety audits, in the context of verifying our food safety programs, food safety audits are a mechanism to demonstrate to yourself, your senior management, and your customers that you are following your food safety program – and that you can verify it through your audit that day. At their best, food safety audits are excellent training opportunities for employees, a chance to have an independent set of eyes critique your program, and a time when you can step back from all the other responsibilities and critically look at your food safety program and how it is being implemented. So an audit can be an important learning experience.

    Just as we discussed in the last post about needing a plan of action for responding to microbial testing results, it is important to have a plan of action for audits. It is critical that once audits are performed, you assemble your food safety team and work together to develop corrective actions to address deficiencies uncovered during the audit. This is an important step in completing the audit; demonstrating to your team, senior management, customers, and possibly regulators that you have acted responsibly to address any food safety issues that might arise and were detected in your audits.

    Remember an audit is not complete until the corrective actions have been developed and implemented. Preparing corrective actions is also an excellent training opportunity for your team. And be sure to document in writing all your corrective actions.

    Julia:
    Thank you, Bob. With all the talk about audit proliferation and audit fatigue, this helps put the usefulness and role of audits into perspective. Thanks very much to our listeners, please join us again next time!

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