The Risk Assessment Series #2

Food processing facility and quality assessment managers are dealing with the looming prospect of having their plants undergo more scheduled and surprise inspections and audits than ever before. This is the new landscape for food safety.
With increased frequency of audits and inspections, the risk of an auditor spotting something that isn’t quite up to par – no matter how small – is higher.
Consider the following scenario that a Sprague client experienced during an U.S. FDA inspection. The snack food distribution facility received a surprise FDA inspection right before last year’s Super Bowl – the holy grail of snack food consumption.


Everything went fine until the inspector was literally walking out the door and heard a sparrow. The mere hint that a bird could be present inside the facility triggered the auditor to requisition that a written response plan be presented, or the plant could face a shutdown.


A shutdown would have been catastrophic for the facility considering the timing. It also demonstrates that it is not business as usual anymore when it comes to audits and inspections.
“The FDA is now on par with any third-party audit firm and this is a good thing for food safety,” says Sprague’s Tim Gallagher. “The FDA’s expanded recall powers are also driving change with food processors.”
He says, the threat of a recall and the fact that information about recalls and violations is all a matter of public record, has food processors paying closer attention to their food safety and pest management programs.


“Their brand reputation is on the line and the cost of recall is significant both financially and in the eye of the consumer,” adds Gallagher.


For decades, Sprague has been working with leading food processors in the Western United States to help them prepare and successfully pass third-party audits and we are putting that expertise and savvy to work day in and day out.


What can food processing facilities do to put themselves in the best position to successfully pass an audit?


Sprague’s experts suggest the following:


  1. Value of a Second Set of Eyes – Have another set of eyes – ideally your pest management provider – walk through your facility and identify areas that may need corrective action. From spotting damaged door sweeps to cobwebs (a sign to auditors that cleaning hasn’t been done regularly) on shelves, a fresh set of eyes can see things you don’t.
  2. Make Sure Your Documents Are Audit Ready – With more unannounced audits and inspections taking place it is essential your documents be organized and readily accessible. There should be no delay in accessing or sharing documents with auditors or inspectors. Systems such as Sprague’s Online Logbook allow clients and Sprague staff to organize and update documents in real-time.
  3. Take the Right Corrective Actions – What corrective actions are being done to prevent or eliminate pest issues? Are they working? Have they been documented? Regularly review data your pest management provider shares and let it help you create solutions and refine your pest and food safety programs.


“The Sprague mantra is to ‘act as if’ your audit or inspection is taking place today,” says Gallagher. “This keeps you in the mindset to stay on top of details and be prepared for whatever comes your way.”


Food Processing & Manufacturing