If a third party audits your supplier, you may request a copy of the latest audit report. Larger companies conduct their own supplier audits or contract through a third party. In either case, the audit results are not typically shared with other companies. A supplier that does not comply with your request should at least confirm whether or not an audit took place. As an alternative, you can request a copy of the latest self-inspection, which all companies should conduct. In conjunction with the self-inspection report, request a copy of corrective actions taken against any discrepancies noted.
Request Product Sample
It should go without saying that before deciding on a supplier for any ingredient, you should request a product sample and a corresponding technical data sheet. This may seem obvious, but some companies overlook this simple task. The sample should be of sufficient quantity to conduct a “test run” in your own facility; you need to replicate the manner in which your own product will be produced to avoid any surprises later. If the ingredients you intend to purchase are subject to routine analysis, as is the case for most commodities, inform the supplier that you expect a certificate of analysis (COA) with each shipment. The COA should include clearly defined parameters agreed upon by both you and your supplier.
Also, inform your supplier of your requirements regarding load security. Will you require that shipments be sealed with numbered seals that match those on the bill of lading? Again, this is common practice, especially with commodity-based products. While this documentation cannot necessarily take the place of an on-site audit, there are many tools available to help ensure the quality and wholesomeness of the ingredients you procure.
Lindenmuth is owner and general manager of Food-Fit LLC, a technical services consulting firm. Reach him at email@example.com.