Food processing facility managers know the importance of product quality and run a tight ship to meet regulatory requirements, while delivering goods on time and without issues. Third-party food safety audits help ensure that operators are practicing food safety measures, and proper preparation for these visits, whether they occur in person or are held remotely, is essential to your success.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has required changes to the way audits are conducted in food processing facilities, third-party audits remain a priority to ensure that food safety standards are upheld. Unfortunately, understaffing and limitations to interior pest control service may have provided the perfect conditions for pests to enter and multiply in facilities, unnoticed. Whether your facility has continued to participate in audits as usual, has adjusted to a hybrid version, or has paused in-person audits during the pandemic, remaining prepared is crucial. Operating a food processing facility is a demanding job already, and the last thing you want to do is fail an audit due to preventable pest issues.
A poor audit score—or worse, a failed audit—could have damaging effects on your business, ranging from tarnished reputations to canceled orders and lost profits. With the pest control portion of your audit accounting for up to 20% of your final score, it’s important to have a reliable pest control provider who understands your business and your industry’s requirements for food safety and pest control. Additionally, your provider needs to be aware of the various audit schemes that in are use and what their specific, individual requirements are.
Your Pest Control Program
Because food processing facilities provide ample resources needed for survival—shelter, water, ideal temperatures and food—they will always be prone to pests. Although operators in these facilities have strict sanitation and safety measures in place, pests such as cockroaches, rodents, and stored product pests can still disrupt operations.
An integrated pest management (IPM) program, which focuses on preventive techniques rather than reactive treatment for pests, is one of the best ways to make sure your facility is prepared. Partnering with your pest control provider to assess your facility’s pest pressures and maintaining a proper sanitation and cleaning schedule are key steps to a successful IPM program.
Maintaining proper documentation is also necessary to ensure IPM success, as well as an essential part of the pest control portion of your food safety audit. Keeping documentation updated is important because, even with a pest-free facility, you could still lose points on an audit due to insufficient or poor documentation.
Your auditor doesn’t just want to see pest monitoring devices and a pest-free facility. They want to see an ongoing commitment to upholding food safety measures. The following documents can help demonstrate that commitment.
- IPM plan: This documentation includes your written IPM program, pest management food safety rules, and your risk assessment. Make sure these documents are kept updated (at least annually), and address any recent changes to your IPM program or facility.
- Pest sighting log: Facility managers and staff should have this available and updated at all times. Entries should include the date of the sighting, type of pest, location, and the actions taken to prevent future occurrences.
- Service documentation: These are reports of your pest control provider’s visits and will provide the auditor with more details about any pest findings, pest pressures specific to the facility, and whether any corrective measures taken by your facility were successful.
- Pesticide documentation: While the use of pesticides in food processing facilities is often limited, your pest control provider should keep a record of any pesticides used, along with labels for the products and safety data sheets. These will show your auditor that you’re maintaining a safe and environmentally friendly facility.
Now that you know what information is needed for your food safety audit, be sure you stay prepared. Audits can be unannounced, so staying ready will help prevent any unpleasant surprises. The goal is to be ready every day for an audit.