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Welcome to remote audit/inspection in the food industry survey

The traditional delivery of food controls has been based around a visit to the food premises by an authorised food control official. The findings made during that visit inform any actions that will be taken to protect public health. This format was developed to address safety hazards that could be identified through organoleptic inspection and resulted in major improvements to food safety and quality in the previous century. Private food companies have developed their supplier audits on similar principles.  In the latter part of the 20th century, food production became increasingly an industrial process. Many of the emerging hazards were unable to be detected through the traditional organoleptic methods. Food safety management systems such as HACCP were developed to address these hazards. The result has been that food control officials and private auditors increasingly rely on the analysis and interpretation of data to evaluate the food safety practices of food business operators. As this evaluation can be carried out remotely the role of traditional visits by food control officials and auditors is being reconsidered and the potential for remote assessment explored.  The restrictions and limitations created by the Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the value of using remote techniques and encouraged some Competent Authorities and private companies to reconsider operational practices.
The aim of this survey is to improve understanding of the use of remote audit/inspection in the food industry by the competent authorities and the industry itself, including possible verification programmes for trade purposes.
The purpose is to collect lessons learned and best practices in the delivery of remote inspections/audit. This information can be used to support regulators developing improved practices in remote audit, inspection and verification. This objective will be achieved by :
  • Establishing the extent to which remote audit/inspection is already in use by food control officials, regulators and private auditors in the sample group
  • Establishing the conditions under which it has been used successfully
  • Collating examples of good practice
  • Identifying barriers and limitations relating to its use in the food industry for the delivery of official food controls.
Food Control Officials carry out a number of actions, some of which may be formally defined in a country’s food legislation. The terms audit and inspection are defined by Codex Alimentarius (CXG 20-1995) and are used in that way in this survey. As each can be carried out remotely, the term audit/inspection is used in the questionnaire to signify either or both.
An audit is an evaluation carried out against pre-agreed objectives, typically an accepted standard, while an inspection is an evaluation of compliance with the food legislation. An inspection is carried out by an authorised officer. An audit can be carried out by correctly trained personnel who are not also authorised by the Competent Authority. An inspection can be the same as an audit but an audit is not necessarily an inspection. Audits are typically carried out by trained personnel, often in the context of third party accreditation.