Remote auditing to help you manage risk during the COVID-19 pandemic
Richard Leathers - August 2020
COVID-19 has created global issues that have dramatically impacted food business operators. One of the
key consequences has been the inability for certification bodies, retailers and manufacturers to perform
vital audits. In fact, China initially stopped auditing in February, with the rest of the world following
suit in March.
This is a major concern as these audits ensure food safety and systems compliance throughout the supply
chain. Without the transparency and assurance that these audits provide, food safety standards may fall
by the wayside.
GFSI-recognised standards, such as BRCGS and FSSC22000, have seen audits put on hold and temporary
extensions put on current certificated sites, while due diligence supplier audits have also been halted.
When will normal audit protocols return?
Not for a while – and, as you’d expect, a backlog of physical audits is extremely likely. The food
industry ultimately needs to catch up with these audits, but how? Alternative risk-management tools are
needed, and this need has forced all stakeholders to look at current and future pinch-points around food
safety management systems assurance and compliance.
What’s the solution?
Blended audits (combining an offsite, remote assessment followed by an onsite audit) are an effective
alternative to the normal protocol. They open the possibility of working through the backlog of audits
that have been missed so far and may be used in conjunction with a risk assessment which considers:
- historical performance of the site including any risks identified from complaints and recalls
- availability of documentation and records in electronic form and willingness of the site to share
- capability of the certification body to conduct the remote audit (e.g. trained auditors, technical
- access to an IT system that both the certification body and organisation will be able to use, and
- capability of the site’s staff to use technologies employed in remote audit techniques including
onsite video (e.g. in production) and meetings.
Further still, there’s a plethora of technology that may be appropriate for auditing and assessments both
locally and remotely such as smartphones, handheld devices, laptop/desktop computers, drones, video cameras,
wearable technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and others.
Do they work?
Since the restriction of movement has affected physical onsite inspections, our team at Campden BRI has
successfully performed six HACCP compliance audits using a variety of the tools and techniques noted above.
Conducted overseas, these global audits demonstrated how blended audits ‘know’ no bounds when it comes to
Preparation is key
One of the key elements in conducting these was the preparation required in advance. Receiving HACCP team
meeting minutes, process flow diagrams and sections of hazard analysis documentation proved vital to
advanced planning and on-the-day assessments.
How can we help you?
You may feel overwhelmed by the above, but we can talk you through these preparation steps, assist with
your risk evaluations, conduct remote audits on your behalf or just provide general guidance. Simply get in
touch and we’ll be more than happy to help. Contact us to find out how we can help. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call our switchboard on +44(0)1386 842000 and they will be happy to
direct your call to the relevant person.
You’ve just missed our webinar on remote auditing, which took place on Wednesday 2 September. If you’d still like to watch it please contact Richard and he’ll get back to you with a recording.
Richard Leathers joined Campden BRI in September 2011, working in the areas of HACCP and Quality Management Systems.
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