FRESH produce safety auditing processes could be better, according to an Australian report.
The Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand (FPSC) document says innovation would be a vital element to improving audit procedures.
The FPSC, with the assistance of industry professionals and their networks, conducted a study of 13 food safety schemes and certification bodies in Oceania, the Americas, United Kingdom and Europe to determine what new techniques were being applied to improve the current audit process.
According to the FPSC report, some of the areas ready for innovation in the fresh produce audit system include:
- The introduction of blended audits using information and communications technologies, which is particularly relevant with COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions limiting the ability of auditors to physically visit sites.
- Shifting the audit process from a perceived one-day-per-year mentality to an improved food safety culture across the business 365 days per year.
- Auditor professional development, training, incentive programs, and attracting new auditors to the profession.
- Risk-based assessments determining audit frequency.
- Unannounced audits and spot checks.
- A suite of new technologies including wearables such as smart glasses.
The FPSC has invited industry to comment on what are the top priority action areas for innovation in the audit process.
FPSC chairman, Michael Worthington, said innovation in food safety processes was a key area the FPSC was keen to drive.
"Through this report, we are engaging in a discussion with industry about what's working in food safety compliance, and what could work better," Mr Worthington said.
"We are finding that around the world, most, but not all, fresh produce audits follow a similar pattern: a once per year audit conducted on-farm or in the facility using 'old' technology."
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"However, there is scope for this to change, and we are engaging with industry on what are the top five areas that industry would like to see innovative action on.
"We wanted to answer the question: 'What does fresh produce food safety compliance look like by 2025?' We believe the current food safety compliance system (effectively an annual audit) is working reasonably well.
"However, the system does have its weaknesses and the purpose of this study was to uncover work that is being done locally and globally to deliver a more robust, efficient and cost-effective food safety compliance system that underpins consumer expectations, today and into the future."
Industry is encouraged to submit comments on the report findings and the top areas for innovative action by September 25, 2020.
Contributions can be made at the FPSC website at: https://fpsc-anz.com/2020/08/31/comment-on-the-fpsc-2025-innovation-agenda-review-of-the-audit-process/
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