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Food Safety Audits in a Digital World: 4 Things You Must Know

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HeavyConnect Team


It’s no secret that most food safety managers dread audit time. Audit prep can be tedious and frustrating. The good news is, you can change your outlook on audits by knowing these four things:

1) The FDA is all-in on a new food safety approach

The FDA believes we will experience more changes in our food system over the next ten years than we have over the past several decades. This week, they’ve announced The New Era of Smarter Food Safety, an initiative that supports a new approach to food safety by leveraging digital technologies and smarter tools to focus on prevention and outbreak, new business models, and a food safety culture revamp.

“One of our most important resources we have today lies in our ability to unleash the power of data,” the FDA said in a July press release.

A critical part of their plan focuses on technology and smarter tools. This trickles down to nearly every aspect of food safety compliance and how we’re managing it in a COVID-19 world. With the FDA pushing for more modernization within agriculture, it’s important to know where they stand and how you can be ahead of the game.

2) Food safety audits haven’t adapted to the times

As more rules and regulations are being set by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) amid COVID-19, the classic way of managing your food safety program and its documentation is becoming obsolete - and the FDA agrees.

Most food safety managers spend weeks collecting necessary data and then must create, print, store, and deliver that documentation. This process perpetuates unnecessary stress and outdated workflows in our modern economy. 

California Giant’s Director of Food Safety and Sustainability, Eric Valenzuela, reflected on how he previously spent the majority of his time and budget conducting site visits using paper-based workflows. Eric spoke about the moment he realized paper-based auditing was becoming unsustainable:

"In prior years, we would have to visit each operation and review the documents which took a lot of time in a day. Now with the use of the digital application, we can review those documents beforehand which speeds up the process.  This allows us to visit more farms ensuring they are following Food Safety practices consistently. If you're just doing it seasonally for the audit, some crews can forget what's going on and a lot of issues can come up."

This may seem like common sense, but operations that practice food safety every day feel more prepared for audits and find compliance workflows easier to manage. 

3) Remote food safety audits are the new standard, and may soon be mandatory

Like most of us, you probably have your hands full with managing food safety record-keeping. 

Remote food safety opportunities are on the rise, and the constant physical site visits required by paper documentation workflows are already out of date.

In preparing remote food safety audits, your program manager can do more regular check-ins and reduce the amount of prep work required before a third-party audit arrives onsite. Plus, you and your growers can say goodbye to paper and all of the inconveniences it brings.

The benefits of implementing a remote auditing plan include:

  • Limited physical interaction, keeping your workers safe 

  • Increased efficiency including reduced drive time between the field & the main office 

  • A streamlined food safety program 

Certifying bodies are also leveling up their efficiencies as a result of implementing remote audits, confirming that digital audits are here to stay.

4) Food safety culture is a rising public image factor

Keeping your compliance records organized is the best way to prove that your organization's food safety culture is at the top of the priority list. The way you approach and promote good food safety speaks volumes to your company values.

Your food safety culture exemplifies how your organization cares for the public’s well being

As FDA Deputy Commissioner in the Office of Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, said in an interview

"No food safety management system [FSMS] will be successful without a food safety culture in which employees understand what behaviors they must demonstrate and have the training and education they need."

It’s clear that regulatory bodies and suppliers alike are prioritizing the New Era of Food Safety to meet the changing demands of compliance, work locations, technology, and most importantly, consumer buy-in of your brand.


Make your job easier and more efficient with paperless audit software

Third-party food safety audits used to require hours of paperwork. HeavyConnect does all that for you, digitally organizing your food safety documentation to meet the requirements of an audit. HeavyConnect continuously tracks what is going on in the field and gives you and your consultants a real-time view of your food safety culture. 

HeavyConnect was founded in the heart of California’s Salinas Valley and sets the bar for paperless audit software by providing industry-leading customization and rapid, knowledgeable customer service.

Want to see it in action? You can book a demo with HeavyConnect here.


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