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#1 HeatherH

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 03:11 PM

Hello, I am curious to see if anyone has been through the SQF 2000 Audit with a similar story. Last month we received the book Audit, we received 100% we were told this was the first time the auditor had given 100% (I will tell you personally, we were glad to get a good score however we all knew we were far from 100%). This week he came to do our onsite audit, he spoke with one employee our plant supervisor and that was it. He was here two days he did a brief tour of the facility on day and spent the rest of the time in the conference room. We received the announcement we passed “with flying colors”. He was unable to give us a score but said we were almost at level 3 (we were aiming for level 1 and some were worried we would not make that). We are glad we passed, however let down at the same time. Is this how it will continue to be or did we just get a lazy auditor? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
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#2 Simon

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 03:32 PM

Hi Heather, interesting story and one that strikes a chord with me.

I have a lot of experience with BRC and have seen many auditors of variable ability and work ethic. Some are extremely thorough arriving at 8.30 a.m. and leaving at 6.00 p.m. going through everything with a fine tooth comb finding lots of genuine nonconformities and opportunities for improvement. Some arrive at 10.00 a.m and leave at 3.00 p.m. with a nice long lunch in between. The result of both audits is usually the same e.g. a pass, but in my opinion the value of the former is infinitely higher if the company is serious about food safety and has a mindset of continuous improvement.

Of course we expect variability in everything, but such variability is concerning considering we are talking about auditors who are trained, competent and who operate to strict auditing protocols within an accreditation scheme. I accept companies would prefer the easy audit. If you are not happy complain.

Welcome to the forums. :smile:

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Simon


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#3 HeatherH

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 03:40 PM

Simon,

Unfortunately I am not in a position to complain. We spoke with the practitioners who feel let down as well. We all just kind of feel as if we worked super hard, did weekend trainings and for what? I spent hours yesterday looking and looking and looking for what was supposed to happen. Every training we had we were told the auditor will not talk to the practitioners he is going to be asking you guys, you guys have to know this stuff. That’s why I wanted to see if anyone had actually been through this type of audit before and did your auditor follow through? There was absolutely NO integrity in this audit whatsoever. Thank you for your information however beings that Wal-mart requires this certificate I doubt anyone that could complain is going to loose sleep over this, it’s unfortunate however reality.


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#4 Cathy

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 04:00 PM

You really should contact the Certification Body and if they don't respond adequately, contact the Accreditation Body who audits the CB. You have a right to do this. This was not an appropriate audit. 80% of the time is supposed to be in the facility - not an office. This is spelled out in the Criteria for Cerificaion Bodies. If you don't complain - and if one day this CB gets into more trouble - you could lose your certification along with other companies they have registered. Wal-mart might be requiring GFSI audits but you select the CB and that drives the quality of the audit. It seems you may need to select a different one. I conduct SQF Audits - and would never have done it as you have described and the CBs I work for would not allow it either.


Edited by Cathy, 29 July 2010 - 04:06 PM.

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#5 HeatherH

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 04:02 PM

Cathy,
Thank you and that is what I thought. However I can't go around saying "you didn't even audit us" if I am not sure. We were all told (including upper management) that he would be on the floor talking with employees. We are all sitting around going ???????. Have you been through an SQF Audit?


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#6 stsqf

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for sharing your story HeatherH! It is alarming to think that once a company is "SQF Certified" they are given sort of an "easier ride" with their customers in the fact they have less expectations of you once you are granted that certification - yet in fact, this is the type of audit these companies may have - unacceptable. I will feel completely let down as well if this happened to our company, we too have been working diligently towards this certification and all that hard work for a lazy auditor who doesn't look for anything?

Cathy has a really good point - even though it seems like calling the police to turn yourself in - you as a company will feel more comfort in the long run that you meet the required standards.

It would be nice to hear what happens when you contact the certification body about the issue... whether or not you are put through another audit, lose certification, etc.


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#7 Charles.C

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 01:47 AM

Dear Heather,

I think you should consider yourself fortunate (I assume level 3 is better than level 1 :dunno: ). :smile: The next audit will quite possibly be a detailed horror story. Are you going to complain about that also ?? The sad reality IMEX is like Simon's post, variability is to be expected.

One BRC auditor who came to do a factory audit for me did not even know that a "Book audit" (not compulsory) had already been done !

Rgds / Charles.C


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#8 Simon

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 08:31 AM

Simon,

Unfortunately I am not in a position to complain. We spoke with the practitioners who feel let down as well. We all just kind of feel as if we worked super hard, did weekend trainings and for what? I spent hours yesterday looking and looking and looking for what was supposed to happen. Every training we had we were told the auditor will not talk to the practitioners he is going to be asking you guys, you guys have to know this stuff. That’s why I wanted to see if anyone had actually been through this type of audit before and did your auditor follow through? There was absolutely NO integrity in this audit whatsoever. Thank you for your information however beings that Wal-mart requires this certificate I doubt anyone that could complain is going to loose sleep over this, it’s unfortunate however reality.

One thing to remember Heather all of the hard work you put in preparing and training all of the operators is not wasted, far from it.

Yes the auditor did not check it, so you feel that you could not show your hard work, however let's remember what this is all about first and foremost which is to have an effective FSMS that produces safe food products. Your hard work no doubt has increased your ability to do this.

You can complain or at least ask the certification body to clarify the scope of the audit – you can then compare theory with fact and take it from there. By the way you are the customer in this process.

I commend your company’s attitude, if there were more like you then food would be safer.

Regards,
Simon
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#9 stsqf

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 02:58 PM

HeatherH - Shame on us in this field that have a conscience... We shall someday learn...

I completely agree that all the hard work put into preparing for these audits certainly pays off in the long run, but in the end, all you get is a piece of paper saying you passed. (Similar to a college degree except for they check up on you each year to see that you continue to apply what you learned, and if you don't they take the piece of paper away.)

In the end, money always talks - you pay all the expensive auditor fees in order to have "SQF Certified" tagged with your company name, whether or not you deserve it is at the discretion of each individual auditor.


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#10 Charles.C

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 04:27 PM

Dear All,

There is a (slightly off-topic) corollary to the last few posts - do we believe that the introduction of the recent plethora of FSMS standards has / will make food safer ??

One reason for asking is that I believe the conclusion on the improvement of food "quality" following the introduction of ISO 9001 family has been negative or, perhaps more politely, unmeasurable. I remember seeing a detailed paper on this about 15 years ago and don't think I have seen any subsequent reports to the contrary.

One argument to dispute the (general) benefit of these safety schemes relates to the degree of randomness in so many causal events leading to major food incidents versus, say, events which can be ascribed to clear failures in GMP, critical points etc. (even the latter often demonstrate the significance of simple human error, practical / theoretical, whatever.)

There are undoubtedly certain well-known food safety failures whose control has been effectively achieved by applying HACCP procedures after the event but as to the preventive objective, I have yet to see any assessment of success or otherwise 30 years on. If one restricts the argument to GMP related logics perhaps the benefit is more apparent but the importance of these was, I think, already well appreciated prior to the introduction of HACCP.

@ Heather, apologies if I hv slightly hijacked yr original post, just seemed like too good an opportunity to resist. :smile: I can sympathise with yr frustration at being unable to demonstrate all the efforts which you have had to make to get yr system up and running but, believe me, the opposite case where the auditor goes nutty over items which you consider insignificant can be far worse / embarrassing. And unfortunately, IMO, the likelihood of the latter occurrence becomes ever more probable as time goes on and the requirement of continuous improvement demands the auditor to maintain his fault - finding score. :smile:

As you can see, i have considerable reservations regarding the "validity" of auditors. :whistle:

Rgds / Charles.C


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#11 HeatherH

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 06:03 PM

To all, I was let down due to the fact that our efforts were not recognized. However my concern is that this was not a "re-certification" and without knowing the areas we need to improved, if come next year we get a picky auditor. . . we will fail.


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#12 tsmith7858

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 07:42 PM

To all, I was let down due to the fact that our efforts were not recognized. However my concern is that this was not a "re-certification" and without knowing the areas we need to improved, if come next year we get a picky auditor. . . we will fail.



The good thing is, you have a system in place and you should be able to identify your deficiancies by using that system so keep working and improving things. The bad thing is the person you paid to help you through this did not do their job. Posted Image

You should contact someone in the CB and discuss the issues. Let them know you were dissatified and that you need an explanation. If you don't get a good explanation, you have every right to change your CB before the re-cert. Posted Image

If you choose to go that path, make sure you explain to the new CB why you are changing and your concerns from the audit. A good CB will be willing to help you get back on track to get your business. Posted Image

Sorry the process let you down but take it from someone that goes through several 3rd party and customer audits a year, there are good auditors out there!
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#13 holewinj28

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 02:40 AM

The good thing is, you have a system in place and you should be able to identify your deficiancies by using that system so keep working and improving things. The bad thing is the person you paid to help you through this did not do their job. Posted Image

You should contact someone in the CB and discuss the issues. Let them know you were dissatified and that you need an explanation. If you don't get a good explanation, you have every right to change your CB before the re-cert. Posted Image

If you choose to go that path, make sure you explain to the new CB why you are changing and your concerns from the audit. A good CB will be willing to help you get back on track to get your business. Posted Image

Sorry the process let you down but take it from someone that goes through several 3rd party and customer audits a year, there are good auditors out there!


Heather - There are good auditor's out there. Not always, but for our SQF 2000 audit level II it was a good auditor. The auditor interviewed 35 employees and really followed the audit by mapping it. So the audit was not a checklist. He found data and followed it through the process.

No matter what I can see your frustration! You should acknowledge this with the CB.

Finally, all your hard work together as a team has made your future to your goal stronger which is "continous improvement". You are proving to your workers and customers that you are on board for producing a safe product. Bravo on your committment! Posted Image
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#14 GMO

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 07:05 AM

On Charles' point, I think I can cite examples of where it would have worked but later went wrong because the FSQMS wasn't implemented correctly.

The first time I was working in production and I identified what I thought was a risk of two different products containing two different food colourings being mixed up. The process meant the person receiving the batch didn't see the person making it and so had to pick from two different options on a VDU screen, however, the production IT was out of date and only had 8 letters or digits to identify the batch. Unfortunately this was not identified clearly and some products contained EU approved food dyes, whereas some where for export only (as different countries then approved different dyes. No idea if it's still the same.)

Anyway, I saw this, contacted our production IT department and our technical department; neither thought it was an issue. 3 months later we have a recall from the Middle East because the wrong colouring was used and it was picked up in laboratory tests. (I wonder how many times it had happened previously without being picked up.)

So in that case, the signs were there, I was young and less confident and so didn't push the issue (and also rushed off my feet anyway) and my olders and betters thought I didn't know what I was talking about without having the decency to visit the plant. Personally I hope I would have listened and got that production person straight onto my HACCP team!

The second occasion was when working as a Technical Manager in another company I implemented cleaning procedures based on proper, validated evidence. I then made them slightly less rigorous but proved they were still ok using careful trial techniques. I leave the company and hear through the grapevine that the production management decided after I left to get rid of that silly woman's excessive procedures and implemented their own without trial. Cue everything being put on hold due to Listeria positives in the product...

So in this case, there just wasn't the management commitment to listen to my experience (or there only was to my face when I was there Posted Image .)

I read an article once where they were describing how accidents result from a "swiss cheese effect", ie all the little holes have to line up. I think quality incidents and recalls are the same. It requires lots of little things to have gone wrong for the incident to have happened. The key to it not ending up in a recall is reacting when you have a near miss and learning from it, either laewrning that there was a risk you were unaware of or that the FSQMS wasn't as well ingrained in the organisation as you thought...


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#15 Charles.C

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 05:10 PM

Dear GMO,

Thks for yr interesting practical observations, pictures paint a 1000…whatever. The most obvious comment is human error (or stupidity?) often defeats the best FS intentions.

I don’t wish to pontificate but would like to add a little bit more in the hope that it has some value regarding a good / bad audit.

After installation of the FSMS, the crucial aspect perhaps should be that you are satisfied that yr system of FSMS is efficiently working for you and that it complies with the standard using a conventional checklist. I sincerely believe that most people are quite capable of effectively carrying out such a self-evaluation for themselves. As a result I regard the audit as more of an (inconvenient) challenge to obtain a piece of verificationary paper, albeit of high commercial significance with respect to potential buyers etc. Personally, I cannot recall ever having learnt much of great value from auditors at the time of the audit other than regarding the art of repartee. This is in comparison to (paid-for) “trial” audits preliminary to the actual audit which IMO are of considerable value and from which I have greatly benefited.

Rgds / Charles.C


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#16 GMO

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 08:33 AM

I agree with Charles, I've never had a "real" audit which has been as difficult as a trial one. Also I've never had an auditor pick up anywhere near as many issues as I've seen when accompanying them but sometimes that official auditor being there opens my eyes up to things I'd not seen before (even if the auditor themselves doesn't see it.)

Slightly off topic again but has anyone pointed out an issue to an auditor before as a way to get something done? I've only done this with internal auditors tbh.


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#17 Simon

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:44 AM

Slightly off topic again but has anyone pointed out an issue to an auditor before as a way to get something done? I've only done this with internal auditors tbh.

Yes all the time.
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#18 Charles.C

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 12:21 PM

Dear Heather,

Yes, I can understand yr uncertainty however, as Simon says, you should hv some idea of how well yr system answers the requirements of the standard if it is now currently running. The usual way to approach this (before an audit :smile: ) is by a GAP analysis ?

I am curious about 2 things -

(a) What products are you concerned with, RTE ?

(b) Did you validate yr prerequisites as laid out in the SQF guidance document ?

The reason for my second query relates to a parallel thread on SQF 2000 by holewinj28, eg see my post -

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__37293

Thks and Rgds / Charles.C


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#19 HeatherH

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 12:33 PM

Ok, I am a records administrator been with my company 3 years next Monday. We do not currently have an approved supplier list we do not currently have an approved item list. And without these list my job is very difficult. In my defense I started out as a receptionist who got very bored and in my down time I decided to start messing with raw material documents. When I started we had MAYBE 10 office personnel and about 25 production employees. We now have 2 locations and employ about 35-40 office personnel and about 50 production workers. After I had developed this monster database they realized “oh $hit we actually need this information that Heather has been complaining and crying and nagging and meeting and demanding the last couple years. Lets make this a position. The QA manager that we hired in 6 months before the audit to write the audit, is the laziest person in the world. She wrote the audit and set all the procedures and plans and processes however DIDN’T BOTHER TO SHARE THEM!!!!!!! We do not have an SOP register available if I want to see my SOP’s then I get in my car drive to the other plant and look in the book??????????????????????????? Not that it matters because you can’t follow a procedure that you don’t know exist! I happen to have a personal relationship with the director or purchasing who also said “we are going to get our butts handed to us at this audit”. The approved supplier list we provided the auditor had dead people on it LITTERALLY, the Approved item list in the register (that isn’t active or functional) does not match the made up list we put in our system. TRUST ME!!!! I prayed this auditor would rip us to pieces and we would be forced to follow our policies instead of running around duplicating efforts and looking like full blown jack bags!! However it didn’t happen. I have no power to request a new audit and I have no desire to work for a company that doesn’t wish to be organized or honest. I have updated my resume and moving on with my life. I appreciate all your help. I really just wanted to know if anyone had been through an SQF2000 audit that the auditor was this STUPID or if we just straight out bought the dang thing (for lack of better terms). I apologize for my hostility, however I put my heart in all things that I do, if I wanted to waste 40 hours a week doing things that meant nothing I would just stay home. However I choose to EARN my living which considers actual EFFORT!!!. Have a great day everyone and thank you again.


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#20 tsmith7858

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 06:47 PM

The approved supplier list we provided the auditor had dead people on it LITTERALLY, the Approved item list in the register (that isn’t active or functional) does not match the made up list we put in our system. TRUST ME!!!! I prayed this auditor would rip us to pieces and we would be forced to follow our policies instead of running around duplicating efforts and looking like full blown jack bags!! However it didn’t happen.


This statement has just changed everything! Auditors are not mind readers and can only go by what they are provided. If your original statement that they spoke to one person and spent all their time in the conference room are true that is one thing. BUT In your example here, you provided the auditor with FALSE information and led them to believe that it was accurate. Posted Image

Our approved supplier list was lacking when we were audited because most of our suppliers are customer driven. We "grandfathered' in suppliers based on performance and set up our new system BUT we told our auditor what was happening and did not hide anything.

An audit is a two way street that requires the auditee to open the door the whole way not just a crack. While I appreciate your situation and understand your frustration, if the auditor was misled than most of the replies in this thread are not valid! Posted Image
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#21 HeatherH

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 07:08 PM

Fair enough. However, had the auditor asked a single person to show the process to purchase something vs do nothing then he would have learned hmm...this isn't right. Do you HONESTLY think that the peanut company said "well Mr. Auditor we have this small rat problem but we are working on it?" No I don't think so. isn't the point of an Audit to VERIFY and VALIDATE process and procedures by asking the employees that actually do it? because had he tried to validate or even read my SOP where I clearly said "we do not have an approved supplier list at this time" Then he would know.


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#22 Cathy

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 01:17 AM

When I do a desk audit, I scrutinize each written document. If you didn't have an approved supplier list, that should have been a noncompliance at stage 1. Many of the SOPs should have been read before the on-site audit and most of the onsite audit time should have been spent in the plant talking to people. Those conversations verify the program. There are so many parts to an SQF audit it is difficult to get through it all. I can understand why all the entries on a list are not checked.

Auditing is also your company's job as part of internal auditing. The Practitioner is responsible. I would suggest you try to put the third party audit into your past and focus your energy toward solutions to the lack of commitment to the program.


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#23 GMO

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 03:51 PM

Now this is tricky. You can't expect an auditor to see through falsehoods, quite often it's fairly easy to pull the wool over an auditors eyes and it's only their experience and BS radar that makes them dig deeper. I'm sure as well that many of us here have found that once an auditor finds one thing which implies (for example) poor communication of the FSQMS to the people that matter, they will dig and dig until they find something major (because they know it will exist somewhere). That's certainly what I do.

As for staying or going. Well only you can decide. I can honestly say that there isn't a single company I have worked for who shares my belief system and hasn't at some point done something I consider wrong or unethical. That said, I've worked from the inside to try and change them. My line in the sand with one company though was leaving product which contained unlabelled allergens in the marketplace. That wasn't just unethical, it was illegal. I left as soon as I could.

Yes, what your company did was wrong but many a company survived for years without an approved supplier list, there are bigger crimes. It can be difficult to convince top brass that a system is wrong without back up from an external auditor but that's what Technical Management is all about. I'd also not be too hasty to judge this QA Manager; you can't be certain without talking to them whether the poor implementation of the FSQMS is down to lack of interest from production for a start. Also this QA Manager may have had their hands tied by daily crises of recall proportions and has been unable to concentrate on the systems side (when you go into a company which is obviously in a state systems wise, the crises will follow trust me!) Before you leap, try talking to the QA Manager about your concerns, you might find an ally rather than an enemy.


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#24 GMO

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 03:54 PM

Oh and in future, if you're really hacked off with not getting things done in a company, do as I suggested before and point out what you want changing to the auditor; however, remember the adage, a good audit is a production success, a bad audit is a technical department failure... Posted Image


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#25 Tony-C

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 02:57 AM

I guess if you know your site and systems well then you could "paper over the cracks" and give a false impression of the the effectiveness of the food safety management system. IMO a short term policy defeating the object of the audit. It can also send a signal to Senior Management that all is well when in reality it might be that extra resource is required to manage the system. It can depend on the culture of the organisation, where there is a blame culture you will find that people "put their tin hats on and dig their trenches". Forward thinking organisations will see opportunities for improvement.


Edited by Tony-C, 08 August 2010 - 02:58 AM.

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