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#1 HACCP Mentor

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 03:19 AM

I am presenting to a group of auditors in a few weeks and would love to get feedback from QA people.

What are or have been the positives of the people you have had audit you, and what have been the negatives. Thanks for your help!



#2 Charles.C

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:52 AM

I am presenting to a group of auditors in a few weeks and would love to get feedback from QA people.

What are or have been the positives of the people you have had audit you, and what have been the negatives. Thanks for your help!


Dear Amanda,

A somewhat provocative project. :rolleyes:

The scope is, perhaps advisably, a little broad , eg includes unrequested legislatory visits as against company paid inspections. The intrinsic differences can be painful.

IMEX as a receiver of audits, a few positives regarding auditor are –

(1) Not uninformed concerning food safety (But too informed can be a negative also).
(2) Not of the ilk – have checklist, will travel. (unless something specific to hide which not on the list).
(3) Not verbally aggressive / implying disbelief at every response (especially with a Mr.Bean smile).
(4) Not one member of a large invasion (usually includes at least 1 expert “spy”).
(5) A liking for restaurant food.

The list is not necessarily prioritised. It is rare IMEX to get >= 4/5 pluses.

When occasionally working on the dark side of the fence, I try to follow most of the antonyms to above but sometimes a difficult situation is evident from the outset, eg welcoming pet dog, swarm of flies around the head, zero production. This can activate atypical verbal reflexes. :smile:

Rgds / Charles.C

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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#3 john123

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:39 PM

I've only been through one SQF thus far in my short career, first for my company as well, but many other types of audits and auditors have seen our facility.

The most positive thing for me was communication. First off, we were "lucky enough" to have two auditors as one asked us if he could use us as live training for the other (I'll get to that in my negative). But they both presented themselves as "partners", and communicated they had no intent of trying to sabotage things or "nit pic" issues to death. What was very helpful during the audit was their openness to discussion, allowing us to explain things that may have been unclear from our procedure. This in turn lead to some OIP's which reinforced their goal of helping. Furthermore, communication was nice at the end when they decided to go through our minors with us one by one, which gave us a "dry run", so to speak, about what sort of corrective actions they were hoping to see us take. That helped a lot when planning and submitting them, therefore reinforcing their goal of being a partner.

What was negative to me was two auditors. Oh, I didn't think we would mind using us for training, but what we ended up with was the "new" auditor taking the lead (he is certified in other audit standards) while the "trainer" wandered around behind our group. During the second day, we as the escorts had become used to following the "new" auditor because he was the one asking questions, so the "trainer" used it as an excuse to leave his beard net off during a tour of the production area. Yes, our bad for not catching it, but it's not the sort of thing that would be missed by us with a visitor, except he was intentionally lagging behind. Also, while the "new" guy was interviewing production employees, the "trainer" took it upon himself to try and look inside our closed WIP packages (something we let no one do). We caught that one. I guess I wasn't prepared for an auditor to try and trip us up, and it peed me off. Not sure if it's something I need to be accustomed to or not.

Those really summarize my feelings about the audit, and what I took from it. Hope that helps a little.



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#4 Setanta

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 06:06 PM

This is connected directly to my experience (YMMV). This might be more connected to the SQF way of doing things or not.

Our two different SQF auditors have have dinged us for something, and then could not tell us what we could do to fix it, because "that would be consulting". Specifically, our most recent auditor found cracks along the foundation walls of the deep freezer, but when we would ask if applying this would be enough, she could not answer us. "Because that would be consulting."

If felt to me like a guessing game of the worst kind.
S.


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#5 bacon

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 06:42 PM

I am presenting to a group of auditors in a few weeks and would love to get feedback from QA people.

What are or have been the positives of the people you have had audit you, and what have been the negatives. Thanks for your help!


I posted some of this earlier on another thread.

Positives: I John123, "communication". Particularly on how they interpret the standard. As you have only one go a year to get your system really tested, the feedback is immensely important.

I have had 2 auditors (trainer/trainee) before with BRC audits... it was very hard as the new auditor really brought some new eyes to our system and challenged us on many things (barely got an A grade), however, I have to be thankfull as that auditor caused me to develop a review system/method that is applicable to any GFSI benchmark standard.

Hence my recent move to SQF in an industry I am not terribly failure with (and with great success).

Now for the negatives:

After passing out audit last week I am not celebrating. I think it was a sloppy audit (more a document audit) that gives one a false sense of security.

I understand that having a very complex processing facility with many different categories and products is allot to get through but our auditor finished up a 3 day audit in 2. I did present the code in a very logical and easy way with very little scrambling for documents (this sped up the audit), but one would think the auditor would spend more time on the floor... however, floor observation times are not specified by SQF.

(vs. BRC have very specific instructions on how time the auditor must spend out on the floor observing operations).

What frustrates me is the lack of consistency between 3rd party auditors, thus one gets inconsistent guidance in final audit reports. One would think passing the audit, one's food safety systems are sound and tried true, however, because of the inconsistency, one really does not know (i.e. our auditor did not comment or even verify if we did our traceability test even though a traceability exercise is not the same as a mock recall) how the next auditor will interpret clause requirements.

Our facility is very sharp and how we presented evidence rapidly and

So, if they are legitimate NC's and not nit-pick rubbish, I prefer to get them and even fail an audit as those NC's get the attention of Senior Management and get the resources allocated to deal with the problem.

Ultimately, that is where food safety should go.

Cheers,
-B
____________________________________________________
><((((º> Salmon of Doubt & NOAA HACCP lover of Bacon

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#6 Prasant

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

To me a good auditor is one who understand the practical challenges industry face in attaining food safety. I have seen some auditor whose audit skill was completely theory based without any knowledge what goes on the shop floor.



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#7 Sharon

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 10:35 PM

As someone who has been through several audits in the last three months, a good auditor is someone who takes the time to understand your system, someone who spends time on the floor talking to operators. A good auditor will allow you the time to find things (as we all know it is when you are under pressure in an audit that you cant find the evidence, info or paperwork required and then once they leave hey presto it pops up). A good auditor should have a good understanding of your process and not get too hung up on their speciality ie microbiological testing may take on more importance in a dairy plant than say a winery . A good auditor should be easy to get on with, have the ability to put people at ease.
Bad things auditors do - misinterpret the standard, spend too much time on the paperwork, not plan enough time to do the audit and then rush through at the end, not send through an agenda (we are a big site and we need to organise people involved in the audit and when you are onto your 4th in the same amount of weeks people are not hanging around for the audit) and the other big thing is the auditors are not paying any attention to the global standards (unless of course they are auditing us against it) - so why are we doing them?? We have been audited recently by Tesco and FDA and soon Wallmart and they were not interested in our A grade BRC certification or HACCP! And finally we have one auditor who will ask me a question as I escort him around and then he will ask the exact same question (not even word it differently) to another person almost as if he is trying to catch me out, he does it several times during the audit, I am used to it now but it was quite annoying at first.



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#8 bill1952

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:14 PM

I am presenting to a group of auditors in a few weeks and would love to get feedback from QA people.

What are or have been the positives of the people you have had audit you, and what have been the negatives. Thanks for your help!


I have a much broader background and history in food; RTE, seafood, meat(raw and cooked), candy, prepared foods(salads) and dairy. I have owned a canning plant and was an auditor for C&T, AIB and my own business. I have been a QA manager for 15 years. Preparation of the auditor and the team is crucial for a good audit. Knowing the industry you are auditing is also paramount. (Don't send a person with dairy backgound into a seafood plant to conduct an audit) I am a member of ASQ and the certified auditor handbook is a great resource.
Saying all that I have 'eaten the lunch' of many auditors who are not focused, don't know the industry and make assumptions that are not valid. ( I have called and alerted the audit company that I am not satisfied with this person's skill level) In some audits the goal is to audit the process or system and not offer any solutions. I have had that with past NFPA audits.
I have had AIB audits that the auditor reads the previous audit and my results are a mirror image of the past audits. Not a great deal of help.
I have had process audits by NSF and others where the auditor is too chatty and or too reserved to share best practices.
Regulatory audits in the past 3 years by FDA inspectors have been horrible because they are book smart but have no practical experience and have done more harm. I always ask for 'paragraph and line number " when they site me or make an accusation. Most accounts they can't substantiate the item they claim is an issue.
USDA inspectors are more accepting of shortfalls and will offer suggestions and aid you in fixing a problem. But, I have had a major blow out with a USDA inspector and I was supported by the USDA Tech center when he told me my cooking and cooling parameters were not valid. I was in total agrement with appendix A and B and he told me my process was flawed.

I'm a SQF Practitioner and have completed two level 3 and one level 2 certification with different companies. The audit is right in front of you. The only area I have a problem with is the validation of allergens and the acceptable limit in food so it is not a hazard. The desk top audit is a challange and the plant portion should reflect what you have in writing and trained to.
Auditors need to be honest and impartial. They need to be competent. If you ask a question of the auditor and he is able to respond you are in luck. Some audits do not allow an auditor to respond as this is a fine line to consulting.
The one item in a response, I read where the audit team had another member along for training or they are cllibrating the auditor. This is tricky and I must be totally confident that I am not being double teamed before I allow this type of audit to take place. I need to trust the auditor and his company or the regulator.
There is so much more over 25 years of QA mangement that would not fit in this space.

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#9 Setanta

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 04:22 PM

I look forward to hearing what response you get from your presentation, HACCP Mentor.

I was having a discussion with my Plant Manager and we had a question, borne from our experiences.

Our auditor noticed some cracks in the concrete of the perimeter in the cooler and freezer. We assemble frozen foods from pre-cooked ingredients. They marked it as a minor and we were told we need to fix it. Although we struggled with what could be an issue especially in our freezer, we agreed.

When we asked if we could do "X" to remove the minor and the auditor said they could not tell us what would fix the problem as that would be consulting, isn't that at odds with the objective of keeping Food Safe? If there truly was a direct hazard to Food would they use the 'can't consult' to keep us guessing?

It seems very counter-productive.

S.


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#10 Setanta

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:57 PM

Just bumping this in case HACCPMentor has had the meeing...


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#11 Charles.C

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:21 PM

I look forward to hearing what response you get from your presentation, HACCP Mentor.

I was having a discussion with my Plant Manager and we had a question, borne from our experiences.

Our auditor noticed some cracks in the concrete of the perimeter in the cooler and freezer. We assemble frozen foods from pre-cooked ingredients. They marked it as a minor and we were told we need to fix it. Although we struggled with what could be an issue especially in our freezer, we agreed.

When we asked if we could do "X" to remove the minor and the auditor said they could not tell us what would fix the problem as that would be consulting, isn't that at odds with the objective of keeping Food Safe? If there truly was a direct hazard to Food would they use the 'can't consult' to keep us guessing?

It seems very counter-productive.

S.


Dear Setanta,

Of course, the auditor may have had no idea regarding your "fix". :rolleyes:
It's another supporting vote for pre-audits IMO.

Rgds / Charles.C

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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#12 Setanta

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:55 AM

This was not our first SQF Audit. First time with THIS auditor, but our third overall.

Or perhaps I misunderstood.

S.


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#13 SBNavarro

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:30 AM

I am presenting to a group of auditors in a few weeks and would love to get feedback from QA people.

What are or have been the positives of the people you have had audit you, and what have been the negatives. Thanks for your help!

4/5!

We had two auditors (for ISO 22000) and they are both good (i think? :) ) but:

the intensity of their comments re: hazards are not uniform/standardized, why?

a. one obviously is soooo good in microbial analysis that she is concern mainly on the possibility of microbial contamination

b. the other one, is more concern on the physical contaminants

this is observed whenever they are asking questions, the other have more questions re: microbes, while the other one, more on the physical contaminants, am I right to think that as an auditor, you should somehow be balance (focus on every possible contamination in the system) ?

p.s. I have been in the industry for only a year so im looking forward to learning more and new things (and enhancing the one that i have learned in school as well) from this field!

:)



#14 cazyncymru

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:38 PM

An auditor should be pragmatic and realistic.

Those who follow a standard TO THE LETTER, are neither. There should always be scope to discuss what they have seen or read, as it may just be a different interpretation to the standard.

I had an auditor once who gave me a non-conformance as our site wasn't registered with DEFRA under the Animal By Products legislation, even though all of our waste was crushed and went to landfill. He only removed the non-conformance when i rang our local DEFRA office to query and made him speak to the officer on duty, who subsequently told him that i wasn't required to register the site.

A little knowledge can be dangerous, as can poor understanding of the process or industry you are auditing.

Caz x



#15 Charles.C

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 11:03 PM

This was not our first SQF Audit. First time with THIS auditor, but our third overall.

Or perhaps I misunderstood.

S.

Dear Setanta,

it's equally likely that i misunderstood. :smile:

Of course, the auditor may have had no idea regarding your "fix".


Perhaps i should elaborate.
I predict yr comment regarding reluctance / refusal by the auditor to make suggestions is one of the most frequent complaints from auditees.
I guess the reason for refusal is one or more of the following -
(a) Standard Rules laid down for auditors which dictate their handling of an audit, possibly with the threat of dire consequences if detected.
(b) Simple lack of knowledge regarding alternatives for correcting a "discovered" technical defect. consequently hiding such ignorance behind the "no consulting allowed" tag. (= my previous posted comment)
© Fear of having a (subsequently proven) wrong suggestion being quoted back to them. Maybe a corollary of (a).

I tried some googling around (a, c) but failed to find any relevant black and white instructions at all. Perhaps some poster can point a link to anything specific ?

(b) I have tended to be disappointed with auditors' knowledge regarding technical details of food science, processing and equipment. However the day-to-day scope of an auditor's work probably makes it inevitable. Or perhaps auditees simply underestimate the specialist knowledge which they have accumulated.
For example, one lead auditor I met early in my career claimed to be unaware that "a maximum product temperature around 4degC is an accepted target for preventing bacterial growth of many common pathogens". Validation was requested. At the time i suspected extreme trickiness but the reality was just a limited exposure to auditing refrigerated goods. Hence the auditor's being accompanied by a particularly inquisitive colleague (spy?) who clearly was a specialist in the product area. After showing the auditor an Internet page, we moved on. Maybe some people here would have responded more aggressively ? :smile:

So, regarding an auditor's refusal to "consult" due to "rules", this time i would much like to see some actual validation. :smile:

I have occasionally tried the "Have you seen other people do it like this?" approach and got some feedback but only 50/50 at the best, even after a superlative lunch. :angry:

I noticed these 2 documents in passing which seemed quite informative -

Attached File  dealing with auditors.pdf   136.29KB   20 downloads
(general application)(overlong, meandering and confrontational but does make some points)

Attached File  auditor competency assessment australian - nfsac_final_report.pdf   878.24KB   24 downloads
Food safety oriented. Attempts to compile / evaluate / satisfy the expectancies placed on auditors. The "consulting" opportunity is naturally one of the discussed features.
(rather heavy-going to read but contains an impressive collection of opinions and some innovative, risk based, grading methods)(for example see pgs 29-section 2,2,2; pgs149-50, section A2; pg 32 et seq,).

Presumably SQFI courses may have some relevant content as to the audit-permitted dialog scope.

Rgds / Charles.C

Edited by Charles.C, 09 March 2013 - 10:32 PM.

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C





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