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Key audit criteria when auditing a co-packer?

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EJ2020

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 01:55 PM

Hi all,

 

I'm exploring a copacker to mix and pack carbonated drinks into cans.

 

What are the most important things to look out for in terms of quality/food safety?

 

Are there any specific watch outs for conducting the audit on them?

 

Are there any common issues with copackers with this kind of product?

 

Thanks!



pHruit

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 03:07 PM

Safety-wise I presume you're relatively low risk? There is alas plenty of scope for quality issues though...

A few thoughts from experiences with a few contract soft drinks packers:

 

1) For anything QC related, it's worth clarifying if what they are showing you is actually the case for all raw materials/finished product - lost count of the number of times I've seen brand owners expecting x/y/z to be tested, and packers not testing anything. Some of them can offer quite comprehensive QC services, but only do so if they've been told that you want it and you're prepared to pay for it ;)

 

2) I'd look long and hard at raw material intake and production preparation. Again I've seen unfortunate incidents at more than one site, where a raw material has arrived and it's been used without checking, because "the client sent it so it must be right". Alas the client may have sent something, but if the pallets have accidentally been switched at the depot and no-one actually reads the labels or does any testing on the raw material then apparently there are contract packers who will use completely the wrong raw material without noticing until the product is part way through being bottled, at which point someone is surprised that the Brix value is rather different to the expected tolerance...

 

3) If there is any storage, particularly of open/part packs of raw materials, then I'd examine how this is managed. Again I've seen more cases of "we didn't know it was supposed to be frozen after opening" and "we didn't know it should be used within three days of opening" than I'd like to admit. Key points to look for are whether there is a formal process to manage the collation of this data, and how it is communicated and used (and whether it's actually working in practice).

 

4) Is there a system for holding approved product reference samples for taste panelling against new production? And is it actually used and working? 

Again I'd want to see some evidence of this. Not necessarily a widespread issue, but a few times I've seen very obviously different batches being shipped that should readily have been picked up by the taste panel the packer claimed to have done.

 

FWIW I've also seen some very capable packers around Europe, and as a general observation there seems to be a not unsurprising correlation between cost and overall quality of service ;)



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Charles.C

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 08:28 PM

Hi pHruit,

 

Nice one. :smile:

 

How about the canning stage ? Not my Product area but observing staff evaluating can seals with a 12" ruler gives some grounds for suspicion.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


pHruit

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Posted 06 October 2020 - 07:42 AM

Hi pHruit,

 

Nice one. :smile:

 

How about the canning stage ? Not my Product area but observing staff evaluating can seals with a 12" ruler gives some grounds for suspicion.

 

To an extent I'd put this in the "you get what you pay for" category - both in terms of what we could call slightly more "avant-garde" approaches being more commonplace at the lower end of the market, and also in that I've seen other packers say "well yes we could test x/y/z using a different method and/or at a higher frequency, but you didn't specify it when the contract was agreed." 

It's not clear what the OP is looking to pack into (can/bottle/tetra etc) but I've certainly seen some quirks specific to each of them over the years ;)

 

TBH my other key recommendation for setting up this type of project are:

  • Spend time making sure the contract / specifications document *everything* that is required - make no assumptions about things being done because they're basic good practice or because you saw it done for another product during an audit.
  • Visit for production trials, and for first production, periodic subsequent productions etc to verify that it's actually all happening in the way that has been agreed.
  • Build a solid relationship with the technical manager/director for your packer. You don't want them to dread your call as it means things won't be shared as well as you might want/need, whereas a positive relationship means that it'll be far more collaborative, they'll proactively contact you if there are potential issues, work with you to find solutions etc. I suspect a lot of the reading will consider this self-evident, but you'd be surprised how many times people seem to forget that it's going to get much better results than being a pushy moron...






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