Do food safety audits leave you sleepless? Do you walk into the office every morning stressing out over whether or not you’re prepared?

If you know the most common mistakes companies make during food safety audits, and deal with them accordingly, you can reduce the risk which will leave you with less cause for concern and late nights.

The dangers of a recall

“The average cost of a recall to a company is $10M USD in direct costs, in addition to brand damage and lost sales according to a joint industry study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association,” Tyco Integrated Security reports. But that’s just the average.

Tyco points to a handful of recent recalls that have totaled $56M, $35M, $60M, $30M, $37M, $103M and $78M. And those reflect the direct costs only.

The lesson is that food recalls can be financially ruinous and damaging to the brand. If you aren’t taking food safety seriously — or are afraid to spend a few more dollars to do it right — then your priorities are in the wrong place.

Five basic food safety oversights that could set you back

This article isn’t intended to scare you, but serve as a wake-up call and point out the need for greater food safety processes. Below are a few of the potential food safety audit oversights you should avoid.

1. No audit plan

The first sign that you’re underprepared is if you have no audit plan. You should be thinking about food safety audits 365 days a year. Trying to put out fires the day before an audit occurs isn’t a responsible or effective way to operate a business.

An effective audit plan entails careful preparation, ongoing monitoring and regular internal tests to check for accuracy. Not only does this raise your odds of being ready when an actual food safety audit occurs, but it should give everyone in your organization peace of mind.

2. Reacting instead of preventing

There are reactive food safety procedures and preventive food safety procedures. The former refer to things you do after the fact when something went wrong. The latter refers to things you do well in advance to prevent food safety problems altogether.

Are you reacting or preventing? Be honest with yourself about this question. If you discover that your business is reactive and not proactive, then it needs to change.

Solutions may be as simple as adopting new technologies and processes, but they’ll more than likely require behavioral changes — how people do their job — as well.

3. No documentation for pest management

One of the biggest things food safety auditors look for are signs of pest and rodent infestation. They’ll do visible spot checks, but they’re even more interested in knowing you have a plan in place and you work in collaboration with a reputable pest management service.

Documentation is key. “Facilities with thorough, accurate records will routinely score higher on the pest control portion of audits than those with inadequate documentation,” JP Pest Services asserts.

“Be sure that your trap layout maps are up to date and precise. Your schematics should identify the locations of all bait stations, mechanical traps, insect light traps, and any other type of pest traps.”

4. Inadequate employee training

It’s not enough to train employees when they’re hired. You need to invest in ongoing training that ensures your workers are up to date on best practices across the industry. It’s easy to regard training as wasted time — especially for experienced employees — but remember that you’re actively combating food safety issues.

5. Inadequate PPE

Surely you instruct your employees to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job, but there will always be those who push the limits and adopt a more relaxed approach.

It’s crucial that you address these situations when they arise, no matter how trivial they may seem. “When you are lax about PPEs, you put employees’ safety at risk and you take the chance of seriously affecting workers’ compensation costs,” Spartan Chemical notes. “It is up to supervisors to ensure that employees are properly informed and demand that PPEs are used all the time.”

Be Prepared and Informed

Above all else, it’s imperative that every food processor and distributor in your firm is prepared and informed. Whether it’s food safety or lot tracking, knowledge is power. Check out the JustFood traceability guide to learn about the steps you can take to be truly recall ready in the event that your safety efforts are not enough.