You want to be a food safety auditor - what do you need to do?

By Debbie Brandt on 15 September 2017

So, you’re thinking about changing your career and exploring the exciting world of the food safety auditor? If only you know where to start… Although Google is a very helpful tool it is practically impossible to find information with a clear qualification process or “map” that shows how to get started as a food safety auditor.

This article aims to clarify the process and hopefully shed some light on what appears to be a well-kept secret. But before I get into the details I have to emphasize that certification bodies may have slightly different qualification processes but most will follow these steps for GFSI standards such as FSSC and BRC:

 

1. Education

Depending on the food sector in which you would like to work you will need to have a degree in a food related or bio-science discipline. For individuals who are interested in performing food packaging audits the requirements are slightly different and include specific training and qualifications relating to packaging technology.

 

2. Experience

Any individual contemplating a career shift will need to demonstrate that they have at least 2 years’ full time working experience in a quality assurance or food safety function in the food manufacturing industry. This is critical as the sectors you can audit in are usually linked to your work experience. This is often an area which poses a stumbling block.

 

3. Training

Over and above the tertiary qualification, you will also need to complete the following training courses:

  • At least 40 hours of training on a Lead Auditor Course for Food Safety or Quality Management Systems (equivalent to a 5-day course)
  • At least 16 hours of HACCP training
  • Minimum 8 hours of ISO 22000 training (if not included as part of the Lead Auditor Training)
  • Training on the specific scheme requirements for FSSC and BRC may also apply and this could also include training on aspects such as food defense and demonstrated competence with regards to various categories or scopes.


Needless to say, these training requirements must be supported by some form of competency assessment – usually in the form of an exam. It is also a good idea to ensure the course you select is recognized by the auditing profession as this is usually a significant investment in your career plan.


4. Audit Experience

The final aspect relates to actual practical experience in an auditing environment. For FSSC this amounts to at least ten (10) audit days and five (5) ISO 22000 or GFSI recognized scheme audits relevant to the specific industry sector including at least one (1) FSSC 22000 audit.
I suppose this would be the a little more difficult to achieve considering that you may be required to participate in a few audits as an “observer” before you will be included as a co-auditor and allocated specific aspects to audit under the watchful eye of a Lead Auditor. As you become more confident (and competent) you will eventually be subject to a “full witness” audit where you will take over the function of Lead Auditor and be observed throughout the entire process before you will be officially signed off. This process is usually only possible under the watchful eye of the auditing company anyway.

 

5. Ongoing Training & Development


Food safety auditors never stop learning! Over and above the fact thatAlthough you are exposed to wonderful learning experiences on a day-to-day basis, you will also have to ensure that your qualification remains current. Most certification bodies help their auditors to stay up-to-date and have training programmes in place to ensure that the latest information regarding updates to standards or technological developments are shared and understood.


Some standard owners (such as FSC, BRC and IFS) require that auditors are trained for at least 16 hours per year. Certification bodies may plan auditor “calibration” sessions which ensure that all of their auditors share the same interpretation of the various standards and apply the same thought processes.

 


http://www.progress-excellence.co.za/fssc-22000-implementation.php 

 


Look out for part 2: Why you should opt for a registered lead auditor course?


For more detailed information on auditor competence you can visit this link for FSSC auditor competence requirements:
http://www.fssc22000.com/documents/graphics/version-4-1-downloads/annex-v-part-iv-auditor-competence-v4.1.pdf