What you need to know about becoming a food safety auditor – Part 3

By Guest Author on 22 May 2021

As a “wanna-be auditor”, and with the help of Linda Jackson and Food Focus, I would also like to acknowledge Donna Crockart, Reshmee Beedasie, Cal Snow and Thea Laufs.  Thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you and speak to you about becoming a Food Safety Auditor.

In this episode I talk about some of the things you need to know about the job of auditing.

Some things you need to know before you chose to become an auditor:

As someone who is looking to become a Food Safety Auditor one day, I am investigating what it takes to get there. Upon interviewing multiple auditors in the South African food industry, it has come to my realisation that this career is so complex but likewise fulfilling. If, like myself, you are thinking about the food safety auditing route, here is a list of things that you may have not known about the position:

Morals and ethics come first:  You need to be confident in who you are as a person and what you stand for as these will be tested at audits. Ask any auditor and they will be able to tell you the horror stories from bribery to being held hostage!

You need to be willing to travel:  In order to do inspections, you will need to be willing to travel to the client. Furthermore, your work conditions at the client may vary. Be prepared for noisy, cold, or less than pristine surroundings.

Long work hours (this is not an 8-5 job):  Apart from spending your day traveling to the client and conducting the actual audit, you need to be prepared to write up the reports. After speaking to auditors in the industry I realised that most do this task after hours, on the same day as the audit itself.

Preparation is key: Because your time auditing is so limited with respect to the amount of things you need to check, it is to your benefit that you familiarise yourself with the company, the organisational structure and the products, to help you prepare properly for the audit.

Auditing is the fun part (apart from seeing results):  The not-so-fun parts lie in the report writing, dealing with people and having to put in overtime.

You need to be observant: At an audit you need to be constantly awake, aware and taking notes while auditing. It can sometimes be tough to find non-conformances that actually matter.

Managing your time is essential:  Typically, you are only given 8-9 hours to conduct the audit, in order to ensure conformity to all the requirements you need to ensure that you know your time limits. Don’t worry, this should come with experience.

It can get emotionally straining:  As mentioned it can get tough to stand by what you believe is right. Moreso, as an auditor you are often not a welcomed face on-site. From having to deal with devastation of seeing a company that’s committed to food safety fail an audit, to the frustrations of witnessing no improvement or commitment in a business, it can have its toll on you. Furthermore, auditing exposes you to a lot of personalities, products, business models, cultures, and all-round challenges.

You need to put in the effort to keep up to date:  It is important that you are constantly learning, especially with the rate of digitisation within the food industry.

As mentioned in the beginning, the job of an auditor is difficult, complex and demanding. However, it can also be extremely fulfilling when you see a company that is committed finally pass their audit or change their perspective!

By Jesse Kelfkens

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