With independent assurance increasingly becoming a prerequisite in the food industry, auditor competency plays a big role in driving food safety. I have always said that the quality of a certification audit depends fully on the quality of the auditor and we need to realise how difficult the job of an auditor is. Auditors need to understand the standard or scheme and the associated processes, and they need to be able to communicate with each level of the organisation -with top management as well as with associates who are responsible for the processes. They need good reporting skills, and there are many other elements that they need to master. As the world’s leading provider of professional assurance services, we understand that and the importance of training our auditors to ensure they meet those requirements. That’s a key way we can make sure that there is confidence in certification.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has set up a Technical Committee which is focussed on auditor competency. I’m fully in favour of the committee and the work they are doing to establish a basic level for food auditors. My concern is that there could be duplication and what I would like to see is a harmonisation of the controls on auditors.
If you look at the role of a financial auditor, it is seen as a career path and there is a process in place to get people from schools or universities and to train them into that job. We don’t have that yet for food safety auditors and I think we need to work together with universities, industry and certification bodies. The GFSI can play a very important role to make the job of a food safety auditor more attractive. Often you need eight to ten years’ experience in the food industry before you can become a food safety auditor and that makes it more difficult to get sufficient resources. So I see opportunities for working together with different stakeholders to see if we can have more people in the job of food safety and quality auditor and that might be part of the solution.
This excerpt is adapted from a new series of Food Safety podcasts with Cor, which you can download for free on iTunes. LRQA will be exhibiting on stand C4-5 at the 2016 Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin from the 29th February to 3rd March.