Food facilities around the world conduct self-inspections each month in order to identify various issues with their personnel practices, maintenance, cleaning, and pest control programs. There's no hard set rule for how a self-inspection must look. They can be completed in a variety of ways. Some plants have a dedicated person assigned the responsibility, while others have a team of individuals working together to conduct inspections. Some inspect the entire facility from start to finish, while others divide the facility into zones and inspect each zone at different times to ensure that the entire facility is inspected within a month. Regardless of the method used for self-inspections, ensuring that they are detailed, thorough, conducted, and documented is necessary for success.
Prior to conducting the actual inspection, gather the tools needed to perform the inspection. The most common tools used by most plants include: LED flashlights, telescoping mirrors, black lights (to identify potential pest issues), pen and notepad, and inspection checklist. It's important to ensure that all tools are in good condition (fresh batteries in flashlights, telescoping mirror isn’t scratched, etc.) before the inspection begins.
Before the inspection begins ensure that everyone involved has their self-inspection vision aligned. Don't only inspect items at eye level. Look at everything on all levels - above the object, directly at the object, and below the object. This is a key to a successful self-inspection program. Sometimes, this can be the difference between identifying a food safety issue and missing it completely. When inspecting anything within the facility, it is always important to not only inspect an object, but to also inspect the areas above and below it in order to identify other potential issues that could possibly have an adverse effect on that object.
Throughout the inspection, inspect interior areas of production equipment (when possible) and support areas with the same scrutiny placed on product zones. Look behind support poles in the warehouse and underneath vending machines in the break room. Inspect chemical storage areas for improperly labeled containers and while you're there, look for unapproved chemicals. When overhead doors and dock leveler plates are inspected for gaps, also inspect the pull chains to ensure that they are pest-proofed to within 1/4 inch. These are some of the beyond the obvious steps that need to take place as we perform and document inspections. Observations made in these areas can lead to potential food safety issues, as well as potential program failures, based on the severity of the observations.
Once the inspection has been completed, make sure documented observations are detailed so that corrective actions that adequately address the issue can be developed and assigned to appropriate personnel/departments for implementation. Make sure that deadlines are set for completion of the corrective actions and that implementation is verified to ensure satisfactory completion.
Your self-inspection program is a critical piece to your company's food safety program. Those responsible for self-inspections must ensure that not only the inspection complete, but that the products are being produced in an environment that is clean and well maintained.