Food auditing – from farm to fork
The role of an auditor working within the food industry is discussed in this interview with Thomas Auer an international auditor for AIB.
To begin, Thomas tells us something about himself. Rather amusingly he explains how he landed in his current auditing role with AIB. For 10 years he was employed by a large multinational dairy company in France, where he was coordinating the AIB audits. But, for personal reasons, he wanted to return to his native Germany. So, after speaking to AIB he switched to his current role in Germany, the position he has held for 14 years now – that of an AIB auditor.
With AIB his auditing responsibilities cover most of Europe, plus responsibility for a global client that takes him virtually all over the world.
As a company, AIB originated in the baking industry, founded in the US in 1919 and was originally called the American Institute of Baking. Although for the last two years the company is simply known as AIB. Customer demand in the 1930s to 1940s led to the creation of the AIB standard. This is not GFSI recognised – meaning AIB can also consult and make recommendations to their company clients. Today, there are over 100 auditors helping companies in over 120 countries in their quest to produce safe and healthy food in a wide variety of food production industries – all the way from farm to fork.
Thomas continues by describing the different types of audits he undertakes which fall into three categories as specified by the client, these are: fully announced in advance; announced to management or totally unannounced.
Audits should be viewed positively
An audit, or more appropriately described an inspection, should not be viewed negatively. Thomas explains: “Our role is to help clients. To show them where their problems are and to work on them together before anything, such as a recall situation, arises.” Often a ‘bad’ audit is in effect a ‘good’ audit as it spots problems before they become significant.
Pest control is an important part within an AIB audit and of the five chapters within an audit, each scoring 200 points, pest control has its own Integrated Pest Management (IPM) chapter. Thomas explains the scoring system where IPM has always scoring highly – even if the service is contracted out he makes the point that someone from within the company must be appropriately trained.
Cleaning and proofing
Thomas stresses that cleaning and also proofing, is most important. “Chemicals without cleaning are useless,” he exclaims. AIB uses a system known as ICE – Identify, Control and Eliminate the problem. Maybe uniquely, AIB does not allow toxic (nor non toxic) bait within a facility for fear of undiscovered dead rodents. Mechanical traps are favoured as their activity is obvious. Increasingly Thomas sees the use of remote monitoring digital traps, although this does require something of a cultural shift.
And the future.....
As for the future, Thomas sees sustainability as important, but a good compromise has to be achieved, saying: “The solution needs to be green but also efficient. It’s no use just protecting the environment. We need to protect our food.”
Turning the tables on our TPM interviewer, Thomas asks Daniel Schröer what he sees of the future. Daniel identifies three key points. First the increasing use of digital equipment, including the use of cameras in traps, and in traps not just for rodents but also crawling and flying insects. Second, the whole issue of use of traps and humaneness – which are best? And finally, increasing IPM, monitoring and the professionalism of the industry.