Want Low Drama Food Safety Inspections? Embrace Paperwork [Opinion]

When I was in high school, my mom was the administrator of an outpatient hospital. Like all hospitals, Mom’s was subject to regular inspections, both scheduled and surprise visits.

When the inspectors were on premise, they had access to every bit of the hospital. Everything had a procedure, and everything had a regulation about how it should be handled. The inspectors could stop any employee and ask questions they should know — where emergency kits were located, if they had access to the drug cabinet keys, and so on.

For any question answered incorrectly, for any incorrectly stored instrument, it was marked down, and had to be addressed — with documentation — in a timely manner. Get enough dings on your record, you don’t pass. If you don’t address your issues quickly, you can get into a review process.

And if you don’t pass, then fail to complete the heavy-handed requirements to get back into compliance, insurance companies will no longer approve charges from your facility. And that is a death knell.

Every hospital goes through this onerous process, and has a system in place to ensure success.

Mom’s hospital was owned by a group of doctors who sold it to a large corporation. When the new company reviewed her hospital’s inspection records, they found she had a system in place that not only passed each time, but passed with high scores — higher than any in their own system to that date.

So, it’s no surprise, they created a position where she prepared out-patient hospitals, endoscopy centers, and rehabilitation centers in a large region for inspection. And, yes, their scores quickly rose.

Document, Document, Document

Talking with Joel Buurma for this month’s cover story, I couldn’t help notice the similarities in his approach to preparing for inspections — food safety inspections in his case.

Like my mom, Buurma has highly logical approach to things. To him, passing inspection is a low-drama process. Because if you have your procedures in place, prove that you do with documentation, and keep those papers on file, then you have nothing to worry about.

In fact, he seemed bemused that I would want to talk to him about how Buurma Farms prepares for food safety inspections. It’s so routine, so pedestrian, Buurma assumes everyone else has the same experience.

If the conversations I’ve listened to the past few months are anything to go by, what’s simple to Buurma isn’t simple to other growers.

Take a look at our article profiling his system to get tips on how to make your own inspections a matter-of-fact event with no stress involved.

The key factor? Recording everything you’re doing. If you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it.

A few years ago, I spoke with a greenhouse vegetable grower who decided get certified as an organic grower. They heard horror stories from peers about the reams of requirements, and the years and years of changes it takes to get there.

She told me that she found it was a breeze.

I asked if it was because they had already been growing organically for some time. Well, that was part of it, she told me.

But the real reason was they had been documenting everything they were doing. Their reason for doing that was to ensure the growing division was making a profit, and they were analyzing every step involved with grow.

And all those records, meticulously kept, was the key to a smooth approval.

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