Completing a visual inspection is one of the most common verification methods used the assess the level of cleaning in a food business. It cost effective when compared to laboratory swab analysis and can be performed by any trained employee.
What is a visual inspection?
A visual inspection is a basic form of inspection that can involve looking at an item, area, equipment, surface or person. It determines if it complies with your legal obligations, requirements or expectations.
Why complete a visual inspection?
In the world of food safety compliance, visual inspection plays a role in many different areas. The purpose of performing a visual inspection could be to:
- Determine if food utensils or equipment is clean
- Check that a change in packaging has occured between production runs
- Ensure all staff are washing their hands
- Check that raw materials containing allergens have been stored correctly
- Verify that records are correctly completed.
- Confirm that equipment is not damaged
These are just a few scenarios that could apply to your food business.
Visual inspection for cleaning
All food businesses are required to keep their premises, equipment and utensils clean. But when should you be verifying this cleanliness? At a minimum, a visual inspection to determine the adequacy of cleaning should be performed:
- At production start-up and completion
- After completing any a cleaning activity
- During routine GMP audits
- As part of your internal audit process.
Defining what clean means
To ensure that all staff are completing a visual inspection to the same level, it is important to define within your food business the definition of clean. My definition of clean means “you can’t see it, you can’t feel it and you can’t smell it”. You can read more about this by clicking here.
One of the biggest advantages of visual inspection is that it is low cost. It is also a quick method to verify the level of cleaning compliance. There is limited equipment needed to complete the job – a torch to see in darkened areas is about all you need.
Unfortunately, visual inspection is not the ultimate cleaning verification. Please consider the following disadvantages when undertaking this activity.
Accessibility: Lack of accessibility to critical areas can prevent the status of cleanliness from being determined. This can include locked areas, areas above processing zones or poorly lit sections within your business.
Experience of inspector: Less experienced staff may miss critical areas due to their lack of knowledge. To counteract this, an extensive training program and detailed procedures should be implemented within your food business.
Time allocation: If enough time is not allocated to perform the inspection activity, critical areas will be missed.
Allergen Clean: Visually clean does not equal allergen or microbiologically clean. It is near impossible to visually see microbiological or allergen contamination. Completing a visual inspection is a good start but further methods like swabbing, will need to be implemented to have a greater level of confidence.
Have your say
Any visual inspection program should be planned and implemented to ensure that your overall food safety objectives are being met. How do you achieve this in your food business? Share your insights with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below this post.