Audit trail exercises for processors

Organic inspectors are required to conduct at least one traceback and one mass balance audit trail exercise at each annual inspection. The audit trail evaluates your recordkeeping system as well as activities for traceability and compliance.

How does an audit trail exercise work?

For processors, a complete and thorough audit trail enables a product — e.g., packaged soup for retail sale — to be traced to the origins of on-farm ingredients used, similar to documentation for the purpose of a food safety recall.

How do I build my recordkeeping system so it’s easily audited?

It’s critical to establish a common link between all activities, materials, and documents in your control system. For instance, using lot code numbers enables a reviewer to work through each phase of your operation. From ordering and receiving to processing and distribution, lot codes make individual records traceable, timely, and transparent.

No matter what system you use, it’s critical that recordkeeping is well understood by all employees and is clear and well-organized for inspectors and certifier review.

What are the key inspected criteria of an audit exercise?

Using lot code numbers allows an inspector to examine and trace all ingredients received and stored, amounts used for processing the product, and the amount of product shipped. Verification that the amount of incoming materials matches the amount of outgoing product is necessary. Additionally, this process confirms all materials used are compliant with organic standards.

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