More farmers embrace remote auditing as lockdown restrictions continue

Food assurance auditors at Lloyd’s Register (LR) have completed over 2,000 remote audits on farms in the UK and South America on behalf of Quality Meat Scotland, Red Tractor, Scottish Quality Crops and Global Animal Partnership over the last six weeks.

While relatively new for some, remote audits have been around for a considerable time. However, the recent challenges around running audits on-site has led to many standard owners seeking alternative ways of working.

Technology has enabled food safety compliance audits to continue despite restrictions for on-site auditing, with farmers of all ages embracing the opportunity to maintain their certification schedule and demonstrate their commitment to providing safe food for consumers everywhere.

Head of agriculture at LR, Stephen Sanderson said: “The last six weeks have proven that the methodology works and, as these audits are now providing an example to other farmers, we are seeing a significant uptake in the number of remote audits booked for coming weeks.

“While younger, more tech-savvy farmers were the first to easily adopt remote audits, we’re now seeing older generations move to do the same. More and more farmers are seeing the benefits of remote audits, including being able to overcome the challenges of species-specific biosecurity requirements and geography of location. Retailers are also embracing remote assessments and we’re working with both Marks & Spencer and Tesco to deliver their audits and training for their suppliers following a successful pilot.

“We can use remote technology to monitor improvements made following root cause analysis and corrective action taken. This ultimately reduces the burden of auditing on-site for the farmer, protects the integrity of the scheme or standard more effectively and helps the farmer demonstrate their commitment to ethics and animal welfare.”

Commenting on the National Farmers Union (NFU) campaign lobbying UK Government to ensure that all imported food has been produced to the same high standard as British farmers, which is nearing 1 million signatures, Mr Sanderson said: “As a farmer before I joined LR, I’m very proud that this matter has received consumer attention – it’s taken a long time and significant financial investment to receive world class recognition of the high standards of British farmers. It’s been hard fought and hard earned.

“Importing substandard quality products undermines all of this work and damages consumer perception. If you ask British farmers to lower costs to remain competitive with cheaper imports it has the potential to impact on animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards.”

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