Remote verification of food businesses

Find out about remote verification, if your food business qualifies, and how it works.

What is remote verification?

Traditionally, a verifier visits a food business to gather information and seek assurance that the way the operator is managing risks from potential food safety hazards, such as bugs, chemicals and objects, consistently produces safe and suitable food.

With remote verification, the verifier uses technology to seek assurances about food safety and suitability, and doesn’t set foot in the business.

Why have remote verification?

Businesses in distant parts of New Zealand contacted the New Zealand Food Safety team to express concern about the costs associated with verification - they were paying for the time it took verifiers to travel to them and costs such as car mileage or flights. While they accepted there could be some cost associated with travel, the distances involved meant costs were very high. As part of the our commitment to reduce compliance costs for small businesses, the Team investigated whether verification carried out using technology might reduce costs associated with verifier travel while still providing a valid measure of a business’s approach to food safety and suitability. Field trials confirmed this to be possible. More than 1,000 food businesses operate in districts where there is no local verifier, and might benefit from this approach.

How does it work?

We've developed a procedure for successful remote verification, with a food operator connecting with their verifier via Skype. All the operator needs at their business is a device such as a smart phone, tablet or lap-top with camera and voice communication; a broadband connection, and the Skype app. The verifier can be at home or in their office when interacting with the operator.   Skype will allow them to gather the information they need about the safety and suitability of food at the business.

Skype calls are not recorded by the verifier, so communications are all ‘real-time.’

Is it right for your business?

Businesses need to meet certain rules, so not all food businesses will qualify for a remote verification. Your business may be suitable if:

  • it is registered at a national programme level
  • it has a good compliance history
  • it doesn’t export food
  • you have the technology available to connect with your verifier at your site(s), and can use it
  • you are located at least 1.5 hours from your verifier (to make remote verification cost-effective).

Technology requirements

The technology you will need:

  • Access to a good internet connection.
  • A smart phone or tablet or lap-top with camera and sound ( a set of headphones may also be required)
  • To know how to use Skype.
  • To be confident that you can use your smart phone/tablet/laptop to show your verifier your business in action.

What happens if you qualify for remote verification?

Your verifier will have done an initial assessment (see ‘is it right for your business?’) and will send you an email with information about remote verification and what you will need to do. You can choose whether you would like to have a remote verification or whether you would prefer the  Verifier to visit your business in person. They will explain costs associated with their visit.

If you are interested in a remote verification you must:

  • let the verifier know you are interested.
  • arrange a date and time to speak with the verifier by phone to discuss remote verification in more detail.

Learning more from your verifier

During your pre-arranged call, your verifier:

  • will explain about what happens during remote verification and what you need to do.
  • answer your questions.
  • find out whether you will need a translator and what the translator needs to be able to do.
  • confirm you are still interested in, and able to, carry out a remote verification.

If you and your verifier are both satisfied a remote verification is doable, your verifier will send you an information pack and a request for you to provide some documents, such as a site plan and layout. The information will help your verifier understand how you operate your national programme business. Your verifier will need this information quite quickly and before the next step in the process, so make sure you send it by the required date.

Checking the technology works.

Once you have sent the documents to your verifier, and if you are both still happy to proceed with the remote verification, your verifier will want to check that the technology works and that you are confident and capable of using it to show them your business.

  • If you are using Skype for business, your verifier will send a request for contact. You must accept this request otherwise your verifier will not be able to call you to test the technology.
  • If you are using personal Skype, you will have provided your verifier with your Skype details, and your verifier will make a Skype video call to you at a time you have agreed.
  • When the verifier connects with you on Skype, they will want to make sure the picture and sound quality is good enough to carry out a verification. This is best done by taking your verifier on a tour around your business – inside and out and will help the verifier:
    • check the Skype works in the places they want to go to.
    • understand how your business is organised, and where things happen.
    • work with a translator - if one is needed. If they are, the translator needs to be present during the technical check to help with the process.
    • confirm that communications using the technology are satisfactory for the verification.

The verification

Getting ready

  • Arrange for staff to be present who can answer questions the verifier may have, and who can do the work you would normally do to make sure you will not be disturbed during the verification.
  • Charge your phone, laptop or tablet.

On the day

  • Check you, your staff and your phone/tablet/laptop is ready.
  • Take the call from your verifier at the agreed time.
  • Show the verifier your business in action and answer questions.
  • Follow the process your verifier leads you through.
  • Listen, give information and ask questions.

When they have finished gathering information your verifier will take a break from the Skype call to check their notes. They will then call you back and:

  • Present and explain the findings from the verification.
  • Discuss any areas where you need to do things differently and give you an opportunity to explain your ideas on how you might do that.
  • Agree with you the actions you’ll take and when you will do them.
  • Hear what you have to say and give you a chance to ask questions about what happens next.

After verification day

When you have finished the Skype call your verifier will write their report on the remote verification and send it to you via email or by post. The report will let you know when your next verification is due. It will also confirm the actions you have agreed to take and by when. You must complete these actions and send proof you have done them to your verifier by the agreed date.

Who to contact

If you have questions about remote verification, email foodactinfo@mpi.govt.nz

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