When I got into this business I had visions of sunset strolls through the orchard on warm summer evenings and enjoying a glass of wine or dining al fresco with a beautiful view over the orchard. It never occurred to me that as an added bonus I'd become a connoisseur of regulatory inspections.
I referenced regulation in an earlier post and some of the numerous regulatory agencies and paperwork we have to deal with. Apparently that was a harbinger of things to come as 3 days later, we got a surprise inspection from the F.D.A., which is a somewhat infrequent inspection. This one was particularly interesting, in so far as an inspection can be interesting, because it was done by an F.D.A. inspector as opposed to a state health inspector subcontracted to the F.D.A. as we have seen in the past. Most of the regulatory activity we go through is annual. So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, here is what I spent some of that day doing.
The inspection lasted about 3 hours. I of course had to drop everything I was doing to deal with the inspection, yet another loss of time. Similarly, all activity in the area of the inspection had to be stopped so that a coherent conversation could be had which meant reassigning everyone working in the area to other tasks, another time sink. That being said, regulation is part of our job and although it is an inconvenience, it is just part of the business. My feeling is, if you're in the food industry and you're not spending a large amount of your time dealing with regulation, you're probably not a very legitimate company.
As a consumer, I love the regulation and as a businessperson it does have an upside. We approach regulation with the mentality that the inspections are good for us. The inspections are effectively free consulting since if the inspectors find things we can do better, that's great. They are looking at us from an industry wide perspective and can give us insight we would not otherwise have access to. We've never had any issues with regulatory agencies, but we sure spend a lot of time (and money) doing inspections, filling out paperwork, and doing in house work to make sure we comply with each agency's requirements.