One of the best ways for a food company to maintain high food safety is by adopting GFSI standards. Regardless of which GFSI certification program your company relies on — BRCGS, FSSC, IFS, or SQF — they all require internal food safety audit management.
The Brand & Economic Toll of Food Safety Recalls — and What You Can Do to Prevent One
Internal audits are a vital element of any food safety management system. More in-depth compared to a general GMP inspection or critical control point verification, audits can help you identify risks in your facility before they become serious threats to your business.
However, developing a comprehensive and effective internal food safety audit management system can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. Here are three tips to help you not only comply with GFSI requirements but also protect consumers and your brand in the long run.
1. Form and train your internal auditing team
Before you can audit your food safety processes, you must first assemble a team of auditors. This team must be designed to avoid conflicts of interest — in other words, be sure to assign auditors who do not oversee the area or process being audited.
Once you’ve formed your team, it’s crucial to dedicate resources toward training them. AIB International’s GFSI Internal Auditing training applies to all GFSI certification schemes and teaches internal auditors how to
- Establish an audit protocol by understanding the auditing process and methodology
- Maintain and manage internal audit records, schedules, and procedures
- Detect, correct, and mitigate potential risks and nonconformances
- Implement appropriate corrective actions
A training course like AIB’s ensures that everyone uses the same approaches and techniques and understands how internal audits contribute to overall food safety. Formal training can also prevent internal auditors from asking leading, open-ended, or ambiguous questions, giving them the skills needed to be objective, respectful, and professional when interviewing facility workers.
To maximize the impact of internal food safety audits, consider going beyond a one-off training session; instead, providing the internal audit team with ongoing food safety resources and courses. Auditors who have been updated on the latest developments in food safety regulations and trends will be able to perform better audits and identify issues that could compromise food safety.
2. Create an internal auditing schedule
An internal auditing schedule is the basis of any food safety audit plan. Not only does it guarantee audits are conducted on time and consistently throughout the year but it also provides an opportunity for you to define the scope of every food safety audit.
The frequency of your internal audits should be determined by your facility’s risk level, as well as findings from prior audits. For example, if a particular process has more issues, you’ll want to boost the frequency of internal audits. Similarly, you’ll want to audit areas where you’ve implemented corrective actions to ensure that your leadership team and staff have successfully addressed all non-conformances.
3. Formalize the auditing process
You should always manage an internal audit as an independent program with its own procedures, cross-department representation, and analysis reporting.
Here are some steps to help you formalize the internal auditing process:
- Prepare a comprehensive checklist that includes facility-specific questions.
- Document with detailed descriptions and photographic evidence for evaluations against standard requirements. Do not have auditors simply check off a “complies” or “does not comply” box.
- Complete a non-conformity report, which should include deadlines and assigned responsibilities for conducting root cause analysis and developing corrective action plans.
- Schedule a findings meeting with appropriate department managers.
One of the most common reasons for GFSI noncompliance is the lack of a properly designed or implemented internal food safety audit program. But beyond compliance, internal audits allow you to take corrective actions before problems occur, ultimately protecting your company from the financial and brand damage inadvertently caused by unsafe practices.
Looking for a quick yet comprehensive training program that satisfies GFSI’s internal auditing requirements? Learn more about AIB International’s training resources.