GFSI Certification minimizes food safety risks, provides global consistency, increases positive brand perception, and achieves industry recognition for a facility for meeting robust certification requirements. However, not every food industry business can achieve the required level of excellence to be awarded certification. One common reason? Skipping the food safety internal audit process. Regular food plant audits run by a qualified food safety auditor not only improve chances for certification but also enhance overall business operations, reputation, and product consistency.
Food Safety Internal Audit for Certification
Every certification audit is guaranteed to include a version of the following question:
Have you performed an internal audit of the food safety standards you’re seeking to be certified for?
If you are a farmer, grow, ship, and/or pack produce, you will be familiar with PrimusGFS or GLOBALG.A.P:
Is there a documented procedure for how internal audits are to be performed at the
operations, including frequency and covering all processes impacting food safety and the related documents and records?
A written procedure for food safety internal audits should be created covering each operation. The procedure should cover the inspection of the sites, the practices in place, the related documents required, the records generated, the recording system used for the audits, the frequency of the internal audits and identification of the food safety auditor(s) responsible for conducting the internal audits. The internal audit records are assessed in each module.
Does the producer take responsibility to conduct a minimum of one internal self-assessment per year against the GLOBALG.A.P. Standard?
“There is documented evidence that in Option 1 an internal self-assessment has been completed under the responsibility of the producer (this may be carried out by a person different from the producer). Self-assessments shall include all applicable control points, even when a subcontracted company carries them out. The self-assessment checklist shall contain comments of the evidence observed for all non-applicable and non-compliant control points. This has to be done before the CB inspection (see GLOBALG.A.P. General Regulations Part I, section 5.). No N/A, except for multisite operations with QMS and producer groups, for which the QMS checklist covers internal inspections.”
If you are a food manufacturer, then you will be looking at SQF or BRC:
The methods and responsibility for scheduling and conducting internal audits to verify the effectiveness of the SQF System shall be documented and implemented. Internal audits shall be conducted in full and at least annually. The methods applied shall ensure:
i. All applicable requirements of the SQF Food Safety Code: Food Manufacturing are audited per the SQF audit checklist or a similar tool;
ii. Objective evidence is recorded to verify compliance and/or non-compliance;
iii. Corrective and preventative actions of deficiencies identified during the internal audits are undertaken; and
iv. Audit results are communicated to relevant management personnel and staff responsible for implementing and verifying corrective and preventative actions.
BRC 3.4 Internal Audit:There shall be a scheduled programme of internal audits throughout the year with a scope that covers the implementation of the process risk assessment, GMP, and documented procedures to achieve this standard. The scope and frequency of the audits shall be established in relation to the risks associated with the activity and previous audit performance.
Internal audits shall be carried out by appropriately trained, competent auditors. Auditors shall be independent (i.e. not audit their own work). The internal audit programme shall be fully implemented and tracked. Internal audit reports shall identify conformity, as well as nonconformity, and the results shall be reported to the personnel responsible for the activity audited. Corrective actions and timescales for their implementation shall be agreed upon and completion of the actions verified.
Notice common themes that are recurring in each scheme:
- Each site needs to conduct a food safety internal audit AT LEAST annually
- The internal audit must cover all questions within the scheme you are implementing (PrimusGFS, GLOBALG.A.P., SQF, BRC, etc.)
- The food safety auditor(s) performing the internal audit needs to be competent in the expectations
- Communication of results need to be presented to management
- Corrective actions of issues found the need to be performed and documented.
We will use the bullet points above as the roadmap for our internal inspection. First, we need to decide what standard we plan to use for our internal audit. Then download and print the checklist.
Once we have the checklist in hand it is time to audit the farm or facility to the expectations in the checklist. Honestly answer each question:
- Has my team created a HACCP plan (if needed) Yes/No?
- Did my maintenance personnel really fill out their various logs Yes/No?
- Have we updated the SOP for cold storage when we upgraded the refrigeration unit Yes/No?
This portion could take a while because some of these checklists have HUNDREDS of questions!
After what can feel like an eternity, you and your team FINALLY finish the internal audit, or so you think. Now is the fun part. Now we get to communicate our findings to the managers in charge of the various departments. What did they do well, where are some opportunities for improvement, who needs more training, what documents need to be updated, etc.
In the end, EVERYTHING needs to be documented. All corrective actions need to be tracked. You know the saying: if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen.
Schedule an ASI GFSI Certification consultation today.