Food Safety Auditing

Contents

  1. Introduction
    • What is an audit?
    • What is a food safety audit?
    • Audit programs
    • Different audit standards
    • Risk assessment of food safety audits
    • Essential elements of a food safety audit
    • Types of audits
    • Definitions
  2. The Principles of Auditing
  3. The Auditor
    • The profile of an auditor
    • Auditing skills
  4. Managing an Audit Program
    • Audit program planning
    • Conducting the audit

1. Introduction

Food safety auditing is a massive subject area. Unlike other compliance audit programs such as those covering financial, governance or management; food safety requires knowledge of a number of very different fields which need to be combined to effectively audit or assess the risk and status of a food production, processing or distribution operation. For example a typical food safety audit, depending on the defined scope of the program, requires a detailed and working knowledge of management processes, hygiene, risk assessment, monitoring, human resources, health and safety, microbiology, chemistry, toxicology, engineering and so on.

Auditing can also require that this knowledge covers an extensive range of product categories, each with its own specific and unique attributes, hazards and risks. We can see that the job of the food safety auditors is not simply one of showing up and ticking boxes. It is a challenging one where becoming an effective, fair and valuable auditor requires time, dedication, experience, knowledge, education and communication skills.

As food safety becomes a daily issue in many global markets those responsible for its management and control e.g. processors, retailers and regulatory agencies are increasingly turning to auditing to effectively ensure both compliance and improvement in standards. If this emerging policy is to be effective, it must be underpinned by a body of auditors who not only possess the experience, education and knowledge of the above disciplines, but they must also have skills in conducting auditing in a systematic, objective and professional way. In this white paper we will set out in detail these skills and demonstrate how they support the principles of effective food safety auditing.

This white paper will cover the basic principles of food safety auditing, the core skills and knowledge required from auditors, as well as the steps required in conducting an audit.

1.1 What is an audit?

Before covering the specific character and nature of a food safety audit, let us first look at what an audit is in general. An audit is usually defined as a:

A systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence, and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.

In simple language, an audit is a structured activity whereby a trained individual checks for evidence that a standard is being complied with. The trained individual (auditor) will collect evidence to support their conclusion in regard to the level of compliance and overall result of the audit. This definition and description applies to auditing in general and also where an audit is focused on food safety.

1.2 What is a food safety audit?

A food safety audit usually is centred on the defined requirements set out in food safety standards, legislation and internal standards of operation. It focuses specifically on those requirements, criteria, procedures, activities and data relating to the safe production and supply of food products.