Different fields have various ways of viewing food safety audits. All these subject areas collectively help in audit, food status check, and risk assessment of a food production system, distribution system, and processing. The various fields that provide details and working knowledge on food safety audits include chemistry, hygiene, health and safety, risk assessment, microbiology, engineering, human resources, and microbiology, among others. Being a food auditor does not only include assessing if different organizations meet the food safety standards but requires additional attributes such as good communication skills, dedication, education, and experience.
Cases of food safety have been on the increase hence the need to ensure all food handling processes from the producer to the consumer do not contaminate the food product. Since food safety is wide and the audit requires examination of various aspects and products, knowledge from different fields is needed. Auditing of the processing and distribution steps helps to ensure that food products comply with the regulatory standards and improvement standards. The auditing process requires to be done by a trained, skilled and qualified personnel systematically, objectively, and professionally.
Food safety auditing helps to ensure that the food being supplied in the market is of the best quality, is produced efficiently by making the processes involved in handling food more traceable and transparent. This furthermore helps in minimizing risk exposure and reducing the costs incurred. After a food safety audit, the company is provided with a food safety certification from a group of professional auditors. Two types of audits can be done to check and ensure that retailers, producers, and brands supply quality products and comply with the food safety regulations. They include.
- Food Hygiene Audits- this type of audit is done to ensure that those distributing, and handling food adhere to the international hygiene requirements according to their HACCP plan.
- Food Good Manufacturing Practice-This audit involves examining the system to identify the areas that have deficiencies and those that need improvements and enhancements to ensure that the products distributed are quality and are safe.
Food producers, suppliers, and distributors usually conduct food safety audits for different reasons some of which include.
- To increase and build customer trust and confidence.
- To ensure that the HACCP system is complying with the set regulations and standards put in place by the state government and the standards of the destination market.
- The audits are an indication that you highly regard food safety and are committed to supplying safe food.
- Helps to reduce any non-compliance activity, therefore, improving the efficiency of the system and the processes.
- Helps to build a foundation for the certification by regulatory bodies under the GMP, HACCP and other standards set.
- To evaluate the management system and set the management priorities.
- To meet the commercial objectives
Food safety audit structure
Audits are classified according to the relationship between the auditor and the auditee. The 3 classifications are.
- The first-party audit is a process of self-assessment to ensure that your procedures, system, and management strategies meet the set standards and meet the objectives of the business. This is an audit done internally.
- The second party audit is a proprietary audit in which the performance of the supplier or the contractor is examined by a primary organization.
- A third-party audit involves auditing done by an independent auditor who evaluates various aspects of the organization and offers certification on compliance. The auditors are from outside organizations.
The process of food safety auditing includes the following steps.
The main objective of a food safety audit is usually to assess the management system. The audit helps to improve efficiency and generally improves the organization. Depending on the objective of the audit, three types of audits can be conducted. A focussed audit is a type of audit that focuses mainly on a particular area of the target upon request. The second type of audit is the random sample which involves spot checks especially on high-risk areas or following the corrective actions that were suggested before. The last type is a process or department audit which includes an in-depth analysis to identify the presence of any risk. The planning can also include the available resources and cost evaluation.
Audits are usually conducted in real-time, and the data collected is proactive since it is not an analysis of previous documents. It helps in identifying areas that require preventive strategies hence improving efficiency and preventing the occurrence of future issues. During the audits, the employees within an organization interact and engage in communication hence realizing various perspectives on something. This in turn helps to grow a food safety culture.
3. Corrective and Preventive action
When information is well documented, and the problems outlined clearly the process is streamlined and the workflow is properly defined. Comprehensive analysis helps in the identification of the main cause of the issue and when compiled for over a period, the data can be used to arrive at long-term solutions. This helps to ensure that there are detailed documentation and data monitor and control that help realize successful corrective and preventive actions to employ.
This involves investigating to know if the corrective and preventive actions are effective and contribute towards the achievement of the purpose of the audit which is to improve the management strategy after assessment. The corrective actions are usually suggested by the person conducting the audit.
5. Audit Evaluation
Once the auditing is done, an audit of the process is conducted. This Is to confirm that the objectives have been met, the provided resources have been used efficiently, and can the management implement the suggested corrective and preventive measures. The auditing process should always have a driving force and should be improved after every process.
Food safety audits are usually conducted sequentially with an objective as the data and evidence are gathered to assess whether the food safety system complies with the set standards and regulations. Through the audits, we can be sure that the food is manufactured and distributed in a safe environment and that the hazards present are identified, controlled, and eliminated during the processes. Various types of audits can be conducted following various criteria.