How to Build a World-Class Audit Program

by | June 2, 2021

Food safety isn’t getting any easier. The supply chain is complex and growing nearly as fast as the consumer base it’s trying to satisfy. And despite regulators’ best efforts, contaminants slip through the cracks. That’s why its increasingly vital for brands to establish a world-class audit program.

According to the World Health Organization, “an estimated 600 million—almost one in 10 people in the world — fall ill after eating contaminated food, and 420,000 die every year.” Worse still, WHO adds that “children under five years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year.”

Audit planning

Audits—both internal and external—are a critical defense against contamination for food and beverage manufacturers and suppliers. They play a crucial role in verifying proper safety practices are in place. And the data these audits generate can help companies select the best suppliers, garner trust with customers, and validate or improve internal policies and procedures.

A comprehensive Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is crucial to manufacturers’ food safety and should exceed specific fundamental components. According to food safety auditor and industry veteran Nancy Scharlach, these essential components include:

  • Quality and food safety manuals.
  • Management commitment and company policies.
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) and prerequisite programs (PRPs).
  • Work instructions—the day-to-day activities in the plant, including descriptions.
  • Organizational charts, job descriptions, crisis teams, etc.
  • Food safety preventative controls (HACCP/HARPC).

ISO also offers several suggestions when drafting an audit plan, including:

  • Develop a plan to add value to the company and satisfy the requirements of the relevant accreditation bodies.
  • Plan to audit linked processes to explore collaborations and “internal customer” issues.
  • Review available documented information before the audit to help with scheduling and to better understand the sampling process.
  • Use checklists to improve the quality of audits but beware of using them as a crutch.
  • Use the outcome of the Stage 1 audit to plan for the Stage 2 audit.
  • Based on the result of Stage 1 or previous audits, allocate more time to areas with “higher risk.”
  • Develop the plan around the processes—not the sought after standard clauses.
  • Link audit processes together, by the same auditor, and analyze the linkages and interdependencies.
  • Arrange an interview with upper management after the opening meeting to evaluate the organization’s context, strategic direction, understanding of relevant interested parties, and leadership.

Ready to build a world-class audit program?

TraceGains Audit Management solutions help companies automate and streamline the entire audit process. Teams can schedule, conduct, and track audits in one platform using a desktop or mobile device. Users can customize their audit checklists or use pre-loaded templates. Notifications, workflows, and task assignments help track audit teams’ progress, and real-time reporting flags key findings and corrective actions.

Leveraging supply chain information already collected in TraceGains Network from 30,000 supplier locations, auditors can quickly identify and prioritize suppliers with the highest risk and preview key documents like previous audits and corrective actions.

With all information centralized on a single platform, manufacturers have a 360-degree view of their supply chain’s health and risk.

For more information about building a world-class audit program, check out our Food Safety Audit Handbook.

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