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Internal Audits Add Real Value

by Andrew Thomson on August 28, 2018

If you are a manager in a food operation, then you would be aware that the audit function is your third line of defense. An internal food safety audit should provide independent assurance about the adequacy and suitability of your food safety system.

If your business is not conducting regular food safety audits, then here is some great information on how you can improve your processes and protect your business from potential risk.

A good internal audit allows you to find any existing problems, and then helps you to correct them before an external audit is performed. This necessary task verifies your commitment to risk management strategies and the desire to continually improve production processes and food safety practices.

When it comes to internal audits many food operations rely on a ticking the box exercise – something I see all too often and this reveals very little!

The safety of your customers requires a more in-depth approach, and this should identify: the level of understanding your employees have of the food safety system, training issues, inefficient and incorrect work practices and any communication problems.

We have developed a Self-Assessment Audit Tool to help your food operation perform a successful internal audit. This Self-Assessment Tool will guide you through an internal audit and help you to determine whether your operation is meeting food law requirements. The results from this self- assessment can then be reported to relevant managers. If a requirement is not being met, it is considered a nonconformance and appropriate corrective actions must be taken without delay. This self-assessment will also serve as your documented information you can retain as evidence of your audit activities and results.

The information garnered from an internal audit is only as good as the commitment it has from management to perform the audit well. Creating a culture that supports and encourages employees to improve their systems and practices will benefit your operation greatly.

There are a few simple steps you need to make to gather the necessary information and should include:

An unbiased assessment which is especially important in smaller operations

Carefully select your auditor, they should be positive and have good people skills – it is not an interrogation!

Familiarity with the standards, the food safety program, work instructions and relevant process control documents. The auditor should be thorough, detailed and knowledgeable about the process and the food safety system being evaluated

Observe the processes by conducting a full review. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to do this by scheduling audits at intervals throughout the year

Talk to employees performing the processes and the steps they are using to perform their job, and finally

Look at the records to make sure that these employee activities are documented

Make sure you hold a closing meeting with all employees involved with the audit. At this meeting:

highlight where good practice is occurring

identify the nonconformances and ensure employees understand the nonconformance and what part of the standards are not being met – it is important to examine the root cause of why these problems have occurred and what needs to be done to rectify them.

Once completed, prepare a summary of the audit and list the findings, along with any actions that need to be implemented.

The use of internal food safety audits can assist in minimising costs and risks in the long term by identifying, monitoring and controlling potential food safety hazards in your business.

Internal audits are vital to the success of your food safety system and your business.

Has your food business conducted an internal audit lately?

Further information on the Self-Assessment Audit Tool is available for viewing at

If you don’t recall the last time your food operation conducted an internal audit, or you’re not sure how it works, contact Andrew Thomson

Image: PISA Italian Meal Service