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Why are internal audits so important in food processing?

The very mention of the word ‘audit’ is often enough to make employee hearts sink into their boots. It conjures up images of paperwork, inspections and questioning. In fact many might view it as a nuisance which gets in the way of everyday production.

All food industry suppliers working with food retailers have to undergo regular British Retail Consortium (BRC) or customer audits, which are equally as strict (if not more so), if they wish to continue supplying goods to the retail market. Retailers want to be sure that the products they are selling to consumers, particularly those own-label products which bear the retailer brand, are of a particular standard and meet specified quality and safety criteria. They need food to be traceable and to be sure that the ingredients listed on the packaging match what’s inside.

Internal audits give you the chance to put things right before a BRC audit

Given that company reputation and lucrative contracts are at stake, it makes sense to be proactive and conduct internal audits ahead of official external audits by the BRC and others. This gives you the opportunity to identify areas of concern and rectify them before the external audit takes place. You will be able to ensure that all paperwork relating to HACCP and other standard operating procedures (SOPs) are present and up-to-date and that all employees are competent and have been trained in the delivery of those procedures.

What to include in internal audits

Conducting an internal audit means adopting a non-biased holistic approach. Every aspect of the business needs to be scrutinised. The internal audit can be undertaken by members of staff  e.g. staff from one department or site may audit another department or site within the company. Or for a completely objective view, an external company (such as VWA) can complete a pre-audit prior to your BRC audit, identifying any areas for improvement which can be outlined in an audit report.

Typical areas which need to be addressed during an audit are: goods in and storage procedures; labelling and traceability of supplier products; cleaning and maintenance of premises and equipment; personal hygiene; pest control and waste; processes for thawing, cooking, cooling and reheating; packing and transportation; adequate staff training; change management etc.

Internal auditing and supplier auditing courses at VWA

At VWA we run a number of auditing training courses to give delegates the skills and confidence to undertake comprehensive auditing within their own company and also of suppliers. We offer a 2-day Auditing Skills course which comprises 4 sections:

  • Understanding the development, application and importance of auditing;
  • How to undertake an audit;
  • Evaluation and reporting of results; and
  • a series of group exercises where the theory is put into practice.

The Supplier Auditing course is a natural development and includes topics such as;

  • The purpose of supplier auditing;
  • The supplier audit process;
  • Priority, risk and due diligence; and
  • Common failings, which highlights real-life industry examples.

Taking auditing further – Lead Assessor training

For those looking to take their skills further our Auditor/Lead Auditor course is ideal. . The course provides a broad understanding of  how to audit against the ISO series of standards and provides the skills necessary to audit a complete management system internally and externally. The course has a high practical content, dealing with real situations and challenges faced by auditors in the food industry.

The next Auditing Skills course takes place on 20th to 21st June and the Supplier Auditing course follows on 26th June. To book your place call Claire on 01756 700802.