An audit is the examination and verification of a company’s performance based on a quality standard. This examination can involve the company as a whole, or a specific department. If an audit within the food industry turns out to be more negative than expected, this may have implications for food safety and consumer confidence. Audits can ensure that the rating assessment of a quality system and the certificate decreases or increases. In some cases, certificates are not extended. By minimally meeting the basic elements, companies can positively influence an audit assessment.
The food industry has three types of audits: the first, second and third party audits. The first party audit is carried out by a company employee. In a second party audit, a company employee carries out an assessment of the supplier. Lastly, there is the third party audit, where an assessment is conducted by an independent third person, for example from a certification body.
All of the audits mentioned above could turn out to be more negative than expected. In the first party audit, this has no implications for the company. The discrepancies are discovered in a timely manner and can be corrected before any product or certificate is compromised. Employees, for example, can attend additional training. Second party audits could have implications for the supplier. He may need to implement adjustments, or an alternative supplier can be sought. A third party audit may have implications for the company. In the latter type of audit, this may mean that the level of the previous certificate will not be achieved or that no certificate will be issued.
A degradation due to a third party audit may have implications for both the company’s customers and internal parties.
In contracts between customers and companies, a certain level may be required of the company. Customers want to see that on the certificate. If a company does not meet this level (anymore), customers should be advised accordingly. A negative audit result can have an adverse impact on consumer confidence.
Degradation can also have internal implications. (Production) employees may, for example, be demotivated by a negative outcome, especially when their efforts are not reflected in the audit result.
Almost every company experiencing a degradation wants to achieve a better result in the following year. It is unusual to have an audit performed in the meantime. While this is possible, experience shows that the intermediate time is needed to make improvements. The company must ensure that food safety levels increase throughout the company between the last and the next audit. During a third party audit, all departments are involved, they must all contribute to food safety and thus to obtaining the certificate. It is therefore important for a company to carefully examine which departments are experiencing bottlenecks and that it invests time, energy and resources to optimise these bottlenecks for the next audit. For example, by training the staff more and testing them on the mastery of the required knowledge. A first party audit can be useful here.
A more serious challenge is when a company’s certificate is revoked or is not extended after a third party audit. This can have great implications for the company, both in terms of the customer base, company employees and the company’s entire performance.
Customers can set certain requirements for production companies. Customer confidence in the quality and food safety of the products purchased may drop if the certificate is not secured. The likelihood exists that the customers will now want to conduct more audits (3the audit) within the company. This costs extra time for the company.
(Production) employees may be disappointed that the certificate was not secured and lose their motivation as a result. After failing to secure the certificate, it is important for everyone to get on the same page and work towards securing a certificate the next time around.
If a company fails a third-party audit, it must take several steps to secure the certificate in the future. First and foremost, it is important to determine why minors or majors have occurred by identifying the factors that contributed to causing this minor or major, and taking steps for improvement. If customers demand a GFSI certificate, it is imperative to certify the company again and to schedule a re-certification as soon as possible. All hands must be on deck to get the company ready for the re-certification process.
No company wants to be the subject of a negative audit. With the following basic elements, you’re already well on your way:
1. Make sure everyone in the company knows what food safety is and what role they play in it. Training is a valuable addition in this regard.
2. Everyone in the company needs to know what standard certification the company is pursuing or already possesses. The rules associated with the standard must be known to the personnel.
3. The importance of the quality department is recognised. The quality department also has qualified personnel.
4. Always keep on top of the latest developments in food safety in the company-specific industry.
These basic elements can be arranged by the company itself, or with the assistance of an external party.