The Global Food Safety Initiative states that internal audits are one of the requirements that “add robustness and rigour to the base requirements of food safety principles and provide added confidence and further verification of processes” beyond the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene.1
Audits are a planned, independent, and documented assessment to determine whether agreed-upon requirements are met, and the food industry relies on the audit function to provide safe food to their consumers.2 Many facilities organize their program into two categories: the external audit, performed by a third-party organization, and the internal audit, performed by employees of the facility. Most companies are familiar with the external audit—a high-stakes assessment in which the facility is too often focused strictly on passing the audit. This experience with auditing has resulted in misunderstanding or underutilization of the internal audit. Instead of viewing the internal audit as a requirement to pass an external audit, it should be considered a critical component of quality management systems for continuous improvement and validation of the food safety systems.
Benefits of an Internal Audit Program
While all audits help a facility to find and correct issues within their QMS, internal auditing has two extra benefits. First, a good internal audit program allows you to find and correct the issue before the external audit and demonstrates the facility’s dedication to customer safety. Second, the internal audit verifies continuous improvement and management commitment. Discovering nonconformances during an internal audit gives the facility the opportunity to demonstrate continuous improvement by implementing corrective actions. Senior management commitment to food safety and quality is easily demonstrated through the internal audit program. These programs require resources in the form of employee time (attending internal auditor training and conducting the audit) and financial expenditure to plan, implement, and evaluate corrective actions, including building or equipment repairs, increased sanitation efforts, and improved employee training.