Access to optimal amounts of nutritious, safe, and healthy food is important for overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, an estimated 600 million, i.e. 1 in 10 people, suffer from illness every year due to contaminated food. Unsafe food contains harmful viruses, bacteria, chemicals, parasites and other substances that are known to cause over 200 diseases, including diarrhoea and even cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), contaminated and unhygienic food results into over 420,000 deaths every year globally.
As a result, maintaining high levels of food hygiene and safety has become imperative to build trustworthiness, stay compliant, ensure overall safety of the public, and for business sustainability. The growing interest of modern consumers on food quality, nutrition and safety has forced the private and public food sectors to devise stringent food security and quality standards. And audits are an integral component to ensure the safety standards are diligently followed and the processes are in compliance with statutory regulations.
There are several reasons why organisations must regularly perform comprehensive food safety and hygiene audits:
- To evaluate the management systems and processes like raw material procuring, production, packaging and supply
- To assess the condition of the manufacturing & storage facility, and the products
- To obtain food safety and hygiene certifications
- To stay compliant with regulatory standards
- To build transparency in maintaining high levels of efficiency, safety, and hygiene
- To improve customer trust and reliability
- To identify, control and respond to health risks associated with contaminated and unsafe food
What does a Food Safety & Hygiene Audit Covers?
Before we understand what a food safety audit typically comprises of, let’s evaluate the audit structure first.
Audits in the food industry can be classified in three ways:
- 1st Party: This is self-assessment audit, i.e. the organisation internally evaluates the management strategies and procedures to determine whether they are compliant with regulatory standards and meet business objectives.
- 2nd Party: These are proprietary audits that help verify the performance of contractors or suppliers.
- 3rd Party: Third-party food safety audits are conducted by independent auditors, i.e. who are not directly associated with the auditee. This is often performed as compliance audit and for the purpose of certification.
Based on the type of food safety audit being performed, it includes a comprehensive assessment of:
- Building structure
- Documentation, records and monitoring
- Cleaning and hygiene schedule
- Facilities and equipment
- Personnel hygiene
- Emergency procedures
- Storage areas
- Product handling and food display
- Temperature control
- Supply chain
- Pest control
- Training, supervision and instruction
- Product and process audits
- Audit of equipment maintenance and hygiene
- Supplier or contractor audit to reduce the risk of contamination from external sources
In addition to the above, third-party audits may also include regular food quality and safety audits, chemical and microbiological testing of food samples and food contact materials, and ensuring compliance during food production.
Supply chain audits are also performed to spot potential bottlenecks in the process and evaluate the end products in real world conditions to determine its safety and customer satisfaction.
Post audit, a comprehensive report is prepared based on the status of existing processes, safety & hygiene, and scope for improvements.
Steps to Conduct Food Safety and Hygiene Audit
Discussed here are the key steps to perform comprehensive food safety and hygiene audit:
i) Planning: Food safety audit planning begins with setting a clear objective. Another integral aspect of planning is determining the audit scope, i.e. which areas need to be targeted. Planning should also include cost and resource considerations.
ii) Execution: With audit, you can get assess the status of your quality management system and operations in real-time. It helps identify the problems that may arise now, i.e. it takes a proactive approach rather than reactive. Identifying areas where preventive strategies can be implemented as well as focusing on audit findings can help improve operational efficiency and prevent problems in the future.
Companies often use audit tools in the execution phase to develop a thorough and systematic approach to food safety audit.
iii) Preventive and Corrective Actions: Gathering audit information with problem descriptions and proper documentation can provide valuable data with actionable insights. Comprehensive documentation with monitoring data can help determine the success of preventive and corrective actions taken by you.
iv) Verification: In this phase, it is crucial to evaluate how efficient are the preventive and corrective actions, and whether they are complying with regulatory standards and your management strategy.
v) Audit Evaluation: It is one of the most steps of food safety and hygiene audit – evaluating and validating the success of the audit process. Even the audit process should comply with your business objectives and statutory audit schedule.
Proper workwear is one of the key aspects that can help your company stay compliant with regulatory food safety and hygiene standards. Lindstrom India provides workwear rental services, providing private and public food sectors with high-quality, suitable, and hygienic workwear that can help prevent contamination. Our cleanroom services are designed to help food and pharma manufacturing and supply companies with regular access to clean and decontaminated workwear that helps maintain personnel hygiene at workplace.