Internal auditing is an important requirement in our food safety management systems. An internal audit is defined as a systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluate it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled. In other words: An independent check to ensure that you are doing what you say you should be doing and that what are you doing is effective in managing food safety.
Many internal audits just become GMP or housekeeping inspections. This is NOT the intention. Internal audits can be very useful management tools helping to identify where your food safety management system is not effective. An internal audit can highlight areas where more training is required and whether processes are effective. One of the main objectives of an internal audit is to ensure that procedures are being followed correctly.
Some other benefits of your internal audits should be:
• Driving improvement
• A tool to ensure you understand the health of the system
• Facilitating better teamwork and obtaining an understanding of processes
• Making you audit-fit
• Reducing the time of external audit
Remember your internal audits should be MUCH more in-depth than the external audit as you know where you hide your problems. There is no point glossing over details that then become nasty surprises and non-conformances at an external audit.
I chatted to some of my colleagues and friends who are experienced auditors and asked them for some advice to help you. Here is what they said:
“Assess observations with planned arrangements – in other words, compare what you see happening with what you have read in a procedure” AND “Find a conformance before a non-conformance.”
“Be pedantic – don’t compromise on the detail when it is necessary.”
“Always always plan, without planning, an internal audit becomes a social gathering.”
“Conduct a mock recall and then use that as your sample for the rest of the audit.”
“When working remotely, don’t ONLY email, follow up with a phone call and give evidence of corrective action.”
Mathew Von De Honert
“Have a monthly GMP and PRP check-in place and split the rest of the procedures and records over 10 months to do a little bit every month. This gives one time to properly assess all elements of the system and to conduct proper root cause analysis with time to implement detailed corrective actions. Make sure your internal auditors are trained and competent with the elements of the system they need to audit."
“Pay attention to detail and the places nobody goes to.”
We would love to hear your ideas on how to ensure internal audits can be more effective.