Food safety

What is a food safety audit and how is food auditing done?

Food safety audits help regulate all operations in the food industry by ensuring compliance and integrity among food ...

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Food safety audits help regulate all operations in the food industry by ensuring compliance and integrity among food businesses.

All food businesses are committed to maintaining food safety throughout their operations. It almost goes without saying that any type of food business must follow food safety laws and regulations to protect public health. In the pursuit of highlighting the importance of food safety and its maintenance and as part of the role of government agencies in protecting public health, food safety audits are conducted. 

Food safety audits are an essential part of the food industry but are sometimes considered a dreaded experience by food business owners. 

In this article, we walk you through the key information for a food safety audit:

Key points covered:

  1. Food safety audits are organized activities that aim to evaluate the level of the food safety management system of a food business in the pursuit of protecting public health.
  2. Food safety audits focus on key areas of your operations, such as your food safety management system, food storage, food preparation, sanitation, facility design, and employee hygiene.
  3. Proper planning, extensive knowledge about food safety, and comprehensive digital management tools are the primary keys to acing food safety audits.
  4. Food safety audits can be categorized as first, second, or third-party audits which are based on the auditing firm.
  5. A food safety auditor is a trained food safety specialist who is tasked to evaluate the performance of a food business based on established factors.
  6. Food businesses can use FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System to create and conduct Food Safety Audits and keep the company consistently compliant.


Learn all the basic yet essential information regarding a food safety audit and ace your next one through the following topics.


What is a food safety audit?

A food safety audit is described as a highly structured activity that aims to document evaluations of a food business's food safety system. It helps determine if all practices are according to appropriate food laws and regulations.

A food safety audit creates a transparent report about the situation and level of food safety systems in a food business and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. These food inspection reports can then be used to improve your food safety management strategy. 

As consumers become increasingly aware of food safety laws and regulations and the risk of food contamination, food safety audits are becoming more essential than ever. Food safety agencies have heavily emphasized hazard analysis and prevention to protect public health. All the more reason for you to focus on strengthening your food control systems!

In addition to verifying the level of food safety management systems of food businesses, food safety audits include other objectives, such as the following:
  • Certification audit for certain food safety standards
  • Assessment of premises condition and food business performance
  • Ensure legal compliance
  • Inspection in response to a complaint
  • Regulatory requirement
  • Food supplier request
  • Promote business objectives

These food safety audits can be conducted by internal or external auditors and regulatory agencies, depending on their objectives. 

Are you still stuck with using paper audit forms? Switch to our digital solution at FoodDocs. Food business owners can conduct food safety audits through their mobile devices anytime using our Food Safety Management System software. Create your own detailed food safety audit checklist, perform inspections regularly, and collect information in one place to ensure constant compliance. 

food safety audit

Food safety audit to help maintain compliance using FoodDocs software


What are the types of food safety audits?

Food safety audits can be categorized as either internal or external audits. If an audit is conducted by experienced food safety professionals or managers employed within the food business, then it is considered an internal audit.

On the other hand, external audits are performed by second or third-party organizations. They can then be further subdivided into three categories based on the relationship between the auditor and the food business being audited

To further understand these classifications, here is a list of the classification of the different types of audits for food safety:
  • First-party audit. Employees of your own food business conduct this type of audit to evaluate your food safety systems and identify points for improvement. First-party audits can be conducted routinely to ensure food safety compliance and readiness for any external audit.
  • Second-party audit. Also called a proprietary audit, this type of audit is conducted by your food business, the primary organization, to other businesses directly related to you, such as in the case of supplier verification. They are conducted to evaluate the suitability of a new or existing supplier through the effectiveness of their food safety management systems.
  • Third-party audit. Conducted by independent auditors and food auditing firms to perform a complete assessment of your food safety management system and operation status. This type of audit is commonly conducted to acquire a certification or satisfy new food safety requirements.

Regardless of the type of food audit, all of them are directed toward the food safety management system of a food business. As such, this is the main area you must focus on. Ensure your food safety management system is comprehensive enough to address all potential risks and hazards and continuously monitor their critical control.

Establish a system that does not need much micromanagement and can be easily understood by everyone on your team. You can get all of these features with our smart Food Safety Management system at FoodDocs!



Why are food safety audits important?

Food safety audits play a critical role in ensuring the safety and quality of food products.

They promote accountability among food business operators and protect customers from potential public health threats.

Here's a breakdown of why food safety audits are important:

  1. Consumer Safety. Food safety audits are vital for safeguarding consumer health and well-being. By assessing and verifying adherence to food safety standards, audits help identify potential hazards, control points, and areas of improvement. They help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and help improve consumer confidence in businesses.
  2. Regulatory Compliance. Food safety audits ensure that food businesses comply with relevant regulations and standards set by food safety authorities. Compliance with these requirements is not only a legal obligation but also serves to maintain public trust and confidence in the food industry.
  3. Supplier control. Food safety audits, particularly second-party, enable businesses to evaluate the safety of their suppliers' operations and products. By conducting audits on suppliers, food businesses can ensure that their upstream partners maintain appropriate food safety practices, thereby reducing the risk of receiving contaminated or substandard ingredients.
  4. Improvement of Operations. Food safety audits provide valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a food business's operations. They identify areas for improvement, allowing organizations to enhance their food safety management systems, processes, and procedures.
  5. Cost reductions. Food safety audits can sometimes help improve the efficiency of operations, thereby optimizing workforces and resources. Effective food safety measures can lead to cost reductions in the long run.

Conducting regular food safety audits helps control and prevent the risk of food safety issues. They can also help food businesses improve their operations for better performance. They contribute to the overall integrity of the food supply chain and support the delivery of safe and high-quality food products to consumers.


What are the types of food safety audits based on their focus?

Food safety audits can also be categorized based on the focus of the evaluation. Auditing bodies may schedule inspections that will mainly focus on one aspect of the business. This categorization is more straightforward and narrows down the areas that must be prepared. 

Food safety audits can be categorized into three main types based on their focus:
  • Compliance audit. These audits primarily focus on assessing whether a food business meets the food regulatory requirements and standards of food safety authorities. They involve a review of the organization's practices, procedures, and records to ensure they are in line with applicable food safety regulations. Compliance audits aim to identify any non-compliance issues and ensure that corrective actions are taken to address them.
  • Program audit. Program audits evaluate the effectiveness and implementation of specific food safety programs within an organization. These programs may include Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Allergen Control Programs, or other industry-specific programs.
  • Management system audit. These audits take a broader perspective by examining the overall food safety management system of an organization. These audits assess how the organization plans, organizes, controls, and continually improves its food safety processes. They evaluate the effectiveness of the organization's policies, procedures, training, risk management, and performance measurement systems to ensure a comprehensive approach to food safety.

In some cases, these types of audits can overlap. Food businesses may undergo different audits based on their specific needs, regulatory requirements, and customer expectations. It is important for a food business team to understand the type of audit to prepare for it better.


What are the key areas of a food safety audit?

Generally, a food safety audit will observe and evaluate your operations and then identify areas for improvement. These key areas have been well-established over the years and are recognized to be very important in keeping food operations safe.

Food laws and regulations are set for these key areas for inspection.

Any food safety audit will cover the following food safety areas:
  • Food safety management system. This area involves how you conduct and monitor your operations and ensure that everything follows food safety standards. It also includes proper documentation of your resolutions in case of dispute, breach of standards, and other non-conformities in your food safety plans.
  • Food storage. Storage of raw and finished goods has varying standards that equally need to be monitored. Proper storage conditions ensure that you are using safe raw materials and that the integrity of the shelf-life of your finished products is maintained. Potential problems during a food safety audit may come from broken or uncalibrated thermostats, food lying on the freezer floor, damaged packaging, and cross-contamination of raw and finished products.
  • Food preparation. This key area of food safety audits is quite broad. It includes food handling practices such as proper segregation of raw materials during preparation, proper cooking to the correct internal temperatures, correct thawing of frozen foods, and even gloves or handwashing during preparation. Depending on the nature and extensiveness of your operations, this section may become very long and have many subsections.
  • Sanitation and cleaning. Improper cleaning and sanitation practices usually cause foodborne illnesses. As such, this area is considered a key section of a food safety audit. It would include having properly installed handwashing facilities, proper sanitation equipment, and a supply of hot water for cleaning.
  • Facility design. Often neglected, the design of your facility contributes to the safety of your operations. Auditors often check the presence of drainages, handwashing areas, chipped paint, and even the layout of your operations area.
  • Waste management. Including a secured and working waste management system ensures food safety auditors and customers alike that your food business is operating cleanly and is contributing to the protection of the environment.
  • Employee hygiene. One of the major sections of a food safety audit is how your employees conduct themselves during your operations to minimize the risk of food contamination. Employee hygiene pertains to the cleanliness of your employees, their proper attire, and hygiene practices such as hand-washing.

During an audit, your food safety auditor will make remarks about these key areas. Should any points need improvement, you are required to address them and comply with a reinspection. These points for improvement may either be urgent that need immediate action or points which can be done without haste.

During your actual audit, take important notes that the auditor emphasizes, as you can use these for further improving your operations and maintaining a competitive position in the whole supply chain.


What are the essential food safety audit steps?

Whether a food safety audit is conducted by your in-house committee or a third-party organization, a food safety audit follows a specific structure and a set of key areas to evaluate.

As a part of your preparation for a food safety audit, you need to learn what happens when an audit is conducted. Below are some steps that describe how a food safety audit is planned and executed.

Use this structure for internal audits:
  1. Planning. In this step, an internal auditor or an audit team must identify the clear objective of the food safety audit process. This step narrows down the key areas that are needed to be evaluated in the auditing process.

    A predetermined scope will be used to guide the whole process. The planning stage will help audit teams to focus on their specific observations and therefore offer more critical suggestions and assessments.

    It is also the stage when the auditor will require your food business to submit a copy of your food safety management plan to review before the actual audit. Based on the evaluation of your documented food safety management system, an auditor may decide whether to push through with an onsite verification or not.
  2. Execution. If an auditor sees fit that an onsite inspection is needed, then one will follow soon after the evaluation of your food safety documents. An onsite verification would involve reviewing your process operations, sanitation conditions, food safety practices, food safety management system, and documentation.
  3. Corrective and preventative actions. In this stage of the audit process, the auditor evaluates your preparedness to address breaches in standards through properly established preventive and corrective actions
  4. Verification. The process would assess whether the preventive and corrective actions are appropriate and effective. Verification procedures are commonly conducted by reviewing documents where any corrective action has been recorded and the results after applying them.
  5. Audit evaluation. During the actual audit, auditors need to evaluate their progress. Evaluating the audit process ensures that it is still on track and the objectives are being met. This process is even more useful for internal food safety audits as it can improve their evaluation process to the point of being critical. 

Food safety audits mostly comprise standard key areas and involve routine inspections. Your team can easily identify and address any concerns if you regularly conduct inspections.

To help you with routine evaluations, use a health inspection checklist covering most food safety areas to improve your focus on achieving a great score.


What should a food safety audit checklist include?

A food safety audit checklist should include various items that cover different aspects of food safety practices and compliance. Auditors may customize the checklist to suit the particular needs of the audited organization while ensuring comprehensive coverage of food safety aspects.

Here are some key operations that a food safety audit checklist should cover:

 1. Food safety management system
 2. Food storage
 3. Food preparation
 4. Sanitation and cleaning
 5. Facility and equipment

You can build your own food safety checklist or use our free EHO health inspection checklist template and add more areas for auditing.


8 steps to prepare for a food safety audit? 

Food safety audits are never easy. Because some food safety auditors, especially those from your local authority, have the discretion to make unannounced inspections, you must always be prepared.

While we mention that this is a way of becoming prepared, being compliant with food safety regulations and food industry standards is a necessity to keep operating. Preparing for a food safety audit is a win-win activity for your food business. 

So, how exactly do you prepare for a food safety audit? Food safety audits are not blind examinations. What we mean by this is that all areas that a food safety audit passes through are well established in food safety guidelines.

This fact gives you the advantage to review them and make sure that you cover all possible areas.


1. Review your basic food safety knowledge

A food safety audit is not only about the state of your food safety management system standards.

Understanding basic food safety shows expertise and confidence in your food practices.

You must be able to answer and justify any question posed by the auditor, whether they may be basic or technical food safety questions.

Not knowing how to answer simple questions such as "What are the food safety hazards of your day-to-day business operations?" shows your lack of preparedness and can be the basis for questioning the integrity of your system.


2. Ensure compliance with all prerequisite programs

Almost all food safety management systems stem from prerequisite programs. They are the foundation of the majority of food safety practices. Once you ensure that you have all prerequisite programs in the bag, then you have quite a big chance of impressing your food safety auditor.

These prerequisite programs include current Good Manufacturing Practices, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, and an allergen control system.


3. Prepare your HACCP/ HARPC plan

As part of the mandate of most food safety agencies, every food business is required to have a risk-based food safety management system that is proactive. Your HACCP food safety plan must be comprehensive, well-documented, and follow all stated principles.


4. Review your food safety management plan regularly

Set up periodic or quarterly meetings where you and your team would assess how efficient and effective your food safety management system is.

Through such meetings, you can address key areas that are creating problems in your operations. The key to having a good evaluation system is for all of your operations to be monitored and documented in an organized manner.


5. Review documentation files

One of the first steps to a food safety audit is to present your documentation to the food safety auditor before an on-site inspection.

Your monitoring forms, checklists, verification documents, and other progress reports prove that your food control system works. Make sure that all documents are complete and accurate.


6. Use checklists to finish tasks 

Preparing for a food safety audit involves several tasks concerned with almost all the various fields of your food operations. To stay on track and to be sure to remember all food safety tasks, use checklists. These tools allow you to identify urgent matters and focus on their completion.


7. Perform an internal audit

Unannounced audits can make anyone nervous because there is a lot at stake. Despite this, you can prevent human error by adopting a strict auditing routine within your food business.

Regular internal audits will allow your employees to imprint in their everyday routine the necessary, proper food safety practices and will eventually do them even without supervision. This task will also serve as a practical experience and food safety training and promote continual improvement in your employees' performance.


8. Orient and train your team

During one of your regular in-house meetings or when new employees come on board your food business, make sure to orient everyone about food safety audits and what would be the course of action to satisfy their legal requirements.

A critical step to becoming well-prepared is to know what is about to happen. Properly orienting your team creates a strong food safety culture and improves their sense of ownership and accountability for tasks that are assigned to them.

When your team is prepared, there is no need to worry about surprise inspections. Being confident that your team is well-equipped with the proper knowledge and food safety skills ensures a great evaluation report of your food safety audit.

Stay prepared for any food safety audit by conducting in-house inspections using our smart Food Safety Management System. Store all food safety information in one place and remain prepared and compliant using smart tools, such as a smart notification system and real-time overview dashboard.


FoodDocs food safety system


Third-party food safety auditing companies

The entire process of third-party audits is conducted by independent firms that specialize in food safety regulations about evaluating food business operations.

This type of audit is usually conducted for certification purposes or in preparation for a mandated food safety audit by government agencies. They help identify the key areas of your operations that need continuous improvement and the strengths of your team.

Audit reports can serve as your golden ticket to many different types of food safety certifications. Several audit processes are recognized by international organizations, such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). This makes any report by an accredited food processor recognizable in different locations. 

Here is a list of some of the third-party food safety audit companies that are known in the food manufacturing industry:

  • Comprehensive Food Safety (CFS)
  • Food Safety System Certification 22000
  • IFS world
  • TUV SUD America Inc.
  • Safe Food Alliance

Contrary to food audits mandated by government regulatory agencies, a third-party certification body does not have the jurisdiction to order temporary closure of your food business if ever it unravels any severe violations. At most, failing a third-party audit will merit you an unsatisfactory mark, and you will not be awarded the target certificate. 

Ensure that you get that food safety certificate by using our smart Food Safety Management System. Use our software's smart tools that will help the team consistently ensure food safety compliance while all information is collected in a single storage space. Perform a quick general overview of your food safety progress using our real-time dashboard.


What is a food safety auditor?

A food safety audit process will not be complete without a food safety and quality auditor.

Food safety auditors, otherwise known as food safety inspectors, are experienced food safety professionals who inspect and evaluate food businesses based on their compliance with any food safety law.

Food safety auditors conduct objective assessments of food safety programs and regulations to ensure that food businesses offer safer food to consumers and protect public health from foodborne illnesses.

Food safety auditors have a deep and wide range of understanding of basic and advanced food safety rules. They must also undergo certification processes to obtain proof of their qualification.

Some auditors have already spent several years in the food industry and are very familiar with common mistakes. This makes them very hard to please at times.


What are the roles and responsibilities of a food safety auditor?

The role of a food safety auditor is crucial in ensuring that food businesses adhere to proper food safety procedures and comply with relevant regulations and standards.

A food safety auditor is required to achieve the following objectives when conducting an audit:
  • Ensure compliance of food business with current food safety laws and regulations
  • Ensure efficiency and effectiveness of food safety management systems
  • Review documents of food businesses related to the monitoring of food safety
  • Conduct a thorough and objective onsite inspection of food safety controls
  • Review food safety laws for food business owners
  • Provide recommendations based on findings.
  • Compile a comprehensive report regarding the business's food safety performance while highlighting areas for improvement and strong areas of operation.

Food safety auditors are trained to become impartial in all their decisions. You will never have to worry if one is playing favorites. They are also mandated to exercise extreme professionalism when disclosing sensitive information about your food business and the results of your food safety audit.


What are useful food safety auditing tools?

Complying with food safety regulations means tons and tons of documents. Reports and documentation of your food production operations must be properly archived in an organized and clean manner. These documents must be complete and always be accessible for review and audit.

Food safety auditing tools can be applications, programs, or managing routines that can help you achieve a working food safety management system.

Some auditing tools which can be very helpful in conducting food safety audits include:
  • checklists,
  • protocols,
  • manuals,
  • risk-assessment tools, 
  • pre-audit questionnaires, and
  • copies of any applicable food safety law. 

Nowadays, all of these auditing tools can be found in software that can help you store, manage, and verify all documents for your food safety management system.

Get a one-stop-shop solution for all of these requirements when you use FoodDocs' intuitive Food Safety Management System. From auditing tools and monitoring logs to organizing all information in one place, our smart software can do that for you. 



How to conduct an effective food safety auditing with FoodDocs?

Food safety audits are essential parts of the whole food supply chain. They promote a focus on improving your food safety practices and protecting public health from foodborne illnesses and related injuries. Being prepared is the best way to face food safety audits. 

The key to a successful food safety audit is to do your food safety operations, monitoring, and documentation correctly every day.

To help you achieve this, our team of food safety experts has developed smart software designed for food businesses.

Use our Food Safety Management System Software to help you ace a food safety audit any time of the day.

Here are a few steps that you can follow to help achieve a successful audit:
  1. Food safety audit log
  2. Task notifications
  3. Customizable food safety monitoring checks


Food safety audit log

Create, schedule, and manage food safety audits using our smart software.

Perform internal audits with digital Food Safety Audit Log templates that are customizable to fit your operations.

Users can also create personalized audit checklists from scratch that can be used internally to maintain food safety and prepare for a third-party or government-mandated food safety audit.

Choose from different scoring formats depending on how food safety audits are done in your location. Users can create "yes/no" checklists or scored questionnaires.

All auditing tasks can be done through our Food Safety App, which is compatible with any device. 

Use our smart tools to remind your team to perform them monthly, annually, or quarterly.

food safety audit

Food safety audit to help maintain compliance using FoodDocs software


Task notifications

Ensure that your team does not forget to conduct regular food safety audits and inspections using our smart notification system.

Set up the desired intervals for conducting audits when making your audit log. Users can select the audit frequency as either of the following:

  • Once a month
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

Our system will automatically alert involved operators regarding an upcoming audit. With this feature, all employees will never forget to keep everything organized and always ready.

In addition, this notification system also works as a reminder for employees whenever there are food safety tasks due. Create a well-prepared and equipped team with the help of our smart tools. 


Task notifications to remind the team of food safety audits using the FoodDocs software


Customizable food safety monitoring checks

At FoodDocs, we understand the diversity of food safety operations from one company to another. Each type of operation requires a different monitoring approach. 

As such, our smart software highlights wide-ranging customizability features across our system. All automatically generated monitoring forms and checklists that are compatible with the nature of your food business can be fully customized after generating them. 

Incorporate unique operations to monitor for an audit or a regular food safety task by simply editing the logs of your choice. Create new tasks or customize existing monitoring logs and checklists to fit your operations best.

All of these benefits can be accessible to your food safety audit team at the palm of your hand. Our system is compatible with any mobile device, such as cellular phones and tablets. Access all of your well-organized information for a food safety audit review and become ready for an onsite inspection by regularly conducting your internal verification programs with our help using your mobile phone. Every detail of a good food safety audit tool is present in our Food Safety Management System.

With an average of 15 minutes, you can easily switch all of your food safety management system tasks into our digital platform and start becoming more efficient.

Let us help you maintain your compliance with food safety laws and regulations so you can focus your attention on other important tasks. Easily tailor your food safety audit checklist by customizing your template to a standard food safety audit checklist. Maintain the highest standards of food safety audit throughout the year with our help.

Start your digital Food Safety Management System journey with our free 14-day free trial. Hurry and sign-up before your next food safety audit!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you need more information about food safety audits? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic.

Is a food hygiene audit the same thing as a food safety audit?

A food hygiene audit is a subset of a food safety audit. While food hygiene specifically focuses on the handling, preparation, and storage of food to prevent contamination and ensure cleanliness, a food safety audit encompasses a broader scope, including hygiene, but also extends to evaluating other aspects such as HACCP plans, documentation, training, and compliance with regulations and standards.

What is the difference between a food safety audit and an inspection?

A food safety audit is a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a qualified auditor to assess an organization's adherence to food safety standards, regulatory requirements, and industry best practices. It involves a systematic review of processes, procedures, and documentation. On the other hand, a food safety inspection is often carried out by a regulatory authority to ensure compliance with specific regulations, focusing on basic hygiene practices, cleanliness, and general compliance with minimum requirements rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the entire food safety management system.



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