How Often Should You Audit Your Food Safety Management System?


How often do you perform an internal audit of your food safety management system? Do you think it’s often enough?

The answer to the question “How often is often enough?” depends on what your facility produces and which food safety management system you use. In this article, we discuss audit frequency if you follow the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Food Safety Standard V7.

Audits are a key component of verification, the sixth principle of HACCP and one of the main parts of BRC V7. Verification includes reviewing records to make sure your process controls are effective, making sure any necessary corrective actions were taken, and ensuring that control has been maintained. This isn’t important just to satisfy your auditor. Verification is also essential for complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

So now that you know why it’s so important, how often should you audit your food safety management system? This passage from BRC V7 discusses internal audits (key concepts bolded).

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7

3.4 Internal Audits

3.4.1 There shall be a scheduled programme of internal audits throughout the year with a scope which covers the implementation of the HACCP programme, prerequisite programmes, and procedures implemented to achieve this Standard. The scope and frequency of the audits shall be established in relation to the risks associated with the activity and previous audit performance; all activities shall be covered at least annually.

3.4.4 In addition to the internal audit programme there shall be a programme of documented inspections to ensure that the factory environment and processing equipment is maintained in a suitable condition for food production.

As you can see, the bare minimum number of internal audits you should perform per year is one. In reality, you should audit yourself more regularly, especially for areas of higher risk and where previous audits have turned up problems. For example, in this sample audit schedule from BRC, the process for approving suppliers is audited once per year, while the process for pest control is audited three times.

A priority classification system for internal audits

Although not specifically associated with BRC V7, the paper Food Safety: An Audit System, by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, provides some useful guidelines for determining audit frequency. ANZFA suggests dividing your food safety program audit areas into three categories:

  • Low-priority – Audit every 12 to 24 months. Examples: Management review and document control
  • Medium-priority – Audit every 6 to 18 months. Examples: Product packaging and waste disposal
  • High-priority – Audit every 3 to 12 months. Examples: Control of operations and personal hygiene

After two internal audits in each of these areas, you’ll have enough data to establish a compliance history that will help you determine the necessary audit frequency going forward. Your licensed auditor will be able to help you devise a plan to keep your food safety management system in tip-top shape.

Audits help you streamline your processes and reduce waste. Click here to learn more about reducing waste in your facility’s process.

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