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Unannounced Audits in Food Industry

20 March 2017

FSSC 22000 has announced that they will be incorporating a mandatory unannounced audit protocol into their certification process as part of the new version 4. 

Whether you work for a certified company as a systems manager, as an auditor for a consultancy service or as part of a certification body as an auditor, you will have seen the way people pepare for an auditors visit. 

We all know that when an audit date is confirmed, every employee that is involved with the manufacturing process is informed and they all start to prepare, sometimes adjusting their usual processes and ways of working to ensure that they as a business will meet the requirements the auditor will be looking for. 

But who are they trying to fool? 

Through the implementation of a management system based on a specific standard, or a combination of different standards, organizations should demonstrate their day-to-day compliance.

The only concern should be who's available from key personnel for the audit itself. It would be inconvenient if senior management were not available or employees that were relevant to the process, organizations should think ahead to see how this can be overcome.

There are a few options, the most reasonable would be that substitutes were assigned for these employees and/or procedures were in place to ensure that all key employees were available for unannounced visits, either by a short notice or through an interview by using computer-aided audit tools.

FSSC 22000 has announced that they will be incorporating a mandatory unannounced audit protocol into their certification process as part of the new version 4. This new requirement, among others, has been recently published and it's safe to say FSSC Foundation will have more surprises for us. 

But FSSC 22000 is not the first food safety standard that mandates unannounced audits, back in 2014, SQF became the first internationally accredited program that requested “no prior notice” audits to be performed as part of their certification program, even some retailers within their own food quality standards (such as ASDA - Walmart’s subsidiary in the UK, Tesco, etc.) are already using unannounced visits. However, as with the BRC Food unannounced audits, the IFS Food unannounced audit scheme is still voluntary.

FSSC 22000 requires that at least one of the surveillance audits must be unannounced. The company can choose to have both surveillance audits unannounced, but the initial and recertification audits will always require notice and therefore can't be unannounced.

The reason for its implementation is to ensure the daily effectiveness of the food safety management system, also to demonstrate that the food safety culture has been adopted by and communicated to all employees.

A successful unannounced audit provides customer confidence and
good positioning within the food market.

In summary, if you have a robust food safety management system, that you audit regularly and are satisfied upholds your due diligence defence, what is there to be scared of? Mandatory unannounced audits, as part of your certification program, will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate continued compliance against the food standard and customer requirements.

This is one of the new changes that FSSC have implemented as part of version 4 of the standard, but we will tell you of any future changes when they occur.

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