An inspection is, most generally, an organized examination or formal evaluation exercise. The results are usually compared to specified requirements and standards for determining whether the item or activity is in line with these targets, often with a Standard Inspection Procedure in place to ensure consistent checking. Inspections are usually non-destructive.
Audits are defined as a systematic and independent examinations of data, statements, records, operations and performances (financial or otherwise) of an enterprise for a stated purpose. In any auditing the auditor perceives and recognizes the propositions before him for examination, collects evidence, evaluates the same and on this basis formulates his judgment, which is communicated through his audit report.
Any subject matter may be audited. Audits provide third party assurance to various stakeholders that the subject matter is free from material misstatement. Areas, which are commonly audited in a food processing facility, include: internal controls, quality management, food safety and customer specifications.
The three main types of audits include:
- First party audits are performed by the company (or a department within the company) upon itself. Examples of these would be GMPs, foreign material, pest control, etc.
- Second party audits are usually performed by the customer upon its suppliers (or potential suppliers) to ascertain whether or not the supplier can meet existing or proposed contractual requirements including customer specifications.
- Third party audits are an assessment of a food safety and quality system conducted by an independent, outside auditor or team of auditors, whose primary responsibility is to assess a food safety and quality system for conformance to a standard and issue a certificate of conformance (upon completion of a successful assessment). An example would be a GFSI audit, where the plant is audited against the GFSI standards. Examples of approved GFSI schemes are SQF, BRC, IFS, FSSC 22000 and Primus GFS.
The Global Food Safety Initiative is an industry-driven initiative providing thought leadership and guidance on food safety management system controls necessary to assure the safety of the food supply chain. This work is advanced through collaboration between the world's leading food safety experts from retail, manufacturing and food service companies, as well as international organizations, governments, academia and service providers to the global food industry.
Other audits and/or inspections
Regulatory inspections – this could include local, state and federal, depending on the products being produced.
Other audits –audits that relate to claims that are made on, or on behalf of the product, involving nutritional, religious, or ethical claims. The facility needs to retain a certification and approval to produce the product. Example: organic, kosher, Halal or GMOs.