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IFS Food: unannounced audits

Posted by Laura Heisch on 05/05/2016

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From autumn 2016, companies will have the opportunity to register voluntarily for an unannounced audit in accordance with the IFS food certification standard. The audit date won't be communicated before and the company has to always be ready for the unannounced audit. This increases the attention to quality and transparency within the entire production process.

The unannounced audits take place within the regular time zone of a normal (announced) audit and comprises a full-valued announced audit. The same standards apply as for an announced audit (IFS Food, version 6, part 1, chapter 5.8).

Process of certification:

  1. The company decides to obtain the IFS Food certification
  2. selection of a certification body
  3. preparation for the audit
  4. optional: pre audit
  5. defining the audit date, audit time and audit scopes (coverage area of the audit) -> this step will be dropped at an unannounced audit.
  6. execution of the audit by an independent auditor
  7. preliminary audit report and plan of measures: created by the auditor
  8. The company accepts corrective action determined by the auditor and completes the action plan: Resubmitted to auditor for review.
  9. certification body decides if the certification will be granted: issue of the certificate and transmission of the final audit report to the company

Unannounced audits:

If companies decide to take part in the unannounced audit program, they have to inform the certification body at least 16 weeks before the date of the monitoring audit. Within this interval and up to two weeks after the date of the monitoring audit the unannounced audit can take place.

In order to prepare companies, have the opportunity to declare vesting periods (up to 10 days) within no unannounced audit will take place. Thereby they can avoid extreme restrictions, for example in the peak phase of the production or in holiday time of the person primarily responsible.

After a successful certification by the auditor on the certificate will be noted “unannounced” audit.

Further information:

In February 2016, the IFS has published an extra audit protocol for unannounced audits within IFS Food which will enter into force on the 1th of October 2016. Here you can download the complete audit protocol for unannounced audits of the IFS Food standard, Version 6.

It is expected that in 2017, the program will be obligatory. Until then companies can register for the program voluntarily.

Cycle of certification:

The validity of the certificate depends on the date of issue, date of the certification audit + 8 weeks. The certification is valid for 1 year.

Example:

  • Date of the initial audit: 3 May 2016
  • Date of issue: 28 June 2016
  • Validity of the certification: 27 June 2017
  • Date of the monitoring audit: 27 June 2017
  • Validity of certification: 27 June 2018

Even if the date of the monitoring audit changes each year, the validly date of the certification remains the same.

With an unannounced audit the standard process of certification will be the same. An unannounced audit is possible at any time between the date of issue and the last possible day for a monitoring audit.

Most companies decide for an announced audit instead of a monitoring audit. But it’s also possible to start the certification process with an announced audit.

Difference to IFS Food Check:

At the unannounced IFS Food Check only parts of the production with focus on single requirements of the standard are checked, i.e. hygiene. The audit duration of the food checks is shorter compared with unannounced audits and the final result is either “pass” or “fail”.

The program will commence at the end of 2016 (1 October 2016) and will be replaced with the voluntary participation in the “unannounced audits” program.

 

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