What does IFS mean in automotive engineering

What are unannounced IFS Food Safety Checks & Food Safety Audits?

The IFS Food Safety Checks have been carried out unannounced since 2019. The IFS Food Safety Checks and Food Safety Audits are used to check whether a food company complies with specified standards in day-to-day operations. The requirements with regard to HACCP, hygiene and pest control are checked. This continuously ensures food safety and quality. In contrast to regular IFS audits, IFS Food Safety Audits are carried out by IFS itself and not by a certification body.

The review can be carried out at any time and also in the absence of management, operations management or QM representatives. The only prerequisite is that the company in question has a valid IFS certificate and has applied for the Food Safety Check.

What advantages do IFS Food Safety Checks offer you?

Passed IFS Food Safety Checks (FSC) document the continuous fulfillment of IFS requirements in the company for you and your customers. In addition, this can also mean that there are fewer supplier audits by retailers in your company. The check supports the retailer's risk-based approach to controlling their industrial partners. This also gives you the opportunity to strengthen the credibility of your control systems vis-à-vis the supervisory authorities. Furthermore, the FSC can have a positive effect on your image and the risk classification of your company from the outside.

How do unannounced IFS Food Safety Checks work?

After the auditor has registered for the IFS Food Safety Check in your company (with ID and letter of assignment), he will conduct an introductory meeting with the company responsible for a maximum of 30 minutes. In doing so, he will essentially clarify how the audit will run organisationally and which responsible persons are available as accompanying persons. He then starts the audit directly in production. The focus is now on the implementation of the operational HACCP system with the corresponding control and management measures as well as hygiene measures (including pest management). He uses the IFS Food Safety Check checklist as a basis for this. The document review is limited to the bare minimum. The auditor writes his findings down in his audit report.

In contrast to regular IFS audits, IFS Food Safety Checks also take photos of weak points that may lead to the failure of the audit. In most cases the auditor will ask you to take these photos yourself. In any case, if the auditor takes photos himself, he will let you look at them again so that it is clear that no trade secrets or the personal protection of employees are violated. In the final meeting, the auditor explains the findings on site. If the FSC is not passed, the responsible person must directly sign the "Acceptance of Nonconformities" document. In contrast to the other unannounced audits, a food safety check audit lasts one day. Not all requirements of IFS Food are audited. The auditor forwards the preliminary result of the IFS Food Safety Check in the visit report to IFS GmbH.

Can an IFS Food Safety Check Audit also be carried out in your company?

In principle, all companies that have a valid IFS certificate according to IFS Food or IFS Wholesale can commission FSC audits. Only the IFS certified company itself can apply for the IFS Food Safety Checks. That means, without your engagement, you will not have an unannounced audit. But especially if you have requests from your customers to be audited without prior notice, an FSC audit is interesting. Because an announced full audit plus an unannounced FSC audit is seen as equivalent to a full unannounced audit. Your company must commission the FSC audits (order form on your account on the IFS website). This is possible at the earliest as soon as the data of your last audit has been uploaded to the IFS database. Your certificate should be valid for at least another 6 months when commissioned.

How can you prepare for IFS Food Safety Checks?

What should you basically prepare or have ready? The audit is carried out in any case, even if responsible persons such as management, IFS representatives or other managers are not present. Some basic documents must therefore be up-to-date at all times and also be available in the unannounced FSC audit:

  • Site plan with information on routes for personnel, raw materials, semi-finished and finished goods
  • current production schedule of the day / week
  • Flowchart of the processes with drawing of the CCPs and a list of CPs and CCPs
  • Pest monitoring documents from the IFS website

The auditor will request these documents during the introductory meeting. In particular, he will carry out his audit on the basis of the site plans and the flow charts.

Audit checklist for food safety audits

As a basis for the audit, the respective auditor uses a "stripped down" list from IFS Food Version 6.1. The original numbering of the individual requirements is retained. In contrast to the 281 requirements of IFS Food 6.1, there are 90 requirements in the IFS Food Safety Checks checklist. In principle, questions on the following topics are checked:

  • Responsibility of the management
  • HACCP system
  • Personal hygiene / social areas
  • packaging
  • Operating environment / outdoor areas
  • Structural requirements
  • cleaning and desinfection
  • Waste disposal
  • Foreign material management
  • Pest Control
  • storage
  • Plant and equipment
  • Process control
  • Quantity controls
  • Management of defective products
  • Product protection

How does the assessment in the IFS Food Safety Check work?

It is not rated A, B, C, D, Major and KO as in the IFS audit. The requirements are rated as “passed” or “not passed”. If your company passes the Food Safety Check, you will receive confirmation that you are implementing the relevant IFS standard in your daily work. If the FSC was passed, but with the discovery of clear deficiencies, the company also receives a confirmation. The auditor forwards the identified deficiencies to the certification body. You have to fix this by the next surveillance audit. The audit is not passed if "a risk to food or product safety has been identified and / or there are serious hygiene deficiencies and / or there are significant deviations in terms of conformity with the tested IFS standard requirements".

What if we fail the FSC?

The auditor always prepares a visit report after the food safety audit. If you fail the audit, IFS will review the visit report. The certification body of the regular IFS audit will be notified and must give an opinion on it. As a rule, the last auditor also comments on this. The certification body then decides in coordination with the IFS about the withdrawal of the IFS certificate. At the same time, the auditor uploads the visit report of the failed audit to the database of the IFS Audit Portal. From there, all customers who have been activated by the company and who have created the company as favorites receive an email with information about the failed audit. Every activated company can view the visit report.

IFS therefore recommends informing customers about facts, backgrounds and results of the check themselves in the event of a failure, before they discover it in the portal themselves. Surprisingly, it has been shown in the past that food check audits are not passed more often than IFS audits.

Implement corrective measures promptly

If your auditor evaluates individual requirements or the entire food check as failed during the IFS FSC audit, you as a company must of course take corrective measures. The auditor will check these corrective measures for their effectiveness at the latest during the next regular IFS audit. However, depending on the severity of the deviations, the certification body can also schedule a short-term surveillance audit.

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