Internal audits are an in-house check to identify gaps or deficiencies in the SQF System and provide a
sound basis for deciding on measures for improvement. Internal auditing is a verification method and
when used properly, can reduce the uncertainty and risk of external audits. The intent of the internal
audit is to help the site identify faults in their System so that it can be improved.
- Outline the basic set up and design of internal audit programs
- Identify resources that can assist you in establishing an internal audit program
- Break down the key areas when implementing an internal audit program
- Anticipate some of the pitfalls, challenges and benefits of an internal audit program
Applicable Code Elements
An in-house check used to identify gaps or deficiencies in the site’s food safety and SQF
System. Results are used to identify potential food safety threats and build continuous
improvement in the SQF system. When used correctly, the internal audit provides a level of
assurance from the external audit.
A risk based system that includes an implemented food safety plan and pre-requisite
- Getting Started
- Internal Audit Design
- The internal audit program should be designed to cover the entire food
safety system, including the application of pre-requisite programs and the
HACCP Food Safety Plan and critical food safety controls that have been
- Use the internal audit process to check that regulatory requirements are
being met, that Inspections and tests are being conducted as required and
that the premises, its surroundings and equipment are being maintained
sanitarily and in good condition.
- Creating a checklist
- Be sure to create a checklist that can be used to audit against the food
- SQF already has a checklist designed against the SQF Code. This can be
found on the sqfi.com.
- When designing the internal audit program be sure to include the following:
- An audit schedule (i.e., when audits will be conducted);
- Audit criteria (i.e., the area and requirements assessed);
- Responsibility (i.e., who will conduct the audit);
- Corrections and corrective actions (i.e., the response to the audit)
- Personnel conducting the audits
- Make sure that the person conducting the internal audits has
knowledge of the process, products and risks to the product. This
can be an internal person or external help such as a consultant.
- This person should have knowledge or trained in conducting audits,
designing checklists, and developing and following through on
addressing the issues identified.
- When conducting your assessment here are a few tips.
- Define your audit objectives
- Some examples of audit objectives include:
a. Make sure we pass the SQF audit
b. Reduce non-conforming products
c. Meet regulatory requirements
d. Meet customer requirements
- Identify who should be involved. This should not just be a food
safety task. Getting all employees involved will get different
perspectives as well as build food safety culture.
- Establish the audit schedule. The schedule should include what is to
be audited, who should be the auditor, and when the audit will be
- Formalize the audit process
- Define the audit time and schedule and stick to it
- Use the SQF Code checklist
- Interview your employees and involve them in the process
- Conduct opening and closing meetings with your staff
- 1. Write up a formal report
- 2. Identify the non-conformities
- 3. Take photos of good practices as well as non-conformities
- Treat this as its own program
- Train staff
- Include as many people as possible
- Develop procedures
- Close out the non-conformances
- Implement corrections and corrective action
- Identify the root cause to prevent reoccurrence
- Pitfalls and challenges with internal audit programs are listed below
- A common issue with many internal audit programs is that they not taken
seriously and are used to only meet a Code or customer requirement and not
used to identify issues, gaps, or opportunities for improvement.
- Internal audit programs fail when there is no schedule or the schedule is
ignored. Internal audits should be conducted at least annually. The full
system does not need to be checked all at the same time and some sites
check the entire food safety system should be checked throughout the year.
- Don’t use the daily GMP and food safety checks as the internal audit. Daily
inspections are used to check the day-to-day operations while the intent of
the internal audit is to check that the food safety system is still effective and
meeting the needs of the site.
- Internal audits are not successful when there is no one person responsible
or designated for the execution of the internal auditor program. Be sure this
person is trained or has knowledge and experience in conducting internal
- An internal audit is not complete if results are not defined and
communicated to the leadership team. Having everyone involved in the
process builds a successful program.
- One of the most frequent pitfalls is not taking corrective actions for issues
identified during the internal audit. Be sure to follow up on all issues to
ensure they are closed out. It is best to document these issues so that you
can determine if the same issue is reoccurring.
- Benefits to implementing a successful internal audit program
- Drive continuous improvement
- Promote ownership of the entire SQF system
- Promote a food safety culture within your organization
- Add credibility to the audit results
- Improve your audit score