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Internal audits, a critical piece in all management systems

Article by: Graham McAlpine, Fresh Food Systems & Associates

Internal Audits – Why do we have them?

How many of you when trying to fix a something, an engine, a pump, … or put flat pack furniture together, …. have finally resorted to a parts list, a workshop manual, or an instruction sheet …. and worse …. when the ladies in our lives lets us know loud and clear …. “it would have been quicker if you’d followed the instructions” ….

Being a bloke, I know I have, and there’s been times I thought I could do it without the instructions … works sometimes …. maybe…. with my daughter and my wife giving me grief when I’ve had to start again.

So, you have to admit, checklists do work and of course that’s what they are designed to do … get it right every time.

So how did we get to need checklists in Horticulture?

I’ve worked in the fresh produce sector since 1980 and when I was asked to look at food safety risks in the fresh produce sector in 1995, it was on the back of some nasty food borne illness events that had hit retailers hard across a number of food sectors.

To do this we had to take our production and post-harvest supply chain apart to look at the steps we undertake to produce fresh produce, that could cause a food safety issue in our finished product for consumers.

By the late 1990’s, QDPI’s very clever extension officer Scott Ledger, had developed an Approved Supplier checklist for Horticulturalists that signed off on what we knew at the time as the most likely risks for fresh produce being supplied at retail …. it was the fore runner of Freshcare.

Food safety and quality management systems in Horticulture

Since 2000, we have needed to develop Freshcare for members, into a formal management system to meet the increasing understanding of risk that has evolved with potential to damage your business, vendor status and the sector.

The Freshcare systems allows growers to continually comply with all the food safety and quality risks that have been identified by the Food Safety regulator and Retailers to meet market access requirements.

In any management system, along with the Production Risk steps, we also see Management steps that make sure the system reliably allows operators to cover off on the requirements.

The beauty of the Freshcare system is that it has a checklist (the Internal Audit) that covers every requirement in the system. By completing it correctly, it provides confidence to business owners that all system elements and risks have been completed.

The internal audit also allows for faults to be identified and corrective action taken to bring the system back into control, ready for the external audit.

The beauty of the Freshcare internal audit is that it’s the same as the checklist the external Auditors use when they come to verify your system is in control and issue your business’s certification.

The Freshcare Internal audit checklist needs to be completed annually before your external audit, but please remember it doesn’t have to be completed all at once; you can complete the sections individually.

Completing your Internal Audit

Please remember the purpose of internal auditing is to:

  • confirm that practices are being carried out as required by the Freshcare Standard;
  • ensure records are up-to-date, accurate and contain all the required information;
  • identify inefficiencies and problems and correct them.
and that conducting an internal audit involves:
  • talking to workers
  • observing operations
  • checking records for accuracy and completeness.
  • recording the detail of what you find – both positive and anything you find that needs to be corrected.

Completing Corrective Actions where faults are identified

A Corrective Action Record (CAR) is completed when requirements of the Standard are not being met, problems have caused or have the potential to have significant food safety or quality implications.CARs should be interpreted as a tool for documenting and demonstrating continuous improvement, as they provide the mechanism for identifying a problem, whether it has occurred before, how the problem is being managed and what resolve has been established to prevent the problem from occurring again.Please remember Auditors like to see Corrective Actions, where faults have been identified, as it shows them that the business understands their system and is likely to be in control.
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