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The primary objective of a Quality Assurance Audit is to gather information related to the on-going status of a process and then applying the information gathered to evaluate the performance of the process against defined criteria.
Definition of a Quality Assurance Audit.“A quality assurance audit is a documented, systematic process, performed in a planned manner by competent independent personnel with the objective of evaluating the application by an organization to the principles and requirements of defined quality regulations and customer expectations”.
Key objectives to be achieved from the Quality Assurance Audit?1) An audit is a ”benchmarking process”, i.e.
4) The quality assurance audit is frequently applied back through the supply chain, where purchasing organizations utilize audits to force minimum quality standards on suppliers. Internal and External Quality Audits.Internal audits are usually performed by the internal quality assurance function within an organization and cover any functions or activities which may impact product quality. The audit schedule.Audits are normally planned in advance, many organizations complete detailed annual audit schedules.
Audit closure.At the end of the audit, it is normal practice for the auditors and key auditees, to review the audit findings and agree on the next steps. Audit follow-up.Upon completion of the audit, where deficiencies have been identified, corrective action(s) will be issued, or if had already been issued by the time the audit report is formally published, the report will reference the corrective action numbers.
Food manufacturers are seeing more consumer desire for healthy foods year-round, along with greater demand for food safety and quality, despite the increased challenges inherent in products generally defined as “healthier” and those which must be sourced globally.
A similar challenge exists in providing consumers with non-native foods or ingredients and year-round fresh produce. Yet, the industry is beginning to see a new normal in this area with the growing focus on global standardization being driven by the industry as much as by regulation. However, Burness said, “Not everyone employs the use of HACCP—and that is the opportunity going forward.” But even more importantly, he said, it is a question of culture. The past decade has also seen some balancing factors in the advances in food science enabling an understanding and prevention of potential risk.
Today’s customers are increasingly discerning as relates to the quality of the food they purchase, and Burness sees much of this as driven by the increased quality of private-label foods. Then, as the economy changed, consumers became more price conscious and often tried less expensive food options; where quality had increased on these items and were considered by consumers to be acceptable compared to branded products, many consumers stayed with them. As to the next 10 years for the industry, “I think the big impact on food processing will be the continued globalization of the food chain,” Burness said.
When performing an audit you are reviewing the activities, the records, processes, systems, user experiences, competences, etc.
The audit may identify shortcomings in process performance, may identify changing trends in performance, or may identify deficiencies in staff knowledge or competence. By implementing an audit program, equivalent standards of performance can be developed across different functions.

Frequently a supplier cannot become “approved to supply” a product or service, without first having passed the audit and addressed any shortcomings in their quality system. A key point to understand as part of the audit program, is the potential for learning and knowledge transfer during the audit process. The audit will confirm the compliance status of a process or product versus applicable regulatory or standard requirements. The internal audit program of an organization frequently includes the supplier audit program. These may come from regulatory bodies or from bodies which have the authority to issue certifications, e.g. It is also quite popular to have a less detailed audit program looking forward say three years, which helps in the planning of audit resources and can demonstrate alignment of the audit function with the business strategy.
A report would normally contain details on the objective and scope of the audit, the dates the audit was performed, the names of all those who performed the audit, plus the names of any individuals who were audited. The corrective actions will then be tracked to closure via the CAPA (corrective and preventative action) process.
And this has been both impacted and shaped by continued advances in food safety, quality, and defense.
However, just because a food is inherently healthier doesn’t mean that it is inherently safer.
With the globalization of the food supply, Burness said, “There’s a lot of product coming from places from which we didn’t source in the past.” This means that there is more exposure to issues of not only food safety but also quality and defense. In the 1970s, HACCP was introduced to the food industry, with Pillsbury becoming the first to use the NASA-developed program as a food-protection system.
However, Burness added, “As the economy continues to improve and consumers become more discerning, I think we will start seeing branded products getting more attention. Today, food defense has become a standard program in many food companies, but even it has changed since 2003. There often was overlap between food defense and food safety, how to approach the two, and whether they could be conducted together or required separate programs. As countries develop, consumers become more discerning, and regulation increases, we will likely see a “flattening of the world,” he said. This status can be measured against a published standard, or versus an approved operating procedure, versus a peer department, versus competitor companies, etc.. The knowledge gained can be applied to ensure procedures are consistently utilized or equivalent competence requirements are set for staff.
Usual practice is to have a risk management process in place which identifies the various risks to an organization, these may be safety, quality, reliability, financial, reputational, etc..

However, agreement may not always be possible and in such cases the auditors must clearly outline any concerns they have, the reasons for the concerns and their expectations in terms of actions to be taken to address. In fact, such foods may pose greater food safety risk because they are not as processed and do not get cooked or heat processed. The most common thread in changes to our food system over the last decade is this globalization. Since then, HACCP has not only become a USDA requirement, it has been adopted across much of the industry for food safety, and it, and GFSI, formed the basis for much of FSMA’s pre-requisite and risk-based requirements.
Thus, scientific advancement in this area results in a benefit and an opportunity, Burness said.
In the past, private label was seen as “no frills” and of lesser quality, and often carried a lower cost reflecting that.
At that time, Burness said, many risk assessment models considered risk as coming from outside in; then, as more intelligence was gathered and analyzed, the models morphed to consider the risk as from inside out. This confusion has lessened greatly over time, with food defense programs becoming fairly standard across the industry. In the wider community, regulatory bodies for example, use the quality assurance audit, to ensure quality standards are consistent across different product manufacturers. By explaining the reasons for particular requirements, or test points, or record requirements, the person being audited can personally develop their process or product knowledge. For a business which provides products and services into another commercial business, then the purchasing organization may impose minimum standards of performance on the supplier, which is confirmed via a supplier audit program. As technology advanced, science was able to quantify attributes that consumers could previously describe only qualitatively.
The greater the risk, then the more frequent and more detailed the level of audit performed. Any observations, deviations from expected practice or recommendations, will be documented. Take action based on what you learned in the study step: If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. First, it was the right thing to do and a fundamental element of a comprehensive food safety program, then it became a regulation, now traceability is critical to the infrastructure of any food company as well as companies in many other industries.

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