Starting the IFS certification process
1. Preparation of an audit
Before being audited, the company shall review all requirements of the respective IFS Standard (IFS Food, IFS Logistics, IFS Broker, IFS HPC) in detail. All standards can be downloaded from the IFS website free of charge.
After having studied the applicable standard every company should evaluate its current status in order to be able to make improvements so that the standard requirements will be fulfilled.
In order to prepare for the initial audit every company has the option carry out a pre-audit. This pre-audit only serves internal purposes and does not include any recommendations. It can be executed by a certification body or with the help of the IFS software auditXpress by the internal quality managers.
On the day of the audit, the current version of the Standard shall be available at the site being audited. The company is responsible for acquiring the current version of the Standard. The expected date for the initial or renewal audit shall be communicated to the IFS offices via the IFS audit portal. This shall be the responsibility of the certification body.
2. Certification body selection – contractual arrangements
In order to undertake the IFS audit, the company shall appoint a certification body which is approved to perform such audits. Only those IFS approved certification bodies – which are accredited and have signed a contract with IFS – can carry out IFS audits and issue certificates. The list of all IFS international approved certification bodies, by country and standard, is available here.
Certification bodies can have auditors qualified for one or several scopes and standards. Confirmation of the product scopes and technology scopes (for IFS Food) for which the certification body can perform audits shall be obtained from the individual certification body.
A contract shall exist between the company and the certification body detailing the scope of the audit, the duration and reporting requirements. The contract shall have a reference to Integrity Program, in relation to the possibility of on-site audits organized by Quality Assurance Management of the IFS offices.
The audit shall take place when products of the audit scope are being actually processed.
The audit shall preferably be carried out in the language of the company and the certification body shall make every attempt to appoint an auditor whose native language or main working language is the language of the company. Furthermore, languages used by the auditor for leading an audit - among native language - shall be approved by IFS offices prior to undertaking audits.
It is the responsibility of the company to verify that the certification body is accredited for IFS certification.
3. Duration of an audit
For IFS Food the IFS has implemented a tool to calculate the minimum audit duration based on the following criteria:
- total number of people (part time workers, shift workers, temporary staff, administrative people, etc.),
- number of product scopes,
- number of processing steps (“P” steps).
This tool is available on www.ifs-certification.com.
Examples of calculation of audit duration (in relation with product and tech scopes, as described in Annex 3):
Example 1: for a company producing ice cream:
- The audit scope shall make reference to product scope 4 (dairy) and tech scopes B (pasteurisation), D (freezing/ cooling) and F (mixing).
- For calculating audit duration, the following product scopes and “P” steps shall be selected: product scope 4 (dairy), P2 (pasteurisation), P6 (freezing/ cooling) and P12 (mixing).
Example 2: for a company producing fresh stuffed pasta, and producing the fillings on their own (with e.g. meat, cream, tomatoes):
- The audit scope shall make reference to product scope 7 (combined products) and tech scopes B (pasteurisation), D (freezing/ cooling), E (Modified Atmosphere Packaging) and F (slicing/ mixing/ stuffing).
- For calculating audit duration, the following product scopes and “P” steps shall be selected: product scope 7 (combined products), 1 (meat), 4 (dairy), 5 (fruits and vegetables), 6 (grain products), P2 (pasteurisation), P6 (freezing/ cooling), P8 (MAP) and P12 (slicing/ mixing/ stuffing).
Note 1: Specifically for product scope 7, there are different parameters to define audit scope and audit duration.
Note 2: product and tech scopes may be added or deleted depending on the detailed process(es) of the company.
Note 3: for calculating audit duration, each “P” step only counts once in the formula even if the “P” step is repeated for several product scopes.
It is mandatory for all certification bodies to use this calculation tool to determine the minimum audit duration.
The determination of final audit duration is the responsibility of the certification body and may be higher than this minimum calculated duration (depending on the specific structure of the company).
The certification bodies have an appropriate system for estimating the minimum time needed for an audit.
A number of factors, which are detailed in the contract between the certification body and the company, play a role in determining the time required for a comprehensive audit. They include:
- the size of the company/ service provider
- the type and size of production/ service process
- the scope of the audit
- the number of personnel employed at the site
- the number of non-conformities found in the previous audit.
4. Drawing up an audit time schedule
The certification body shall provide the audit time schedule. The audit time schedule includes appropriate details concerning the scope covered and the complexity of the audit. The audit time schedule shall be sufficiently flexible to respond to any unexpected events which may arise during the site inspection activity within the certification audit. The audit time schedule takes into consideration a review of the audit report and action plan relating to the previous audit, whatever the date when the previous audit has been performed. It also specifies which of the company’s products or product ranges are to be audited. The company can only be audited at a time when it is actually producing the products specified in the scope of the audit. The audit time schedule shall be sent to the auditee before the audit, to ensure availability of responsible persons at the day of the audit.