The main aim of the new IFS Food version 7 is to specify the requirements for conducting audits, which are defined as assessments, and to ensure that auditors spend more time on site and less time checking documents. The assessment checklist to be used for this purpose has been aligned with the GFSI benchmark requirements version 2020.1, FSMA and various EU regulations. The focus in assessments is to emphasize the product and process approach of the IFS in accordance with ISO/IEC 17065.
Auditors will spend at least 50% of the entire audit time on the site inspection and have to adhere to clear guidelines on what needs to be checked. So it is required e. g. that risk-based relevant product samples (random samples) are taken as audit evidence (on site or before the audit) in order to check products and the related production processes including the corresponding documentation for compliance with the IFS requirements. It is also expressly pointed out that the implementation of a traceability test is mandatory during the audit.
New requirements with regard to outsourced processes
In “Part 1” of the “Audit Protocol” the following news are described regarding outsourced processes: A partly outsourced process is a production step or part of a production process (including primary packaging and labelling) that is carried out off-site by a third party on behalf of the IFS Food certified production site.
If a part or parts of the production process are outsourced, the organization must ensure that these processes and activities are monitored and that food safety and product quality are not impaired. It is the auditor’s task to verify during an audit whether such outsourced processes are adequately managed and whether there is a written contract that takes into account agreements regarding in-process controls, sampling procedures and analyzes.
If the supplier or service provider of these outsourced processes is not certified according to IFS Food or another GFSI-recognized certification program, a documented supplier audit must be carried out by an experienced and competent person.
Fully outsourced processes and trade products will not be covered by the company's IFS certification in the future either but shall be described in the certificate (Broker certification status by writing the sentence: “The company has own broker activities which are/are not IFS Broker/other GFSI recognized standard certified”) and in the company profile section of the assessment report.
Changes of the rating system
The evaluation of KO requirements has been revised: KO requirements may only be evaluated with “A”, “C” or “D”. An evaluation of a KO requirement with “B” is not possible anymore. A “B” rating is no longer to be seen as a rating for a non-conformity, but is considered a so-called "point of attention". This means that greater attention must be paid and a need for action is indicated in order to avoid future deviation. This means that deviations can only be assessed with a “C” or “D” and consequently it will be more challenging for companies to achieve the required minimum percentage of 95% in order to be certified at a “higher level”.
New assessment checklists
Overall, it is noticeable that the requirements of the new assessment checklist have been specified and expanded, although the number of requirements has been reduced by 15% in total. The obligation to inform the certification body about any changes that could have an impact on the company’s ability to conform with the certification requirements within three working days is now integrated in “Part 2” of the standard. Extended requirements were defined, among other things, in the terms of the management evaluation.
Integration of a culture of food safety into the corporate culture
Furthermore it is requested to integrate the company’s food safety culture into the company’s policy. There are no specific requirements as to how the food safety culture is to be implemented, especially since the culture of a company is less based on laws or guidelines, but rather functions intuitively and is strongly shaped by values, experiences, convictions and the role of managers in an organization.
As a result, it will be one of the biggest challenges for food companies to establish, maintain and strengthen a culture of food safety on the one hand. On the other hand, auditors face the challenge of assessing the level of commitment to food safety among managers and employees, of gaining insight in people’s mindsets and of finding out how mature the food safety culture ultimately can be regarded in the audited organization.
Extension of the HACCP hazard analysis
It is also required that the HACCP hazard analysis and assessment of the associated risks consider radiological hazards as well as hazards deriving from allergens. Additionally, hazards related to materials (including packaging materials) that could come into contact with food, must be taken into account. The requirements for packaging materials have been tightened and there are new requirements for the handling of plastic curtains, food waste used in feed production and management of foreign materials.
Further novelties of IFS FOOD Version 7
Food producers also have to deal with new requirements with regard to pest management. Specifically, increased personal responsibility is required, even when outsourcing to a professional third party. In addition to the appointment of a person responsible for food fraud, new prerequisites regarding traceability were defined. The traceability system shall be tested on a periodic basis, at least annually and each time the traceability system changes. The traceability of the finished products shall be performed within four hours maximum.
Only activities which are critical to food safety and product quality have to be audited at least once a year.
Another new feature is that the audit time shall usually be eight hours (without lunch break), but must not exceed ten hours per day. For an audit team or the audit duration calculated with the calculation program, at least two hours must be added. However, this time is allocated to the team (and not to an individual auditor) and is used for general preparation and follow-up. At the end of each assessment day, the presence of the auditors must be confirmed by the signature of a representative of the company that is being assessed and the auditor (and, if applicable, other persons present who are relevant for the assessment) stating the start and end time of the respective day.
In the future, companies not only have to report corrective actions, including responsibilities and timescales, in the corrective action plan, but they also have to define corrections for all deviations. The action plan must be submitted to the certification body no later than four weeks after receipt of the preliminary IFS assessment report, whereby corrections have to be fully implemented by this time. Otherwise, it is not possible to issue an IFS Certificate.
Assessments according to IFS Food Version 7 can be carried out from March 1st, 2021. Implementation for all certified companies is mandatory from July 1st, 2021. Exceptions will only be made for multi-location companies with central management, where the assessment of the central managing site is performed before March 1st, 2021.
On the part of the IFS it is desired that assessments are carried out after March 1st, 2021 according to Version 7. If this is not possible, exceptions may be possible with appropriate justification by the certification body. Extension and follow up assessments are also excluded if the connected main assessment was carried out before July 1st, 2021 in accordance with IFS Food Version 6.1. In any case, these exemptions will end on June 30th, 2022.
With regard to unannounced IFS assessments, assessments whose assessment window starts on or after May 1st, 2021 must be performed according to IFS Food Version 7.
Particularly serious changes entail the requirement that from January 1st, 2021, an unannounced assessment must be carried out at least once every three years in every company (even if this is subject to the "announced audit mode"). It is up to the company to decide which of these assessments is unannounced.
Further information and the new version of the standard can be downloaded here.
To be best prepared for the first audit according to IFS Version 7 and to get to know the new requirements in detail, we invite you to participate in one of our in-house trainings tailored to your company.