FSSAI issues SOP for Central Licensing Authorities (CLAs) to review third party audits

The FSSAI has issued ‘Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)’ for Central Licensing Authorities (CLAs) to review ‘Third Party Audits (TPA)’.

The SOP says that the CLAs were directed to initiate ‘necessary action’ against food businesses if they fail to intimate the reason for delay in auditing. The food businesses need to intimate the food authority, the reason for delay in auditing and the date of scheduled audit.

According to the FSSAI, ‘it is the responsibility of the CLAs or the Designated Officers(DOs) to ensure that FBO gets TPA done for the financial year and to take follow up action on the audit report as required’.

The SOP says that in case audit was not done for previous year then improvement notice may be served, and reminder needs to be served, if audit is due in the current year.

The CLAs or DOs were asked to ensure that the inspection checklist was according to the ‘Kind of Business(KoB)’ and if not, then the auditing agency must be intimated to resubmit the report in correct format.

Further, the evidences and observations for essential parameters of the audit along with major and minor non- conformities should also be looked upon while reviewing the audit report.

Ashwin Bhadri, CEO, Equinox Labs, explains that audits are carried out for safety, and hygiene purposes in commercial kitchens, manufacturing units, cafeterias, and kitchens wherein the food is prepared in huge quantities.

“To elaborate on the essential parameters that are considered by the third-party audits, there are certain evidences that are observed closely. While the third-party audits are conducted or even the basic audits are conducted, the product testing reports play an important role. Audits ensure the product is verified and meets all the standards that are mandatory. Another factor that works as strong evidence is infrastructure or the layout. Manufacturing units, commercial kitchens, the catering industry, and cafeterias should have a basic layout or infrastructure as suggested by an apex body to ensure the FBO complies with the regulations related to the layout and design. Standard Operating Procedure documents should be displayed or kept handy while audits are conducted as proof of evidence. The mentioned evidences or observation are enough proof to be supporting factors during the audits,” said Bhadri.

He added that adhering to the safety and hygiene protocols becomes mandatory when it comes to auditing. It allows ensuring the FBO adheres to the norms allowing it to build the brand and support the business to survive the fake allegations.

“Depending upon the businesses and the sector the major and minor non-conformities differ. Those non-conformities if not followed, hampers the health of consumers. Usually, minor non-conformances are the ones that don’t affect the operation or quality control in the entire business while the major non-conformances are the ones that cause significant failure in business. The checklist varies depending upon the manufacturing unit, catering industry, and central and commercial kitchens. The norms or the checklist for the packaging unit differ when compared to other sectors,” he said.

Meanwhile, the SOP also lay down that the Regulatory Compliance Division of FSSAI will review the competence of the auditor and auditing agency and if discrepancies were found, then action will be taken accordingly.

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