Inspections V’s Audits in the Food Industry

There seems to be some confusion around the difference between what a food ‘inspection’ is and what a food ‘audit’ is.  Inspections and audits are not always the same thing. Therefore, it is important that we get a good understanding of the difference between the two even though it is common in the food industry to inter-change the two activities.  I hope that this post will clearly distinguish the two from each other.

Why undertake inspections or audits?

Both inspections and audits are activities that are carried out in the food industry for many different reasons. These reasons are varied but can include:

  • A food business may require third party certification which will allow them to trade with particular customers.
  • A food business may use the inspection or audit process as a mechanism to manage risk within the business.
  • A food business may use inspection and audits to confirm the level of compliance to a particular law, company policy or industry code of practice.

Key differences between inspections and audits

As stated previously, there are some key differences that distinguishes inspections from audits. These differences are listed as follows:


  • Looks at the present – the physical state
  • Less formal activity
  • Generally unannounced. You don’t tend to get any warning that the inspection is about to take place until it is actually happening.
  • Stand alone activity. You can perform an inspection without having to do an audit.
  • Less formal report provided (maybe just the copy of the audit checklist)
  •  Limited time allocated


  • Looks at the past – through records
  • More formal planning involved including audit plans
  • Generally announced (but not always)
  • Has to include an inspection component
  • Formal report writing with documented outcomes
  • The time allocated is more extensive

Regardless of the differences, both are an assessment of the level of conformance or compliance against a set of rules, laws or criteria.


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