How to schedule your internal food safety audits

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This is no different when it comes to scheduling your internal food safety audits. From my experience, I have found that scheduling audits helps to ensure that your internal food safety audits are completed. In this post learn more about the philosophy behind internal food safety audits and how to schedule them.

What is an internal food safety audit schedule?

An audit schedule documents what type of audit will be conducted and when you will carry out. It can also document who will be responsibility for conducting the audit. The most common type of audit schedule will cover an entire year.


The purpose of an internal audit schedule is to plan the type and number of audits, as well as, to identify and provide the necessary resources to conduct them.  When you clearly plan or schedule internal audit activities, there is a greater chance of successfully achieving your overall audit outcomes.

But Why?

If you are certified to a GFSI recognized standard you should be aware of the requirement to have an audit schedule developed that details the scope and frequency of your internal audits. If you are not sure, take a moment to review what your certification standard requires. Here are some reference points from common standards:

  • SQF –  2.5.5 Internal Audits and Inspections (Ed. 8)
  • BRCGS Food Safety – 3.4 Internal Audits
  • IFS Food – 5.1 Internal Audits
  • FSSC (ISO22000) – 8.4.1 Internal Audit
  • Woolworths – 18.4 Validation and Verification
  • Freshcare – M4 Internal audit and corrective action

Get skilled to complete internal audits in your food business. Check out our online internal auditing training by clicking here.

Components of an internal food safety audit schedule

Let’s now look a little bit deeper into the components of an internal audit schedule. The main components are:

The area that you are going to audit. This is also known as the scope. I usually like to break these down into the different areas of my food safety management system. For example, HACCP, pest control, cleaning, calibration, maintenance, allergen management etc.

When you are going to complete the audit.  The frequency that you are going to audit needs to take into consideration any specified regulatory, 3rd party GFSI standard and customer contract requirements. At a minimum, you should seek to perform an internal audit on your entire food safety & quality management system annually. Some standards will allow you to schedule the frequency of your audit based on risk.

You will also need to consider capability. How many auditors do you need, how big or small is your audit area and time of production.

Lock in a date

One thing that I do recommend is locking in an actual date that you are going to conduct the audit, rather than just state, say, the month or week that the internal food safety audit will be conducted. This will help you to stay on target and not let audits roll-into the next month and the next month and the next.

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How do you schedule your internal food safety audits? Share your knowledge with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.

10 thoughts on “How to schedule your internal food safety audits”

  1. I do have it in place but there were few points that I’ve failed to notice . Thank you this was helpful.

  2. Very helpful tips from the seasoned auditors out there. However, i need more info on auditing of fruit processing plants. i will be grateful if i can be assisted

  3. I have an audit schedule spread sheet which includes each section of our auditing manuals. It also includes a monthly due date and a completed date. It is pinned to my desk area & each section is highlighted to a month. This way I know how many for each month and how big each audit is. I schedule light & more in depth ones together for the month and also look at the busy times of the business and schedule lighter ones that I know I can slot in. This works well for me & everything is covered

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      That is great Carol. Thanks for sharing your internal audit scheduling method. I am sure others will find it very helpful.

  4. Mohan Venkatakrishnan

    It is good to note the points mentioned. But hardly very few companies follow the systems which have been laid by them OR strictly adhere to the same. I feel that whatever system is being followed OR implemented should be Correct, Clear, Concise, Complete & Continuous without bypassing the same.

  5. When you are documenting the program include a spreadsheet stating when things are to be done. Or, set up an electronic calendar with reminders etc. There are so many ways to remember to do it. Get trained, don’t let it be a daunting task and make it part of regular work day and it gets easier

    1. Thanks for this advice Cheryl! Using spreadsheets and e-calendars are not only an effective method to use but it won’t cost much to implement.

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