International Featured Standard

History and Introduction to Version 5 of the IFS Standard

Supplier audits have been a permanent feature of a retailer’s systems and procedures for many years now. Until 2003 they were preformed by qualified QA Departments of the individual European retailers and wholesalers. With the ever-rising demands of consumers, the increasing liabilities of retailers and wholesalers, the increasing of legal requirements and the globalisation of product supply, all made it essential to develop a food safety standard.

Version 3 of the standard was developed by the German Retail Federation (HDE) and the standard was launched in 2003.  In January 2004, an updated version, version 4, was designed and launched in collaboration with the French Retail Federation (FCD). In 2005/2006 the Italian Retail Federations showed an interest in the standard. At the end of 2005 IFS launched a consultation exercise and a project plan for version 5 of the standard. Version 5 was launched in August 2007 with an implementation date of the 1st January 2008.

The objectives of the International Featured Standard are:

  • To establish a common standard with uniform evaluation systems

  • To work with accredited Certification Bodies

  • To ensure comparability and transparency throughout the entire supply chain

  • To reduce costs and time for both suppliers and retailers

What the standard covers

The IFS Food is a standard for auditing retailer and wholesaler branded food product suppliers / manufacturers. The food standard is designed for companies who undertake the following activities:

a)       processing
b)       handling of loose food products and / or
c)       primary packing activities

The IFS Standard Document is split into 4 parts:

Part 1   Audit Protocol (The audit protocol describes the specific requirements made on organisations involved in IFS Food Audits)

Part 2   Requirements (The requirements section of the standard details the clauses that companies will be audited against)

Part 3  Requirements for Accreditation Bodies, Certification Bodies and Auditors (This section of the standard details the standard owner’s requirements for Accreditation and Certification Bodies to ensure consistent application of the standard)

Part 4   Reporting, AuditXpress Software and the IFS Portal (This section of the standard details more information for Certification Bodies)

The requirements section of the Standard is divided into five chapters containing a total of 251 clauses.

The chapter headings are as follows:

  • Senior Management Responsibility

  • Quality Management System

  • Resource Management

  • Production Process

  • Measurements, Analysis, Improvements              

Companies preparing for an IFS Audit will find a checklist in Annex 5 of the Standard, this checklist is a great tool and it can be used for internal audit purposes or to undertake a gap analysis in preparation for your initial IFS Version 5 audit.

Version 5 of the IFS Standard requires that  ‘the senior management shall have nominated an IFS representative’ to assist you with this SAI Global  have designed a workshop style training course specifically for your companies IFS Representative and personnel responsible for maintaining IFS systems, carrying out internal audits or providing assistance to companies aiming for certification visits.  The programme includes hands-on exercises with a chance to use the Standard.

Benefits of the scheme

IFS Certification can offer a number of key benefits to companies striving for excellence in quality and customer satisfaction, and seeking a competitive advantage in their marketplace:

Purchasing Benefits:

  • Improved confidence in suppliers and products

  • Reduced time spent on supplier screening

  • Less time spent reworking or returning product outside specification

  • Due diligence defence

  • Expert witness

  • Ability to reduce individual inspection costs by combining a variety of different inspections at the same time

Production Benefits:

  • Improved understanding between management and staff relating to standards and procedures

  • Monitoring of compliance with food regulations

  • More effective use of resources

  • Reduction in the need for customer inspections

  • Due diligence defence

  • Expert witness

  • Ability to reduce total inspection time by combining a variety of different inspections at the same time

Marketing Benefits:

  • Improved business reputation as a supplier of high-quality product

  • Ability to trade with customers insisting on independent inspection

  • Use of the IFS logo and certificate to demonstrate compliance with the highest standards

Your IFS audit can be seamlessly combined with a BRC Audit providing the following benefits:

  • SAI Global are able to offer cost a effective service through a single audit using a combined checklist

  • Allows management to schedule a single audit for multiple standards and reduces audit time compared with standalone audits.

  • Addresses ‘ deviations and non-conformities’ in a coordinated manner  through your IFS/BRC Certification Team

  • Makes it possible to issue separate reports and certificates simultaneously against each standard through just one audit 

Accepted by buyers

The Standard continues to be promoted by all member companies of the German HDE and French FCD retail federations, but also now has the support of the Italian retail associations Federdistribuzione, ANCC and ANCD

Who does the inspections?

As a result of our global capabilities we are able to fulfill IFS audits with a highly competent team of IFS Approved Auditors who have extensive experience of process technologies, HACCP and Quality Management systems.

All auditors are approved by IFS and have completed the following approval process:

  • Attended an in-house training course presented by an IFS approved trainer

  • Completed an IFS format CV detailing their education, training, experience, audit experience and technical product category and process knowledge

  • Passed the IFS written exam

  • Passed the IFS oral exam

  • Completed a training session with the IFS  Certification Team   

Who does the certification?

Certification decisions are made by members of the Certification Team who have been approved by the SAI Global Certification Committee. Certification Team members have detailed technical knowledge of manufacturing and product technologies, HACCP, QMS and expertise in the requirements of the standard and the standard owners / stakeholders expectations.

At the end of the audit clients are given an action plan document, the action plan provides details of the following:

  • IFS Requirement Number

  • IFS Requirement (clause text from the standard)

  • Level of Deviation / Non-conformance (B,C,D, Major or KO)

  • Detail of the Deviation / Non-conformance

The client then completes the following sections of the action plan and submits to the auditor for approval

  • Corrective Action  to be taken (by the company)

  • Responsibility / Date / Status of Implementation (by the company)

The auditor then approves the action plan and forwards the completed action plan to the Certification Team. The Certification Team then review the following information:

  • The auditors notes made at the time of the audit

  • The final report

  • The completed action plan

In some cases it is necessary for the Certification Team to seek clarification from the auditor and/or the site. The certification decision is then made in line with the scoring and conditions of issuing audit reports and certificates section of the IFS Audit Protocol.

Once the certification process is complete your report, completed action plan and certification status details are uploaded on to the IFS Portal. On completion of this process your nominated representative will be sent a user name and password to allow access to the uploaded documents,  from there you can control release of your report to IFS approved specifers or download your report for your distribution to other interested parties. You will also be able to sign up to the terms and conditions for use of the IFS Logo and download a copy of the logo.