Thorough and systematic inspection
Quality assurance in the QS scheme for safe fresh food is based on three interacting inspection levels. All partners in the QS network know that they can only achieve their goal of producing and marketing safe fresh food efficiently if the entire value chain works together. the first inspection level is in-plant self-assessment. At this level, the companies themselves ensure that they reliably monitor, fulfill and conscientiously document all the stipulated requirements of QS. QS supports them in this endeavour with clearly defined requirements and practice-oriented guidelines and checklists.
Inspection by independent experts
The second inspection level of the QS scheme has two central elements: the independent inspection (audit) of businesses by qualified auditors and the participation of the businesses in the various monitoring programmes.
All partners in the QS network are regularly checked by independent auditors. Nonconformities with the specifications and systematic errors in quality assurance can thus be detected and remedied. Extensive monitoring programmes and targeted laboratory analyses prove the reliable quality assurance. Systematic recording and evaluation of data from the monitoring programmes allows detection and assessment of potential risks for the food safety at an early stage.
Keeping an eye on the entire QS scheme
The third level is inspecting the inspectors. Via a scheme integrity system (SIKS), QS ensures that quality assurance from farm to shop functions flawlessly. This process also involves monitoring of the work of the certification bodies, the auditors and the laboratories.
Risk-oriented with uniform assessment criteria
Inspections in the QS scheme are carried out on a risk-oriented basis. This means that the period between two inspections depends on how a business performs in the audit. Businesses where nonconformities and defects are established are inspected more frequently. Businesses that perform extremely well in the audit receive visits from the auditor less frequently.
During their inspections, the auditors gain an overall impression of the respective business and assess compliance with the individual criteria concerned using a checklist. For this purpose, they undergo regular training with the aim of creating uniform assessment criteria that are valid for the entire QS scheme. Assessment of the individual criteria forms the basis for calculating whether and with what result a business has passed its audit.
Criteria that are of particular relevance to food safety, animal welfare or the trustworthiness of the QS scheme are defined as K.O. criteria. Businesses that do not comply with one of these criteria do not pass their audit and therefore do not receive a eligibility to deliver for the QS scheme.