Factory Health Audit : Hygiene and working conditions

If you run a food factory, guaranteeing the quality and safety of your products is undoubtedly one of your priorities. This involves complying with various standards and regulations, while ensuring to maintain top-notch working and hygiene conditions. The health audit offers a complete and neutral analysis of your methods and facilities by an expert third-party organization.

What is a factory health audit ?

A factory health audit consists of a complete and neutral evaluation of your processes and facilities, carried out by an expert body. Its objective is to confirm the conformity of your practices to the standards of good hygiene, to the HACCP method (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), to the sanitary control plan, as well as to all other products quality standards specific to your field of activity.

This is important to identify your strengths and areas for improvement. It leads to the implementation of corrective measures, where appropriate. The audit covers all the manufacturing steps, from the reception of raw materials to the distribution of the final product, including the production steps in the kitchen. It uses evaluation criteria specifically designed to meet the characteristics of your industry, covering key points such as :

  • Cleanliness and maintenance of spaces
  • Compliance with hygiene rules
  • Temperature management (cold and hot)
  • Keeping of the required records
  • Traceability of products

Following the audit, an accurate and explicit report is provided, allowing for the identification of deviations from the standards and the development of targeted action plans.

Why do a sanitary audit for your plant ?

A health audit brings considerable benefits to your plant, both from a regulatory, economic and strategic perspective. This is why it is essential to hire an expert to analyze your processes and equipment.

Above all, this audit is necessary to ensure that your plant meets the food hygiene and safety standards required by law, specific to your industry and your geographical location. It confirms your compliance with the regulations in force, protecting you against the risks of legal sanctions, health hazards, fines, closures by administrative decision, cases of food poisoning and returns of products.

In addition, it increases the performance and competitiveness of your plant. By identifying weaknesses and deviations from standards, as well as opportunities for improvement, you are able to implement corrective actions and optimize your operations. By doing so, you improve the quality of your products and the experience of your customers.

In addition, conducting a health audit paves the way for obtaining prestigious certifications, such as HACCP certification, which improves your reputation and solidifies your position in the market.

This audit plays a role in reducing the environmental impact of your business and supports your commitment to sustainable development. It examines ecological aspects, such as waste management, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, guiding you towards eco-responsible practices. These can also result in significant savings and access to subsidies.

Who is the health audit for ?

Health audit is an essential process for all actors in the agri-food sector. Whether you are a producer, processor, distributor or restaurateur, this audit concerns you. It is applicable to a wide variety of establishments, whether they operate in the industrial, craft, collective or commercial sector. This process encompasses a wide range of activities, from meat and milk production, to fruit and vegetables, seafood, organic food, and even animal feed.

For some actors, especially those who require a health approval, the health audit is mandatory. This applies to establishments that need to prove compliance with European food safety and quality standards. It is also essential for obtaining certifications such as HACCP, which validates the control of food hazards. In addition, it can be requested by customers, suppliers, insurance companies or regulatory authorities, concerned about the reliability of products and procedures.

Although the health audit is optional for other establishments, it is strongly recommended to carry it out periodically. This helps to prevent health risks, improve performance and competitiveness, while ensuring compliance with regulatory standards. It may be initiated by the institution itself, for self-assessment purposes, or by a specialised body offering audit and advisory services.

Which organizations offer health audits in the factory ?

Various organizations offer plant health audit services to meet the specific needs of each company, taking into account the budget and the sector of activity. These entities mainly include consulting firms, analytical laboratories and certification bodies. They are equipped with competent personnel and use proven methodologies to provide reliable and tailor-made audits. Here is an overview of some organizations that specialize in factory health audits :


WESSLING France provides independent hygiene audits targeting small businesses, SMEs and the food industry. Its services include auditing manufacturing and hygiene practices, both for staff and premises, as well as flow analysis. The organization reviews compliance with regulatory standards, evaluates the quality of existing systems, proposes improvements and recommendations, deals with supplier audits, contributes to the design of the premises and assists in the resolution of contamination problems. It also offers training on hygiene and quality.

Mérieux NutriSciences

Mérieux NutriSciences specializes in hygiene controls and health audits for the catering, hotel and catering sectors. The organization evaluates establishments according to a personalized grid or a reference system aligned with that of the DDPP*. Its services include surface, oil and product analysis, as well as food hygiene training, emphasizing the need for a hygiene reference in each establishment.

Bureau Veritas

Bureau Veritas offers food safety auditing and certification services based on international standards and standards such as ISO 22000, FSSC 22000, IFS and BRC. It awards certifications valued by customers, suppliers, authorities and consumers. The organization also supports companies in establishing and maintaining their food safety management system.

* Departmental Directorate of Population Protection

What are the essential steps to obtain a health audit in the factory ?

To ensure the sanitary compliance of a plant, a rigorous audit must be carried out according to a well-defined process. This procedure is broken down into key steps, each of which is important to ensure a quality audit, providing reliable and useful data.

1. Preparation of the audit

This preliminary phase is decisive. It establishes the basis for the audit through various actions :

  • Selection of a competent and independent audit body, proven by its qualifications and references.
  • Identification of the scope of the audit, including relevant processes, departments, sites, products and standards.
  • Scheduling of the audit, adjusted according to the availability of the parties involved.
  • Compilation and review of food safety management system documents, such as procedures and reports.
  • Preparation of necessary audit tools, such as evaluation grids and questionnaires.
  • Communication with plant managers on the objectives and modalities of the audit.

2. Conducting the Audit

This step takes place in the field, allowing a direct evaluation through :

  • An opening meeting to present the audit process and dispel doubts.
  • Various observations and analyses to assess the food safety system according to established criteria.
  • Detection of deviations from standards and assessment of areas for improvement.
  • An interim report gathering findings and recommendations.
  • A concluding meeting to present the first results and discuss the corrective measures.

3. Audit follow-up

The audit leads to this stage of finalization and support :

  • Preparation of the final report, with incorporation of the remarks of the managers and compliance with the drafting standards.
  • Distribution of the report to interested parties on time.
  • Monitoring the implementation of corrective measures, assessing their impact and sustainability.
  • Suggestions for preventive measures, improvement and training adapted to the needs detected.
  • Appreciation of stakeholder feedback and advice.

How much does a factory health audit cost ?

The price of an industrial health audit varies according to various elements, including the size and category of the plant, the scope and objectives of the audit, the complexity of the standards applied, the number of visits and their duration, and the choice of the audit firm. A fixed price for this type of audit cannot be established in general, but it is feasible to obtain an estimate based on certain criteria.

Cost estimates show that a health audit can cost between €500 and €10,000 per day, depending on the competence level and reputation of the audit entity, not to mention the number of auditors involved. Additional costs such as travel, accommodation and meals for the auditors may be added up to 10% to 30% of the total audit price. The costs of additional analyses, which are essential for certain audits, vary between €20 and €200 per sample, depending on the analysis required and the laboratory selected.

Therefore, for a medium-sized plant wishing to carry out a two-day health audit with an audit firm of medium renown and planning about ten analyses, the total cost is likely to be between €2,000 and €5,000. This amount could vary depending on the specific characteristics of the plant and the audit criteria.

It is essential to balance the offers of different audit companies by considering their skills, references, methodologies, deadlines, insurance and rates. It is recommended to request an exhaustive and adapted quote, detailing the plan, duration, price and conditions of the audit.

Is there a renewal to be made regarding the sanitary audit in the factory ?

The factory health audit is an uninterrupted process, requiring periodic updating. This renewal is essential to ensure the continued adherence of practices and infrastructure to current regulations. It also helps to stay aligned with the evolving demands of customers, suppliers, regulators and consumers.

The need and frequency of this audit varies depending on the type of audit, the industry sector, the certification sought and the overall performance of the plant. It is generally advisable to perform this audit at least once a year to maintain the standard of quality and food safety.

Specific circumstances may require a more frequent renewal, every 6 or 3 months, based on the criteria of the standards or standards adopted. Early renewal may be caused by certain factors, including :

  • Significant changes in processes, products, equipment, premises or staff.
  • A change in plant standards or regulations.
  • A complaint, alert or incident impacting the quality or safety of the products.
  • A specific request from a customer, supplier, insurer or regulatory authority.

The renewal process takes the initial steps of an audit : preparation, execution and follow-up. It involves the same parties, including plant managers and external auditors. A new audit report will be produced, highlighting observations, variances, strengths, weaknesses and recommendations. Depending on the results obtained, this may lead to certification or revocation.