Initial certification audit consist of a stage 1 audit and a stage 2 audit.
Stage 1 audit is documentation review. During this audit goals is to see if the company is ready for stage 2 audit. All documents are inspected and compared with the standard. All required documentation like procedures, HACCP study, verification and validation should be available. Also Management Review and internal audit processing is verified.
During stage 1 audit critical audit observations and non-critical audit observations can be observed.
If critical audit observations are not sufficiently addressed these will lead to major non-conformities or critical non-conformities during stage 2 audit.
If non-critical audit observation is not sufficiently addressed this will lead to minor non-conformity during stage 2 audit.
Certification Body will advice to postpone stage 2 audit if there are many observations or observations are substantial.
Normally the Certification Body plans 2 weeks between stage 1 and stage 2 audits. Incidentally stage 1 and stage 2 audits are planned consecutively. Make sure the planning between stage 1 and stage 2 audit allows you to have enough time to solve the observations found.
Stage 2 audit is the practice audit. During this audits production and all relevant department (sourcing, management, logistics, maintenance and repair, product development, cleaning and sanitation, QA, QC, laboratory, HRM, etc.) are audited. It is checked that processes do not include product contamination risks, that the required procedures are implemented correctly, that you can perform traceability, etc. To be short: that your food safety management system is implemented correctly.
During this audit you can achieve;
major non-conformities, minor non-conformities and critical non-conformities.
1) - critical non-conformity there is a critical failure to comply with a food safety or legal issue, resulting in evidently unsafe or illegal practices.
2) - major non-conformity: nonconformities that arise from the failure to fulfill one or more requirements of the management system standard or a situation that raises significant doubt about the ability of the clients management system to achieve it’s intended output.
3) - minor non-conformity: shall be raised when the requirements are not fully met with respect to the standard or a procedure required as part of the client's management system, on the basis of objective evidence, the conformity of product is not in doubt
If major or critical non-conformity is raised during initial audit (stage 1 + stage 2 audit) certification shall not be granted until evidence of corrective action taken has been verified as effective. This is doen by follow up audit. Depending on the non conformity this can be on or off site.
For a minor non-conformity a corrective action plan shall be submitted and approved by the auditor.
For critical non-conformity, major non-conformity and if there are many minor non conformity a follow up audit will be planned to close the non-conformities.
If evidence is sufficient and the non-conformities can be closed, the certification is granted.
So if you have only a few minors you need to send an action plan and if this is approved by the auditor, you will gain your certificate. The certificate is valid for 3 years.
There is an annually surveillance audit in year 2 and 3. After 3 years a recertification audit will be conducted.
Take in to considering that your system must be implemented for at least 3 months before you have your stage 1 audit. Also before you perform your management review, you must already have some data. You can not review a system that is not yet implemented.
If you need more detailed information regarding certification process, contact your certification body. They will be happy to explain to you the certification process.
Good luck with implementation and certification of your system.