main article
knowledge base > legislation > hygiene standards > IFS
Download download article

International Food Standard, IFS

Article index
 Manufacturer's responsability
 Companies involved
 Standards audit program
 IFS definition
 Certification procedure
 Four types of evaluation
 Points award
 The Standard is divided into 5 sections
 Audit demands
 The audit is evaluated in 3 categories:
 Audit KO criteria
 Audir prerequisites
 Important aspects for measuring technology
 Item 4.14
 Item 4.17
 Item 5.2.1

Objective: "…to provide customers with a comprehensive picture of the strengths and weaknesses of suppliers."

The IFS was developed by marketing chains which, due to the sale of commercial brands (private labels, grey products, etc.), had reached a situation where they could legally act as food manufacturers. In 2004, for example, commercial brands accounted for 20% of the European market and 45% of the British market.

Manufacturer's responsability

In order to make the risk calculable, it was necessary to find an assessment basis for the quality of product manufacturing. This standard was to be valid and used internationally. Various German companies became involved under the umbrella of the Main Association of the German Retail Trade (HDE). Different standards, which were already being used internationally, were evaluated during the formulation of the IFS. The contents of these standards were then included in the IFS. In particular, the BRC Standard (British Retail Consortium) and the "Global Food Safety Initiative" (GFIS) had a major influence.

The operators, the Main Association of the German Retail Trade (HDE) and the Federation of Commercial and Distribution Companies (FCD), publish in the member section a list containing the certified companies with the audit results for every product. If a certificate expires, the manufacturer is removed from the Internet list without any further comment.

Companies involved

e.g. Metro (D), Aldi (D), Lidl (D), Kaufland (D), TeGut (D), EDEKA (D), AVA (D), Globus (D), Walmart (US), Auchant (F), Carrefour (F), Geant (F), Croupe Casino (F), System U (F), Monoprix (F), Migros (CH), COOP (CH)

Version 4 was developed jointly by the Main Association of the German Retail Trade (HDE) and the Federation of Commercial and Distribution Companies (FCD) (France). Both bodies are therefore the owners of this standard. ISA (Holland) also worked on the standard and Belgian and Polish companies will follow. A number of commercial groups, but far more manufacturers on the supply side are involved in Europe. The IFS is not a European solution. There is also interest in the IFS in the USA and Australia.

Version 4 also reflects allergens and genetically modified products for the first time. Version 5 is expected to be ready in 2006.

Standards audit program

The Standard is attracting a great deal of attention since it has a simple structure, is clearly described and can therefore be easily implemented. The audit must be carried out each time in the national language with consideration also being given to certain cultural differences. The auditing companies are normally active on a national/local basis.

The IFS has been extended from its application for suppliers of commercial brands to a general evaluation of food suppliers. This means that all suppliers of large commercial brands come into contact with the IFS.

The ISO Commission is following a similar approach as the IFS with Standard 22.000 which has not yet, however, been finally adopted.

IFS definition

The Standard regulates:
  • The course of the audit
  • Quality management demands - Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)
  • Responsibilities of the producer
  • Resource management in relation to personnel
  • The entire manufacturing process from plant construction to soil conditions
  • A separate chapter is devoted to measurements!à Very important
  • Demands on the auditing organizations

The audit is carried out every 12 months or every 18 months in the case of a higher-level classification.

It takes up to 6 weeks before the results are evaluated and posted on the Internet by the Main Association of the German Retail Trade (HDE).

Certification procedure

Application for certification with description of the process

1. Verification of application for certification

2. Contract between company and audit organization

3. Registration

4. Implementation of audit

5. Preliminary report (after this, the participant has 14 days to make any comments or prepare a proposal containing measures)

6. Plan showing measures

7. Certification decision

8. Final report

9. Issue of certificate

Four types of evaluation

a: 100% fulfilment

b: Slight deviation

c: Only a small part of the criterion is not fulfilled

d: The criterion is not fulfilled.

NA: Criterion which does not apply

Points award

Category Basic level Higher level Recommendation
A 20 10 5
B 15 7 -
C 5 3 -
D - - -

The Standard is divided into 5 sections

  • Demands on the QA system
  • Management responsibilities
  • Resource management (personnel, materials and equipment)
  • Manufacturing process
  • Measurements, analyses, improvements

Audit demands

The audit must be carried out in the national language. The auditors must be trained and certified according to ISO 10514. They may only carry out audits in special branches of industry in which they have demonstrated the necessary technical knowledge. A subdivision is made into 6 main categories (meat, milk, etc.) and 17 product categories.

The audit is evaluated in 3 categories:

  • Failed
  • Basic level passed
  • Higher level passed

The final results in the form of points or a percentage are not published via the Internet, but must be requested by the retailer from every supplier.

Questions at the basic level exist for every item. Higher-level questions are asked or recommended practices are also stipulated at times. These two levels need not be attained to pass the audit.

Audit KO criteria

There are 4 KO criteria which lead to the abandonment of the audit if they are not attained.

1. HACCP/QA system fully introduced

2. Management involvement

3. Retrace ability

4. Recognition and implementation of necessary corrective measures.

In order to pass the audit, 75% of the basic requirements must be fulfilled. 70% of the corresponding items must be fulfilled at the higher level. A major, a serious mistake, can be evened out, but the reason must be stopped immediately.

The auditor may point it out if too many CCPs are documented. If important items are not covered by the QA system, this is punished by a major or a points deduction.

Although a quality management system according to ISO 9000 is not compulsory, it makes certification easier. A HACCP system is an absolute "must".

The auditors are instructed to make sure that quality assurance is actively promoted and supported by management. If this impression is not given, the audit cannot be passed.

Similar to EU Regulation No. 178/2002, it must be possible to retrace batches. However, reference is only made in this case to the use of raw materials and not to the process data. Suppliers and customers must be recorded each time with the next/previous step in the chain. If the supplier does not have any batch numbering for his product, the processor allocates a batch number. The objective may be, for example, to take all products from a batch off the market within one hour in order to prevent extortion. However, the IFS does not stipulate this objective.

If minor problems are discovered, an effective continuous improvement process (CIP) must be introduced in order to deal with the marked items.

Audir prerequisites

The audit lasts approx. 1.5 man-days, depending on the size of the company. Audits may only be performed by a company which is authorized according to EN 45011 and has been recognized by the Main Association of the German Retail Trade (HDE). The company to be audited may reject the auditor before the start of the audit. All audits, which are also based on EN 45011, may be performed simultaneously. If a serious discrepancy is discovered (major), an additional audit lasting 0.5 of a man-day must be performed.

Important aspects for measuring technology

Conductivity and temperature measurement are CCPs in a CIP system. Data must be recorded and the system must be checked regularly.

Glass breakage is a major error. If glass is used in a plant, a glass register must be kept.


"A separate monitoring report signed by the employee and showing the date must be available for every CCP."

Documentation of CCP (Critical Control Points) data must therefore be forgery-proof, similar to FDA21CFR Part 11. --> Memograph S


If critical products, for example baby food, are manufactured, the supply of production water is a CCP. Otherwise, regular studies of the utilized water have been sufficient to date. However, online tests will be introduced. --> Analyzers.

Item 4.14

Maintenance and stocking of spare parts must be organized and documented. A system such as CompuCal™ can be used in order to satisfy these demands.

Item 4.17

Calibration cycles must be stored in the QA system. A specific regulation does not exist, calibration is carried out depending on relevance to the business. CompuCal™ and certified calibration - also locally - therefore creates the right basis - for document administration as well.

Item 5.2.1

If temperature is a CCP in the process, a redundant measurement or a self-monitoring instrument must be used.

Chapter 5 of the Requirements Catalogue has the heading “Measurement, Analysis, Improvement”. A CIP only has a chance in the company if measurements and evaluations are carried out correctly.

Documentation of the plant structure, maintenance and measured data will be simplified substantially if a general system is used. For example, training of staff or stockpiling or spare parts takes less time and effort.

Responsibility for quality-related tasks can be assigned in a financially interesting framework to companies which have excellent knowledge of their installed technology.

Corresponding planning of new installations pays off very quickly.

forumReply to this article
All fields are required. Your personal information will not be displayed on our website. Hyfoma does not supply machines, but only refers to the companies that do. Most of the suppliers listed supply machines for the food industry, and do not produce food themselves.

Name: Email:
Function: Company: