Calling an audit a "third or second party audit" is actually a misnomer that creates an artificial distancing of auditors from the realities at play. Every auditor is a consumer and should naturally have vested interest in the audit. If audits are conducted from that perspective, things could get really hot for deviant operators and that is not what we want. On the other side of this consideration is the fact that every operator has vested interest as the business owner. However, the operator or business owner is foremost a consumer. Hence the operator or business owner should also naturally have vested interest in audits. Even regulators should have vested interest in audits since they too are consumers. Essentially, all audits are first party audits since consumers are auditing businesses owned by other consumers, etcetera.
The same food safety auditing industry that imposes unnecessary conflict of interest rules (with wrong assumptions about conflict of interest), sets retailers up as the best guardians of consumers without seeing the blatant conflict of interest.
The industry has seen bands of retailers or other commercial interests coming together to create auditing schemes called “standards”. Where these schemes are not directly created by retailers or other commercial interests, they (the schemes) are heavily sponsored by the commercial interests. Even if these arrangements do not expose the hypocrisy, retailers are clearly not the best guardians of consumers – at least not in the current retailing environment that is steeped in greedy competition, corruption and fraud. Retailers also rarely subject themselves to audits against the standards they have created.
Assessing the success of food safety assurance efforts by food businesses must have the right focus - the protection of consumers. Giving this consumer protection no more than lip-service is shameful. That is out right self-defrauding and somewhat suicidal. I admit that these are strong words but what else will awaken the industry from its current stupor?
For further reading:
2. The SSQA Difference
3. Not so Radical and Not a Crazy Thought