What is BRC?
The BRC (British Retail Consortium) is the leading trade body for UK retailers. Whether a retailer is a large multiple or department store, or a small independent shop, the BRC protects their interests. The BRC has developed a set of Global Standards, which is an international product safety and quality certification program and suppliers in more than 100 countries are currently certified against it. The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety is an accredited, certifiable standard, and the first one to be approved by GFSI in 2000. It has been adopted by more than 8,000 food businesses in more than 80 countries.
It sets out the requirements for food businesses that process food, or involved with the preparation of primary products for supply as retailer-branded products and branded products. It also covers food or ingredients for use by food-service companies, catering companies, and food manufacturers. The principles of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety are based on two key components: senior management commitment and HACCP – an approach to food safety that identifies where a likely health hazard may occur, then establishes and maintains safety measures to prevent the hazard from occurring.
Retailers and manufacturers around the world use the BRC standards as their chosen approved standards for suppliers. The BRC covers the supply chain with four related standards: BRC Global Food Standard; BRC Storage and Distribution; BRC IOP for Food Packaging (September 2012 sees confirmation of GFSI benchmarking of the BRC/IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials. The first packaging Standard to complete the process of benchmarking by GFSI, this represents increased recognition for the more than 2000 sites around the world already Certificated.) and; BRC Consumer Products. The BRC Global Food Standard was developed with the objective of specifying the safety, quality and operational criteria required for food manufacturers to comply with regulations and protect consumers. It requires all companies involved in the end-to-end supply chain have a clear understanding of the products they produce and distribute and have the systems in place to identify and control food safety hazards.
There are a number of benefits for manufacturers who are certified against the BRC Standard. A number of these benefits apply across other standards while some are specific to the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, these are:
- The BRC standard has descriptive requirements for process and hygienic control which provide clear guidelines as to how food safety should be addressed;
- It has a simple certification process which only requires an on-site audit, there is no requirement for a desk study step;
- It includes a voluntary recertification audit, allowing an organization to demonstrate its high level of commitment as the certification body can be asked to re-audit the facilities at any time; and
- The standard has a focus on quality, as well as food safety and legality.
The BRC certification process consists of four steps:
- Step A – Manufacturers are provided with a proposal based on the size and nature of their organization. They can then proceed with the audit by accepting the proposal from the certification body.
- Step B – There is then an optional ‘pre-audit’ stage, which is often useful in identifying any weaknesses in systems and in building confidence before the formal audit.
- Step C – The formal audit is an on-site audit. All parts of the site and process covered in the scope are assessed to determine compliance with every clause of the standard. Manufacturers receive a Corrective Action Report at the end of the formal audit, identifying any observed non-conformities. Depending on their nature, these nonconformities should be closed with documentary evidence or through an on-site visit within 28 calendar days of the audit. Once non-conformities have been addressed and the auditor has accepted the evidence, an independent technical review of the audit is conducted by an authorized Certification Manager who approves the issuance of a certificate.
- Step D – Full recertification audits are scheduled at defined intervals depending on the outcome of the certification audit. For Grade A and B audits this is 12 months later, for a Grade C audit this is 6 months later. The audit is a full re-audit conducted in the same way as the initial audit, but the implementation of the action plan is also reviewed, addressing past non-conformities and whether the audit has taken place by the re-audit due date.