Under the latest version of the standard (v5), manufacturers that have achieved grades A or B can volunteer for unannounced audits, which carry a 'star' rating (Grade A*, B* etc).
However, only a handful of sites have put themselves forward, mainly due to fears that key staff might not be available to handle queries on the day of the audit, said one interim technical manager.
“Unannounced BRC audits are a complete waste of time. As long as the retailers do not ask for it as a requirement of supply then no one in their right mind is going to volunteer.”
He added: “The numbers speak for themselves. I have nothing else to add other than saying that when BRC put this forward they clearly could not have had their thinking heads on.”
Another technical manager added: “No one wants unannounced audits. People plan their calendar around audits to ensure the right people are available. This is particularly important in smaller companies.”
Risks vs rewards
While the take-up had been low, however, it was important to remember that the scheme was optional and that some manufacturers, particularly in the branded arena, saw value in it, said BRC senior technical services manager David Brackston.
Speaking at Food Manufacture’s Emerging Food Safety Issues conference this week, Brackston said that selecting the unannounced option also showed “confidence and maturity.
“I think having a B* on an unannounced audit is probably considered better than a straight A on an announced audit.”
But he accepted that “many manufacturers do feel that the risks of going down the unannounced route and cocking it up are too great”.
Click here to read more about version six of the BRC Global Food Safety Standard.