The BRC was speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk following the publication of an article in which technical managers complained that supermarkets have continued to develop their own standards and audits because the BRC wasn’t delivering.
Technical director, food schemes, David Brackston accepted that the BRC standards were originally developed “to reduce the audit burden” but said supermarket standards and audits were not covering the same ground.
“The BRC envisaged that while customer audits would not disappear completely, they would instead refocus on development and brand specific issues, leaving baseline food safety issues to be covered by a commonly accepted independent third party audit: the BRC Standard.”
Regrettable and unwelcome
However, it was unfortunate if this had led to duplication, he said: “None the less we do recognise the re-emergence of some customer audits focusing on food safety which is regrettable and clearly adds cost back into the supply chain; this is always unwelcome but particularly so at a time of increasing raw material costs.”
What was underlying this trend, however, was the need for greater confidence in the supply chain and brand protection, he said. “The higher you climb the harder you fall and quite rightly the top retailers want absolute assurance in the safety of their supply chains”.
As for concerns raised by some technical staff over the rigour and consistency of the auditing process, Brackston said he BRC had made a “considerable investment” in the integrity of its schemes over the past two years.
“A compliance manager, Karen Betts, was appointed and a certification body performance monitoring process with six-monthly performance report was introduced.
“As you would expect, the assessment focuses on audit consistency and the training and competence of auditors, holding certification bodies to account for their training, selection and performance. The BRC Directory introduced last year now also allows audit/auditor trends to be analysed and ensures that all audit reports are visible to the BRC for assessment.”
Feedback strongly encouraged
If manufacturers felt that the BRC audit or certification process did not meet expectations, it was important to give feedback to the people developing it and revising it, he stressed. “It is important that we know about these issues so that we can do something about this.
“We strongly encourage feedback either through the referral process on our website for complaints or by directly contacting the BRC team."
The BRC will start looking at issue six of the food standard at the beginning of next year and was “keen to receive any comments for the improvement of the standard and the way that the audit process operates, the protocol”, said Brackston.
He also reminded readers that the standard was not just developed and revised by the supermarkets, but was also informed by trade associations representing food manufacturers including the Provision Trade Federation and the Food and Drink Federation.
The BRC standard has grown significantly over the last decade, and is now adopted by more than 12,000 sites in 96 countries.
Click here to read the article that prompted this story.