Retailers may spring surprise audits on suppliers

By Freddie Dawson and Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Unannounced audits Audit Auditing Financial audit

Retailers may spring surprise audits on suppliers
Version 6 of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety could lead to more unannounced audits being forced on manufacturers, according to a third-party certification body.

The draft version of Issue 6 of the standard includes plans to make unannounced audits more attractive to manufacturers, Jon Revell, certification scheme manager at consultancy Exova told

While signing-up for unannounced audits is voluntary for manufacturers, there are currently no guarantees that a retailer cannot force the issue by trading only with members of the unannounced scheme, Revell said.

He added that most retailers make BRC certification a requirement and look for ways to continually increase assurances of food safety, he said.

Significant marketing tool

Although the new edition of the standard - due to be rolled-out in January 2012 - is meant to be more appealing to retailers, retailers are likely to continue using their own auditing schemes, Revell added.

The BRC expects its “plus grade”​ awarded as part of a successful unannounced audit to attract more than the 20-30 out of 14,000 manufacturers that currently subscribe, said Revell.

“It can be a significant marketing tool for any company wanting to demonstrate that they are good 365 days a year,”​ he said.

Changes to the BRC certification scheme mean that auditors will check basic practices and hygiene only during an unannounced audit.

By loosening requirements for surprise inspections, a manufacturer does not risk non-compliance through important information being missing because a key individual is not present, Revell said.

This is because the BRC plans to split the version 6 audit into two parts, with the ‘good manufacturing practice’ part alone unannounced.

Realistic factory assessment

Speaking to in late April, BRC technical director for food, David Brackston said this would strengthen the focus on manufacturing practice.

Brackston said it would also address fears among food firms that technical managers could be offsite when auditors called, by assessing factory standards in a “more realistic way”​.

Asked whether the BRC's retail members preferred dealing with suppliers who opted for unannounced audits, a spokeswoman pointed out that firms can get higher marks by opting for unannounced audits, but that retailers set their own standards.

But she added that, given such a provision was in version 6 of the Global Standard, then it reflected what retailers are looking for and “must be in demand”​.

“Factory standards and safety are taken incredibly seriously, and of course such standards ​[as the BRC global benchmark] are evolving as a matter of course,”​ she said.

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1 comment

Accepted standards

Posted by teddy O Keeffe,

BRC whether giving undeclared visits or not are not capable of recognising anything other than what is in the rule book inspection list. I have noticed possible bacteria dangers from food site web pages alone, and the inspectors have passed such structures in all ways.

For instance, the open-topped stainless steel conical tanks for ingredients in the Greencore facilities are, I was told by a director, hand cleaned. You show me a food facility that works 24 hour stopping to hand clean dozens of tanks. The open tank is prone to dust and airbourne bacteria at least. BRC safety?

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