“We are seeing a major uptake in it, but it will always be voluntary,” BRC technical director David Brackston told the Institute of Food Science & Technology spring conference earlier this year. “There are some great advantages in unannounced audits. They encourage a much stronger food safety culture in businesses, provide greater transparency and they build confidence in our supply chain.”
Brackston said that since their introduction as part of the standard, around 900 sites were now part of the BRC unannounced audit programme.
Speaking at the British Meat Processors Association conference held at the Law Society in London yesterday (June 4), Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, spoke of the increasing numbers of unannounced audits carried out by Britain’s major multiples.
Elliott, who published his seminal report into the 2013 horsemeat scandal last year, which called for a reduced number of better audits, said: “BRC [Global Standard for Food Safety] version 7 has been introduced and it includes an authenticity and fraud module and the BRC tell me that the uptake of that module has been very, very successful.
“Asda were the first of the multiple retailers to change their mind-set. Asda are now doing 100% of audits unannounced. Tesco has 50% of their audits unannounced and in April this year, Marks & Spencer introduced what they called their food integrity audit, which is an unannounced audit.”
“We have surveyed the sites that have unannounced audits and whilst there is no overwhelming enthusiasm for unannounced audits, 42% of the sites actually said if we weren’t being asked to have it now, we would continue to be part of the unannounced audit programme,” said Brackston. “There is an inevitable move towards unannounced audits.”
Version 7 (v7) of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, which replaces v6 for all audits from July 1, focuses the audit on good manufacturing practices. It places increased emphasis on areas which usually have the highest rate of recalls and withdrawals, such as labelling and packaging.
The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety is now the most widely used of the Global Food Safety Initiative third-party hygiene auditing schemes used around the world, claimed Brackston. It is used in 115 countries.
Brackston said v7 took account of emerging issues such as food fraud in increasingly complex global supply chains, in the wake of the 2013 horsemeat scandal. However, it was not specifically developed to investigate fraud, he added.
“Our raison d'être is about helping sites to prepare themselves and being in a position where they can avoid being defrauded by the supply chain,” he said.
Traceability along the supply chain is also a central feature of v7, which includes using risk assessment of raw materials and supplier approval for products sourced from agents and brokers.