The revised standard, which will be the basis for audits from January next year, replaces Issue 4, introduced in 2011. In 2012, this became the first version of the standard to be benchmarked internationally to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
“The most significant area of change will be print quality management,” said BRC packaging technical manager Joanna Griffiths. “We have looked at this area before, but with more of a focus on press-side activity. Now we’re looking at reducing product recalls based on products being put into the wrong packaging, allergens not being declared on-pack, and so on.”
So what practical measures are involved? “It’s about ensuring, for example, that when a packaging company receives artwork it is kept in good condition, maintaining the integrity of everything printed on-pack,” she said. “And with digital data, there needs to be adequate backing up to withstand potential malicious intervention.”
The BRC polled stakeholders, brand-owners and manufacturers, retailers, and auditors to see what could be improved.
The protocol now spells out that so-called ‘documented procedures’ have to be seen to be carried out and all the relevant documentation relating to compliance and test certification has to be available for incoming goods.
In other ways, Issue 5 brings packaging more in line with existing food standard provisions. For example, sites taking part in the scheme can opt to combine announced and unannounced audits. “It’s a measure of how mature the standard is that people want to move to unannounced audits,” said Griffiths.
Sites with five or fewer non-conformities are eligible for an AA grade under the standard, she explained. If the process includes an unannounced audit, the highest possible grade rises to AA+.
Burden of audits
With its modular approach, the BRC said it is continuing to reduce the burden of audits. At the same time, it is addressing issues of transparency and the risk from fake certificates. “We’re really driving home the benefit of validating suppliers through the BRC Directory, and not just through certificates,” Griffiths said.
Other changes include the availability of Letters of Recognition for smaller sites which are not yet ready for full certification, but which wish to begin the process.
The BRC published its first Packaging Standard in 2001, three years after the launch of its first Food Technical Standard. There are now 3,000 certificated sites, with a 95% renewal rate “far higher” than other BRC standards said Griffiths.