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What to Expect from a BRC Audit

Safety is paramount when it comes to anything you consume, from food to supplements. You have to be able to trust the food industry and feel safe knowing you have quality food products or other consumables. At FruitSmart, we strongly adhere to the highest quality and food safety standards, offering you the best possible ingredients with every product. As food manufacturers, at FruitSmart we follow the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety to ensure your safety, wellbeing, and health. Read on to learn more about what a BRC audit is, how the process works, and why it’s important to have a food safety management system.

What Is BRC?

BRC stands for British Retail Consortium, and a BRC audit ensures that a food manufacturer closely follows the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. BRC certification is widespread in Europe, where it’s estimated that 65 percent of registered sites are in Europe. However, because the BRC certification holds a lot of weight and follows the highest standards for consumer products, 11 percent of BRC audits and BRC certifications occur in the United States. Overall, there are 29,000 certified suppliers in 130 different nations.

BRC promotes benchmarking to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). GFSI is a private organization that has created a standard of practices on consumer products to ensure they meet specific criteria for food safety. The GFSI develops food safety management systems, ensuring food products are safe for customers and food manufacturing occurs in a safe, sterile environment that adheres to safety standards. Essentially, audits that are benchmarked to the Global Food Safety Initiative standards and achieve certification let clients and customers know those food products are safe to consume.

What does the GFSI do? The Global Food Safety Initiative has set up guidelines that companies can use to create and evaluate their food safety and quality management system. A GFSI scheme audit concentrates on:

  • reviewing the procedures and policies of the supplier
  • interviewing employees
  • inspecting the facility
  • observing food manufacturing while it is in progress
  • reviewing the supplier’s records

The BRCGS has developed a scheme or standard that incorporated the GFSI requirements. Food manufacturing companies can then use this standard to measure how well they are managing their food safety system. If all of these parameters during the audit pass, then the company is awarded a certification that is GFSI compliant. These audits are conducted by a certification body that is approved by the BRC to conduct such inspections. FruitSmart’s certification body is SAI Global, which is well known in the manufacturing industry.  

Preparing for an audit is relatively simple. You’ll need records and documentation that show your consistency when it comes to food safety management. Having proper documentation at the outset lets the certification body know you are a good candidate for the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety certification.

The facility must be very familiar with the latest BRC certification standards to be sure your food safety management program are updated with current guidelines. Conducting internal audits is not only a requirement of the standard but also help a company be well prepared for the auditing process. Performing internal audits allows you the room to take corrective actions if you need to before the BRC audit. Once you’ve finished these steps, you can contact a certification body, which will provide you an auditor that is qualified for your specific category. This person will conduct the BRC audit, and it is also common to have a pre-audit for the first inspection to ensure you will be successful in the audit process. After the audit, concentrating on continuous improvement is a must—it ensures safe food manufacturing year-round and prepares you for your next BRC audit, which will be annual.

There are other Global Food Safety Initiative schemes besides the British Retail Consortium. You’ve probably heard of ISO 22000, FSSC 22000 or SQF (Safe Quality Food), which are different ways to become GFSI certified. They are similar in many ways, as certifications target a solid food safety management system, safe food manufacturing, agricultural practices, and distribution, and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP system) or Food Safety Plan that complies with the GFSI scheme.

There are differences between the different GFSI Audit schemes. BRC concentrates on procedural aspects and guidelines, incorporates quality management in the same module and can sometimes be seen as more prescriptive, while FSSC 22000 focuses more on the framework approach, wanting businesses to implement a solid food safety plan. SQF has two separate modules for food safety and quality and focuses heavy on risk assessments. Companies just starting down this path should research each scheme before deciding which one is best for their operation.

Having BRC audits and getting BRC certified shows your customers that you are committed to the highest level of food safety and quality. Following a food safety plan and quality management system gives you further reach, even globally, improving your supply chain and gaining new business.

Why Is BRC Important?

Having a certification body such as SAI Global conduct a BRC audit with the end goal being BRC certification is highly important. Remember that the British Retail Consortium concentrates on international procedures with its food safety audits. Holding a certification gives your customers peace of mind that you’re providing safe, quality food products, but it can also welcome other partnerships, even globally. The outcome is, that you not only have peace of mind, but you’re also improving your supply chain and boosting ROI because you’re recognized as having good manufacturing, good products, and a safe facility that adheres to the highest food safety standards.

What Does BRC Focus On?

When the Certification Body audits for BRC certification, they concentrate on certain aspects of a food safety issue or standard requirements. Some of the things that a BRC audit looks for include nine specific sections, such as:

  • Site standards. This means the facility is ideal for maintaining and setting a perfect place for food production.
  • Food safety plan. (also known as HACCP). Having the HACCP plan in place helps with risk assessment, managing, and identifying potential food safety risks.
  • Senior management commitment. BRC looks at the leaders of a food manufacturing company to ensure continuous commitment to food safety.
  • Food safety and quality management system. Have the correct policies and procedures to manage safety and keep staff up-to-date.
  • Personnel. This ensures that employees wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE), follow good hygiene skills, and are well-trained in the latest food safety guidelines.
  • Product control. Among other things involves control of allergens and allergen management in addition to product testing.
  • High-care, high-risk, and ambient high-care production risk zones. This ensures that products that are in particular risk to possibly become contaminated with a pathogen and especially considered in the sites food safety management system.
  • Process control. This looks to make sure that the facility has good control over all processing is running effectively.
  • Requirements for traded products. This ensures that traded products are treated with the same care as manufactured products.

You can contact a third-party certification body to perform the BRC audit and certification. They will assess all the requirements and assign you a grade. A good grade results in the certification, however, a bad grade does not. Depending on the grade, you are allowed to re-audit every 6 to 12 months.

At FruitSmart, we take your safety seriously and want to provide you with the safest, quality ingredients, so you never have to worry about contamination or a poor product. We do hold several of these certificates, in addition to a few others. Some of the certificates we possess include:

  • BRC Certificate (GFSI) - Grandview
  • BRC Certificate (GFSI) - Prosser
  • Organic Certification
  • Non-GMO Certification
  • OU Kosher Certificate

To learn more about FruitSmart, our certifications, our food safety practices, or—if you’d like to hear more about our products, contact FruitSmart today.

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