BRC (British Retail Consortium), is a trade association for the UK food retail industry created in 1992. However, BRC has Rebranded to BRCGS, which stands for (Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards). BRCGS is a leading brand and consumer protection organization, used by over 29,000 certificated suppliers in over 130 countries, with certification issued through a global network of accredited certification bodies. BRCGS’ Standards guarantee the standardization of quality, safety and operational criteria and ensure that manufacturers fulfill their legal obligations and provide protection for the end consumer.
Certification to BRCGS’ Standards is now often a fundamental requirement of leading retailers, manufacturers and food service organizations as the standard requirements addresses the key elements that organization’s need to have in place to ensure safe product production. BRC Standards are approved by GFSI, the Global Food Safety Initiative, which is an essential factor when considering a certification scheme. Companies who are certified to ISO 9001 Quality Management System and ISO 22000 Food safety management system, have met many of the requirements of this standard.
So what is the difference between BRCGS and ISO 22000?
The BRC standard has a focus on quality, food safety and legality, while the ISO 22000 targets its focus on food safety and legal compliance. The SQF code has two levels of requirements: Level 2 focuses on food safety and Level 3 on food safety and quality
Certification to the BRCGS standard allows organizations to:
- Access markets where this standard is required
- Help meet obligations distributors
- It increases the international recognition of your organization
- Protect their product, customers and brand
- It covers all areas of product safety and legality
- Identifying aspects to vary throughout the life cycle of the product
- Practice the best methods of product safety management
In February 2020, BRCGS Packaging Materials Standard Issue 6 was made mandatory and certified companies will have to implement some essential changes that are summarized in the following;
- The new BRCG Packaging Materials – Issue 6 includes five major changes: two key changes concerning the protocol and three key changes regarding the requirements of the former Packaging and Packaging Materials – Issue 5 certification.
Changes to the Protocol includes;
- Removing the second hygiene category
In Issue 5 there were two categories of requirements, depending on the intended use of the packaging material – high hygiene and basic hygiene. Removing the two-category system simplifies the use of the new standard. The differing hygiene levels will be replaced by a risk-based approach, based on only one set of requirements. Some requirements will have a higher or differing level of hygiene that applies to “food contact materials”.
- Removing second/split unannounced audit option
Version 5 of the BRCGS Global Standard for Packaging offered three audit options: Full announced audit, full unannounced audit, and split unannounced audit. The last one divided the audit requirements into two separate audits, the first one unannounced and the second one announced. Reflecting that the full unannounced audit option is generally preferred because it gives extra confidence to specifiers, Issue 6 will be in line with Issue 8 of the Food Standard by removing the split unannounced audit option. Unannounced audits remain optional.
Changes to the Requirement includes;
- Corrective and preventive action: fundamental clause
The new version of the standard integrates specific requirements on corrective and preventive action (CAPA) related to root cause analysis into a structured continuous improvement approach. This way the root cause analysis is assembled in one paragraph, in line with Issue 8 of the Food Standard, emphasizing the importance of addressing issues with the intent to remove the risk of reoccurrence and supporting continuous improvement. This is a fundamental clause, which means that sites that have not implemented this clause cannot be certified. The fundamental clauses are marked with “FUNDAMENTAL”.
- Emphasis on product quality
BRCGS Packaging Materials is not just a hygiene standard – its scope covers both product safety as well as product quality. Issue 6 places even more emphasis on product quality and clearly distinguishes between safety and quality. In the hazard and risk analysis (HARA), Issue 6 separates hazards into product safety and quality defects to improve control measures necessary to prevent, eliminate or reduce each product quality hazard to acceptable levels (2.2.6).
- Product safety and quality culture
Issue 6 emphasises the importance of the culture at a site. It does so by introducing a new clause (1.1.2). The clause requires sites to set up, execute and review an action plan to improve product safety and quality culture. This does not imply that the auditor will assess the culture of the organization, but rather that (s)he examines the efforts made to document the status of the organisational culture and the steps that are put in place to improve it. Auditors started assessing this requirement from February 1, 2021.
Some key BRCGS Requirements-
- SENIOR MANAGEMENT COMMITMENT
- For any packaging quality management system to be effective it’s essential that management personnel are fully aware of the requirements and are committed to the implementation.
- HAZARD AND RISK MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
- The basis for the program is an effective hazard and risk analysis based on the principles from the internationally recognized Codex Alimentarius system and encompasses hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP).
- PRODUCT SAFETY AND QUALITY MANAGEMENT
- Sets out requirements for the technical management of product quality and hygiene practices, building upon the principles of ISO 9000. This includes requirements for product specifications, supplier monitoring, traceability, and the management of incidents and product recalls.
- SITE STANDARDS
- Sets out expectations for the production environment including the layout and maintenance of the buildings and equipment, cleaning, pest control and waste management. This includes a specific section on managing foreign body and chemical controls.
- PRODUCT AND PROCESS CONTROL
- The requirements at the product design and development stage including quality assurance, process control and product inspection and testing.
- The standards needed for staff training, protective clothing and personal hygiene
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