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What is the BRC Global Standard?
In this week’s blog, we look at the BRC Global Standard, an essential consideration for every food production facility. While we won’t be able to cover every aspect of the BRC, we can explain its key definitions, its auditing procedure, and how companies interpret the standard in day-to-day operations.
What is the BRC Global Standard?
The BRC Global Standard is a universally recognised standard that sets out essential regulations companies involved in food production must follow. Although British in name the standard is recognised in over 130 countries. As a result, it is seen as the key standards baseline for food manufacturing companies across the world.
Without the BRC there would be difficulties bordering on impossibilities with the buying and selling of food products. By centralising food safety standards, the BRC makes production processes safer and saves production companies time and money.
Risk, however, will always be an unavoidable part of food production. It can be significantly reduced, but never totally eliminated. A standard as far reaching as the BRC, then, is the most effective way of mitigating risk and enhancing customer confidence in a production programme.
The standard is laid out in two manuals that educate and guide on issues of safety, integrity, legality and quality. The first manual defines the BRC’s rules and the second explains how users can interpret these rules for application in their specific companies.
With such a detailed standard to meet, it is crucial that food production companies are adequately resourced. As Ragus’ QESH Manager (Quality, Environment, Safety and Health), I am tasked with overseeing how the BRC, along with a host of other food safety standards, is implemented.
Above we see one of the final steps in the production process, filling an IBC for delivery.
How is the BRC audited?
To verify their compliance with BRC standards, food production companies are inspected once a year by an independent BRC auditor. After this, they are graded: AA, A, B, C and D. The company’s grade is determined by the number of non-conformities found during the assessment. If present, these need to be corrected with 28 days of the audit.
If there are too many non-conformities, the BRC auditor will revisit within the month to ensure sufficient changes have been made to operations. But if the company fails to adequately change, it will become uncertified. As a result, the company will legally no longer be allowed to supply customers with its food products – not that many customers would want their products.
The audit usually takes between one and two days because it is a sample intended to represent the company’s wider operations, although this varies depending on the size and the complexity of the site. As the auditor does not have enough time to fully inspect the entirety of the standard within the two days, the most common method of auditing is by talking to employees and discussing the company’s production processes.
The best way to meet the standard, therefore is through thorough and effective training of all employees. During an audit, one misinformed answer could prove the difference between an AA and an A. It is essential that all staff are routinely trained and then retrained to ensure both safe food production and the highest possible BRC grade.
The requirements of the BRC are covered in 9 parts, with regular amendments made to ensure standard operating procedures are updated. They are:
-Senior management commitment and continual improvement
-The food safety plan: HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
-Food safety and quality management system
-High-risk, high-care and ambient high-care production risk zones
-Requirements for traded products
The significance of Critical Control Points in meeting the BRC
Meeting the BRC Global Standard is team-wide process where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As such, we will use Ragus’ Critical Control Points (CCPs) as an example.
CCPs are the stages during the production process that present the greatest level of risk. It is crucial that these points are controlled and monitored to guarantee the resulting product meets the highest standards of quality and safety. Therefore, the fewer control points you have, the more control you have over the process. In Ragus’ production facility, the three CCPs are as follows:
-Filtering during filling – to prevent contamination from foreign bodies, liquid products must pass through a filter that ranges between 80 and 2000 microns, depending on the viscosity of the product. The liquid products are passed through around 50 of these filters before being packaged in a brand new intermediate bulk container (IBC) for each order, significantly reducing risk.
-Screening before sieving – to prevent contamination from foreign bodies, solid products must pass through a mesh screen ranging between 1.8mm and 2.8mm. Every four hours, this screen is replaced to alleviate any risk of potential wear and tear.
-Metal detection before packaging – all dry sugar products must pass through a metal detector that detects metal as small as 2mm. For this reason, we buy specially designed, detectable pens, for writing in the production area.
If any of these three CCPs are breached, then the facility automatically stops production. This allows us to isolate and quarantine the batch so that we can investigate how the product became contaminated. Managing CCPs, therefore, is the single most important part of any production process.
Drawing a clear path of traceability
From the moment we source our raw materials to the time we deliver pure sugar products to our customers, every stage of the process is recorded, checked and signed off.
For example, we apply a batch code to every product we manufacture. This means that even when the product has been delivered, we can carry out additional tests and trace its production history. From here, we can diagnose any problem that may occur and prevent it from happening again.
The above demonstrates the complex and essential safety standards that underpin food production. For Ragus, these are just the beginning. From here, we apply our decades of expertise in manufacturing, consulting and delivering pure sugars and syrups.
With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.