There are benefits and disadvantages to scheduling each of your food safety audits as Standalone or deciding to combine them. Obviously, the number of audits involved will have a considerable impact on your decision, as will other factors such as auditor availability, how strictly the timing of the audit schedule is being dictated to you, seasonal factors and how practical it is for your site to receive audits at various times of year.
Standalone audits have their benefits such as their shorter duration reducing the burden on certain operations and allowing the site to spread their audits throughout the year. Combined audits allow the site to have the assessment of all management systems in a single period of time. As a result of this, interference in the normal operation of the site is less frequent. In addition, combining audits results in reduced preparation, meeting and auditor travel time, which translates to reduced audit costs.
As well as the benefits mentioned above, combined audits provide other intangible benefits, such as increased communication because multiple departments are encouraged to discuss and plan the audit together. A combined audit also demonstrates how different departments are interrelated which gives senior personnel greater knowledge and understanding of the operation of the site as a whole.
One of the key requirements of BRCGS’ Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) is for sites to establish and maintain the operational prerequisite programmes necessary to create an environment suitable to produce safe and legal food products. In addition, all sites must conduct a complete hazard analysis, based on Codex HACCP principles, for all of their processes and products in order to identify and control all hazards effectively.
This allows sites to easily combine their food safety audit with the GFCP as it is intended for the gluten control requirements not to duplicate what already exists but to allow sites to incrementally expand product safety programmes to incorporate elements which, if correctly applied, will yield safe, gluten-free products.
The typical duration for a standalone GFCP audit is 1.5 to 2 days depending on the nature and complexity of the site’s operation. When a combined with a BRCGS Food Safety audit, or another GFSI audit, the duration allocated for the GFCP is only an additional 0.5 days.
In 2021, BRCGS reached an agreement with the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) which gave the GFCP technical equivalence with AOECS’ own gluten-free standard. This agreement paved the way for the withdrawal of Additional Voluntary Module 12 – AOECS Gluten Free Foods. By replacing their AVM12 certification with GFCP certification, sites can not only continue to receive their gluten-free audit combined with their BRCGS Food Safety audit, but they can combine the GFCP with any GFSI benchmarked standard, or GFSI Global Markets audit.