The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption. At BRCGS, we made an early commitment to work with partners and stakeholders to ensure supply chain fluidity whilst maintaining high levels of confidence from certificated sites. We also saw the importance of communication and responding to the many 100s of questions, enquiries and challenges that our sites asked of us. We therefore launched our Covid-19 Resource Hub to share these responses, and to publish technical and supporting information to provide guidance through these uncertain times.
We continue to provide regular updates and guidance, and so we encourage you to bookmark these pages and to check on a weekly basis. To make this information widely accessible, it is also partly available in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Italian, French and Turkish.
Most recently, we have published a Position Statement on on-site audits post lockdown (BRCGS078), information on new Covid-19 product launches in response to brand requests for additional assurance (BRCGS077), and a 15-point checklist for food manufacturers. As restrictions start to lift in some economies, we will be publishing information to support business restart in our Covid-19 Resource Hub on our website.
BRCGS Response to Covid-19
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic it was obvious that amendments would be needed to address the challenge of auditing in countries suffering from the pandemic. As part of this response BRCGS asked CBs to rate potential strategies to help manage the situation. Thank you to everyone who responded for the vital and informative feedback. A summary of the results can be found here.
Many of these ideas have been developed and can be found in our published documents such as:
• BRCGS076 – Risk Assessment Certificate Extension Process for the Directory (available on MyBRCGS)
• BRCGS077 – Certificate Extension PLUS (available on MyBRCGS & our main website)
• BRCGS078 – Position Statement on Onsite Audits Post Covid-19 Lockdown (available on MyBRCGS, our main website and BRCGS Educate)
• BRCGS080 – Blended audit – remote audit using ICT (available on MyBRCGS, our main website and BRCGS Participate).
New and updated BRCGS documents
Below we have listed some new and updated documents which came out of discussions following feedback on auditor capacity and aim to help CBs:
• BRCGS083 Auditor Loan Agreement
As mentioned in BRCGS communication regarding Covid-19 resources BRCGS are pleased to introduce an Auditor Loan Procedure. The Auditor Loan Agreement can be found on MyBRCGS along with supporting BRCGS Auditor Loan Program document (BRCGS082).
• BRCGS078 Position Statement on Onsite Audits Post Covid-19 Lockdown
Please note there is an update to BRCGS078. The principle change is an amendment of the rules on Certificate Extensions where it is not possible to complete an audit prior to the audit due date. This was necessary to avoid confusion.
It should be noted that a certificate extension must not be seen as a reason to delay or postpone an audit but is available to provide assurance where audits are not possible. Sites should still aim to have audits prior to the audit due date or as soon as restrictions are lifted. As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted it is likely that customers will increasingly expect their suppliers to facilitate audits in a timely fashion.
• BRCGS080 Blended audit - remote audit using ICT
Following the publication of the amendment to the GFSI Benchmark BRCGS are pleased to publish our Blended Audit Procedure to allow remote auditing to be included within BRCGS certification audits.
The new procedure is voluntary but we believe provides a real opportunity to improve the quality of the audit result and maximise the efficiency of the onsite part of the audit. Importantly we hope it will help audit scheduling and play a part in improving the work life balance for auditors.
Initially the blended audit approach will be limited to announced audits as we all gain experience of the remote auditing techniques and IT challenges. We will then review its use as an option for unannounced audits.
Risk Assessments During Covid-19
The compliance team have reviewed the risk assessments carried out by CBs in order to issue certificate extensions as this has been a rapidly introduced process for all of us. This has included review of new BRCGS Directory admin processes, review of the reporting format and ‘sitting in’ on the remote audit discussions with sites.
Reports generally scored ‘green’ with the area requiring some review being section 6 (management meetings) where our expectation was for some commentary on the meetings in relation to Covid-19. i.e. frequent meetings, not necessarily the ‘annual management review meeting’ and also to ensure there is focus on internal audits to confirm product safety systems are working effectively at the site under pressure in response to the Covid-19 situation.
New Covid -19 audit products
We have been working behind the scenes to develop new audit processes in addition to the certificate extension process BRCGS072.
BRCGS Certificate Extension Plus (BRCGS077)
This was introduced to provide a higher level of assurance for some specifiers when granting certificate extensions and includes the use of both self-audit questionnaires and remote audit technology which was not permitted by GFSI. As such this goes over and above the standard GFSI benchmarked certificate extension. The module is voluntary but may be requested by some specifiers. This can be found on our main website and on MyBRCGS.
Covid-19 Additional Module (FAM811)
This module was developed to provide customers with greater assurance of the processes in place at sites to mitigate the new risks to food safety arising from the restrictions in place to combat Covid-19. It is a voluntary additional module carried out remotely at certificated sites where their certificate is NOT due for renewal. Many of the requirements are based on the guidance document we published on the website in April and the principles of which would be assessed as part of the certification Extension Plus. This is currently only available on MyBRCGS.