Governance, Risk and Compliance Blog

BRC 7: Food labelling control with EQMS

Posted by Marc Gardner on Tue, Jun 06, 2017

Every week, food brands across the UK are forced to recall their products due to labelling errors. Whether it's providing incorrect use-by dates, making invalid claims about a product's shelf life, or overlooking allergens, food manufacturing processes are failing to protect brands and consumers.  

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Why so many labelling issues?

Standards require more controls than ever before. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety, which specifies what criteria food manufacturers must meet to obey the law and protect consumers, was last updated in January 2015 to provide a new section on product labelling. 

Organisations must now review their labels whenever there are changes to the raw materials they use or the ingredients that go into making a product. If product labelling is the responsibility of the customer or a third party, the organisation must make sure they have the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

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Atheal Alwash, Account Manager at Qualsys Ltd, says problems with labelling are largely due to a lack of systems in place to control changes: "Many companies have very complex structures with incredibly complicated supply chains. So an external provider might change a process, for example, without there having been an appropriate risk assessment on the label." 

Not only is labelling and documentation important for avoiding shutdowns in production, it can also prevent losses of man hours, expensive legal penalties, costly shipping and distribution, and damage to the brand's reputation. If your organisation labels anything, you must have robust document control.

Rapid developments in printing technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes also mean there is a smaller margin for error and less time to put things right.

 

 

How EQMS can help

EQMS can be configured to provide you with a fully integrated labelling and document control management system. It centralises all information, identifies and manages risk, assigns responsibility for reviewing documentation, controls processes across your organisation, and gives you unshakeable control over your documents.

With EQMS Document Manager, for example, you can distribute documents to employees at any location, and adjust your notifications settings to require those employees to acknowledge that they've read and understood the documentation. 

EQMS Document Manager also automates the management of document lifecycles, keeping track of versions and ensuring the right information is available to the right people at the right time.

While it's impossible to completely eradicate human error, having an effective document management system is essential to maintaining control over your policies, procedures and other critical documents.

 

Document control software

 

Tags: Food Safety Management, BRC 7

BRC 7: Global food safety standard explained

Posted by Jamie Rose on Tue, Jun 06, 2017

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) first published its Global Standard for Food Safety in 1998. Developed to help the food industry comply with UK and EU food safety laws, it's become an internationally recognised benchmark for best practice in food safety, quality and responsibility, with over 17,000 BRC-certified sites worldwide.

Now in its seventh issue, the standard gives organisations working in the food industry – retailers, manufacturers, importers, caterers, ingredient suppliers – a framework for managing the safety, integrity and quality of their products and services. Many retailers across the UK, the US and Europe will only do business with suppliers who have passed audit and been accredited by a BRC certification body.

Below, we take a closer look at what the standard covers, what the latest issue (January 2015) introduced, and how your organisation can benefit from accreditation.

Food safety BRC

What the standard covers

The Global Standard for Food Safety sets out requirements for how processed foods and other products (for example, branded foods; retailer-brand foods; or ingredients used by food service companies, caterers or manufacturers) should be made or prepared. Only those products manufactured, prepared or stored at the site audited as part of the certification will apply.

The standard's divided into seven sections:

1 – Senior management commitment and continual improvement

Your senior managers must commit to implementing and continually improving your organisation's food safety processes.

2 – The Food Safety Plan – HACCP

Having a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan in place allows you to identify and manage any biological, chemical or physical hazards that could make the food you produce unsafe to eat.

3 – Food safety and quality management system

You should implement a system that enables you to produce safe products, meet customers' expectations and ensure staff are well trained.

4 – Site standards

Sites on which you manufacture or prepare food must be laid out, maintained, cleaned and secured according to strict standards. Your organisation must also meet requirements relating to the control of pests and foreign bodies.

5 – Product control

For your products to be considered safe, you need to demonstrate that you properly manage things such as allergens, provenance and product testing.

6 – Process control

You must implement your HACCP plan from day to day, and have effective procedures in place for ensuring you manufacture your products to the correct quality.

7 – Personnel

This part of the standard covers training, protective clothing, and hygiene.

BRC 7 aims to promote best practice and ensure that organisations are working to strong, consistent standards. By gaining the BRC certification, you can assure your customers that you're highly competent at monitoring and continually improving the quality and safety of your product, and that you've taken every possible precaution to prevent problems should that quality and safety ever be challenged.

What's in the latest version

BRC periodically review and update the standard to reflect changes in food safety laws and any new risks that may have emerged. Issue 7 of the standard was published in January 2015, and contains the following new sections.

Labelling and packaging control

Issue 7 improves requirements around labels and packaging control, with the aim of reducing the number of product recalls caused by incorrect labelling. You must have an effective procedure in place for reviewing your labels whenever you change your product's recipe or obtain raw materials from a different supplier, for example. If those labels are your customer's responsibility, you must make sure your customer has the new information.

You must also have a formal process for ensuring packing lines are using the latest labels.

Managing suppliers of raw materials and packaging

The updated standard now includes packaging as part of the requirement relating to how you manage your raw-materials suppliers. And as well as the usual HACCP risk assessments for allergens, contamination and so on, you must carry out risk assessments for substitution or fraud, and review these at least once a year. 

If you have any suppliers who are considered "high risk", you will need documented proof that they're effectively managing risks to the quality and safety of the raw materials, and operating effective traceability processes.

Audits

Exclusions – i.e. when you're only looking to get certified in a certain area or part of your operation – were found to be causing much confusion in terms of employees being unsure what rules apply to what production lines and so on. Issue 7 has taken away many of the circumstances in which exclusions could be stipulated within audits.

Product authenticity, claims and chain of custody

New requirements in Issue 7 limit the risk of BRC-certified sites purchasing fraudulent or adulterated raw materials.

Benefits of certification

  • Protects your brand and your customers
  • Allows you to do business with those retailers, manufacturers, ingredients companies and food service organisations who specify certification as part of their approval process
  • Helps reduce the number of product recalls, customer complaints and rejected products
  • Incorporates food safety management systems and internationally accepted best practice to ensure the safety and quality of products
  • Audits are carried out by trained and experienced certification bodies working to BRC Global Standards

The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety was the first standard to meet the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmark, which means it's accepted by many of the world's biggest retailers, such as Tesco and Walmart. Achieving the certification ensures your customers have confidence in your products.

 

What you should do now

Want more information about BRC 7? Sign up for the GRC Newsletter. 

 

EQMS-GRC-Newsletter

Tags: Food Safety Management, BRC 7