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By Siarl Dixon

Purchasing a product manufactured by a well-known brand in a recognized store is no longer the only decision-making factor. Consumers are also interested in knowing what happened to the food after it left the manufacturing company: was it transported at the right temperature? Was it stored in a pest-free environment? Did the distributor open the packages or manipulate the food before it arrived at the store?

As food manufacturers and retailers focus more on food integrity, reducing damaged goods and preventing food-borne illness, new concerns about food safety and quality during storage and distribution throughout the supply chain are on the rise, forcing producers and retailers to demand assurance that food safety standards are applied throughout the distribution chain.

The BRCGS Storage and Distribution Standard Issue 4, released in 2020, is a compilation of best practices that enables a continuous improvement process through well-designed, risk-based product safety management systems. It was created in accordance with GFSI 2020 requirements and ensures product quality and safety during their transportation, storage, and distribution throughout the supply chain.

This internationally recognized certification has evolved to become a qualification requirement for storage and distribution companies interested in doing business with large food manufactures and retail chains that have decided to demand the same high standards for food integrity throughout the entire process that they use during their own manufacturing procedures.

What is new with the Protocol in Issue 4?

As with all the certification standards, the BRCGS Storage and Distribution Standard Issue 4 was upgraded to better reflect the changing role of the warehousing and logistics sectors. The most significant changes in the protocol include:

  1. Blended/Hybrid audits: only available for the announced program, this new option combines remote offsite with onsite visit, and it is intended to enhance audit quality by facilitating the sharing and analysis of information ahead of time.
  2. Color coding of requirements: distinguish between activities that will be audited as part of the facility assessment and those that will be audited as part of the records, systems, and documentation.
  3. Unannounced audits: one mandatory unannounced audit every 3 years to provide greater confidence in product safety culture. This is a GFSI benchmark 2020 requirement that applies to all certification programs.

Some of the New Requirements in Issue 4

  1. Product Safety Culture: auditors will not be attempting to audit the culture of the site but will be looking at how facilities have implemented their product safety culture, focusing on four key areas: effective communication strategies, training development program, impact mechanisms, and performance reviews on product safety related activities.
  2. Confidential Reporting: a procedure to report hazards or infractions anonymously to ensure the product’s safety, integrity, quality, and legality.
  3. Internal Auditing: at least two internal audits per year covering all the areas of product safety, including other requirements of the standard and any other voluntary modules.
  4. Root Cause Analysis: requires a procedure to determining the root cause of the problem, as well as a timeline for when this should be solved.
  5. Product Fraud Vulnerability: encourages the development of systems to avoid the purchase of fraudulent products. It is part of the GFSI benchmark requirements.
  6. Supplier Approval Requirements: improve clarity and ensure rigorous controls of the subcontractors, service providers, and supplier approval throughout the sales module.
  7. Pest Management: encourages the development of good practices on pest management.
  8. Automation Systems (including robotics): new clause introduced where automation is used for direct product handling activities.
  9. Allergen Management: increase the emphasis on allergen management as cross-contact may occur during storage and handling of products.
  10. Open Product Handling: multiple requirements have been relocated into a single, newly created section of the standards (section 9).

While the length of the auditing process varies depending on the size and complexity of the facility and its operations, typical audits will take 1.5 days on-site, plus a half-day for drafting the report and overseeing the corrective action process.

Other resources you can check to learn more about BRCGS Storage and Distribution Issue 4 or food safety in general:

  • Free webinar recorded by Siarl Dixon, Certification Manager at AIB International and Jessica Burke, Senior Manager, Technical Services BRCGS
  • The BRCGS Storage and Distribution Standard website
  • Food Safety Culture online training
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