Organisations will now be able to take advantage of remote auditing technology when being audited by certification bodies such as LRQA, following a feasibility assessment. The announcement covers sites due an audit, an existing certificate extension, or with a certificate that expired during 2020.
Covering a number of BRCGS’s certification programmes, including START!, packaging, storage and distribution, consumer products and gluten free, the movement has been introduced following the widescale impact of the pandemic on the food and beverage industry.
Auditing plays a vital role in food safety standards, with on-site assessments historically constituting an integral part of BRCGS certification. The recent travel restrictions across the UK have led to widespread impact on the availability of such services, resulting in growing concerns around increasing food safety risks if compliance schedules are disrupted.
The move towards remote auditing has been put into action to help mitigate the impact of access and movement restrictions stemming from COVID-19. The changes will enable continued certification despite the pandemic and to provide customers with supplier assurance.
Discussing the changes, John Figgins, Senior Technical Manager for Food at BRCGS, said: “The pandemic has raised multiple pressing concerns across the food industry, not least the reputational damage that could be caused by certification expiration. These changes will ensure a safe and secure future for the food and beverage supply chain. The reaction has been really positive, with the suite of options offering clear opportunities to ensure certification can continue safely.”
Remote audits can take place where off-site activities are included in the scope, such as head office audits, off-site storage and field rigs. They can also be used for amendments and extensions to scope, for example where there are seasonal products or changes to a product range.
LRQA, the independent global assurance specialists and verified auditor of BRCGS programmes, has welcomed the changes. Kimberly Carey Coffin, Global Technical Director, Supply Chain Assurance, added: “Many organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic have had to halt or postpone their auditing schedules, which could ultimately increase risk to their business and their customers. However, now remote auditing is being accepted companies will be able to demonstrate through independent verification that they are continuing to meet BRCGS Food Safety Standards.”
LRQA has been offering remote auditing services since before the pandemic outbreak. Through a range of digital devices and secure platforms, its remote audits maintain the high standards of onsite audits and can be co-witnessed by stakeholders who can also interact with auditors via a live stream, offering further flexibility for businesses.
In addition to remote auditing, companies can also take advantage of blended audits. A permanent change implemented by BRCGS, GFSI-benchmarked blended audits have been introduced to maximise the effectiveness of time spent on-site, and will be used to demonstrate ongoing compliance. Available for companies with an existing certified site – and where access for an on-site audit is still available – blended audits are now a permanent approved verification method of delivery
Find out more information about how LRQA can support your BRCGS remote audit.