Top 9 BRCGS non-conformances that food & drink manufacturers need to look out for

The BRCGS (Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards) is the gold standard for manufacturing compliance and protection. A BRCGS certification guarantees the standardisation of food safety throughout the supply chain and is often seen as an essential requirement for retailers, manufacturers, and food service organisations. 

The process towards BRCGS involves an annual audit. Preparing for this audit can be lengthy and involves lots of paperwork. Sadly, mistakes or issues identified during an audit can lead to a ‘non-conformance’ being logged. This is not the end of the world, but they will need to be resolved promptly otherwise you could fail to achieve or lose your accreditation.

The latest BRC annual report details the most common non-conformances that food and drink manufacturers received when audited. So, if you’re currently waiting for your audit and want to avoid these common pitfalls, keep reading.

1) Internal Audits

The most common non-conformance revolves around the frequency and recording of internal audits. According to BRCGS reports, internal audits are often not suitably documented, with key information missed meaning they cannot qualify as satisfactory. This non-conformance can arise because internal audits were forgotten about or rushed.

As a food and drink manufacturer you are required to maintain regular internal auditing to ensure that you are on top of the standards stipulated by BRCGS. At a minimum, proof of four internal audit dates over the year must be presented.

The adoption of technology within the food manufacturing sector has caused an increased demand for tools that can help simplify processes. Innovative risk management software that stores all critical documentation in one centralised location and mobile apps that allow users to carry out safety checks on the go are among the most sought after, as they enable manufacturers to keep track of their audit and checks documentation, as well as save money on printing costs.

2) Housekeeping and Hygiene

The main reason food and drink manufacturers receive this as a non-conformance is due to cleaning procedures and documentation not being adequately detailed.

It is crucial that your business has a suitable number of cleaning stations and that strict hygiene standards are maintained, to reduce risks of product contamination.

3) Door Condition

Many non-conformances involve the conditions of internal and external doors. This problem arises because doors are often unclean, not secure enough, or not regularly sanitised.  

Other points to remember are:

  • Doors should be close fitting and suitably proofed
  • External doors to production areas should not be open
  • Pest control precautions need to be in place where doors are open

4) Verify HACCP Flow Diagram

All steps in any manufacturing process must be detailed in a ‘HACCP flow diagram’. The reason non-conformances arise is because these flow diagrams are not detailed enough or don’t coincide with the actual process being followed by staff.

To ensure your manufacturing processes match your flow diagram it is recommended that all team members involved with the process are consulted and so that they can verify its accuracy.

5) Condition of Walls

Similar to doors, food and drink manufacturers often also neglect to properly clean and maintain internal walls. BRC guidelines stipulate that all walls need to be regularly cleaned to avoid the build-up of dirt, condensation or mold.

6) Temporary Repairs

Quick and temporary repairs to machinery and equipment can often be forgotten about, which can lead to a non-conformance. Any temporary site repairs should be properly logged and controlled to ensure safety. These temporary repair measures should be permanently repaired as soon as possible, in a recorded time frame.

Riskproof, a mobile app to carry out safety checks digitally, allows you to create corrective actions and apply timeframes for resolving them if an issue has been spotted. This means you can log any temporary repairs on the app which will track its progress.

7) Equipment Maintenance

When it comes to equipment maintenance, non-conformances commonly arise when there is not enough adequate documentation or proper sign off procedures in place. It is important to be able to demonstrate that an effective maintenance and cleaning program for machinery and plants is present. This reduces any contamination and risk of breakdowns.

8) Procedures for Glass Handling

Non-conformances also arise when glass and brittle materials are found in areas where open products are handled. The risk here is that breakages of these materials could result in product contamination.

Other common issues that can generate non-conformances related to glass handling include inadequate protection around bulbs, lighting and heating fittings. Not resolving these can also result in product contamination.

9) Management Objectives

The final common non-conformance occurs because of a lack of communication between management and other levels of the business.

Senior management should be able to define a clear plan for the continuing improvement of food safety and quality. This includes ensuring staff are aware of their responsibilities and clear working instructions are readily available.

Now that you know the causes for these common non-conformances, you have a better idea of what to look out for and can act proactively to ensure a positive result to your BRCGS audit when it takes place.

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John Brennan


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