Vulnerability assessments are a focus in the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard on Food Safety, Issue 7 published in January.
The BRC auditor said there is a lack consistency in the type and scope of assessments being done for the standard with audits starting against it from last month.
Vulnerability Assessments are the one big change in version 7. It means a shift in focus from food safety, traditionally the technical department’s route to food fraud.
Fair bit of feedback
Jerry Houseago, business development director at Cert ID Europe, said if BRC certified firms haven’t carried out assessments before an audit they will receive non-conformities which may affect the grade.
“We may only be a month in but actually companies have had notice of it since January when the standard was published and with over 2500 certified sites in the UK and 18000 worldwide, there is already a fair bit of feedback.
“You can put some preventative measures such as increased receipt inspection in place quite quickly. Changing supplier relationships or culture of your purchasing team may take longer.”
Houseago said it’s a whole supply chain issue but often looks like just a retailer problem as they are the touch point with the consumer.
“We have assessed a huge range of raw materials from produce to prawns. The standard requires all raw materials to be assessed whether they are low value industrial ingredients through to premium Identity Preserved product such as Parma ham.
“There is an option to group raw materials with similar risks where you can justify it. So if you buy in a large number of similar powder blends you might be able to save some time and effort by grouping them if you can show they have the same type of fraud risk.”
Vulnerable areas come not only from the ingredient itself, said Houseago.
“Is there money to be made from adulteration or mislabelling for example but also commercial relationships. Most people think ingredient first and it is those that make the headlines: adulterated olive oil, peanut shells in cumin or mislabelled Manuka honey for example.
“However, food fraud isn’t only committed by master criminals but also poor or weak business people who have got in desperate commercial positions and see fraud as the only way out.
“So the vulnerable areas can often be more to do with contracts and supplier relationships than ingredients.”
VAPor asssement tool
Cert ID’s sister company FoodChain ID launched a system which provides food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers with the means to complete an online vulnerability assessment and have it independently assessed, earlier this year.
VAPor assesses information and research that a company has carried out with regard to ‘intrinsic vulnerability’ (vulnerability from within the business) and ‘extrinsic vulnerability’ (vulnerability as a result of external impacts such as supply base and raw materials used).
It reviews submitted data against set criteria, allocates a score based on expectation and gives a percentage of risk that the raw material, supplier and business poses.