Introduction to BRCGS
With over 29,000 certified sites across 130 countries the BRCGS Global Standard Food Safety is currently the largest food safety standard adopted by food manufacturers in the world. The BRCGS’ standards ensure that quality, authenticity, safety, and operating standards are well established, so that manufacturers comply with their legal responsibilities, and that consumers are protected. Leading retailers, producers, and food service organisations now routinely make certification to BRCGS’ standards a prerequisite for operation.
The four competency factors required to become a BRCGS auditor
By explicitly defining the competency requirements, BRCGS has defined a clear process for becoming a BRCGS auditor. Four factors form the basis of BRCGS competency requirements covering training, qualifications, work experience, and education. The auditor criteria for qualifications, training, and experience requirements is detailed in the Global Standard Food Safety Appendix 5.
Before we dig deeper into these four factors the first step you need to know is that you must actually be registered on the BRCGS directory, and the only way you can do that is by going through a certification body who will add you as a trainee auditor to the BRCGS Directory. To do that, you must either be employed by a certification body or be working as a subcontractor for a certification body. Although the certification body adds you to the BRCGS directory and maintain your auditor competency, it is BRCGS who approve you as an auditor.
BRCGS would like all auditors to have degrees in a field of study connected to food or biosciences. However, it is possible to become an auditor without a degree as a certification body can go to BRCGS and request a concession.
Training, work experience & qualifications
Auditors are required to have a minimum of 5 years post-qualification experience related to the food industry. This shall involve work in quality assurance or food safety, technical management or risk management functions within manufacturing, retailing, inspection or enforcement at a managerial, decision-making level. I would add that anyone who meets the necessary requirements and is employed in operations or production could also become a BRCGS auditor.
The first requirement is that you must have successfully completed a BRCGS lead auditor course. The important thing to note is that the course has to be delivered by a BRCGS approved training provider. The other option is if you already perform audits in the food industry and possess a IRCA lead auditor certificate, in which case you would only need to complete the BRCGS three-day auditor training course. Where you have completed a BRCGS Lead Auditor course which is not in line with the current issue of the standard then you will be required to undertake a 2 day BRCGS conversion course.
As part of the training, a trainee auditor will need to complete 10 third-party GFSI audits which include HACCP, quality management systems, and good manufacturing practices of which 5 audits need to be BRCGS audits and 1 of those audits needs to be witnessed.
Reissued standards and HACCP requirements
BRCGS mandates that all auditors must complete a two-day conversion course every time the standard is renewed, which occurs every three years. Auditors are also required to have a formal hazard qualification which they specify as a two-day recognised course which has to be classroom-led or online. HACCP qualification is one of the few qualifications that you may obtain through training providers other than BRCGS, such as RSPH, Campden etc.
Category product exams
We move on to the category product exams after we have the lead auditor in place. Few people are aware of this, but BRCGS has divided the food industry into five fields of audit, which are then divided into 18 categories. If you want to audit an abattoir then you will need to have completed and passed the category exam for raw red meat category 1.
Successfully passing a category exam
There are two ways for someone to successfully pass a category exam. The first one is a certification body that provides training and gives the auditor access to the online exam. However, you can purchase an online e-learning module from BRCGS which will allow you to sit the exam.
Does this mean that an auditor will be restricted to a product category?
Absolutely, you have to have the appropriate product category to be able to undertake a BRCGS audit. In addition you will also need to complete the online GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) knowledge exam.
Anyone wishing to become an auditor must register with a certification body who are responsible for ensuring you meet the requirements to become a BRCGS auditor as detailed in Global Standard Food Safety Appendix 5.
Written by John Husband & Rehman Din