Following on from our previous article, about the BRC service fee increase 2020, many of you said that you would like to look at alternative certification options to BRCGS.  So, your wish is our command!

GFSI recognised is a must

BRCGS is one of the GFSI recognised schemes which exist worldwide. It’s the most prominent one in the UK, but that’s not to say it’s the only one that’s available to us.

In this article I’m going to look at the other GFSI recognised certificates that are available and the implications of switching to them.

We’ve been in touch with a number of retailers and the general consensus is that BRCGS is not a stipulated requirement, as long as a site is GFSI recognised that’s sufficient.  However, the caveat to this is that customers like BRCGS because it’s detailed enough so that they know there is a good level of compliance.  This means, we need find an alternative that provides as much detail as BRCGS, to give our customers ‘that warm fuzzy feeling’.

The information in this article is very top line.  As we progress through the process of comparison and focus in on the most suitable alternative, we’ll drill down further into the detail.

There are four alternatives to BRCGS that are GFSI recognised:

We’ve discounted Primus GFS, as it doesn’t provide certification for all types of food and it also doesn’t have a packaging standard.

Comparison of Standards

Below is a table of how the remaining three GFSI recognised Standards compare to BRCGS.

BRCGS FSSC 22000 IFS SQF
BRCGS Food FSSC 22000, ISO 22000 & Pre-requisite: ISO/TS 22002-1

Would also require addition of ISO 9001 to be comparable.

IFS Food SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacturing

Would also require SQF Quality Code to be comparable.

BRCGS Packaging FSSC 22000, ISO 22000 & Pre-requisite: NEN/NTA 8059

Would also require addition of ISO 9001 to be comparable.

IFS PACSecure SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacture of Food Packaging

Would also require SQF Quality Code to be comparable.

BRCGS Storage & Distribution FSSC 22000, ISO 22000 & Pre-requisite: ISO/TS 22002-4

Would also require addition of ISO 9001 to be comparable.

IFS Logistics SQF Food Safety Code for Storage and Distribution

Would also require SQF Quality Code to be comparable.

BRCGS Agents & Brokers No IFS Broker No

 

Summary

Like for like, IFS is the only Standard that provides a suitable alternative to all 4 Standards.

FSSC22000 and SQF provide all the Standards, except Agents and Brokers. However, you’d have to add quality elements to ensure that both product safety and quality was audited.

Comparison of sites

The following table shows how many sites worldwide and in the UK are certified.

Number of certified sites:
BRCGS FSSC 22000 IFS SQF
Food Worldwide: 20832

UK: 2515

Worldwide: 17698

UK: 108

Unknown – directory is not publicly available. Worldwide: 4945

UK: 0

Packaging Worldwide: 4808

UK: 643

Worldwide: 3548

UK: 14

Unknown – directory is not publicly available. Unknown the directory only covers food.
Storage & Distribution Worldwide: 2168

UK: 901

Worldwide: 142

UK: 0

Unknown – directory is not publicly available. Unknown the directory only covers food.
Agents & Brokers Worldwide: 568

UK: 262

n/a Unknown – directory is not publicly available. n/a

* correct as of 1st July 2020

Summary

The data highlights how prominent BRCGS is in the UK.

It looks like FSSC22000 is the second most popular Standard in the UK, although we can’t be sure given that the IFS and SQF websites do not provide us with the full picture.

Comparison of Certification Bodies

In order to be certified we would need to find a certification body in the UK that can carry out an audit. The following table shows you how many certification bodies we have to choose from in the UK.

Number of CBs in the UK
BRCGS FSSC 22000 IFS SQF
Food 27 16 10 Website says 2 but not UK based
Packaging 23 14 5 Website says 2 but not UK based
Storage & Distribution 22 8 8 Website says 2 but not UK based
Agents & Brokers 23 n/a 6 Website says 2 but not UK based

Summary

You can see that we have many more CBs to choose from in the UK for BRCGS. However, that’s most likely due to; supply and demand. Because BRCGS is popular in the UK, we have more options. If the market (or a proportion of the market) moves away from BRCGS we may find we have more options available to us in the future.

But wait…

Let’s think about this from the perspective of a Certification body though for a minute. We may have to pay the BRCGS service fee, which is what triggered this article. But – the certification body will have to pay BRCGS for the use of their certification too.

Certification Bodies also have to be certified as well. So, they have to pay to be audited by to ISO 17021 which is the Standard for Certification Bodies.

If they want to be able to provide audits to a different certification, they have to apply to that Accreditation Body and pay to be approved. There are then other fees they have to pay the Accrediation Body.

Let’s look at FSSC22000 as an example.

The be accepted for FSSC22000 the CB has to be certified to ISO17065, which means that the CB has to pay to gain a second accreditation (as BRC uses ISO 17021).

Then, to apply the CB has to pay $10,000.  They also then pay for the number of audit reports that they upload to the system per year, based on the following scale:

1 – 99 reports €5,000

100 – 499 reports €6.500

500 – 999 reports €8,000

1000 – 2499 reports €9,500

over 2.500 reports €11,000

This means that if a CB is just starting out with FSSC2200 audits, they may only update say 30 in the first for example. $5,000 divided by 30 reports is $167 per site. That’s a lot of money to absorb as a business, without passing onto the customer – which is you.

You may wonder why we’re telling you this, but you need to appreciate that the costs to the CBs will be higher in the beginning and they may have to pass some of this cost to onto you as a site.

Or it may mean that it just makes it financially unviable for smaller CBs to do it. And we know from the feedback that you’ve given us, that a lot of the time you get better service from the smaller CBs.

Fees

Below is the service fee that you pay to the Accreditation body through your Certification Body.

BRCGS FSSC 22000 IFS SQF
Fees £575 per audit $150 per audit $300 per audit Based on the turnover of the site:
>$50M: $650
$25M-$50M: $550
$5M – $25M: $400
<$5M: $300
Primary Producers: $150

If we look at the other Standards, you can see that the others are substantially less than BRCGS (unless you are a large turnover site for SQF).

Who do we knock out as an alternative?

We need to remove one of the options at this stage.  Therefore, can you please vote as to which Standard you would NOT use?

Please answer the following question:

Since this article was published, we have collated the results and continued to compare the Standards. If you would like to continue to reading the next article looks at the audit duration protocol; FSSC22000 and IFS audit protocol compared to BRCGS.

Have your say…

23 thoughts on “Alternative GFSI recognised schemes to BRCGS

  1. I am an Australian based auditor and audit against BRC and FSSC22000 as well as HACCP Codex and various local retailer standards. When I audit sites who have SQF implemented I struggle to find meaningful compliance to either retailer requirements or ISO9001:2015 requirements. From discussions with other auditors who audit across all three GFSI standards SQF is the least preferred. General feedback is the reporting is cumbersome and the standard provides little value to the client in terms of improvement processes.

    1. Thanks Rob. It’s really useful to hear your experience of SQF. Personally, I found them difficult to work with when trying to find out the information I needed. There’s no phone number so everything had to be done through email. Even though there was a number of email exchanges, they couldn’t seem to answer my questions. They just kept sending standard responses which had nothing to do with my enquiry. I even went direct to one of the Standard leads and got the same response. Doesn’t bode well for what they’ll be like when you’re certified by them. Makes you realise that even though BRCGS may not be perfect, things could be worse.

      1. Working for a company that has SQF Food Safety & Quality Codes in place, I have been looking at several standards and while I hear (in Europe particularly) everyone prefers BRCGS, auditors from at least 2 CB’s I work with suggest we would not gain anything from the change. These auditors cover both standards. I’m in Australia and we are also working to a retailer standard with very good results in all audits.

        1. Hi
          Thanks for this. When you say they do not think there would be anything gained, so you know why they thought this? Did they explain why?
          Thanks
          Kassy

  2. Have to say its not just the cost that is pushing me to look for BRC alternatives.
    A lot of the updates and changes recently are focused on larger sites and the smaller ones are forgotten. I have managed on sites with 1000+ staff and its far easier to implement when you have resources like that available.
    My current site has 20-25 people, 2 fairly simple HACCP plans for 2 lines, you can literally walk the entire production area from intake to despatch in 10 minutes including the hygiene stations. Yet we still have a 2.5 day audit the same as my last site a 500+staff abattoir and cutting plant you could get lost in.
    BRC have lost site of the key requirement Food Safety and KISS

    1. I have to agree also, the sites I manage are small family run businesses with either 1 or 2 very simple HACCP plans – 2.5 day audit has just been arranged for one of them with just 1 production line, whole-head produce, no prepping, washing, no CCP’s etc. No consideration taken for the smaller sites. One size does not fit all in this case.

      1. John, Lisa
        I think you both raise a good point. When we’re working on the next part of the comparison we need to look at not only how the Standard itself compares, but also how the audit protocol applies to each.
        Thank you for your input.
        Kassy

    2. 2 1/2 day audits for sites of 25 people and 2 lines is a nonsense and makes the ‘cost of technical’ too great to be sustained. There has to be a more sensible approach and something more than relentless auditing!

  3. Great article Kassy, with extra things I hadn’t appreciated needed considering. Looking forward to hearing how this progresses as we knock out standards.

    Its good to hear from auditors and consultants in the comments as well!

    1. Thanks Rebecca and thanks for your help too – it’s kind of you to take time to help your fellow techie’s 🙂

  4. Hi Kassy,
    I know the lack of public data from IFS is a pain, as you can’t even check if a certificate is valid or not.
    But I received a link giving the possibility to check whether a company has an IFS Food certificate or not :
    https://www.ifs-certification.com/index.php/en/ketenborging-ifs-zoeken

    It comes from the Netherlands, where some certification systems can lower the controls the national food safety authority will do.here’s the link to check all standards : https://ketenborging.nl/kwaliteitsschemas-en-status/

    So, with that data, you can easily (well, with a copy paste in excel) find how much IFS certification are issued in the UK : 46. I used voyel searches in company names to gather worldwide data, we should have 16 112 companies with IFS food certificate worldwide.

  5. Hi Kassy, I work with FSSC 22000 as well as the BRC standards, and although the BRC Standards are pretty straightforward, especially if you’re used to them, I find that the FSSC 22000 version 5 Quality (i.e. ISO 9001 audited at the same time to achieve both Food Safety and Quality) is worth considering, as it is fairly easy to understand, the standard is free to download, together with Guidance on TACCP and VACCP. It combines the requirements of ISO 222000 (food safety for food at any stage of the food chain), then you choose the PRP standard that is relevant to your food industry (catering, manufacturing, animal feed etc), add on the Additional Requirements of FSSC (the ones relevant to your organisation and exclude those that are not, e.g. exclude transport if you’re not in logistics). This works as a standalone standard or can be combined with ISO 9001 for a combined Quality and Food Safety certification, and the audit takes place all in one go.

    1. Thanks Susan for this. It’s good to hear different perspectives of those working with different Standards. My personal reservation about FSSC is that there are so many different Standards that need to be compiled in order to comply. If you include quality like you’ve said, you need to comply to FSSC22000, ISO22000, ISO9001, and the relevant PRP document(s). I suppose once you’ve combined all of the requirements into one main standard, it wouldn’t be such a task – but it bothers me that there are so many in the first place. You know me – I like to keep it simple (coz I’m not the brightest button in the box!)

      1. In fact, it is quite easy.
        ISO 22000 asks you to have PRP in place, but no detail on it, and hold all other requirements.
        ISO 22002 gives you the PRP requirements. But it’s really easy to work on, there are much less details than in BRC or IFS.
        And there are 11 more requirements in FSSC 22000, like food fraud, food defense, services suppliers,… It’s half a page.
        There is no ISO9000 requirement to get GFSI certification.
        The main thing about FSSC is that you need to think about what you do. You don’t have a check-list, you need to build your own, and validate it. And validation is the most forgotten part : you need to tell why, if you do as planned, your hazards will be covered.

  6. Hi Kassy, yes, I know what you mean about FSSC combining so many bits together, but the audit checklist (on the FSSC website) has everything under one document, so it makes it easier to navigate. The advantage of going for FSSC 22000 rather than just the ISO 22000 (which is a standalone Standard) is that FSSC is GFSI recognised, which can be important. A drawback, I feel, is that there is a lot of repetition, especially in the ISO part of the standard, which can make it confusing!

  7. HI Kassy

    I’ve had experience of both the FSSC 22000 and the BRC and at one site we had both. IMO BRC is straightforward, tells you what you need to have in place and you comply or you dont. FSSC is more open to interpretation and what you do and dont put in place you have to justify in greater detail. I ve found that when auditors have audited against FSSC and have have challenged you on a issue as long as you can justify it one way or another they tend to accept it as it appears less black and white. I ve also found the FSSC guides alot more confusing and the standard itself is very wordy, and for a simpleton like myself a straightforward old fashion standard with a checklist for compliance is what I prefer. but thats just me. 🙂

  8. Hi, We are maintaining BRC and IFS for more than 10 years. Does UK buyers accept IFS if we will dropped BRC?

    1. Hi Sierwin
      In theory I’d say yes. You may get some hesitation as IFS isn’t as well known in the UK, but once it becomes more understood as a GFSI recognised scheme, I think it’s become more widely accepted. I’d contact a few of your largest customers and discuss it with them to gauge their response.
      Kassy

    2. I moved from BRC to IFS in a company and was challenged by customers. But as I had understood there requirements was for a GFSI approved standard I was able to explain why as well.
      I have found IFS gives the site control on their identification of food safety ccps. eg metal detection is a MUST in BRC but with IFS you are able clarify why its not a ccp and provide a risk assessment to support this. We manufactured hot cook sauces and the cooking was not a CCP as we relied on the pH being the controlling ccp. Had many discussions with auditors around this and some difficult ones when non-conformances were discussed. The control of food safety is the responsibility of the FBO and not the certification standard. They can provide general guidance through the guidelines but should not be given responsibility for ensuring food safety.

  9. Hi Kassy,

    Great article comparing standards. I have worked in the petfood industry for over 40 years, including 30+ years in technical risk management and since 2006 as a technical consultant in the industry specializing in QMS / FSMS / SQA development and audits.

    There are some great points made here but one I will add is the power / demand of your customers. This was one of the driving forces behind original creation of the standards you see “preferentially” used in different countries e.g. BRC (now BRCGS), at least historically.

    In recent years the global petfood industry has raised its standards (quality, food safety, food fraud) across the board as part of the humanization of petfood. This also includes 3rd Party certification schemes. Some schemes like SQF have specific clauses / standard for petfood but other standards this is more vague and generic.

    Whilst many petfood producers have “generic” 3rd party certification e.g FSSC22000, there might be good commercial reasons to adopt a scheme “which does not tick all the boxes” e.g. SQF.

  10. I’m comfortable with the BRCGS, probably because I’ve worked with it for the past 7 years and we’ve been with 2 different CB’s. The one thing I like about the BRC is you can almost always do a risk assessment to justify the position you’re taking, e.g., somebody mentioned metal detection being a “must”. It is not a requirement. What is required is either metal detection or a written justification for why you have no metal detection. We can Salmon and have no metal detector but we have a written justification and risk analysis explaining why we don’t utilize metal detection or x-ray. The auditors I’ve had have all been very knowledgeable and helpful – maybe I’ve just gotten lucky.

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