In this article we’re going to look at the new audit options that BRCGS have published.

It’s a little confusing, so let’s get one thing clear from the outset.

BRCGS have published an audit options infographic, that states that there are six options:

  1. Announced audit
  2. Unannounced audit
  3. Blended audit
  4. Certificate extension
  5. Remote audit
  6. COVID-19 additional module

The first three are audit options; announced, unannounced and blended.

The second three are options available due to COVID-19. The remote audit is not GFSI recognised and is only available where an on-site audit cannot go ahead due to COVID-19.  We have covered these options in our  previous article; COVID-19 BRCGS audit options.

Let’s look at the three audit options…

1. Announced audit

This is the current announced audit.  The only thing that’s changed here is that in order to comply with GFSI, BRCGS are implementing the one-in-three unannounced rule.

This means that one out of every three audits that take place, must unannounced. The dates for implementation of this are as follows:

  • February 2021 – Food and Packaging
  • May 2021 – Storage & Distribution

This rule doesn’t apply to Agents & Brokers.

BRCGS did promise to publish a procedure back in August, which would explain how the one-in-three rule would be applied. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for this. The last update we had from them was on 10th September, to say that it would be published by week commencing 21st September at the latest.

As soon as we know more, we’ll share this with you.

 

2. Unannounced audit

There is no change to the current unannounced audit protocol.

 

3. Blended audit

A blended audit is a blend of an on-site audit and a remote audit. This type of audit is GFSI recognised. BRCGS have published a position statement that explains this option: BRCGS080 Procedure for Blended Audits-Remote Auditing using ICT.

On-site audit
An on-site audit looks at all the practical aspects of the operation. This part of the audit is carried out with the auditor at site, so they can look around the site.

Remote audit
The remote audit will look at all the documentation aspects of the operation. This part of the audit is carried out using IT systems, so that the auditor doesn’t need to be on site. The remote audit cannot be more than 50% of the allocated time for the overall audit.

A blended audit is only available for BRCGS Food Safety, BRCGS Packaging and BRCGS Storage & Distribution audits. The blended option isn’t applicable to the Agents & Brokers audit, because you can do this 100% remotely. What is confusing is that the 100% remote option for Agents & Brokers is covered in BRCGS080 Blended Audits document and NOT in the BRCGS086 Remote Audits.  This means that BRCGS call a 100% remote audit for Agents & Brokers – a blended audit (confusing I know – sorry). That’s because BRCGS086 remote audits are only applicable for COVID-19.

You CAN’T have a blended audit if:

  • You’ve not already got a BRCGS certificate.
  • You’re on the unannounced audit option.
  • Your CB says so (based on their risk assessment).
  • If your CB or your site don’t have access to the IT needed for the remote part of the audit.
  • If you’re a BRCGS Start! (basic level).
  • If you’re an Agent & Broker (a full remote audit is possible instead, note; BRCGS do call this a blended audit even though there is no ‘blend’ to it, as it’s just remote).

You CAN do a blended audit if:

  • It’s a re-certification audit.
  • You’re on the announced audit option.
  • No matter what grade your current certificate is.
  • The audit is to Food Safety, Packaging, Storage & Distribution or Start! Intermediate level.

Blended audit rules:

  • A blended audit is not compulsory, so you have to choose to do it.
  • Your CB must complete a risk assessment to say a blended audit is suitable for you.
  • The remote part of the audit must not be more than 50% of the overall audit.
  • The auditor must not take screen shots during the remote audit of personnel and must get permission for any other screen shots.
  • The remote audit is done first.
  • There must be no more than 28 days between the remote audit and the on-site audit.

What’s different

  • The certificate will say ‘Blended Announced’ and it will also give the dates of the remote audit and the on-site audit.
  • The audit report will detail how the remote part of the audit was carried out (what IT aspects were used) and everything assessed during the remote audit will be shown on the report using a (*).

What’s the same

  • The audit duration does not differ from a normal audit.
  • Handling of both the remote and the on-site audit is the same, opening meeting, closing meeting etc.
  • The grading of the NCN’s and the certificate is the same.
  • The process to close out the NCN’s.

So, what do you think?

We’re not really sold on the idea of a blended audit, as it just seems easier to do the whole lot on site, given that an on-site audit is needed anyway. We’d love to know your thoughts.  Please share your thoughts and experiences with your fellow techie’s by adding them to the comments box below.

  • Is the blended audit something that appeals to you?
  • Do you think your company will take the blended audit option?
  • What benefits do you see from doing a blended audit?

Have your say…

9 thoughts on “BRCGS audit options explained

  1. There is no point in having a blended audit, if a site can manage the on site factory bit managing the documentation bit on site should not be an issue.

    1. Agree! It feels like a muddle is being created here when it ought to be straight forward – remote in total or on site in total. Simple. Yet again it shows how BRCGS is out of touch with the increasing pressure that sites are under just keeping going and are not helping the situation. Few factories, and I dare say NONE who received these updates, are out to do anything wrong deliberately so they need to support us, not add to the immense difficulties.

  2. Agree that the blended is not really adding anything, if can do physical visit, why not do all. BUT the blended is recognised by GFSI so BRCGS probably have to offer it, even if no-one takes them up on it. I think the finger should be pointed instead at GFSI’s lack of flexibility, rather than BRCGS – in this case.

  3. First of all, GFSI should have allowed remote auditing during a pandemic.
    But, with the options on offer then a blended audit option is useful for sites which can manage an auditor (distancing etc) in production but don’t have meeting room space to host an auditor safely (like us). However, this option is useless if you have to spend 50% of your time in production. If you’re a very small site (but not small enough for reduced time!) then its impossible to ring out 1.25 days of looking at production.

    Everyone is going to have to contact customers to see if they need BRC to be GFSI compliant this year before they can make a decision. This is really unfair on sites who are trying to protect their staff and their business.

    NSF aren’t offering blended audits, they haven’t worked out how to do it so its not an option.

    NSF also told me that a large proportion of sites are opting for the remote option without any queries about GFSI. I’m not sure this means sites have no clue about GFSI or their customers don’t need the benchmarking.

  4. As I understand it, the option is only available for those who have an announced audit. It’s the unannounced audits that can present the most problems to sites, when someone turns up and wants access. In terms of risk assessing visitors and managing the auditor in units that are already challenged daily in working to a new H&S protocol. We’ve opted for unannounced for the next BRC audit as that is what we have done historically. Reducing the time that the auditor was on site for these would be beneficial. We have had an unannounced retail audit and an announced retail audit during the pandemic and within the last 4 months. Both auditors were great in wanting to assist the factory teams in working safely.

  5. Kassy & team,
    I can’t thank you enough for posting this topic. It has been a nightmare for us going through this year certification with BRCGS. I meant to comment on your post weeks ago, but we’ve been super occupied with our CB. 4 of our facilities would able to get our certs. extended until March, April next year. We’ve repeatedly told the CB & the auditor that our season will end in mid-Oct this year & won’t start up again until next year June. We received no comments from them about this since Aug.
    Now, come to pick our options for the full/normal audit.
    1. We cannot pick the On-site audit option because the CB can’t locate the local auditors for us. Plus, due to the number of COVID cases in California, our cooperate restricted visitors to our facilities as well.
    2. We can’t pick the Remote option either because it’s not GFSI approved/recognized. Plus, as of this afternoon, the CB still couldn’t locate the auditors for us for next week audit.
    3. We requested for the Blended audit, but we won’t have production until June next year. This means our certs. will expire before the 2nd part (on-site) occurs.
    Fun right? We know the CB has been trying to help, but as for now, we don’t know what to do because they don’t know what to do either. We requested them to provide us the Letter of Intent to justify why we can’t have the audit in time. Let’s wait & see what they have to offer tomorrow.

    Will keep you posted!

    Regards,
    HT

  6. For on-site verification under blended audit, is it a mandatory that the auditor has to be a BRC-certified auditor or they can be just GMP & HACCP auditor who will receive guidance from the lead auditor (BRC-certified) online?

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