Please note - this article is not being updated, please follow the COVID Winter Response Project for updates
A COVID Winter Response Project has been set up by a collaborative group, specifically for the food industry.
This website is a wealth of free information for handling the pandemic.
You can register to recieve email updates.
We would suggest that you start by watching the introductory webinar, before digging into the documentation on the website.
3rd September Update
Local authorities are providing guidance for staff to ensure that they stay covid secure outside of work: Don’t leave COVID-secure when you walk out the door
27th August Update
BRCGS have published a 12 point plan for packaging sites who are restarting: brcgs-packagingrestartcovid19-english
FSA are reported to be monitoring covid outbreaks at a number of manufacturing sites: FSA monitoring 40 food factory covid outbreaks
The FSA have also published guidance for sites having to shut down due to outbreaks: Guidance for food businesses undertaking a rapid shut-down in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
An unvalidated study, but who knows where this will go. It definitely isn’t the first report we’ve seen, that seems to allude to why food manufacturing sites seem to be getting hit so hard: Could frozen and chilled food carry coronvirus?
29th July Update
Given the confirmed case of COVID-19 in a cat in the UK, the Government has now issued guidance for people with animals, including livestock.
17th July Update
Site audits resume from today.
13th July Update
BRCGS have published position statement BRCGS080 on blended audits. Unforatuntely they have said it’s available on the main website, but it’s not. It’s available in BRCGS Participate (apparently), so if you have a log in and can find the document and could share it with the rest of us that would be amazing!
Update 9:05am GMT: Apparently BRCGS080 is not on BRC Participate. Thank you to Anna for checking.
Update 11:50: BRCGS080 blended audits
We would be keen to know what you think about blended audits.
- Given that part of the audit still needs to be on site – do you see the value in it?
- What benefits do you think there is to this sort out audit?
- Would you go for this option?
Please add your thoughts in comments.
8th July Update
BRCGS have updated BRCGS078 Position Statement.
Where an audit cannot be arranged because of lack of availability of auditors, the site has 3 options:
- arrange the audit with another certification body
- apply a certificate extension and book in the audit at the next available time
- book in the audit and allow the current certificate to expire (the normal major will not be applied in this situation)
They have also stated that details for loaning auditors and blended audits are available in position statements BRCGS082 and BRCGS080. Although these are not available anywhere on the website that we can find.
26th June Update
BRCGS have published a whole load of documents which they are titling ‘Restart, reshape, reinforce‘
There is too much information, to be able to highlight anything specific to you. We will review the information today and provide details tomorrow.
Updated 10am GMT
Having reviewed the information provided, we can confirm that the only change is the update to BRC072 to version 5, which now includes the information regarding the addition of a fee for certificate extension.
Pretty much all the other elements of the website under the umberella of ‘Restart, reshape, reinforce’ are sales and marketing posts – to get you to purchase additional elements.
We didn’t want you to spend time looking for things that aren’t there. It’s a shame that we have to pick through the sales techniques to find the information we need (or lack of it).
12th June Update
The document which ha
s been updated is Benchmarking requirements part 2, page 23, which states:
This means that BRC will be able to implement remote auditing, so we are expecting an announcement from them any day now.
BRCGS have also published updated guidance on face masks, although it doesn’t give us a great deal of detail.
Face masks: We’ve been asked to provide guidance on how to incorporate disposable face masks into your changing procedure. We would recommend that disposable face masks should be put on either before or after hair nets – as touching your face is the same as touching your hair; you need to wash your hands afterwards. We would advise, that you go for before the hair net – in case anyone needs to put a beard snood on as well.
5th June Update
BRCGS have published a webinar this week about the threat of fraud, during the pandemic: https://www.brcgs.com/about/news/2020/webinar-the-threat-of-food-fraud-substitution-and-protecting-the-integrity-of-product-claims/
We have also updated our handwashing poster and covid hygiene policy, to include the new symptoms of loss of taste and smell. Just head over to the downloads page to get the updated copy.
Please also let us know if you there is anything else you need and we’ll do our best to create it for you.
2nd June Update
Test, track, trace
UK Government publish guidance for test, track, trace: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works
Unfortunately the guidance is not clear. If a worker is notified by the app to isolate, and then they have a test which is negative, it says:
“If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14-day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet – this is crucial to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.”
Which means anyone who is alerted would be off for 14 days negardless of whether they test positive or negative, even if you feel well.
However, further down the guidance it talks about those who have symptoms of the virus and if they have a negative test then:
If you get a negative test result, this means you are at low risk of having coronavirus.
“If you feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus, you can stop self-isolating.”
UK Government have also published guidance for workplaces, but it doesn’t help at all to be honest: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance
BRCGS Certificate Extension – non-conformances
From the data that you have provided I can confirm that the following COVID-19 issues have been highlighted during the certificate extension reviews – so check your systems to make sure you’re compliant.
- visitors questionnaire is accompanied with a statement about corona and the reason for having more questions. The questions are all relating to covid however the specific word ‘Covid 19’ was not on the doc (irrelevant that it is accompanied with a covid statement)
- handwashing procedure did not include reference to the 20 second rule
- the return to work health questionnaire did not include any health screening questions for Covid-19
- a tool nox talk with staff members regarding hand washing was not documented
- the business contingency plan did not include a crisis in relation to a pandemic outbreak such as Covid -19
- the site had a policy of paying Statutory Pay for sick leave. This policy should have a formal record of discussion considering this may lead employees suffering with symptoms to hide / still come to work given 14 days required away from work
We’ve talked about the Statutory Pay issue before – this was successfully appealed and removed from the audit report.
We’re also not sure about the crisis management NCN. As we’re in the middle of it – putting something into the incident procedure seems unnecessary. We need to learn from this situation and implement something that is well thought out. Having scanned through the BRC documents again, it also doesn’t seem to be a requirement – but we’ll keep looking!
1st June Update
BRCGS publish a new position statement on how audits will be managed when they can restart. It’s a really well written document, which tackles the issues that we will face due to lack of auditors – as there will be so many audits that need doing in a short period of time. It’s great to see BRC tacklinng this problem head on, to provide clarity before the problem occurs: BRCGS078Position Statementon Onsite Audits Post Covid-19 Lockdown
29th May Update
Test, Trace, Track
UK Government has published guidance for businesses, but it doesn’t help with our problem unforatuntely: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance
No news as of yet from BRCGS on this subject.
BRCGS launch Certificate Extension PLUS, which is basically the remote audit from before. This is optional and is not GFSI recognised. BRCGS077–Certificate Extension PLUS
28th May Update
Test, Trace, Track
As the UK Government plans to launch the Test, Trace and Track app – we need to start thinking about what impact this will have on our staff at sites.
The app works using a bluetooth signal, so that when two phones come into close contact with each other it creates a ‘digital handshake’. At this moment in time, we can’t find any information about how close the two phones have to be, but we’re presuming that it would need to be within a bluetooth signal range. A Google search suggests it’s 10m. If anyone has any further details on this – it would be great if you could share them.
What this means to us
Currently, we ask personnel to keep their phone in their locker. This would typically mean that all phones would probably be within a 10m range of each other – depending on your facilities and how big your site is. Meaning, that if one person is tested positive, everyone who was on site at the time would be identified to self-isolate – therefore, having a huge knock on to that shift.
Staff normally also take their phones to the canteen, which will mean everyone in the canteen at that time is probably within 10m of each other.
For the app to work, staff would need to be permitted to have their phone on their person, even when they are in the factory. The challenge is how do we do this without compremising product safety?
It would be great, if you could share your thoughts and solutions to this. We’ll get in touch with BRCGS to ask them to consider this and see if we can get a response.
26th May Update
SALSA: have extended certificate extensions to the end of June. A remote audit facility is also available from the beginning of June: https://www.salsafood.co.uk/newsDetail.php?n=469
22nd May Update
21st May Update
Nothing new to report today.
20th May Update
Results of yesterdays poll. In answer to the question:
“Is your site relying on test results, or are you imposing the full isolation period regardless of the test results?”
59.4% said – We are taking a negative result as fact and allowing staff to return to work
34.4% said – are imposing the full isolation period, regardless of the test result
And 6.3% said – Other
Prince Charles is getting behind the Pick for Britain campaign: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/prince-charles-pick-for-britain-fruit-veg-video-royal-family-a9521516.html
19th May Update
British Medical Journal reports that the COVID-19 test is around 30% inaccurate – giving false positives and false negatives: https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1808
This poses a challenge when relying on the results that are given to staff working on site.
It would be interesting to know if your site are relying on the results of the test, or if you are still imposing the isoloation period regardless of the test result.
We’ve included a poll on this mornings email, but please also add your thoughts and comments – to share with your fellow techies.
18th May Update
Global GAP are providing a remote audit option, which will not be GFSI accredited (unless we presume GFSI announce that remote audits are ok): https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/media-events/news/articles/GLOBALG.A.P.-Remote-Certification-Now-Available/
Office for National Statistics:
15th May Update
BRCGS have updated position statement BRC072: BRCGS Auditsimpacted by Covid-19
It’s also come to our attention this morning that position statement F837 Food Safety has been updated – to clarify that not all products will require environmental monitoring based on risk. This version is dated 17th March but when we last checked the BRCGS website on 23rd April this new version wasn’t there. So, apologies for missing this.We’ve now updated the food position statement page to reflect this.
DEFRA & FSA guidance on face masks is now delayed until at least early next week – we’ll provide this as soon as it’s available.
Please add your feedback about anything related to this update. You can do this by clicking the button below – which will take you to the comments section on this page.
14th May Update
WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks
Johnson’s are providing face masks which can be laundered: JohnsonWorkwear
DEFRA & FSA are expected to publish face mask guidance any day now – we’ll provide this as soon as it’s available.
Please add your feedback about what you’re doing about face masks. You can do this by clicking the button below – which will take you to the comments section on this page.
13th May Update
UK Government provide guidance to work safely:
UK Government have also provided a poster for businesses to use to confirm that they are COVID-19 secure: staying-covid-19-secure (002)
UK Furlough scheme extended for four months: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52634759
UK Concerns around unsafe working conditions can be raised with HSE: https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm
BRCGS guidance on face masks
It has been highlighted to us that this guidance is confusing, if you’re not a food site (.e.g if you are a packaging site) as the clause references are from the food standard. Therefore, we looked into this and found that actually, it doesn’t even make sense if you’re a food site.
“It is unlikely that reusable face masks can be sent through a laundry process and therefore clause 7.4.6 applies – the site will need a procedure for cleaning / sanitizing at an appropriate frequency.”
Clause 7.4.6 in the food standard says: “Where items of personal protective clothing that are not suitable for laundering are provided (such as chain mail, gloves and aprons), these shall be cleaned and sanitised at a frequency based on risk.”
How do you clean and sanitise a disposable fask mask?
“High risk and high care areas will need to consider processes for these areas – ideally dedicated face masks would be used in these areas (as with other PPE) however, where this is genuinely not possible, for example due to the current shortages in suitable masks, then they should be treated in accordance with clause 8.3.3 and a specific cleaning/transfer process is required.”
“Clause 8.3.3 states: Where portable equipment (e.g. handheld devices) is used in high-risk or high-care areas, these items shall either be:
• visually distinctive and dedicated for use in that area
• have specific procedures (e.g. a full clean) to ensure that their use does not result in contamination.”
Again, if a face mask is not dedicated to the area – how do you clean it on the way into the area?
So, apologies for publishing something that doesn’t make much sense. Lesson learnt – we will read BRC guidance more carefully before publishing from now on!
What’s the solution?
Common sense says that there are a whole load of problems with trying to clean face masks and having to remove disposable ones on leaving production areas. Therefore, our thoughts are (and this is only our thoughts – so please challenge us) is to use a beard snood over the top of the face mask. That way the beard snood can be removed on leaving the area. It works for a beard so in theory, it should be good enough for a face mask. There is an arguement, that – what’s the difference between a face mask and the skin on your face? The key to all of this is hand washing – ensure that any micro on your face is not transferred to surfaces or the product.
And, please if you are providing face masks to your staff, please reiterate that it doesn’t remove the need to stay 2m apart. It’s an additional measure, not a replacement to 2m.
The face mask should be seen as a piece of clothing. Staff put it on when they leave home and keep it on until they get home again. If it’s seen as a piece of personal clothing, then we have to protect the product from it – like we do with any other piece of personal clothing.
It would be good to know if you agree with this approach, or if you have any other ideas that you can share? What are you doing at your site?
12th May Update
UK Government Plan: FINAL_6.6637_CO_HMG_C19_Recovery_FINAL_110520_v2_WEB__1_ (1) (1)
IFST have published a checklist to help consumer facing food businesses to restart: IFST Food business restart checklist 07MAY2020
BRCGS publish guidance on face masks: https://www.brcgs.com/about/news/2020/guidance-on-the-use-of-ppe-such-as-face-masks/
11th May Update
UK Government starts to relax the rules from Wednesday, where we can go out in the car, take unlimited exercise. But many are very confused about what that means for seeing friends and family and who should be returning to work. Message is changed from Stay at Home to Stay Alert: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus Further information to be published today at 2pm, to clarify the new rules.
GFSI’s consultation on remote audits ended last Monday, so we are expecting them to publish this change to the guidance imminently. We are presuming that this allow BRC to reinstate the previous version of Position Statement 072, to allow remote audits. Given the UK Governments announcement, it may mean that some Certification Bodies may take the decision to switch back to face to face audits.
7th May Update
UK Government issue process for key workers to request a test, just press to start: https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/
For employers to request an employer portal for testing email email@example.com
Ireland’s 5 step plan for lifting lockdown: https://inews.co.uk/news/coronavirus-ireland-five-step-plan-lifting-lockdown-copied-uk-2842970
Insight into the vaccine creation process: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-vaccine-the-race-to-keep-millions-safe-from-covid-19-11968262
6th May Update
Christeyns webinar recording on Coronavirus and cleaning: https://we.tl/t-ceT8fDxIaH
BRC have published a 15 point checklist: https://www.brcgs.com/media/2082519/15-point-manufacturer-checkllist.pdf
UK Government have published guidance regarding fraud scams that are targeting businesses: COVID-19+Mandate+Fraud+Guidance
SALSA have extended their date for certificate extensions to the end of May: SPP COVID 0520 V3
CB Feedback has been updated, links below.
5th May Update
Primority webinar: COVID19 and its Effect on the GFSI Ecosystem (which may include someone you know…)
BRC have confirmed to us that there are introducing a fee for certificate extensions from 1st June. This will be £250 which is proportional to 6 months of their normal service fee. They have launched a new voluntary module especially for COVID-19 which is another £200. Details of the fees and the new module are detailed here: BRCGS Covid-19 New Products
There will be an increase to their service fee from August of £75. Taking the new fee from £500 to £575. BRC have provided us with details of their new service package:
- “Corporate brand licence for B2B promotion
- ETRS risk assessment and guidance
- Unlimited registrants to the BRCGS Professional Development Programme
- Two BRCGS Participate licences to access all technical content
- Licence to trade with customers
- Unlimited access to BRCGS technical and support teams
- Technical benchmarked reports by standard and category (available August 2020)
- Food safety culture tool to test how the assessment works (available August 2020)
- ESG benchmarking reports (available late 2020, early 2021)”
Industry organisations round-up
The following have been highlighted as doing an amazing job by one of our techies, who said:
“The AHDB, British Growers and the NFU have all been fantastic in lobbying the government as well as bringing together information, advice and guidance for their members. There have been regular video calls between British Growers and each of the member groups to get information from growers and packers they can feed back to the government and use to shape policies and guidance. AHDB have produced brilliant guidance for on farm practical issues, and the NFU have daily updates for any financial advice or updates that could affect the industry. The call for labour on farms has been a great effort by all of these bodies.”
ADHB have also developed a specific part of the website to house all their coronavirus information, guidance, webinars, podcasts, market information and lots, lots more!
British Growers have also developed part of their website especially for coronavirus information and have done some amazing work in working towards a solution for the current labour issue, including the Pick for Britain campaign.
NFU have also implemented a part of their website just for coronavirus information.
We would also like to highlight the following industry bodies who have stepped up to the challenge and provided great support to the industry:
IFST, has provided a wealth of free information for members and non-members, through a new specialist section of their website called COVID-19 Knowledge Hub, updates and webinars.
SOFHT have provided a number of webinars to members and non-members, called Focus Live! Covid-19 Ongoing Management & Control
There seems to be a theme with all of the above organisations – where they’ve developed their websites to meet the needs of the industry and focused their attention on providing everyone with free information. It’s times like these when you can really see the wheat from the chaff. Times are going to be hard in the future, as the world goes into recession – so it’s really important to remember those who supported us through the difficult times.
4th May Update
Today is the final day to submit your feedback to GFSI for the proposal to include the use of technology to conduct remote audits: https://mygfsi.com/news_updates/stakeholder-consultation-new-gfsi-benchmarking-requirements-on-ICT
BRC service fees: I have had reports that BRC will be charging for certificate extensions and that there will also be a service fee increase from August this year. We’ve asked BRC if they can confirm if this is true. We will let you know!
Symptoms of the virus are not just a cough and temperature. Other symptoms include loss of taste, loss of smell, stomach upset, headache. GPs have been provided with the following information by the National LMC (local medical councils) to help them assess cases. These symptoms should be included when we are assessing staff health. To download these images, just click on them to open the full size, then right click on the image and choose ‘save image as’.
1st May Update
GFSI have begun their consultation for the use of technology to conduct remote audits, see the proposal and make comments: https://mygfsi.com/news_updates/stakeholder-consultation-new-gfsi-benchmarking-requirements-on-ICT
Industry bodies and memberships: We thought it would be interesting to carry out a review of industry bodies and the support that they have provided their members (and non members) during this difficult time. If your membership body has done something great, we’d love to hear about it. Please get in touch with any feedback that you have.
BRC Certificate extension feedback – please remember to fill in the forms to give feedback on how your CB has handled your certificate extension and also which NCNs you got. Forms are below. We’ll be reviewing this weeks data and providing it back to you on Monday.
30th April Update
AHDB Best practices to avoid the spread of coronavirus for seasonal workers on fruit and vegetable farms: https://ahdb.org.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing-farm-businesses
Red Tractor have launched their remote audit protocol this week: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/contentfiles/Farmers-7107.pdf?_=637237503814346195
Future possible BRC requirements: we have had feedback from a site that they were told by their auditor that the following may become a requirement in the future:
- extra signs to be put up on hand washing; time and technique.
- capturing the common touch point cleaning like door handles
- extra hand sanitisers at touch points and delivery points
- using a thermometer to body check temperatures
- list out the essential services allowed on site, such as pest control and any risk mitigations
It would interesting to know if anyone else has heard anything similar?
BRC Certificate extension feedback – please remember to fill in the forms to give feedback on how your CB has handled your certificate extension and also which NCNs you got. Forms are below.
29th April Update
GSFI scheme round-up and comparison
IFS are providing a remote check, which is available to sites as an optional solution for assurance following certificate expiry, as they are not extending certificates: https://www.ifs-certification.com/images/ifs-tools/documents/IFS_Remote_Surveillance_Check_Guidance_V2_EN_final.pdf
IFS have not provided any other guidance for their sites during this difficult time.
Primus GFS certificate extension guidance: http://primusgfs.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PGFS-R-052-R0-PrimusGFS-Temporary-Guidance-for-Issuing-Six-Month-Certificate-Extensions.pdf
Primus GFS also is not providing their sites any COVID-19 guidance.
FSSC 22000 provides a very confusing statement, which doesn’t really clarify whether certificate extensions are available or not. But does clearly state that remote audits are not an option: https://www.fssc22000.com/news/position-in-relation-to-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic/
The FSSC 22000 website does not provide any help to their sites and what information is provided is confusing.
SQF guidance on certificate extension: https://www.sqfi.com/sqf-policy-on-extending-certifications/
SQF have developed a specific place on their website it provide their sites with guidance on what to do about their certificates, links to (other company) resources and FAQs. Unfortunately, nothing developed by SQF themselves for their sites: https://www.sqfi.com/covid-19-guidance-for-sqf-stakeholders/
BRC certificate extension guidance: https://www.brcgs.com/media/2082456/2532020-update-brc072-brcgs-audits-impacted-by-covid-19-v3.pdf
BRC have also developed a specific part of their website to provide sites with useful FAQs and have also developed a range of their own guidance information to help sites:
BRCGS Managing Food Safety during Covid-19: https://www.brcgs.com/media/2082499/food-safety-covid-19-guideline-free-002.pdf
BRCGS webinar COVID-19: (just pop your email address in to get access): https://view6.workcast.net/?pak=6134101747153305&cpak=8274974536857970
Global GAP guidance on certificate extensions: https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/media-events/news/articles/Coronavirus-and-GLOBALG.A.P.-Certification-What-You-Need-to-Know/
There’s not a lot of information on the Global GAP website, but they have provided a podcast and also information on their public consultation about remote audits: https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/media-events/news/corona-virus-updates/index.html
So, in summary: IFS and GSF are not providing any support to their. FSSC is confusing. Coming out top seems to be BRC, who are obviously working really hard to support their sites during this time.
BRC Certificate extension feedback – please remember to fill in the forms to give feedback on how your CB has handled your certificate extension and also which NCNs you got. Forms are below.
28th April Update
IFST have set up an advisory group: https://www.ifst.org/membership/networks-and-communities/covid-19-advisory-group
Christeyns Food Hygiene are conducting a webinar about how we can tackle the virus with cleaning chemicals: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/christyens-food-hygiene-uk_christeyns-food-hygiene-is-pleased-to-offer-activity-6660574920872988672-YKeH
Hospitality businesses are planning to reopen after the Governments furlough scheme finishes at the end of June. Which should get the wholesale food supply chain back up and running, if not very slowly… https://www.insider.co.uk/news/greggs-announces-plans-reopen-looks-21933389
BRCGS webinar COVID-19: What you need to know in Food Safety recording, just pop your email address in to get access: https://view6.workcast.net/?pak=6134101747153305&cpak=8274974536857970
BRCGS GUIDANCE DOCUMENT Managing Food Safety during Covid-19 which is really worth a read: https://www.brcgs.com/media/2082499/food-safety-covid-19-guideline-free-002.pdf
27th April Update
UK Government 23rd April weekly summary: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-covid-19-surveillance-reports
FDA advice on face covering: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/use-respirators-facemasks-and-cloth-face-coverings-food-and-agriculture-sector-during-coronavirus?utm_campaign=FoodCOVID_04242020&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua
Certification Body feedback: CB audit feedback for the food Standard, is now available. Just follow the link below.
23rd April Update
UK Government launch 3 new labs for testing: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/britain-s-biggest-network-of-diagnostic-labs-are-completed-in-5-weeks
HSE provide guidance on dust control where face masks are not available: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/04/21/open-letter-to-the-food-industry-during-coronavirus-outbreak/?utm_source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=coronavirus&utm_term=foodmanufacturing&utm_content=digest-22-apr-20
SALSA have extended their restrictions on auditing until 11th May: https://www.salsafood.co.uk/downloads/SPP%20COVID%200320%20V2.pdf
Further SALSA guidance on what to do about postponing or cancelling audits is also available: https://www.salsafood.co.uk/about.php?p=5
Hand dryer discussion: Hand dryers (especially high power ones) have always been a bit of debate – do they spread infection or not? In today’s world it’s even more pertinent. We are yet to convinced that they do not pose a risk, surely the traditional approach of paper towels is the right way to go. What are your views? Does anyone know of any evidence that validates them?
Certification Body feedback: We have now updated this and have now included CB audit feedback for the food Standard. When we have enough data we’ll do the other Standards too. We’re trying to find a balance between providing you with detail, while making it easy to digest. If there’s anything you particularly want to see – please let us know.
When will BRC audits recommence? We have had a report from one site, that their CB is going ahead with their audit on 16th May “as they expect to be back at work.”. This is putting the site and the Technical Manager under unnecessary pressure and worry. It would be useful for BRCGS to confirm what date (like SALSA have done) audits will not be conducted to, so that CBs and sites are clear. We have contacted BRCGS to ask if this is possible.
BRC Non-conformances for Coronavirus
We are now starting to see NCNs come through for Coronavirus issues. One site has been given a non-conformance for notification of illness – because:
“Furloughed staff are being paid 100% of wages. Staff who were to show symptoms and self-isolate are being given statutory sick pay. The auditor thought this would promote people to lie about having symptoms and still come to work for fear of job/wage security.”
Hopefully this NCN will get removed during the technical review, because how can you apply corrective and preventive action to mitigate someone lying? What are your thoughts?
Remember to complete the NCN trending form, for any NCNs you get during the certificate extension process. We will be able to trend NCNs specifically assigned to Coronavirus. Links to the food and packaging forms are below. We’ll set up ones for Agents & Brokers and Storage & Distribution today.
22nd April Update
IFST are doing another webinar this morning at 11am, to answer all the questions that they didn’t have time to answer from the last webinar: https://www.ifst.org/events/901/ifst-sc20-webinar-series-coronavirus-food-safety-risk-your-questions-answered
CIB have developed a coronavirus hub where you can listen to their daily webinar recordings: https://www.cbi.org.uk/coronavirus-hub/
Certification Body feedback: Today we’ll be working on developing the audit side of your feedback, so look out for that tomorrow.
Techni-K Smart Knowledge: Tomorrow we’ll be working on articles for you, we’ve had requests to cover virtual auditing, if there’s anything else you like us to cover, please just let us know.
SALSA audits are being replaced with certificate extensions until 30th April, we’ll be speaking to SALSA today to find out what happens after the end of this month: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR6Chi6QvG4&feature=youtu.be
AIC trade assurance schemes FAQs: https://www.agindustries.org.uk/coronavirus/assurance/trade-assurance-schemes-faqs/?preview=true
21st April Update
Certification Body fees: The data keeps coming in for the certificate extensions, thank you to those who have filled in the form. When your extension is due, your fellow techies would really appreciate it, if you share your feedback. The form and the results are below.
Pick for Britain recruitment campaign is launched: https://pickforbritain.org.uk/
UK Government to extend testing to key workers in the food industry when testing capacity allows: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-extend-testing-for-coronavirus-to-more-frontline-workers
Beanstalk.Global subject today at 11am: Will Grocery Retail Be Disrupted By Coronavirus Ongoing?
17th April Update
Migrant Help have provided translated information for key workers where English isn’t their first language: https://www.migranthelpuk.org/translated-support
Lion Code audits: Although the BEIC has decided not to make a statement, what we have said publicly is: “As a result of the Covid-19 situation physical Lion Code audits have stopped and been replaced by remote audits utilising live video feed.” I’m just speaking with them to understand what will happen if the site doesn’t have the facilities to do this, and if same solution of remote audits is being applied to farm as well as to processing sites. More feedback to follow.
Certification Body fees: Thank you to those who have completed the form, the more data we get the better the quality of the results will be. If you haven’t filled in the form and you have been quoted for your certificate extension by your CB, please do so. Links are below.
16th April Update
BRCGS certificate extension fees update: We have now started to receive feedback from you about your Certification Bodies. We have provided this initial information for you to see. Please bear in mind, that as the quantity of feedback increases, the quality and breadth of the information we provide to you will improve. So, you need to take this into consideration when looking at the information. However, we felt it was important to get the initial information out to you now. We are hoping that this will perhaps trigger some of the Certification Bodies to reconsider the fees that they are charging.
15th April Update
BRCGS certificate extension fees update: Please share with us and your fellow Techie’s what your Certification Body is charging you for your certificate extension. We will use this information to provide it back to you, so you can make an informed decision about which Certification Body you would like to use in the future – when you are able to change CB. Hopefully, those that are charging unjustifiably high fees will also reconsider – when this information is made public. And as you would probably expect from us by now, you can share this information without fear of anyone knowing that you did. We will not share your site or personal details.
French and German Coronavirus videos are now available: https://techni-k.co.uk/coronavirus-explainer-video/
IFST webinar video “Coronavirus: Food Safety Risk?”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmLidgPybN0
14th April Update
BRCGS certificate extension fees update: BRCGS have confirmed that they can’t control what the Certification Bodies charge, and that they ask their partners (certification bodies) to act responsibly in this period of distribution. Thank you to everyone who got in touch to tell me about their CB. Apparently, one CB has waived the charge all together, which is amazing – but unfortunately I’ve not been able to get that particular CB to confirm it yet. We had no direct contact from any of the CB’s.
So, we’ve come up with a solution! We are going to create a questionnaire for you to complete each time you get your new certificate – which assesses the quality of your Certification Body, and we’ll provide that information back to you in real-time and without any of the site information on it. So, you can see what each of the Certification Bodies is like. That way you can assess cost compared to quality. The system will work in the same way as the NCN trending information that we provide to you.
We know that BRCGS give the Certification Bodies a star rating, but this is based on metrics that are important to BRCGS and not necessarily metrics that are important to you. If there is anything you would specifically like in these metrics, please let us know – either in the comments below or email Kassy.
Coronavirus video: We’re working on French and German versions today, so come back later if you’d like a copy.
9th April Update
BRCGS podcast on: COVID-19: Assessing the Impacts on the Food Industry
BRCGS certificate extension fees update: we have not received any further information on this topic, from any of the Certification Bodies. We are going to contact BRCGS today to see if we can get them involved. And, we are using this forum to ask directly to the Certification Bodies, to please get in touch. We know that there are some great Certification Bodies out there, who are working with ethics and transparency. So to those Certification Bodies, we would love to feature you on here. Sites may not be able to change CB at this time, to get their certificate extended, but we believe the good work that you do now – won’t be forgotten in the future. Sites – please make sure your CB knows about this, as they may not read this. Please forward this to them. Please contact Kassy directly – firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Lion audits: We have contacted the British Egg Industry Council, for confirmation – but it has been reported that they are still looking to conduct Red Lion audits. Further details to follow.
Beanstalk.Global webinar: We look to predict the future “landscape” for the fresh food sectors post Covid-19
8th April Update
BRCGS Certificate extension costs: Unfortunately over the week I’ve had a number of reports that Certification Bodies are charging huge fees for certificate extensions. Yesterday, one of our Technie’s reported to me that their certification body had quoted them a whopping £2,000.
BRCGS are not charging the certification bodies for these certificate extensions, therefore the full charge is defined by the certification body totally by themselves.
I can imagine that because this has come into place quickly, the certification bodies may be struggling to work out what to charge, but the variation in these charges are huge – ranging from £300 to £2,000 for one certificate extension.
As sites have to stay with their current certification body to extend their certificates, those sites stuck with a certification body who charge very high fees – have not choice but to pay them, if the CB won’t reconsider. However, it’s times like these where we see who works with ethics in mind and which companies don’t.
Our advice: Challenge your certification body about the fee, if you feel it is unjustifiably high. If they will not reconsider, then unfortunately you’ll have to pay it. However, please keep this in mind when we get out of the other side of this – and look to change certification body when you can.
I’m also really pleased to report that BRCGS has also started to reorganise their website, so that there is more accessible information on COVID-19, they’ve created one page now that you can access all their information from: https://www.brcgs.com/resources/covid-19-response/
7th April Update
Great to see that BRCGS are really trying to communicate their thoughts during this time. They have published a few statements. Please don’t expect lots of clarity, but you may be able to take a few pieces of information from it:
Please BRCGS – keep these coming and try to provide as much detail as you can, they’re really helpful.
6th April Update
FDA implement remote supplier audits for the FSVP rule: https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-temporarily-conduct-remote-importer-inspections-under-fsvp-due-covid-19?utm_campaign=FSMA_COVID-19%20FSVP%20Lab%20Acc_04%2F03%2F2020&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua&elqTrackId=D12A57E0596CCBC36296A454532F6592&elq=6e2e2848ba874a0fa8fa978ada0281a1&elqaid=11956&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=10090
West London Coronavirus recorded webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CdhAtXPQR8&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop#menu
UK Parliament has launched an inquiry into the affect of Coronavirus on the supply chain: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/217/covid19-and-food-supply/publications/
3rd April Update
FDA relaxes menu labelling around nutritional information: https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-provides-flexibility-regarding-menu-labeling-requirements-chain-restaurants-and-similar-retail
11:25: Global.G.A.P certificate extension: https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/media-events/news/articles/Adapted-GLOBALG.A.P.-Emergency-Procedure-for-Certificate-Extension-due-to-the-Corona-Virus-Pandemic/
Food Standards Scotland publish guidance for food businesses: https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/publications-and-research/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-business-operators-and-their-employees
Includes a link to Health Protection Scotland’s COVID-19 Information and Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings, which has loads of useful information.
ACAS information page, with links to webinars: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Today’s Beanstalk.Global webinar is Why Now IS The Time to Support British Growers & Fresh Food
2nd April Update
Interesting read from China about life after the lock down: https://chinafoodlaw.blog/2020/03/17/corona-virus-impact-on-food-industry/amp/
Further background to the next threat – the fresh food supply chain: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/fresh-produce-europe-coronavirus/
COVID-19 risk assessment – on our working from home page, we’ve set up a forum to discuss how we are going to demonstrate our reasoning behind reducing certain tasks, such as internal audits, pest control, lab testing etc. Please get involved – it would be great, if together we can compile one risk assessment that we can all use.
1st April Update
Big spike in deaths yesterday, so the downward trend in numbers has not continued unfortunately: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/f94c3c90da5b4e9f9a0b19484dd4bb14
BSI are running webinars on COVID-19 (please bear in mind these look like they are designed to advertise ISO Standards): https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/topics/novel-coronavirus-covid-19
There is a risk that we will not have enough pickers to pick UK crops when they are ready, which would mean they would rot. A campaign is going to recruit up to 80,000 pickers: http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/181264/nearly-10000-brits-apply-for-picking-jobs
More details of how you can help to follow later this week.
31st March Update
You can see from this graph why they are thinking the death rate is slowing, that last 6 days death figures were; 41, 115, 181, 260, 209 and yesterday 180. Let’s hope it continues to drop.
Camfil have produced video answers to the most frequently asked Coronavirus questions
Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association guidance: NIFDA Good Manufacturing Practice Covid-19
UK Government advice about the current rapid tests that are on sale
30th March Update
Legislation for Coronavirus has been published:
Red Tractor updates their position statement (updated 10:30am): https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/contentfiles/Farmers-7085.pdf?_=637209261194765777
The current UKAS position which was last updated 17th March: (which is before the lock down) https://www.ukas.com/news/coronavirus-outbreak/
An additional UKAS announcement was published on 24th March following EA Communication
The announcement states that there will be a Technical Policy Statement published wc. 23rd March. An Introduction to Remote Audits was published on 24th March, so we can only presume this is the Technical Policy Statement, as there is no other relevant publications after this on their news feed.
The webpage includes a video about remote audits and also a link to a guidance document on remote audits. It seems that a virtual live audit is needed, as this guidance covers ‘Witnessing of Technical Activities’.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) have published advice for their members
27th March Update
In summary, it supports the theory that food is not at risk and reiterates the governments previous advice.
Thank you letter from DEFRA, please put up at site so all of your key workers can see how much they are appreciated: Letter from Geroge Eustice, Defra SoS
To extend your BRC Certificate you need to have specific COVID-19 controls in place. We’ve updated our Incident, Withdrawal & Recall pack to include these. It meets the requirements for Food, Packaging, Storage & Distribution and Agents & Brokers.
26th March Update
Essentially, this means the self assessment and the remote audits have been removed. Certificates will be extended by 6 months and a full audit will be carried out when possible.
If you have a remote audit booked with your certification body, please contact them to confirm that it will be cancelled and agree the next steps to get your certificate extended.
The requirements include your emergency response plans for the Coronavirus, so we’ll work on that today for you – so you have that tomorrow.
25th March Update
Essentially, this means the self assessment and the remote audits have been removed. Certificates will be extended by 6 months and a full audit will be carried out when possible.
11am: John Tomlinson, Sales & Marketing Director at BRCGS just called to say they’re working on updated guidelines. A formal announcement will follow shortly. Essentially, he said that a 6 month extension will be given to certificates, based on risk assessment and your internal audit. Remote audits may be required to support this, where your customers ask for them – however, this is not going to be a virtual audit of the factory, but rather a remote paperwork based audit. So, you can do this at home. As soon as they publish the update, I’ll let you know.
BRCGS look like they may be preparing to make an annoucement, as they have taken their statement off the website and changed it to this (don’t let the date on it confuse you, I think this is a BRC typical typo/oversight):
Letter of authority
We were asked yesterday for a formal letter, that you can print on your company headed paper and give to your employees – in case they are stopped by the police on their way to or from work. So, here you go: Key Worker Authority Letter 24032020
There have been reports of pest controllers not being allowed on sites. We would suspect that this was a miscommunication during the time where we were all getting used to not allowing visitors on site.
Now that we move into full lock down and restrictions on travel, we need to do everything we can though to limit the exposure from (and to) pest controllers.
Our recommendations would be to:
- Check that the contractor is not showing signs of the typical symptoms
- Delay any biologists visits delayed (to be reviewed in least 3 weeks)
- Where your site has monitoring equipment that they can be checked by on-site personnel – they should be checked and recorded in-house, under a risk assessment and following the guidance from the pest contractor
- Where toxic and non toxic chemical pest monitoring points are in place, these must be checked by the pest controller
- The pest controller must complete these checks alone and always keep a 2 meter distance from all personnel
- The suspension or extension of the window for changing of tubes or moth pot pheromones should be discussed with your pest contractor and where this is put in place, this should be under a documented risk assessment and a review date also documented
If you have any other suggestions, please add them to the comments below and we’ll add them to our list, so everyone can benefit from them.
An app has been launched to help scientists monitor the spread. Just complete a simple 1 minute report daily.
24th March Update
Remote audit update
GFSI publish updated and enforced position statement (see 16th March statement)
Essentially, what this says is that BRC carrying out remote audits is not compliance with their requirements and as such, GFSI will not recognise any remote audits or any certificates issued on this basis. Therefore, if you have had a BRC remote audit – this is null and void.
What GFSI are saying that should happen – is that your certificate can be extended for 6 months based on risk assessment. This also means that any remote audits that have been booked, should now be cancelled. However, there is no feedback from BRC on this position. Apparently remote audits are still going ahead tomorrow.
Any remote audits that happen will not be valid in GFSI’s eyes and (therefore you could say) are a waste of everyone’s time.
Please add your thoughts on this to the comments section of this article. We would like to get the power of the people, to get BRC to rethink their position and cancel the remote audits – in line with GFSIs instructions.
Day 1 of full lock down. UK Government instructions
Coronavirus bill will require food industry to provide information sharing on the food supply chain, to establish where it is at risk of being distributed. No further information at this stage as to what information will be requested or when.
19th March Update
18th March Update
Watch out: We have had reports (see comments below) that pest contractors are not being permitted onto site. This should not be classed as non-essential. During this time we still need to ensure that the sites are pest free. Please check to make sure your pest controller is being allowed onto site.
WHO social distancing poster (sorry about the quality, I’m trying to find a better one): WHO-March-2020-social-distancing.jpg
There have been some slightly inaccurate posts on social media about ibuprofen – and that it ‘speeds’ up the virus. The guidance is to not use it as it isn’t good for those with respiratory problems. Stick to paracetamol instead if it’s needed. British Medical Journal guidance.
SALSA audits cancelled from 1st to 30th April: SALSA IMPORTANT INFORMATION
13th March Update
SALSA Food published guidance about audits on 6th March
Message from SALSA: “We’re encouraging members who have upcoming audits to read the statement and speak to us if they have any questions.”
The Food Industry Association (FMI) published guidance at the end of Feb
NHS England advice: CEM_CMO_2020_008.pdf
12th March Update
BRCGS have published guidance about audits BRC072 Audits impacted by covid-19
UK Government website is providing current advice and the governments response to the virus
European Food Safety Authority have stated that there is no evidence that coronavirus can’t survive on food, as it needs a host
Stats as of today:
80% of people who get the virus will get a mild respiratory illness, 15% will get a severe illness and 5% will need hospitalisation.
The mortality rate for the (mainly due to comorbidities (which means due to other illness they already have):
- over 80’s: 14.8%,
- 70 – 79: 8%
- 60 – 69: 3.6%
- 50 – 59: 1.3%
- 40 – 49: 0.4%
- 10 – 39: 0.2%
- Under 10’s: none
Info on testing for Covid-19 (fyi – Covid-19 is the disease caused by Coronavirus)
To be tested, the person needs to meet at least 2 of the following criteria:
1. Traveled from abroad
2. Been in contact or in the same room as a confirmed Covid-19 positive person
3. Showing symptoms (cough, runny nose, temperature, muscle aches)
In principle if we go into lock down like Italy, we could imagine the following:
- Everyone who can work from home, should do so
- Factory workers should only travel to and from work
- Staff that are at risk, e.g. a medical condition or are over a certain age (given the above stats – is this necessary if they don’t have a medical condition as well) should stay at home
- There should be safety distance between staff, Italy advised 1m
What are your thoughts on this?
Questions to think about…
Have you checked that you have the most up to date contact details for all of your staff?
Do you have contingency plans in place for additional labour?
Do you have a screening process for current staff and agency staff?
Do you have a policy for payment of staff who are affected?
If you have a confirmed case on site, what is your policy for other staff members who may have been exposed?
Have you considered additional or increased cleaning for surfaces, e.g. in the canteen?
Do you have contingency plans in place for ingredient supply from affected countries?
If supply of ingredients becomes an issue, prices will rise – do you have plans in place for this?
Vulnerability of your ingredients with claims will become a greater risk, where supply and price becomes an issue. Are your prepared for this?
11th March Update
Now that Coronavirus (Covid-19) has taken hold of the UK, it’s becoming a hot topic for us techies’.
The aim of this article is to cover a number of points:
- Highlight what BRC have said about how audits are being effected
- Look at what we can do to protect our staff and the products we are making
- As a forum for discussion, to share our experiences and thoughts on controls
So, have published a position statement on audits: BRC072 BRCGS Audits impacted by Covid-19 12_03_20
At the moment, this isn’t affecting audits in the UK and therefore, you cannot restrict access to the auditor.
It will be interesting to see how this progresses, in the coming days and weeks.
I’ve had a number of enquiries from sites, who are looking to restrict access to their site to limit the exposure to their staff.
The virus is not airborne, it is only transferred by touch. Wearing a face mask will only help to stop the spread of the virus, if someone was to cough or sneeze – as the virus is spread on water droplets.
It’s important to make sure that staff do not come to work if they are showing signs of the virus.
So, you need to make sure that all staff are aware of the symptoms and provide them with instructions on what they should do, if they are showing signs of them.
Staff should also be made aware of what they should do to help prevent the spread of the virus; by:
- washing their hands frequently and properly
- sanitising their hands
- not touching their face
- and also when coughing or sneezing, to use a tissue, bin it and then wash their hands
Protecting the product
The FSA haven’t issued any guidance as yet, but there are a number of things that we can do, which will help to reduce the contamination risk to the product.
To reduce the risk to the product, the frequency of this needs to be increased and staff need to wash their hands properly (not a splash and dash). Sanitiser could also be provided at work stations to use regularly throughout the day.
Staff who are touching the product need to be extra, extra vigilant. They must not touch their face and they must wash their hands frequently.
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If you can’t conduct an on-site audit, we look at your options.