This is the third article in our series to assess whether there is a suitable alternative to BRCGS. If you’d like to read the first two articles in the series, here they are:

Alternative GFSI recognised schemes to BRCGS

FSSC22000 and IFS audit protocol compared to BRCGS

So far, we’ve established that SQF isn’t a good fit. And, we’ve looked at the audit durations for IFS and FSSC22000; both of which are less than BRC.

In the previous article we asked you which Standard you preferred so far. The results were totally split!

52% for IFS
48% for FSSC22000

 

In this article we’re going to start looking at how the Standards are structured. This is really important, because if you need to know what you’re getting yourself into, if you decide to change.

 

Is quality important?

First of all, there is one key point we need to be aware of.

Both the FSSC22000 and the IFS Standards are GFSI recognised. However, the purpose of GFSI is to harmonise food safety Standards across the world. Quality is not within the scope of GFSI.

 

What this means is that although both FSSC22000 and IFS are GFSI recognised, the GFSI recognised parts of the Standard do not both cover quality.  The result of this means that the GFSI recognised scheme for FSSC22000 does not include quality. Whereas, the GFSI recognised scheme for IFS does include quality.

Now, if you think about it, if your customer is inclined to prefer BRCGS and you’re wanting to switch to another GFSI recognised scheme, you need to think about how you’re going to tackle the quality aspect – because your customer will most likely want a scheme that is equivalent to BRCGS.

To cover quality as well, you have two options:

  1. Go with IFS because this Standard already covers quality.
  2. Go with FSSC22000 and add the FSSC22000 Quality audit.

 

Let’s look at what is actually GFSI recognised

FSSC 22000 IFS
ISO 22000:2018, Pre-requisite: ISO/TS 22002-1:2009, FSSC22000 additional requirements: Part II 2.1.4 (March 2020)

Scopes Covered in Application

  • C Animal Conversion
  • D Pre Processing Handling of Plant Products
  • EI Processing of Animal Perishable Products
  • EII Processing of Plant Perishable Products
  • EIII Processing of Animal and Plant Perishable Products (Mixed Products)
  • EIV Processing of Ambient Stable Products
  • F Production of Feed
  • L Production of (Bio) Chemicals

 

IFS Food Version 6.1 (July 2018)

Scope Covered in Application:

  • C Animal Conversion
  • D Pre Processing Handling of Plant Products
  • EI Processing of Animal Perishable Products
  • EII Processing of Plant Perishable Products
  • EIII Processing of Animal and Plant Perishable Products (Mixed Products)
  • EIV Processing of Ambient Stable Products
  • L Production of (Bio) Chemicals

 

ISO 22000:2018, Pre-requisite: NEN/NTA 8059:2016, FSSC22000 additional requirements: Part II 2.1.4 (March 2020)

Scopes Covered in Application

  • J Provision of Storage and Distribution Services
IFS Logistics Version 2.2 (July 2018)

Scope Covered in Application:

  • Provision of Storage and Distribution Services

 

ISO 22000:2018, Pre-requisite: ISO/TS 22002-4:2013, FSSC22000 additional requirements: Part II 2.1.4 (March 2020)

Scopes Covered in Application

  • M Production of Food Packaging
IFS PACSecure 1.1 (July 2018)

Scope Covered in Application:

  • M Production of Food Packaging

 

 

No applicable Standard

IFS Broker 3 (October 2019)

Scope Covered in Application:

  • N Agents and Brokers

 

The first point to note when looking at the above, is that if you’re currently certified to the BRCGS Agents & Brokers Standard, you only have one alternative option – to go with the IFS Brokers Standard. Because FSSC22000 does not do an equivalent Standard.

The second really important thing to note is that there is a huge different between IFS and FSSC22000 in the number of documents you need to work with, to gain certification.

For IFS there is just one document, per certificate.

There’s one for food; IFS Food
There’s one for Storage & Distribution; IFS Logisitcs
There’s one for Packaging; IFS PACSecure
And there’s also just one for Agents & Brokers; IFS Brokers.

However! If you want to do FSSC22000, there are a lot of documents to consider. Even explaining them all is difficult, but we’ll try our best to do it simply.

For all the Standards, you need to implement:

  • ISO22000:2018
  • FSSC22000 Version 5 Part II

Then you also need to implement the relevant Pre-requisite Standard, depending on what Standard you want to go for, as follows:

  • Food: ISO/TS 22002-1:2009
  • Storage & Distribution: NEN/NTA 8059:2016
  • Packaging: ISO/TS 22002-4:2013

Then to understand how the audit process works, you’ll also need ISO TS 22003:2013.

And, then – if you want to add on quality, so that your certificate is equivalent to BRCGS, you’ll also need to implement ISO9001:2015.

So, let’s put that into a comparison table. As it’s a huge difference between the two Standards.

  FSSC22000 IFS
Food ISO22000:2018

FSSC22000 Version 5 Part II

ISO/TS 22002-1:2009

ISO TS 22003:2013

ISO9001:2015

IFS Food Version 6.1
Storage & Distribution

 

ISO22000:2018

FSSC22000 Version 5 Part II

NEN/NTA 8059:2016

ISO TS 22003:2013

ISO9001:2015

IFS Logistics Version 2.2
Packaging

 

ISO22000:2018

FSSC22000 Version 5 Part II

ISO/TS 22002-4:2013

ISO TS 22003:2013

ISO9001:2015

IFS PACSecure 1.1
Agents & Brokers n/a IFS Broker 3

 

Do you like clarity or flexibility?

There is one other major difference between the two Standards.

The IFS is quite like the BRCGS Standard – in that the clauses are fairly prescriptive. So, if you like clarity, then this is probably the Standard for you.

The FSSC Standard is much more vague. It tells you the intention of what is needed and it’s up to you to build something that works for your business. There’s no right or wrong answer as such, you just have to be able to justify your thinking. So, if you prefer flexibility this is Standard for you.

 

Does your Standard need to be cohesive?

The final point to consider, is whether your site works to any other Standards. For example, if you work to H&S or Environmental Standards, these tend to be ISO Standards. ISO Standards are good in that they are all structured in the same way. So, combining an ISO food Standard, to the ISO H&S and Environment Standards is fairly ‘easy’. If you want to do in this, now, or in the future, then FSSC22000 is probably a good way to go.

 

How are we doing?

We don’t know about you – but it feels to us, like we’ll end up with some sites moving to FSSC22000 and some sites moving to IFS.  Plus some sites will decide of course to stick with BRCGS.

We think this would be a great situation to be in. Because it will mean that you’ve picked the Standard that fits your business best. And, in doing so, we’ve created some competition between the Standards in the UK.

Wouldn’t it be great, if FSSC22000 (with quality), IFS and BRCGS were all commonly accepted Standards in the UK.  Allowing sites choice. And, meaning that the Accreditation Bodies really have to start thinking about the sites as their customers.

Voting has finished!

Here are the results up to the 1o/08/2020.

I want to move to FSSC22000 18%
I want to move to IFS 37%
I want to stick with BRCGS 46%

We’d also like to ask you a question – if you could add your comments below. Saying you’ll switch Standards from BRCGS to another Standard is one thing. But actually doing it is another.

What are your thoughts on this? Is there anything you’re worried about – which will make you hesitate in moving away from BRCGS? If we could help you with this subject, what do you need?

Add your thoughts in the comments box below. Between us, I’m sure our Techie Community can help each other with any problems we have. We will of course, do whatever we can to help you too, just let us know what you need.

We will continue in the next article to look at the Standards.

Have your say…

20 thoughts on “FSSC22000 or IFS, which is a good fit for your business?

  1. I can’t imagine ever wanting to change if I am honest.
    The very fabric of the QMS is generically BRC through and through. It would just be too much for both my department’s sanity and the company to think of changing on a whim.
    There’ve been issues in the past which have blown over, this one will too.
    Careful considerations must be taken when deciding to jump ship on such an important part of the factory operations.

    1. Ian, I totally agree with you and I could just as well have written the same. This is one major reason why I do not think that we will change to another standard even though there may be several benefits of doing that.
      We simply do not have the resources to do so.

    2. Ian I totally appreciate where you’re coming from. I’d like to do an assessment of the Standards to appreciate what work would be needed to move from BRC to IFS, and FSSC – to work out how much work is needed. It may be that there’s a great deal of work (and stress!) involved, it may not. Until I’ve done the work, we won’t know.

      And even when that’s done, I agree staying with BRC may be the best option. Doing what’s right for your site is the most important thing, we just want to give you the information you need to make the right decision for you.

  2. Kassy, first I´d like to give some credits for taking the time to dig into this… I would never have the time to do so.
    Thanks for writing this interesting series of articles!

    Now, I am not in the position of making any decisions but I like to think outside the box and therefore I take the time to dig into articles like yours when I know that no one else of my colleagues will.

    Coming from the Automotive industry, I find GFSI gnarly: some trivial things are so important you must put several days of labour to it – others that seem important are almost not covered at all. Compared to IATF that is.

    I know that there have been considerations from management to leave BRCGS for another standard.
    However, I do not think anyone has taken the time to compare the current leading standards.
    That is why your digging Kassy, is so nice to read.

    I honestly do not think that we will leave BRCGS but I would like to be able to present a summary of these articles, just like you suggest in the email. That way I can let my management know the difference and the pros and cons presented in a way more professional way than I could ever do. Also, we need to know how to do the transfer? What amount of labour is needed in addition to the regular preparation before the audit? Can you create a transfer checklist?

    I am very interested in reading the other comments to this article and also how you will end the series 🙂

    1. Thank you Tony, that’s very kind of you. I’d be happy to put a presentation together as you’ve said. I think there’s still some work to do, given my comments to Ian, in order to close the loop in the assessment though. So far we have an introduction as to why choice or change is needed, the comparison to determine which Standard is the best choice for your site and then we need to understand what that choice means; regarding work involved, risks involved and even what it’ll cost to make that leap….

  3. Kassy
    Just want to add that I am finding this article and comparison very interesting and would find an presentation very helpful as this is something our company is considering all the time. Due to the complexity of our business we have found that the full BRCGS standard is too restricting for our needs, so much so that on the launch of Vers 8 company took the decision to go down the START! intermediate route (we knew it wasnt GFSI but as yet have had no kick back from customers). We would find any presentation and comparison of standards most helpful in determining our next step forward and fidning the standard that best fits our business (we may even look at the IFS light standard, as assume this would be comparable to the START! programme). Many thanks for the excellent work and is certainly saving me some time trawling through all this for information to the directors.

  4. For me BRC is the best option. I cannot imagine to switch towards FSSC. BRC requirements are clearly specified and, what is important, they are all included in one document. Due to its specific and detailed approach plus clear definition of requirements, it helps to ensure the excellence in all areas of the organization.

  5. Dear Kassy, thank you so much for yet another great article. Very interesting. Coincidentally, I spent a few hours last month comparing the 3 standards for the benefit of a client (overseas) who has not got yet any FS&Q related site certification and was in the process of selecting the best standard for them.
    In the absence of any specific customer requirement at this stage, they will aim for BRCGS FS issue 8 , bearing in mind ‘Qui peut le plus peut le moins’ (if you can do something complicated then you can do something more simple) ie they will set up a system meeting the BRC requirements, and if they need to switch to another standard at some point it should not take much to check compliance against IFS or FSSC2000 + Qlty module , and fill in potential gaps.
    And so at some point in the future they’ll probably be after a generic though detailed enough cross-reference matrix between the 3 standards… do you have something like that in the pipeline by any chance? 🙂

    1. Hi Sonia! I’ll add it to the list, not sure at this stage, but it may be needed anyway to work out how you would transfer from one Standard to another…

  6. Voting is difficult on this one because as mentioned by other people our FSQM is based around the BRGCS and without full site of the IFS Standard the amount of work required is unknown.
    The pro’s for changing to another standard are likely to be overshadowed by the increased work required to change embedded FSQM and all other associated records, training programs etc.

  7. Hi Kassy. Thank you for these articles, they are very useful indeed. I have spent my whole career working to BRC or IFS standards and have recently moved to a role that uses FSSC2200 for its sites and i must say personally, i am BRC all the way. It maybe comfort zone, but i do find BRC clear and unambiguous and supports a site to be able to prepare a concise gap analysis. Moving to sites that use FSSC2200 certification, I’ve found it is not quite as easy!
    What I also find is an issue, is that the majority of our customers work to the BRC standard. Which means the comparative translation from standards is needed and the gaps in standard would need filling to comply with customer expectations and requirements anyway.
    I would be keen to see any work on comparatives and gap analysis for sure if it becomes available

  8. Hi Kassy
    Great articles and really interesting reading. I think the big issue for us moving away from BRC would be our customers expect us to have it and they have a perception that IFS is a “lower” standard, they don’t feel the same about FSC2200 but I would never willing go to that standard as I find the ambiguity in it to be too difficult!
    Thanks again for the great series of articles.

  9. The complexity of FSSI just doesn’t look fun to navigate for an SME, so to compare the two based on these articles IFS looks the best option for us.
    I’ve questioned our current customers and all have said they would be happy with any GFSI benchmarked equivalent standard, but I don’t want to put the business in a position in the future where they couldn’t tender for business because we moved away from BRC – as others above have said.
    I have a supplier in Spain who has both BRC and IFS as there is a perception that the UK require BRC and the continent requires IFS or FSSI – which just seems bananas!
    In the short term I’m going to look around audit bodies as NSF are pricey, but you don’t get any kind of decent speed or communication out of them, but I’m going to continue watching this series of articles, and if put it on my larger projects to review list!

  10. I would love to switch to FSC2200 if only for the shorter audit duration plus the ambiguity, which is actually similar to the way M&S is going with their new Food Safety Manufacturing standard.
    BRCGS has, I feel lost its way and with the sale to LGC is now nothing more than a money generating scheme and needs to make a profit. At least when it was still part of BRC there was a degree of independence about it. Now it seems to me they have drifted away from the core of producing safe quality food.

  11. Kassy, being Swedish makes it a bit more tricky to understand everything because I relate to another business climate, other norms and also regulations. But what John says about profit after being sold to LGC (whatever that is) is interesting and it might be of interest for everyone I think. Is it a price increase trend we have begun to see? That alone could be a topic to make us change the standard?

  12. Hi Kassy,
    Great informative articles and this had made me think about other certification options. Although we are BRCGS certified and I have been using it for many years now, our customers do still expect BRC. I agree with Johns comments about having a shorter audit duration, we are a small company 16 people in total, we have 1 HACCP and have just had a 20 hour audit, there is no way that 8 – 10 hours could be spent in our production facility. I think the BRC has become more expensive and they don’t really look at options for small manufactures such as ourselves, they could really do with reviewing the way they calculate the auditing hours. If FSC2200 or IFS actually look at small site with more realistic auditing hours, that would be great. My only other concern is the time/resource to make the change,as I am the only technical bod for our site. I also would be very interested in a comparison across the 3 standards and would welcome some real feedback from those that have made the change to either of the other 2 options available. How easy was the transfer, how was it received by the customer, how much extra resource was needed etc?

    1. Hi

      I am in the exact same boat as Christina and can echo all of her comments. I am finding these articles all very interesting but ultimately its down to resources, time and money if any jump from BRC will be made.

  13. Just a brief comment on the discussion which standard to choose. As a Dutch manufacturer with site in 6 EU countries we have to deal with a lot of customer requirements. Which standard you implement is fully depending on who you customer is and what they require. We have several sites in Europe some supplying B2B others direct in to retail. For those supplying into retail either BRC or IFS is compulsory. German and French retail only rely on IFS where Dutch retailers are requiring a GFSI recognized certificate. For our B2B customer we supply some major multinationals, they are switching from BRC / IFS towards FSSC 22000. I agree with John that since BRC is sold to LGC it is all about the money and generating profit. A majority of the business in EU and the UK suppling into British retail are required to be BRC certified. Maybe the British industry and retail should join hands to stop this money making machine.

  14. One thing that i think that a lot of people dont consider is the transparency of the list of approved suppliers on the internet.
    I encourage our business to use the BRC directory as a means of finding GFSI certified businesses that we can potentially work with. There is no such thing when you consider the IFS standard (unless you are already a member).
    For me this is something that encourages me to stay with BRC as i know that companies on that list have gone through the same mill as we have and we hence have had similar crosses to bear.

  15. Fantastic article Kassy. Thank you. We are FSSC certified and find that at times its ambiguity serves us in good stead 🙂

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