BRCGS have published updated position statements regarding handling of audits during COVID-19.
We got confused with all the different documents, how they all fit together and where to find them all. So, we’ve worked through them all, organised them all and put them in one place.
We thought, if we’re confused and finding the amount of different documents difficult – then maybe you might be too.
Which is why, we’ve created a page on our website where you can find them all. It also contains answers to the questions we think you’ll want to know. If there’s anything we’ve missed that you want answering, please just say and we’ll update it.
BRCGS COVID-19 documents
- BRCGS072 Certificate Extension for Audits Impacted by Covid 19 (Version 6, dated 9th Sept 2020)
- BRCGS086 Remote Certification During Pandemic and Serious Event Restrictions (NEW – Version 2.1, dated 1st March 2021) Now extended until 31st Dec 2021
- FAM811 Covid-19 Assessment Additional Module (Version 2, 9th Sept 2020)
- BRCGS GUIDANCE DOCUMENT Managing Food Safety during Covid-19 (no document control)
To try to simplify things, we thought we’d provide a list of questions and answers – rather than trying to explain everything in the documents above. If you have a question, that we’ve not covered, please let us know and we’ll add it.
Q: I’ve already extended my certificate. Can I extend it again?
A: No. But you can have a full remote audit. This is a normal audit but the full audit is done remotely.
Q: Is a remote audit GFSI recognised?
A: No. However, there isn’t a GFSI recognised alternative at the moment. To be GFSI compliant you have to do a blended audit or a full on site audit.
Q: What does the GFSI say you should do if your certificate has been extended and is due to expire?
A: The GFSI’s position at present is that you should let the certificate expire and do an on-site audit as soon as is possible. Which we feel, that in this situation – a remote audit is better than no audit.
Q: How do I qualify for a remote audit?
A: To qualify you just have to agree with your certification body that a normal audit isn’t possible due to the pandemic. The BRCGS say it’s acceptable to refuse a normal audit “Where company policy prevents visitors to the site to safeguard the health of employees.” (see document BRCGS072, page 2)
Q: How do I prove that an on-site audit isn’t possible?
A: You just need to have a company policy that visitors are not allowed on-site, due to COVID-19.
Q: I produce product for retailers – can I do a remote audit?
A: That’s up to your retailer. Remote isn’t an option for the Asda AA Module. If you really can’t have an on-site audit, you should check with your retailer to understand what they would like you to do.
Q: How many remote audits am I allowed?
A: There is currently no limit. The remote audit option “will remain available to sites until at least April 2021. At which time BRCGS will review the continued need for this audit option.” (see document BRCGS086, page 6)
Q: Is a remote audit a good solution if I can’t do an on-site audit due to COVID-19?
A: The best solution is to go ahead with your audit, with the right COVID-19 controls in place. If you really can’t go ahead with an on-site audit, then a remote audit is definitely the next best option. A remote audit will give you a certificate for up to another year, based on your grade. You need to keep in mind that this means you may not have had an auditor on-site for up to 2 ½ years, so your customers may ask you do an on-site audit (before your certificate expires), as soon as one is possible.
Q: Do I have to do the COVID-19 assessment module?
A: In principle it is an additional module and therefore is voluntary. However, BRCGS haven’t actually said that it’s voluntary. If your certification body is saying it’s mandatory, we would definitely challenge this and would be happy to help you do so.
Q: Are there any additional COVID-19 requirements that I need to be aware of for my audit?
A: In principle you’ll be audited to the normal Standard, however we would suggest that you go through the guidance document from BRCGS and ensure that you’ve got everything covered that they talk about – just to be on the safe side. Please keep in mind this document was written for food sites, so you need to take the principles of the guidance and apply it to packaging, S&D and A&B if needed.
Q: Can I do a remote audit if my audit needs to include additional modules?
A: Yes, you can do additional modules remotely, except the Asda AA Module.
Q: What do I do if my certification body won’t do a remote audit and says I have to do a blended audit?
A: If you want to, you can choose another certification body that will do your audit remotely. It doesn’t specifically say this in BRCGS086 but we’ve checked with BRCGS and they have confirmed that this is acceptable.
Q: What’s a blended audit?
A: A blended audit is an audit where 50% (maximum) is done remotely and the other 50% is done on-site. This type of audit is GFSI recognised (a remote audit is not GFSI recognised).
If you have a question that’s not listed here, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll include it.
It would be great if we could use this page to share our experiences of remote audits too:
- What’s worked well?
- What’s not worked so well?
- What have you learnt?
Please help your fellow techie’s and add your experiences to the comments box below.
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