This article is written to meet the following sections of the Standards:

BRCGS Food Safety Issue 83.6 Specifications
9.2 Specifications (Traded products)
BRCGS Packaging Issue 63.4 Specifications
7.2 Specifications (Traded products)
BRCGS Agents & Brokers Issue 3
3.6 Specifications for products
BRCGS Storage & Distribution Issue 410B.5 Specifications (Traded products)
FSSC22000 Version 5.1ISO22000:2018
8.5.1.2 Characteristics of raw materials, ingredients and product contact materials
8.5.1.3 Characteristics of end products
IFS Food Version 74.2 Specifications and formulas
SQF Edition 92.3.2 Specifications (Raw Material, Packaging, Finished Product, and Services)

Accurate and detailed specifications are essential to make sure that the customer and consumer gets what they expect.

Scope

Specifications must be in place for:

  • Materials.
  • Finished product (including those that are being outsourced).
  • Services.
  • Processing.

Material specifications

Each material that’s listed on the bill of materials, must have a specification. The specifications must provide enough detail to:

  • Meet the requirements of product development process.
  • Allow the material and supplier approval process to be completed.
  • Enable an allergen, species or authenticity risk assessment to be completed.
  • Enable finished product specifications to be developed.
  • Allow process and service specifications to be compiled.

Service specifications

A service specification details the service that will be provided if your business is providing services such as:

  • Contract manufacturing.
  • Contract packing.
  • Storage.
  • Distribution.
  • Cleaning of containers, tankers, vehicles.

The specification details how the service must be completed, with what materials, methods, service criteria etc.

Finished product specifications

The finished product specifications must include all relevant information that controls safety, legality, authenticity and quality of the finished product, such as:

  • Chemical attributes with limits.
  • Physical attributes with limits.
  • Micro specification.
  • Product safety controls and critical limits.
  • Formulation.
  • Ingredient declaration, including allergens.
  • Nutritional.
  • Preparation or cooking instructions.
  • Storage instructions.
  • Shelf-life.
  • Traceability coding.
  • Quantity.
  • Applicable use.

Specifications must meet the requirements of the customer. This means the specification must cover all the information that the customer needs. It also means that where the customer requests that their online specification system is used, this must be completed (although this would typically be in the contract with them anyway, as part of the terms and conditions of doing business with them).

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Approval

All material, service and finished product specifications must be agreed with between the two parties. This means between your company and the supplier or the customer.

There must be evidence of this agreement and so, this is typically done by both parties signing and dating the document.

Think of a specification is a formal contract and therefore, it should be approved in the same way as a contract would be.

As a minimum the specification must be emailed to the customer, requesting for it to be returned signed. These emails must be kept as evidence, in case the customer doesn’t return the specification signed.

Process specifications

Process specifications detail how the product must be made or processed. Process specifications are sometimes known as factory specs or bill of materials (BOM).

The process specification must detail the key information required at each processing step, such as:

  • The formulation (BOM).
  • Processing methods.
  • Process setting.
  • Quality control checks, frequency and acceptable limits.
  • Product safety control points, frequency and critical limits.
  • Packing configuration.
  • Shelf life information.
  • Traceability coding.
  • Quality attribute standards.
  • Pallet configuration.
  • Storage and handling requirements.
  • Loading instructions and restrictions (e.g. mixed loads).

Process specifications must be available at the point of use, so they can be used by staff.

Review

Specifications must always be up-to-date. This means that specifications must be reviewed when it’s needed, rather than reviewing them on a set frequency.

The specification procedure needs to state that specifications will be updated when there’s a change, and that if there are no changes, that they should be reviewed every three years.

To do this, you need to inform your suppliers that they must notify you of any changes before they make the changes. That way, you can ensure that the specification is updated and any changes in the finished product are actioned, before the change goes live.

Change control

There must be a procedure in place to ensure that:

  • Changes to specifications are highlighted before they go live.
  • Changes to specifications are controlled, ensuring that they’re reviewed and approved.
  • Information is accurately transferred from agreed trials and finished product specifications, to process specifications and site systems.
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