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supply chain mapping

Supply chain mapping for your BRC site…

If you produce product which is being used for further manufacture, it’s highly likely that you’ve been asked for supply chain mapping by your customers at least once by now. (If not many, many times!)
The first time this request came in to you, you wouldn’t be alone if you wondered what on earth it was or what you needed to do about it.
A year on from the issue of BRC V7, the industry is still coming to terms with raw material vulnerability assessment and sites are trying to find their way through the conflicting information – to produce an assessment that will not only pass audit but will meet their customer’s needs.
So, let’s start from the beginning…

What does the supply chain mean?

The supply chain is all the steps in the process prior to when your raw materials arrive at site.  Think of it as a chain, with each link in the chain being a processor who is responsible for their part of the production process. The movement between the steps (or links) in the supply chain, is each time the raw material changes hands – where the responsibility for the raw material moves from one company to another.

Where has the need for supply chain mapping come from?

Supply chain mapping comes from the need to protect raw materials in the supply chain from food fraud.  Each time the raw material changes hands and moves through the supply chain it may become vulnerable to food fraud.

Does the BRC standard call for supply chain mapping?

No, not exactly….  BRC issue 7 was the first to mention the supply chain with regard to raw material vulnerability.  However, the BRC does not use the term ‘supply chain mapping’.  It only states:

“5.4.1 The company shall have processes in place to access information on historical and developing threat to the supply chain which may present a risk of adulteration or substation of raw materials…”

“5.4.2 A documented vulnerability assessment shall be carried out…. This shall take into account:

… ease of access to raw materials through the supply chain…”

The interpretation guide goes on to explain that “a vulnerability assessment is a search for potential weaknesses in the supply chain” … It also states that the supply chain should be ‘examined’ for weaknesses, but it doesn’t mention supply chain mapping, or state how this should be done.

BRC do state though that were the supply chain is long (has many links) or is complex this can be a risk that should be included. In practise it’s taking some time for the BRC auditors to get their head around vulnerability assessments and what they are looking for.  I’ve had many reports from sites that their auditors have either not looked at them at all, or have quickly glanced over them.

By BRC saying that long or complex supply chains are a risk, they are eluding to the fact that you would need understand the supply chain in order to assess this properly – but they have not specifically stated that they are expecting to see evidence of this.

Typically, if you have included threats such as the risk of using agents and brokers (and don’t know who processes the raw material), or the threat of not having sealed vehicles – this will be sufficient for now.

So, when is supply chain mapping required?

There are now specific retailer standards that require in-depth supply chain mapping.  There is a process that determines which raw materials require supply chain mapping, so not all raw materials have been done – but those that are at risk do.

What does supply chain mapping look like?

When completing supply chain mapping for customer standards, this needs to be detailed and who is responsible for the raw material at each step.  This includes name, address and what their responsibilities are at this step, such as the type of processing that occurs –  in the case of transportation this would be where it is moved from and to and by whom…

How far back do you need to go?

This all depends on the aim of what you are trying to achieve.  The supply chain mapping needs to go back to the point of where the raw material is assured.  By that I mean the point at which you know that the raw material is no longer vulnerable (at risk).

The key is to be really clear about what the vulnerability is… that way you can determine where in the supply chain it is no longer vulnerable.

For example, if you were carrying out supply chain mapping due to possible adulteration of ground spices, the point at which the spice was no longer vulnerable to adulteration would be the point where the spice is in its whole format (as a seed).  Therefore, you would map the supply chain back to the point where it is whole as a seed.

If you were carrying out supply chain mapping due to the possible adulteration of organic egg with non-organic egg, then the point at which the organic status is assured would be all the way back at farm.  Therefore, the supply chain mapping would need to go back to the farm.

The topic of supply chain mapping is vast; how to carry it out, what to ask, what prompts it and what to do with it when it’s done.  If this is something that you would like more information on, please let me know – I can cover this in more detail for you. Please let me know in the comments below and also add in any specific questions on this topic if you have any.


  • Liz Moore says:

    Good Morning
    Would you have a good example to illustrate supply chain mapping to forward to me please ?
    Kind Regards

  • Paul Murphy says:

    if your supplier of the said ingredient is BRC approved, is it not fair to say that the BRC approved supplier of the ingredients or packaging should have this already ? and the fact that we are using a brc approved supplier should be enough?

    • Kassy Marsh says:

      Hi Paul

      Thanks for sending the question over regarding supply chain mapping. BRC accredited food businesses may not already have supply chain mapping as it is not a specific requirement of the BRC standard. Some retailer standards such as M&S now require supply chain mapping so it depends upon who your customers are supplying, as to whether you will get asked for it. So even though you are BRC, if they are working towards a different retailer standard which states supply chain mapping is required, then they will need the information from you and your supply chain to satisfy their retailers requirements.

      I hope this helps!

      If you would like, you can give me a call on 01909 512541 we can chat it through.

      Thanks Ruth

  • Jackie Bentley says:

    Great start to a hot topic and many queries, I find a lot of people asking the question for supply chain mapping don’t understand what they are asking for – I would like to hear more.

  • Tong Yeo says:

    Hello there,

    I am currently doing the mapping processes of zoo supply chain, and I would like to know the topics you covered in the last paragraph: how to carry it out, what to ask, what prompts it and what to do with it when it’s done. Cheers.


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