Leading international certification body BM TRADA has announced its expansion into the food sector in response to growing market concern over food safety and quality standards.
BM TRADA has begun providing BRC Global Standard for Food Safety and BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials certification in order to satisfy a "steadily rising demand" from retailers and those in the supply chain.
Consumers are increasingly calling for "rigorous, internationally recognised" and "legally compliant" food safety standards, it says.
The move comes at a time when the European food industry has been trying hard to rebuild consumer confidence in the provenance, quality, safety and legality of food ingredients in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
It has also been forced to accept the introduction of the Food Safety Modernisation Act and the "increased tightening" of other food safety regulations worldwide.
Tom Johnston, Chief Operating Officer of Central Certification Services at BM TRADA, says that food manufacturers are facing market challenges "on two fronts" and that in light of this, BRC certification — a leading global safety, legality and quality certification programme — is now "more desirable" than ever.
He said: "BM TRADA has expanded into the food certification market to satisfy a rising demand and the needs of existing as well as new clients".
"The food sector has recently faced market challenges on two fronts: from retailers on one side, concerned with protecting their brand reputation, and food safety inspectors on the other, concerned with safeguarding the food supply chain.
"Manufacturers are therefore facing mounting pressure to comply with legislation and associated regulations, as well as client expectations, or suffer the commercial consequences, and BRC certification offers a straight-forward, all-encompassing and globally accepted solution to demonstrating best practice."
Consumer safety and protection have never had a higher profile within the food industry.
The discovery by food inspectors of horsemeat DNA in processed beef back in January led to a series of product recalls by a number of UK supermarket chains and brought into question the standards of the food industry’s supply chain.
As a result, it has driven the need among manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that at all points in the supply chain are working to the most rigorous standards.
With recognized food safety certification fast becoming a prerequisite to trade in the food sector, both domestically and abroad, failure to demonstrate that such procedures are in place can negatively impact a company’s ability to retain and win new business.
A lack of appropriate certification can also put a food company at greater legal risk should an issue concerning quality or safety arise, it is claimed.
Johnston says that BRC food standard certification- a benchmark of quality endorsed by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) – is increasingly becoming "the certification of choice" among manufacturers and suppliers of the food industry.
It demonstrates compliance with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) good manufacturing practices, hygiene, food safety and quality systems.
Certification can also be used by manufacturers to demonstrate fulfillment of relevant local legal obligations – for example, EU Legislation and associated local regulations in Europe, and FDA and FSMA legal obligations in North America – an "important consideration" should a firm need to mount a due diligence defence.
Johnston added: "BRC standards are increasingly being specified by retailers, including some of the biggest US retailers, as they clearly demonstrate a company’s commitment to producing a safe, legal and functional product.
"BRC facilitates standardization of quality, safety, operational criteria and manufacturers’ fulfillment of legal obligations, and by having certification, food production firms can better safeguard consumers, meet client expectations, and fulfill their legal obligations.
"Failure to have them in place, however, can put food producers at a distinct competitive disadvantage and also weaken their legal position should an issue concerning food quality or safety emerge."
In addition to the BRC Global Food Safety standard version 6, BM TRADA – an active member of the BRC’s Food and Packaging Technical Advisory Groups – is also now offering BRC Global Standard for Packaging version 4 certification.
This standard is designed to protect consumers by providing a common basis for certification of companies supplying packaging and packaging materials, setting out hygiene, safety and quality requirements for companies supplying the food and consumer products industries.
Both BRC schemes involve an evaluation of a company’s safety and quality procedures, full on-site audit and off-site written report detailing any non-conformances that need to be addressed prior to certification.
By the end of 2013, it is predicted that there will be more than 20,000 BRC certificated sites worldwide — a 10 per cent increase on 2012 — with strong growth in both North and South America, China and Europe.