How to avoid non-conformities and achieve BRC food safety certification

BRC Food Safety Standard is a globally recognised certification scheme that sets the benchmark for food safety and quality management systems. This helps to identify non-conformities, which are deviations from the requirements or expectations of the standard.

The standard helps food businesses to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, protect consumers from foodborne hazards, and enhance their reputation and performance.

However, achieving and maintaining BRC Food Safety certification is not an easy task. It requires a thorough and consistent implementation of the standard’s requirements, as well as a regular audit by an accredited certification body.

During the audit, the auditor will assess the site’s compliance with the standard and identify any non-conformities.

Types of non-conformities

These can be either minor, major or critical, depending on the severity and impact of the deviation.

According to the BRC Food Safety Global Standard Issue 8, the definitions of non-conformities are as follows:

  • A minor non-conformity is a small deviation from requirements or where a clause has not been fully met. It does not affect the safety, legality or quality of the products.
  • A major non-conformity raises significant doubt as to the conformity of the product being supplied. It may be a number of minor non-conformities against one requirement, a failure to implement a system to meet the requirements or a situation that would result in a legal or safety issue if no action is taken.
  • A critical non-conformity is a serious situation that has resulted in or could result in a critical failure of the food safety and quality management system. It may be a failure to meet a critical limit, a complete breakdown of a system, or evidence of product contamination or adulteration.
Two women checking for non-conformities

The grading system

The type and number of non-conformities will affect the audit outcome and the certification grade. A site can achieve one of the following grades:

  • AA+ or AA: No critical or major non-conformities and a maximum of 5 minor non-conformities.
  • A+ or A: No critical or major non-conformities and a maximum of 10 minor non-conformities.
  • B: No critical non-conformities, one major non-conformity and a maximum of 10 minor non-conformities.
  • C: No critical non-conformities, two major non-conformities and a maximum of 10 minor non-conformities.
  • D: No critical non-conformities, three or more major non-conformities and a maximum of 10 minor non-conformities.
  • E: One or more critical non-conformities.

The plus (+) sign indicates that the audit was unannounced. A site that receives a grade of D or E will be suspended from the certification scheme until corrective actions are taken and verified.

How non-conformities occur

Non-conformities can happen for various reasons; if they are flagged up, businesses have 28 days to take any necessary corrective actions.

However, to avoid or minimise non-conformities, a site should implement and maintain an effective food safety and quality management system that meets the requirements of the BRC Food Safety Standard. 

The site should also conduct internal audits, management reviews, and corrective and preventive actions to monitor and improve its performance. Furthermore, the site should prepare for the external audit by reviewing the standard, conducting a gap analysis, and addressing any issues before the audit.

Get in touch with our experts to help you understand and address the types of non-conformities your company may have and improve your chances of achieving and retaining BRC Food Safety certification.