Michelle Knott of Food Manufacture explains why the 2013 horsemeat scandal created a demand for better supply chain transparency. With Comment from Richard Werran of FoodChain ID Certification Europe and David Brackston of the BRC.
Transparency is the Goal
Traceability is being superseded as a key business goal, says Richard Werran, and of food safety certification firm, FoodChain ID Certification Europe.
For consumers, retailers and forward-looking food suppliers, it’s all about transparency, he claims.
“What do retailers and brands really want? They’re trying to regain consumer trust,” he argues. “The buzzword for the next 10 years is transparency. If you have transparency through the supply chain, you have good traceability.”
Increased visibility means going above and beyond communicating one-up and one-down along the immediate supply chain and instead aiming for a view of the wider supply network. This is changing the nature of industry standard, as evidenced in the evolving Global Standard for Food Safety from the British Retail Consortium (BRC). It’s also spurring the development of novel IT tools that are enabling transparency in ways that would not have been possible until recently.
The BRC launched the seventh edition of its Global Standard in July (BRC7), complete with two substantial changes compared with previous editions.”Traceability has always been a part of the standard but now we require sites were auditing to have demonstrable confidence in the traceability systems of their suppliers” says David Brackston, BRC Trading’s technical director.That might mean relying on information from existing supplier audits or, if the supplier is ‘low risk: the customer can rely on the supplier to commission or carry out its own tests and provide them with evidence.
The second change is for companies dealing with brokers or agents.
“In the past the agent was classed as the supplier, but in fact the risk is to do with whoever is manufacturing the product (and supplying it to the agent), so a company must request details of tile manufacturer from the agent.” says Brackston.
This is proving to be problematic, as supply chain middle men seek to protect their relationships with producers. “Brokers are very concerned, so in the first year companies must try to negotiate with them but won’t be penalised if they can’t persuade the broker to cooperate. But by July 2016 they’ll need to have that information. We aim to be practical and that gives them time to negotiate or change supplier,” says Brackston. He understands that brokers are nervous, but argues that good middle men should have little to fear from revealing their sources: “Agents add value to the supply chain in other ways, such as negotiating a better price by buying in bulk, organising imports, warehousing and shipping!”
Werran of FoodChain ID Certification Europe believes the BRC7 changes mark a sea change in traceability requirements:
“Up to BRC6, the Global Standard was all about food safety. Now, in version seven, we’ve got things included that are nothing to do with food safety. What’s very important for an auditee to understand is that the BRC audit is no longer just a food safety audit — it’s a fit-for-purpose business audit.” He argues that it’s a natural response to put pressure on the BRC to recognise the public’s loss of trust in food manufacturers: “The legal requirement for traceability is to know where you’re getting products from and where you’re selling it to but you’d need to know that anyway or you wouldn’t know who to pay or invoice. BRC7 ushers in a whole new level of transparency.”
Credit: Michelle Knott, Food Manufacture, January 2016.
See www.foodmanufacture.co.uk for the original article.