Suppliers to Asda will have to pass unannounced BRC audits as of this autumn, as the supermarket seeks to toughen up its inspection regime and reinforce consumer trust following the horsemeat scandal.

The new audits will kick off in October, and will apply to all of Asda’s suppliers, making Asda the first UK supermarket to have unannounced BRC audits across its entire supply chain.  Suppliers that do not agree to be audited in this manner will no longer achieve Asda technical approval.

Asda said it had decided to move to unannounced audits as part of its commitment to be “Britain’s most trusted retailer”.

Suppliers were told about the move at a recent supplier conference, and feedback so far had been positive, a spokeswoman added. “They welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their strong processes, and to commit to the future of the industry.”

One Asda supplier who attended the conference said “given the choice, we probably wouldn’t have chosen this”, but added the move made sense in light of the recent horsemeat scandal.

Standard audits by the British Retail Consortium take place on an agreed date, but the BRC operates an additional, unannounced audit scheme that suppliers can sign up to voluntarily. Under that scheme, audits can occur at any point from three to 12 months of the audit due date, and suppliers are given no advance notification of the audit.

A BRC spokesman said the unannounced audit scheme helped “demonstrate confidence in procedures and reassures that systems are being maintained in good order.” “The unannounced scheme is voluntary, and the decision to participate in the scheme rests with the certified company.”

However, the Asda spokeswoman said: “Suppliers that don’t comply will not achieve Asda technical approval.”