horse meat

The standard aims for greater security post-Horsegate

The British Retail Consortium will unveil a new certification standard for traders and brokers next week, in the food industry’s latest move to make its supply chains more secure post-Horsegate.

The new standard, published on 3 February, will have a similar format to other BRC certification schemes, and will require brokers and traders to be audited at least once a year.

Certified companies will need to demonstrate they are taking a risk-based approach to managing their supply chains – similar to HACCP – and show they can trace back their products to where they were produced.

“We already have standards for other parts of the chain – such as manufacturers and warehouses – but nothing to date for those people who trade or broker products,” said David Brackston, BRC technical director for food schemes. “It was a gap in our certification portfolio.”

The standard comes after Professor Chris Elliott’s post-Horsegate report into the food chain identified brokers and traders as especially vulnerable parts of the industry.

Brackston said work on the standard had already begun prior to the scandal but the BRC had worked closely with Elliott and his comments had informed the standard it created. Elliott welcomed the standard, saying it was “an important step towards improving traceability in the food supply chain”. “I believe this standard will be welcomed by those operating at all stages of the supply chain and look forward to working with the BRC and food retailers to encourage its adoption,” he added.

There will be a requirement for brokers and traders to test products under the BRC’s new standard. However, these do not necessarily have to be authenticity tests. “It will depend on the biggest potential risks for each product – in some cases, this might be being defrauded, but in others it could be more quality-type issues,” Brackston said.

The new standard will be voluntary, but certification is likely to become a de facto requirement for brokers and traders who want to continue working with major players in the food industry. “The retailers have this area fairly buttoned down already, but we hope manufacturers who purchase raw material and the foodservice sector will make wide use of it too,” added Brackston.

He said he did not expect the introduction of the standard to lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of brokers or traders, but said the standard was deliberately demanding and “fairly leading-edge” in what it required. “Most agents and brokers dealing with retailers already have to have very high standards, but there might be some smaller players who will find it more challenging,” he said.

Although brokers and traders in the meat sector have been the focus of much attention in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the BRC’s new standard is not specific to meat products. “This standard is about making sure we have transparent processes in any sector,” said Brackston.

More information on the BRC Standard can be found here.