In this blog, Mick Hadfield, one of our growth advisors, discusses accreditation and standards in the food industry. Mick is an expert in the food supply chain for supermarkets and runs our 'Recipe for Success' programme.
If you’re thinking of setting up a food-based business, and in particular one that manufactures for other businesses, from shops and supermarkets, to hotels and restaurants, then establishing solid food safety procedures is essential. It’s not enough to have processes in place, you need evidence, so due diligence processes, backed by daily or even hourly reports, and batch history, are crucial. The alternative, of course, could be a visit from the Environmental Health Officer (EHO).
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I’ve always thought of food accreditations as a pyramid, the bigger the business or its aspirations, the stronger the process needs to be. If you’re looking to supply local businesses and you’re on a budget, then high level accreditations like British Retail Consortium (BRC) aren’t for you.
If you’re thinking about a listing with a national supermarket chain, then Safe and Local Supplier Approval (SALSA) or BRC are the routes to go down. Both are recognised accreditations and can help to unlock new routes to markets as buyers see them as an indicator of solid procedures. Indeed, many see them as a pre-requisite to doing business.
Here are some of the schemes you may wish to consider:
- Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) - usually for cafes, restaurants and other customer-facing businesses. Completing a basic food hygiene course goes hand in hand at this level. Most colleges hold courses and Hub partner, The Skills Company, also provide them up to level 4 - click here for details. Once you’re up to speed on both then contact your local EHO for a visit and you’ll be assessed for scores on the doors.
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) - a food safety management system that’s bespoke to your business. It should map out how your product is stored, made, packed and dispatched.
The way I think of HACCP is to visualise a pie factory’s single production line. Products arrive from your supplier in fresh, frozen and ambient states and are then stored. These products then travel down the line and are heated, handled, formed, checked and packed before being placed on a delivery van and sent to your customers. Using HACCP you will have checked for hazards in the factory, established where the critical points are (e.g. heating the ingredients to a set temperature for a set time or establishing where food safety could be compromised) and written a procedure to deal with the potential issues.
Along with the actual process, collecting evidence on a daily or hourly basis, or by batch, forms the backbone of your due diligence. This is of course a simplified view and HACCP can be used for any type of food processing business.
Taking a L2 HACCP course is a must and there are many providers ranging from colleges and universities, private providers and online courses.
- Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) – this is one of several schemes you should consider, in addition to HACCP, if you’re looking to supply ethnic businesses.
- Safe and Local Supplier Approval (SALSA) - there are two ways of looking at SALSA; it’s either a beefed-up HACCP, or a watered-down BRC. Once upon a time food producers would have to make the leap from HACCP to BRC, which was a bit like studying for your GCSE one year and a Masters the next. SALSA draws down modules from BRC, as well as offering many that are specific to certain industries, such as brewing or cheese making. It’s also an official accreditation which is accepted by many top retailers and food service companies as proof of due diligence, and as such can help to remove technical barriers when looking for a listing.
- Support, Training and Service (STS) and BRC - we’ll start with STS, as both are of a similar standard, with STS accepted by hospitals, PCTs, universities and other public sector bodies. BRC is a global food accreditation and although expensive, is regarded as the pinnacle of accreditations. There are also different standards, such as warehousing and storage, as well as food production. If you’re going to go for either of these standards then talking to a consultant is a must, if only to map out timescales, costs and procedures.
There are a range of other standards available such as the IFS (International Featured Standard). Think of this as a continental version of BRC, commonly used by German, French and Italian companies and is becoming increasingly popular.
Food accreditation is a small but necessary part of your growth path in food manufacturing and of course, we’re happy to discuss this or any other barriers to growth you’d like to overcome. Contact us on 0161 359 3050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.