The aim of the standard is to set the benchmark for food safety management systems, laying down criteria against which companies can be assessed and so allowing purchasers to buy with confidence. It is designed to increase safety within the food supply chain, but could put yet more pressure on suppliers.
Changes to the standard reflect changes in legislation including traceability, product segregation and the process by which product integrity is managed through the supply chain.
Traceability legislation in food exports was introduced in January 2002 as a guarantee that unsafe food is not placed on the market and to ensure that systems exist to identify and to respond to food safety problems. Many of the big exporting concerns around the globe have been able to meet this requirement, but some are still lagging behind.
Traceability means, essentially, installing an electronic record-keeping system that is applied to all stages of the food production process up to its final destination. This must provide all involved in the supply chain with the ability to recall information about any food products that may be affected.
According to EU legislation, record-keeping must be electronic; traditional filing systems are no longer viable sources of reference for external parties.
The standards aims to highlight those companies which are fully compatible with these latest legislative requirements. Interpretations of requirements are more concise and the protocol more extended and detailed.
The BRC says that revisions are based on extensive consultation between the BRC and key stakeholders across the industry.
"Most large UK retailers will require their supplier to have gained certification to the appropriate BRC Global Standard and so we are pleased to now offer the revised Food Standard that reflects the changing industry, and clearly focuses on the need to establish the highest standards across the food chain," said BRC head of technical services Kevin Swoffer.
"The BRC Global Food Standard is used by certification bodies in 23 countries across four continents. Its success since it was introduced and the engagement of stakeholders from the food industry has meant that best practice is established, achieved and maintained."
In 2000, UK food retailers employed some 1.2 million people - over 5 per cent of the workforce - and grocery retail sales were £111.3 billion at the end of 2002. The sector consists of over 61,000 enterprises, contributing 10 per cent to national GDP.
The BRC Global Food Standard is used by certification bodies operating in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Far East, Australasia and North and South America to enable food suppliers to achieve certification against a globally recognised standard.
The standard can be ordered online, and will be available as a download in German, Swedish, Spanish, French, Norwegian and Dutch from February 2005.