Would you be prepared for an unannounced BRC audit?

Auditing Skills

The prospect of an unannounced audit is likely to put the fear of God into some food manufacturers. However, like it or not, unannounced audits are on the increase.

Supermarket giant Asda is the first of the major retailers to set the ball rolling by insisting that its suppliers have unannounced BRC audits, starting from 1st October this year. The audits will cover the entire supply chain and any supplier that does not agree to be audited in this way will no longer achieve Asda technical approval.

Up until Asda’s announcement in July, BRC unannounced audits were voluntary but a successful audit could lead to coveted A+ status for a site, the highest grade available. Generally speaking audits take place on an agreed date which is roughly 12 months from the last audit date. This gives the company involved plenty of notice to make sure all documentation is up-to-date, members of staff are briefed, the premises and equipment are up to approved standards and the Technical Manager and other senior managers are present.

Two options are available for unannounced audits

As the name suggests, an unannounced audit can take place at any time and inspection of the premises will take place within 30 minutes of the auditor’s arrival. Companies registering for unannounced audits must have BRC certificates with Grades of A+, A, B+ or B. There are two options available to them:

Option 1: the entire audit is conducted unannounced and can take place any time from 3 to 12 months of the audit due date. Typically it occurs within the last 4 months of the certification cycle. i.e. if your last audit was in January, then you could expect an unannounced audit to take place from September onwards.

Option 2: The audit is split into two parts with the first part, which covers GMP and production areas, being unannounced.  The second part is announced and is an audit of the company’s systems and documentation.

Detailed information on BRC Unannounced Audit Programmes including notification and common questions and answers, such as what to expect and what happens if your company usually has combined audits with more than one certification scheme, can be found here.

Surprise audits should be viewed as an opportunity

Given the choice, most of us would rather know when an auditor will be paying us a visit. But those who know that they operate to a high standard on a daily basis should have nothing to fear. Rather than viewing it as a nuisance, an unannounced audit should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate confidence in your company’s systems and procedures. Plus, unannounced audits carry a ‘+’ sign after the grading e.g. ‘A+’ so that customers are aware that your BRC certification was awarded following an unannounced audit – giving them further reassurance.

Make sure you’re ready for your next audit – announced or unannounced

Knowledge is power! Knowing what to expect from an audit allows you to prepare for the real thing by giving you the skills and understanding to conduct your own internal audits at regular intervals.  VWA’s Auditing Skills course  is a highly interactive 2-day course which takes you through the entire audit process of carrying out your own internal audit from the opening meeting to reporting and corrective actions. It comprises 4 sections:

  1. Understanding the development, application and importance of auditing;
  2. How to undertake an audit; Evaluation and reporting of results;
  3. Putting the theory into practice;
  4. Group exercises including role play and industry case studies.


Other training providers often cover the subject of Internal Auditing in a day, but we feel that our 2-day course which allows time for group exercises and role play on Day 2 ensures delegates have the confidence to go back to work and carry out an effective audit of their systems.

The course has recently been approved by awarding body FDQ and now leads to the FDQ Certificate in Auditing Skills. Therefore, delegates attending this course  and passing the multiple choice exam at the end of Day 2 will now receive a certificate from a nationally recognised awarding body.

More information on our Auditing Skills course and a booking form

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