If you have experience of BRC Food (or indeed probably other similar standards) then you can adopt broadly the same approach – our procedure for Agents & Brokers (A&B) is shared with that for our manufacturing facilities.
We use two main questionnaires – one for food suppliers, one for transport/warehousing providers.
Both of these have an “if you’re certified to a GFSI-benchmarked standard then you don’t need to complete sections a/b/c” option, and the transport/warehouse one is split into two parts, one for transport and one for warehousing.
The data from these is fed into a risk assessment that determined whether a full audit is required. If you have lots of non-GFSI suppliers then you’ll need to think carefully about the provision for approval by questionnaire for low risk suppliers that is included in clause 4.1.2 – there are certainly legitimate uses of this, but you should expect to defend your reasoning during your certification audit.
We do also have three warranty documents – one for food, one for transport, and one for storage – that suppliers are required to sign. We keep commercial things out of this (it makes it slightly less contentious / easier to achieve if money isn’t directly involved!), so it covers key requirements in terms of regulatory compliance, compositional standards, requirement to notify of change, expectations in terms of allergen management, pesticides, food security, traceability, GMO etc. The content will very much depend on the nature of your products, but we have found this useful both in terms of general evidence of due diligence, and as part of the “legally enforceable contract/specification” point in 4.1.2, as this document is also clearly referenced in our purchase orders and contracts.
For other types of supplier we don’t routinely send a questionnaire but instead define the appropriate approval criteria in our procedure – for example, labs need ISO17025, labour suppliers (not that we actually use them) need the appropriate Gangmaster registration (UK legal requirement). Make sure you also approve your certification body as this is a classic one to get caught out by! For BRC they should hopefully be listed in the BRC Directory, and you could also decide to set a minimum “BRC Rating” as a requirement for this (although I’m a little sceptical as to the value of these).
For your internal audit program you will need to do a risk assessment (these are a common feature of BRC standards…) to determine frequency. We break the standard down into procedures, or groups of procedures, and divide these up so they’re all audited at least once a year (the minimum BRC requirement), but there may be areas where a higher frequency is more appropriate – for example if your “HACCP” for A&B identifies that you have some CCPs in your process then these would be a higher risk area and thus a more frequent audit would probably be expected.
Your management review process will also play a significant part in verifying that things are working as this provides an opportunity to consider your objectives, your internal audit performance, complaints, HACCP, supplier performance, audit findings etc as a whole. The standard states a minimum requirement for annual review, but if you can convince your senior management team (or at least key parts of it) to do it more frequently then (a) it helps further demonstrate senior management commitment, and (b) it can genuinely be beneficial for the business to have broader awareness of, and indeed proper engagement with, food safety matters.
Incidentally if you’ve seen any of the discussions around the new “Food Safety Culture” requirement in the BRC Food Standard then this is probably something to have in mind – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it feature in the next issue of A&B, and indeed I know a lot of agents/brokers/traders who would benefit greatly from an improved attitude to the value of food safety (I say that as the Technical Manager for a business that does quite a lot of agency supply ).
In terms of finding helpful information, the standard has borrowed large parts pretty much verbatim from Issue 7 of the BRC Food standard, so looking for information about how people have approached areas for that can be useful, as the Food standard is still vastly more popular than A&B. The clause numbering is different so it could be worth downloading a copy of the BRC Food standard from the Participate, as you can use that to look up what the equivalent clause number is, and then use that as the basis for searching on IFSQN, Google etc.
If you don’t yet have a copy of the Interpretation Guide then I’d also very much recommend downloading that.
I’m sure there is more but that’s probably a sufficiently long post for now!