We believe that the utmost importance during the COVID-19 crisis is the health and safety of people (your people, our team and the public) and we need to take care about them first. Our next most important priority is the continuity of your business.
In accordance with our joint responsibility to sustain the established transparency through auditing and certification even in such difficult times, we focus our efforts to integrate the new circumstances and lessons learned into our auditing and certification activities. Over the years all of us have put a lot of efforts to build a common ground among the players in the supply chain related to food safety compliance. We are convinced that the only viable solution is to keep the established practices and upgrade them further so that they can meet the new challenges and foster even higher trust.
We highly recommend to you to make use of the different options and demonstrate that you maintain compliance and continued production of safe and reliable products.
On the other hand, it is our obligation as an accredited certification body to evaluate the extent of any impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the ability of all our certified customers to continue to operate in accordance with the certification requirements. This originates from the requirements of ISO 17065:2012, IAF ID 3 : 2011, and RvA-T051 Management of Extraordinary events or circumstances affecting RvA accredited bodies and their customers. In this way we maintain the trust in your certificate both for our stakeholders and your customers. Upon your specific request our evaluation is sumbitted to the scheme owners and made visible to your favorite contacts/customers through their database. In this way we support you to demonstrate to your customers that you do your best to maintain compliance with the standard requirements in this challenging time.
We continue to perform on-site certification audits whenever possible. Since the beginning of the crisis in early March 2020, we evaluate the situation of every of our customers on an individual basis taking into consideration the specific situation of the customer, governmental restrictions and our auditor team capabilities and offer a customized solution for their upcoming audit. This is in compliance with the guidance from our stakeholders that if an on-site audit can take place, it should take place. The other audit and certification activities such as post audit activities and certification decisions, certificate maintenance, recall and withdrawal management are performed as usual.
What if an on-site audit cannot take place?
As IFS Management GmbH has made clear in their recent communications extending the validity of the IFS certificates is not an option. One of the main aims of third party audits is to annually challenge all relevant aspects regarding products and processes. Therefore, an auditor needs to be present on-site. In this case the certificate will lapse but will be visible on the IFS portal for another 12 months.
IFS Management have also given the option to notify your Favourite contacts (customers) through the IFS portal if an on-site audit could not take place due to the coronavirus crisis. In this case we as your CB need to collect and submit information about the reasons of the postponement, your recent status of production, the additional measures taken by the company to ensure safety and quality of products (e.g. internal audits, employee trainings/instructions), next steps in audit planning.
For a limited time and only during the COVID-19 crisis IFS have adopted a voluntary IFS Remote Surveillance Check for assessing supporting management processes and unannounced IFS GMP Check for assessing good manufacturing practices on-site for the post-crisis period. Both solutions are not-accredited and do not extend/renew your IFS certificate.
On the other hand BRCGS allow the extension of certificate dates of sites currently operating to one of our standards up to a period of 6 months. This would only apply to suppliers that currently have restricted onsite access. In line with GFSI, this extension will be based on a risk assessment by the site’s current certification body and will be validated and verified through the exchange of relevant documents and an interview process (see brcgs.com for full details). Once the site becomes accessible, the full onsite audit will take place as normal and a new certificate will be issued for a further 12 months.
We are doing our best to support you with a full-fledged on-site audit as far as our continuous auditing throughout the year and the available auditor capacity would allow.
The current time calls for higher clarity and efficiency and we invite you to join us in this integration process and bring your commitment to those values.
We remain at your disposal for further details.