Questions about new food safety standards? Robert Prevendar has answers.

Robert Prevendar

Robert Prevendar serves as the director of food safety certification systems for NSF International, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that provides product certification and helps develop standards to improve food, water, and consumer product safety. NSF is a North American market leader in providing certifications aligned with the global food safety initiative (GFSI). GFSI, an independent nonprofit foundation managed by the Consumer Goods Forum, measures food standards against food safety criteria. GFSI was founded in 2000. NSF also deals with safe quality food (SQF) and British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards, two of the most significant schemes used in North America. SQF and BRC food safety standards have been recognized by the GFSI as meeting the minimum requirements to ensure food is wholesome and safe. Although NSF doesn’t specifically work with pet food, many of the same safety standards apply to animal feed as well as human food.

Q: The latest version of BRC—version 6—was released in January. What is version 6 and how does this relate to food safety? What requirements do companies conducting on-site testing for food safety have to meet?

A: BRC is one of the GFSI benchmarked standards, which NSF certifies to. The BRC global standard for food safety is updated every few years and this January marks the implementation of the latest version—version 6. Please note that there are no “levels” for BRC. BRC requires no specific on-site testing; however, testing is an important component for validating and verifying food safety plans and are typically part of a facility’s food safety programs. These may include finished product testing, allergen testing, or environmental sampling programs.

Q: How do companies demonstrate continuous improvement in food safety and how does on-site testing help meet this need?

A: Continuous improvement can be measured in a number of different ways and there are no specific requirements as to how this is to be done. Generally speaking, continuous improvement is often looked at as reduced food safety issues, reduced recalls, reduced product rejections, etc. Large food suppliers have noted significant reduction in errors, and ultimately cost as a result of embracing GFSI Benchmarked certification standards.

Q: What controls and documents should a client who performs on-site testing have in their protocol to meet the BRC–version 6?

A: This would be a very lengthy list, to include HACCP plans, policies, procedures, records of training, testing records, calibration records, daily monitoring records, internal audits, etc. Testing may have components in all these noted documents.

Q: What role does kit validation, equipment calibration, training documentation and demonstrated technical proficiency (by use of certified reference samples or known standards) have toward achieving BRC and other GFSI certification?

A: These kits can be an effective way to validate control measures and are adequate for critical control points (CCPs). While there are no specific requirements to use such test kits, they are very common in the industry. As for certified reference samples, it is difficult for me to say exactly how they may be best utilized. Where there is testing in place, for which a certified standard is available, it seems as though there is a place for verifying equipment and testing methods.

Additional information on global food safety services can be found on NSF’s website.


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