Independent Audit Ensures AUKM Still Leads the World
Brewers and distillers that rely on the Assured UK Malt scheme for brand protection can be totally confident that the scheme is independently audited. This job falls to Product Authentication International (PAI), which is one of the leading Approved Certifiers of food products, food authenticity, labelling claims and food chain traceability in Europe. It operates particularly in the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors. Founded some 11 years ago, the company has enjoyed rapid growth from its early beginnings in the food sector.
Today PAI is involved in some of the UK’s leading assurance schemes including AUKM. It also provides auditing services for the British Retail Consortium Technical Food Standard, Assured Food Standards, the Fairtrade Foundation, and Assured British Meat. PAI provides supplier accreditation for some of the UK’s leading food retailers.
In the UK PAI operates from its offices in Harrogate, Worthing and Banbury. It also has an Italian office and increasingly works in partnership with suppliers in other markets including Greece, China and Eastern Europe. It is responsible for some 11,000 audits every year of which around 8000 are agricultural.
Food Scheme Coordinator Alison Clark at PAI's Headquarters |
Richard Powell, PAI
Work on the Assured UK Malt scheme is overseen at PAI’s Harrogate office where it is just one of a number of schemes that are the responsibility of Food Scheme Manager Richard Powell. Day-to-day coordination of the scheme falls under Food Scheme Coordinator Alison Clark.
Richard Powell says: “Total independence and constant checks that the highest standards are being met in auditing the Assured UK Malt scheme are critical to its success. Brewers and distillers who use Assured UK Malt can be certain that the way in which the scheme is administered ensures that the highest standards are met and there is total consistency within the scheme.”
This thoroughness of approach means that before a certificate can be issued for any of the maltings covered by the scheme, the assessment has to be checked and double-checked. In broad terms the scheme works as follows:
- PAI arranges for assessor Gordon Jackson to visit the site.
- Gordon carries out an assessment. (See below for more on how the assessment works). Once a year these assessment visits are witnessed by Richard Powell.
- Any points of non-compliance are made known to the management on the site
- The assessment is delivered to PAI where it is reviewed by Technical Reviewer Ann Wilson. She is both reviewing the work of the assessor and checking for non-compliance.
- This work is itself reviewed on a regular basis with the Food Scheme Manager checking a percentage of these reviews.
- Maltsters are given 28 days to demonstrate that any instances of non-compliance with the scheme have been dealt with.
PAI is itself checked by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service), the body which accredited the company to deliver the scheme. UKAS carries out regular checks on the way the scheme is being run, and also witnesses assessments from time to time.
At the heart of AUKM are the assessments carried out each year on every site of each company in the scheme. These are designed to ensure that the site is carrying out all of the requirements of the scheme, that all documentation is in place, that staff are properly trained and that proof can be produced to demonstrate the effective running of the scheme on a day-to-day basis.
The assessor has a checklist that matches the list of requirements for the scheme. He determines whether or not the company has complied with each requirement but also makes detailed notes to provide feedback.
How the Assessment Works
The Assured UK Malt annual site assessment takes a day, and is carried out by Gordon Jackson, an experienced assessor who also works on other assurance schemes such as the British Retail Consortium scheme, and the animal feed scheme (FEMAS) –the latter being a standard that all of the AUKM maltsters are also accredited to. During the audit Gordon must satisfy himself that the site fulfils all the criteria for the AUKM scheme including food safety, quality management systems and compliance with all current legislation.
Gordon begins his assessment by meeting with the site management and explaining the purpose of the visit and what he will be doing during the day.
Gordon carries a checklist that exactly matches the technical standard for the AUKM scheme. He must ensure that the site complies with every part of the standard. (Copies of the Standard can be found at www.assuredukmalt.com/technical.htm). This includes documentation for the scheme itself and parts of it such as the HACCP system. The scheme also makes certain requirements with regard to staff training, and internal audits. Gordon checks all the relevant documentation with the managers involved.
Gordon walks the site visiting all parts of the process. He begins at the barley intake, where tests are conducted on the incoming barley. AUKM has strict criteria for the barley that its maltsters use and the current members of the scheme all use barley grown on farms in accredited assurance schemes such as the Assured Food Standards Scheme. However, additional tests are still carried out at the intake stage.
At this and at every critical control point Gordon will check that the correct monitoring systems are in place and that they are being carried out properly. For instance, all paperwork is being filled in with all the necessary details present.
He carries out reviews at every stage of the process including steeping, germination, kilning, pre-cleaning, dressing and despatch. According to Gordon, the level of detail in the AUKM scheme is exceptional and it includes ensuring that the quality checks that are in place not only conform to general standards, but also to ensure that malt is produced to the exact specifications agreed with the customer.
During his visit Gordon makes a note of any matters that do not comply with the scheme. In his closing meeting he will draw these to the attention of the site management and agree action points with them to correct these points of ‘non-compliance’. The company concerned now has 28 days to carry out the actions agreed and to provide proof that these actions have taken place. Only once this has been done can a certificate be issued to the site.
As Ivor Murrell, Spokesperson for the scheme says: “There is no other malting assurance scheme in the world like Assured UK Malt, and the independent auditing is one of its great strengths. The standards that are set for the scheme are high but there would be no point if they were not thoroughly and independently verified. PAI do an excellent job and those who buy malt from the companies in the scheme can be confident that it comes with supplier assurance of the highest quality.”
Assured UK Malt 31b Castlegate Newark Nottinghamshire NG24 1AZ UK
Tel:+44 (0)1636 700781 Fax:+44 (0)1636 701837