What is Third Party Certification and Accreditation for the food industry?
An analysis of accreditation and certification and the value it can add to your business, wherever you sit along the global food supply chain.
03 March 2015
For food businesses striving to provide safe and quality products to consumers around the globe, certification and accreditation can be a complicated minefield of information. With the wealth of certifications and regulations to adhere to in different countries, it can be an overwhelming task to understand exactly what's required when bringing products to local and international markets. From Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognised schemes to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certifications, it's difficult to know where to start. If we take a step back and analyse the certification and accreditation framework as a whole, we will be able to appreciate the value it can add to your business.
Accreditation and Certification Framework
At the top of the food safety accreditation and certification framework, sits the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), this is the world association of Conformity Assessment Accreditation Bodies. Its primary objective is to reduce risk for businesses and their customers by assuring that accredited certificates can be relied upon through a single, global programme of conformity assessment.
Underneath the IAF sit the accreditation bodies; the governing authorities that can be either government owned or under agreement with governments. These bodies, such as UKAS for the UK, CNAS in China, and JAS ANZ for Australia and New Zealand, establish the suitability of any participating certification body and are in turn audited by the IAF to ensure consistency within certification schemes.
Certification bodies, such as Intertek, are third party organisations who have been accredited by recognised accreditation bodies for their competence to audit and issue certifications which confirm that businesses along the food supply chain meet the standard requirements. It is the responsibility of the certification body to:
- Meet international certification management standards
- Be licensed by the scheme owner
- Provide impartial sustainable and compliant certification processes, procedures and practices
- Provide competent auditors who are approved by the scheme owner
- Have independent decision-making on issuing certification (and have a process separate from the auditor to ensure consistency within the scheme)
- Have defined regular competence reviews of all auditors and support staff
- Have an independent advisory board
Accreditation vs Certification
Accreditation is the process of validation and verification conducted by a globally accredited body such as Intertek. As a status, accreditation provides public notification that an institute or programme meets the standards of quality set forth by an accrediting body. As a process, accreditation reflects the fact that in achieving recognition by the accrediting body, the institute or programme is committed to self-study and external review in seeking to meet the standard requirements and enhancing the quality of education and training provided.
Certification is the assurance and verification you receive that conforms to the applied framework. This confirmation is often, but not always, provided by some form of external review, education, assessment or audit. The certification body verifies the execution and compliance process during the assessment or audit as well as ongoing annual recertification.
Food Safety Best Practice
There is a broad range of standards considered worldwide benchmarks for best practice in the food industry. This includes GFSI endorsed schemes such as International Featured Standards (IFS), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Food (SQF) and Food Safety System Certification (FSSC22000). You need to work with a reputable third party certification organisation who will guide you through the entire certification process.
Whether you're aiming to establish sustainability credentials, or you need to demonstrate the safety and quality of your production processes; food safety accreditation and certification will help to enhance your brand image, build consumer confidence and open the way to new market opportunities.
Anthony Lidong Liang, Asia Pacific Technical Director for Food Certification. Anthony is highly experienced in auditing, training, quality management systems and food safety management systems. With his expertise in understanding consumer and business issues, he is ideally placed to provide insight to food professionals from across the spectrum.