World Accreditation Day focuses on improving standards of food safety
The pivotal role that accreditation plays in improving food safety is the theme of this year’s World Accreditation Day. Jointly organised by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), World Accreditation Day is marked in over 100 economies across the globe annually on 9 June. This year’s theme is particularly apt as World Accreditation Day falls just two days after the second ever World Food Safety Day, organised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Accredited conformity assessment activities contribute to the prevention and treatment of the adverse effects of unsafe and adulterated food. In April 2019, the WHO, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) together estimated that nearly 600 million people fall ill with foodborne diseases every year. Of those contracting foodborne diseases some 420 thousand die prematurely, with 30% being children under five years old. Accreditation aims to reduce the number of these incidents by driving up the safety performance of all organisations in the food chain.
Marta Vaquero, United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accreditation specialist for Food and Farm Certification said: “For consumers around the world, access to safe and nutritious food and water are essential requirements for maintaining health and well-being. UKAS accredits a range of laboratories, certification and inspection bodies, proficiency testing and reference material providers working within the food industry.
“From chemical and microbiological tests of food and packaging, to certification audits of feed and handling sites, to the inspection of farms and slaughterhouses, all aspects of the food supply chain from farm to fork can be accredited. UKAS accreditation of these activities ensures that consumers, suppliers, purchasers and specifiers can have confidence in the safety of the goods and services they receive, and most importantly, be assured these products are safe for consumption.”
In addition to being essential for both human development and nutritional security, food safety is an important part of international trade. Food production is an increasingly interwoven international process, with ingredients and products being imported and supplied to all parts of the world. The WTO estimates that the global trade of food is now worth $1.5 trillion a year, having expanded threefold over the last 20 years. Accredited standards play an important role in reducing technical barriers to trade by providing proof of conformity, helping food producers gain acceptance for their foods in international markets. For example, both primal cuts and manufactured beef can now be exported from the UK to Canada as it is subject to UKAS accredited microbiological testing, which meets the standards required by Canadian authorities.
Supply chains with the food industry are complex and coming under increasing pressure, particularly at times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to delivering value, accreditation helps demonstrate the integrity and robustness of food supply chains, giving purchasers confidence in the way food is both produced and delivered. To help ensure this trust is maintained during the current Covid-19 situation, UKAS has been operating remote accreditation assessments since the middle of March, and produced guidance and webinars to help all conformity assessment bodies prepare. UKAS has also been closely working with the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) Working Group Task Force in production of specific guidance on remote auditing accredited food safety certification.
Consumers are increasingly ethically and environmentally aware, moving sustainability up both the corporate and regulatory agenda. Accreditation has a track record of contributing towards sustainable development goals in the food industry. UKAS has been involved in LEAF Marque assessments (Linking Environment and Farming) since 2005 and is playing a key role in the European Accreditation’s (EA) evaluation of the scheme. This leading global assurance uses the principles of integrated farm management to recognise and encourage more sustainably farmed products. UKAS is also working closely with developers of ethical trading schemes, including the new Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing standard which is being produced by British Retail Consortium Global Standards (BRCGS). This standard will provide a framework for food producers to measure their performance against the best practices of ethical trade and responsible sourcing.
More information on accredited conformity assessment activities in the food industry is available on the Food Safety page on the UKAS website.