Most third party assurance schemes have been developed in response to demands from supermarkets for independent verification rather than to perform the functions associated with inspections and other interventions by regulators.
Third party food assurance schemes can provide information to contribute to the accurate determination of risk-based frequency inspection regimes. The consideration of information from such schemes benefits businesses and regulators through reduction of regulation resources on businesses and by facilitating improved targeting of regulators’ efforts. Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 on Official Feed and Food Controls and the current Food and Feed Law Codes of Practice recognise the use of such schemes.
The Agency has recently undertaken a Technical assessment and comparison of the inspections carried out by Animal Health Dairy Hygiene and Audits undertaken by Assured Dairy Farms. University of Reading report, June 2008’ This project now considers a similar approach in other areas of the food chain.
A desktop-based independent evaluation and comparison of third party assurance schemes, with respect to food and feed hygiene and standards was undertaken. For each scheme the evaluation considered:
- the approach to determining risk
- data and other governance frameworks (e.g. accreditation to EN45011)
- audit and funding arrangements
- actions taken in the event of non-compliance
- circumstances for removal of scheme accreditation
- auditor authorisations, qualification and training
The results will enable the Agency to identify existing schemes that meet the criteria and issues that might require further consideration.
The conclusion of the evaluation is that many assurance schemes meet the criteria for the FSA to consider advising enforcement bodies, such as local authorities, to take them into account when scheduling inspections. This should benefit regulators by helping them target their resources more effectively and benefit compliant businesses that meet legislative requirements through membership of certified schemes by reducing the frequency of inspections.
The FSA is taking the findings of this research project into account as part of its wider earned recognition programme, the aim of which is to seek to improve risk based and proportionate inspections in line with the FSA’s compliance and enforcement strategy.
Whilst this research uses evidence obtained in 2011 it is still considered to be relevant and is being used to further develop earned recognition through the use of assurance schemes in feed as contained in the draft Feed Law Code of Practice and Practice Guidance.