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Certification Standards

Development – To define detail, scope and purpose.

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Training participants will gain a basic understanding of Certification Standards and their applications within food safety and quality systems. Basic knowledge competency will be verified through successful completion of the accompanying Certification Standards assessment activity. Basic skill competency can be verified through the Certification Standards competency checklist available as a resource for this training activity.

Key Definitions for Certification Standards    
- Corrective Action Request or CAR: A Corrective Action Request is a non-conformance raised as outcomes of an auditing process. This is basically a notification of an identified system deficiency which needs to be rectified as a condition of certification. A CAR may also be called an NCR or Non Conformance Request. 
- Certification Body: The entity providing certification to the food business is referred to as the Certification Body. The term Certification Body also includes auditors and other representatives of the Certification Body.
- Client: A business or entity requiring the food business to gain certification is referred to as the client.
- Food Business: A business entity requiring certification is referred to as food business. This may include businesses that are not strictly food businesses, but may supply products or services to food businesses.
- Gap Audit: A Gap Audit is a tool through which the food business is assessed to the required standard prior to the actual Certification Audit.
- Non-conformance: A non-conformance is where the food business is assessed by the Certification Body as not being in adherence to the requirements of the standard.
- Standard: A standard means the certification standard required by the food business.
- Standard Owner: The Standard Owner is the entity that manages the standard to which a Food Business is audited against.

Certification Standards Development 
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Certification Standards within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

About Certification Standards 
Certification is an industry or regulatory recognition provided to a business entity by an accredited certification body or authorised agency that serves as notification that the food business has been assessed as being in compliance with the requirements of a particular certification standard.

Certification may be a requirement of customer demand, regulatory requirements, or it may be a tool by which you benchmark your business in the global food marketplace. Regardless of your decision to gain and maintain certification to specific standards, the process is a substantial investment into your business, and should be considered carefully prior to implementation. haccp.com is designed to assist with the recognition of the Food Industry Certification process for Food Businesses, their Associates and Clients, in conjunction with formatting resources certified businesses can use to better manage their investments in certification.

Certification to industry standards is no longer considered an optional extra for food producers, manufacturers and suppliers. In times gone by, these certifications were classed as an activity a business would achieve as a measure of Best Practice. Today, industry certifications are required simply to be able to compete in the high-evolution marketplace which defines modern food industries.

The foundation of certification is not only to adhere to the requirements of relevant Food Industry Legislation and Guidelines, but also to consider reputable certifications such as Codex HACCP, ISO 9001, ISO 22000, BRC Food, SQF, IFS, Globalgap and Customer Standards to provide staunch management systems through which your food business can achieve excellence within your food industry sector. Many food businesses may also require certification to specific standards that define the vendor requirements as a pre-requisite for supplying to large retail or foodservice groups.

It is important to consider the role that quality management has evolved to co-exist with food safety as a major component of contemporary food industry certifications. The emphasis has shifted towards ensuring foods produced, manufactured and supplied are not only safe to eat, but are also consistently of substantial quality.

Why is Certification Important? 
Certification to accepted industry standards provides:
- Peace of Mind: Business owners, stakeholders and management can rest assured that the food business is participating in the compliance routines required to provide sustainable positive outcomes regarding product safety and quality;
- Continuous Improvement: Continuous Improvement is the contemporary business ethos which creates substantial opportunities in the growth and management of your brands, and your business' capabilities to continually provide products and services of substantial safety and quality;
- Savings: The financial ramifications for serious non-compliance issues that are identified by clients and customers can be far-reaching, and damaging for any business' reputation. It's not only your ability to supply products and services to your clients which may be in jeopardy where your management systems have failed, there's also industry confidence to consider;
- Improved Quality and Safety: By focusing on the requirements for certification to relevant standards, your business will identify opportunities for improvements which will strengthen and nurture your business systems, and ensure future growth and prosperity for your business.

Certification Process 
The following steps are generally considered elements of a typical food business certification process:
- Certification Decision;
- Certification Body Selection;
- Application;
- Gap Analysis;
- Gap Analysis Application;
- Certification Audit;
- CAR Closeout;
- Certification Granted;
- Surveillance and Re-Certification Audits.

Any Certification Process should be flexible enough to meet the requirements of anticipated outcomes, but must be rigid enough to maintain the integrity of the audited standard in ensuring the outcomes of safety and quality foodstuffs.

Certification Decision 
The food business decides to apply for a particular certification, for example, Codex HACCP, ISO 9001, ISO 22000, BRC Food, SQF, IFS, Globalgap or Customer Standards, or a group of certifications. This decision to apply for certification may be an internal requirement of the food business, or may be through a request from one of the food business' clients as a form of guarantee for the products or services being supplied to them.

Certification Body Selection 
The food business may choose any Certification Body to certify them to the required standard, providing that Certification Body is accredited to deliver certification to that particular standard. This ability to choose the Certification Body offers some impartiality for the process, and requirements from the food business' clients to use a specific certification body is generally viewed as unacceptable. It is important to consider that more than one Certification Body may be used by one food business, but not for the same certification standard. For example, A food business may have HACCP certified by one Certification Body, and ISO 9001 certified by another Certification Body. It is also important to consider that the Scope and Purpose regarding the certification standard chosen may only relate to a selection of products or processes, rather than the entire business operation. In this context, it is important to consider that some standards require the entire scope of the business operation at a particular site to be audited, rather than nominated products or processes.

Certification bodies are accredited to provide certification services to recognised standards. This process involves an Accreditation Body that accredits the certification body to the requirements of ISO / IEC Guide 65, which provides a foundation of suitability in systemic management to provide certification services.

Certification Application
The food business applies to the Certification Body for the required certifications. This process generally includes contractual agreements, regarding service scope and purpose, applicable fees, and other information which may also include interactions between the food business' client and the Certification Body.

The application process may include an onsite advisory visit from the Certification Body to discuss the food business' specific requirements. Most Certification Bodies will require the nomination of an Authorised Representative from the food business; usually the person who will liaise with the Certification Body for both onsite and offsite interactions. As a part of this process, the food business will also be designated a Client Manager, who is often designated as the contact person representing the Certification Body.

Gap Analysis or Gap Audit 
A Gap Analysis is a tool through which the food business is assessed to the required standard. A Gap Analysis is generally conducted as a resource for the food business to identify areas in which the food business requires improvements prior to the actual certification audit. A Gap Analysis is intended as more of a consultation, as opposed to an audit, where non-conformance issues are raised, rated and issued as Corrective Action Requests or CARs. Where a Gap Analysis is conducted, and no non-conformance to the relevant standard is identified, some Certification Bodies may upgrade the Gap Analysis to a Certification Audit where circumstances permit. No Corrective Action Requests should be raised during a gap audit. Only observations should be noted.

Gap Analysis' may be an optional requirement, depending on which Certification Body the food business is using. In this case, the following step will generally be the Certification Audit.

Gap Analysis Application
The food business uses the information provided from the Gap Analysis as a stimulus to improve their business management systems, procedures and practices, where improvement opportunities have been identified. This process may or may not be conducted with the use of a consultant with specialist technical skills in the areas required.

Certification Audit 
A Certification Audit is the point at which the food business being assessed to the required standard or standards gets an indication of how they're managing the requirements of the relevant certification standard or standards. This generally includes an auditor or auditor team from the Certification Body visiting the food business site to conduct a thorough audit. Any observed non-conformance is rated, and notified to the food business, usually through a Corrective Action Request or CAR. The CAR is raised by the Certification Body, and is designed to identify the severity of the non-conformance. The food business participates in the CAR process by nominating what they will do to get the non-conformance back to within the standard's acceptable range.

Corrective Action Requests need to be closed out by the food business within specified timeframes; timeframes vary regarding the severity of the non-conformance, and are advised by the Certification Body. Several CARs can be raised as part of one audit. Certain certification standards have their own nominated requirements for CARs, and these must be adhered to, in ensuring the certification process guarantees consistency.

If the certification audit does not identify any non-conformance, the food business may be granted certification to the applicable standard or standards. In this case, the following CAR Closeout step would be skipped.

Corrective Action and Preventative Action Process 
The application of Corrective Action within any food business relies on a structured process to consider root cause of an identified non-conformance, and the applications of measures to ensure food safety and quality parameters are maintained on an ongoing basis.

Corrective Action processes commonly include the following elements, which are presented in a logical sequence for a scenario in which a non-conformance has been identified:
- Apply Corrective Action;
- Corrective Action Documentation;
- Corrective Action Verification, Review and Notification;
- Root Cause Analysis;
- Root Cause Documentation;
- Apply Preventative Action;
- Preventative Action Documentation;
- Preventative Action Review and Notification.

Corrective Action Request Closeout
Where the food business has been issued a CAR, these must be closed out within specified timeframes, and adequately, as assessed by the Certification Body. This process generally involves the Certification Body visiting the food business again to verify the actions taken to close out the CAR.

Certification Granted 
Once the Certification Body is happy the applicable standards are being well managed and applied within the food business, they will grant certification, which generally takes the form of a certificate. Under any relevant terms and conditions, the food business may then promote the fact that they have been certified by the Certification Body to the relevant standards.

As an accompaniment to the issuing of certificates detailing the scope and currency of the relevant certification standards, details of certification are generally made publicly available on the Certification Bodies' web pages, and also on the relevant Accreditation Body’s web pages.

Surveillance and Re-Certification Audits
Surveillance and Re-certification audits are scheduled as a component of any certification contract. The frequency and scheduling of these is generally dependent on the operational scope and purpose of the food business, and the specific requirements of the relevant certification standard. These scheduled audits are designed to create a solid foundation on which the certified food business can optimize continuous improvement opportunities, and control risk as components of managing their business.

It is important to consider here that the Certification Body or Standard Owner may have the ability as a contractual component, to request extra audits as required. This is commonly undertaken where a critical or major non-conformance has been identified outside the regular scheduled audits, or trended customer complaints reveal a concern regarding confirmed or potential mismanagement of the food business' requirements under the applicable standard or standards.

Which Certification Body Should You Choose?
Choosing a Certification Body can be a difficult task at the best of times. It is usually a case of finding out about the services offered by the available Certification Bodies, and making a decision based on how best a particular Certification Body can service your business.

As with any business transaction, risk assessments should be considered prior to making an informed decision to utilise the services of any particular Certification Body.

The process of selecting a Certification Body may be based on any number of factors including:
 The industry reputation of the Certification Body;
- The range of certification standards for which the Certification is accredited to provide;
- Geographical location and availability;
- Your business' commitment to a particular Certification Body whether for personal or commercial reasons;
- Cost. It's the same for so many things in life, but always remember, services which cost less, aren't guaranteed to be the best.

Another important factor to consider is that the Certification Body chosen to provide services to your business is not the end choice. Whilst the Certification Body is primarily perform the function of assessing your business' management systems to the applicable standards, they are contracted by you, and should not pressure you into anything you or your business isn't comfortable with. Certification Bodies are bound by operational requirements which include the way the interact with their clients, and if at any stage you feel threatened or uncomfortable with the way a Certification Body is interacting with you and your business, seek a second opinion.

Subject to the terms and conditions of certification standards, Standard owners and other contracts, businesses are free to change their Certification Body as required. The decision to change may be based on the level of services supplied by the Certification Body, the industry reputation of the Certification Body, or as a component of business restructure.

It is generally considered inappropriate for Certification Bodies to only recommend their own support services, such as for training and consulting as a resource for a business certified by them, as this may create a conflict of interest. It is generally acceptable where the Certification Body recommends a number of providers of support services, which may include affiliated services, along with impartial service providers.

Certification Etiquette
As with every business transaction, the etiquette regarding food industry certification is founded on written and unwritten rules of conduct. It is important that these defining rules are adhered to, in an effort to maintain the certification process as a respected and valued measure of contemporary business management strategy. Many etiquette requirements are reciprocal between the business holding certification, and the certification body, as expressed in the table below. Etiquette is a code of behaviour that helps people get along with one another. It is simply a set of good manners and it provides guidelines for courteous, considerate, and ethical behaviour.

Whilst these suggestions of certification etiquette are based on the normal industry interactions, discrepancy should be used to identify potential conflicts of interest, or discrepancies which may destroy the founding fundamentals of impartiality and confidence, which provide industry and consumer confidence in the certification process. Personal judgment and a consideration of morality must be considered when applying or judging any of the following etiquette points.

Certification Bodies and their Auditors should:
 Act professionally, appropriately and in an unbiased manner;
- Strive to increase the competency and prestige of the Certification Body they represent, and for the Auditing profession;
- Not undertake any assignments that they are not certified or accredited to perform;
- Not represent conflicting or competing interests and will disclose to any client or employer any relationships that may influence their judgment;
- Not discuss or disclose any information relating to any assignment unless required by law or authorised in writing by the client or the relevant Certification Body;
- Not accept any inducement, commission, gift or any other benefit from client organizations, their employees or any interested party or knowingly allow colleagues to do so;
- Not intentionally communicate false or misleading information that may compromise the integrity of any assignment within the certification process;
- Keep to the intended audit schedule, and if changes must be made, keep everyone informed;
- Not try to trap the auditee with hypothetical situations, or lecture the auditee on how to conduct their business;
- Not purposely put themselves into a dominant position during the auditing and certification process, including related interactions;
- Not make special individual requests of the auditee organisation that could be considered as catering to whimsical needs of the auditor. Auditors should make their own arrangements for special needs;
- Ask permission to use any special equipment such as a camera. Ask permission before photographing people;
- Respect the auditee's privacy;
- Not talk negatively about the auditee, other auditors or rival Certification Bodies;
- Be tactful when correcting auditee personnel and other auditors in front of their peers.

Likewise, the business being audited by the Certification Body should reciprocate and facilitate these requirements as a component of their commitment to maintaining the integrity of the auditing and certification process. It is generally not considered appropriate by standard owners for a business being audited by a Certification Body to pick and choose auditors based upon their reputation. Auditors employed by Certification Bodies are made available top audit after rigorous skill, knowledge and competency assessments, and grievances with performance should be referred to the Certification Body for discussion.

If your food business supplies foodstuffs manufactured to a customer’s specifications, it is important to consider any specific Certification Standards Development requirements in relation to their items.

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