World Accreditation Day 2020

Improving Food Safety via accreditation

“Improving Food Safety” is the theme of the World Accreditation Day 2020, #WAD2020. This year’s theme reflects the close cooperation between the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). [1]

Access to adequate amounts of safe and nutritious food is essential for human health. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. [2] As for the economical price tag, according to the World Bank, unsafe food cost low-and middle-income economies alone about US$ 95 billion in lost productivity annually. [3] Hazardous food also limits trade.

How does Accreditation help to improve food safety?

Accreditation is the third-party verification related to a conformity assessment body conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks. A conformity assessment body demonstrates that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or organization are fulfilled. This body assesses conformity to requirements of technical regulations and standards by applying technical procedures. Accreditation verifies that testing laboratories, inspection and certification bodies carry out their services competently and impartially. [4]

All these accredited conformity assessment services guarantee food safety along the supply chain. The following video explains how Accreditation helps to improve food safety:

HACCP as a starting point

The management of food safety is based on the concept of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). In 1959, the Pillsbury Company developed a method to produce safe food for astronaut of the space agency NASA. The company applied the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis created by the US military for technical applications to the food industry and further developed this preventive concept together with NASA. [5]

In 1971, it was published in the USA as the HACCP concept. In 1985, the US National Academy of Sciences recommended that the concept be applied; it was subsequently tested and further developed worldwide. The Codex Alimentarius under the aegis of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has recommended the use of the concept in food since 1993. [5]

The hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) comprises of seven elements:

  1. Performing a risk analysis
  2. Identification of critical control points for food safety
  3. Definition of intervention limits at the respective critical control points
  4. Monitoring or continuous observation is necessary to ensure that the process is under control at every critical point.
  5. Corrective action should be taken in case of deviations
  6. Setting up evaluation measures to verify the effectiveness of the HACCP system established
  7. Establishment of documentation of the measures

Today, many countries require actors in the food value chain to fulfil the HACCP requirements. HACCP is the basic requirement in the food industry and food trade; on it is layered or expanded food standards, which go beyond the concept of food safety. Also, the food industry and the food trade have developed extended food standards, which extend the concept of food safety and go beyond it. Examples are GLOBALG.A.P, FSSC 22000 and BRCGS Global Standard for Food Safety and Safe Quality Food (SQF). [6] These certification programmes have emerged for several reasons, such as to guarantee food safety, sustainability, responsible management, quality assurance, robust traceability, and to differentiate individual producers and operators in the market. Each standard has its criteria, which had led to inevitable confusion and higher costs due to multiple conformity assessments.

The Global Food Safety Initiative umbrellas private certification schemes

In the year 2000, various international companies founded the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). The initiative promotes cooperation between national and supranational institutions, the food industry and consumer education bodies. Key activities within GFSI are the definition of food safety requirements for food safety schemes through a benchmarking process. This process aims at leading to recognition of existing food safety schemes and enhances confidence, acceptance and implementation of third-party certification along the entire food supply chain.

Food companies need to have their raw materials, semi-finished and finished products tested by a, preferably accredited, food laboratory.[7] An accredited calibration laboratory should verify tools such as thermometers and scales used in these food businesses. All these verification steps carried out by accredited bodies contribute to improving the safety of food products. This underlines the importance of Accreditation for the food industry.

Beneficial cooperation between GFSI and IAF

The cooperation between GFSI and IAF is beneficial to both sides. GFSI requires Certification Programme Holders (CPOs) to demand that food safety certification bodies (CBs) are accredited exclusively by an organisation that has signed the IAF Multilateral Recognition Arrangements (MLA). This procedure promotes transparency and reduces transaction costs for businesses and consumers. At the same time, the international spread of Accreditation is increasing. Also, the scope of Quality Infrastructure is growing. The Quality Infrastructure not only serves to verify minimum food safety requirements, but also makes possible compliance for voluntary, additional sustainability requirements.

In a video of the GFSI Experts Series protagonists of GFSI and IAF inform about the cooperation of both organizations. GFSI’s Marie-Claude Quentin sat down with IAF Director Marcus Long and IAF Co-Convener Skip Greenaway to discuss the importance of Accreditation, the value of the IAF-GFSI partnership and their hopes for the World Accreditation Day:

Jenna WijngaardeJulie-Ann Laudat and Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke jointly wrote this blog post.


[1] IAF, 2019. Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), [Retrieved 08/06/2020]

[2] WHO 2020, Food Safety – Key facts, April 23 [Retrieved 08/06/2020]

[3] The World Bank 2018. The Safe Food Imperative: Accelerating Progress in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, [Retrieved 08/06/2020]

[4] ISO/IEC 17000:2004

[5] Sperber, W.; Stier, R. F. 2009. Happy 50th Birthday to HACCP: Retrospective and Prospective“, Food Safety magazine. pp. 42–46. Retrieved 08/06/2020]

[6] CBI, Which requirements should fresh fruit or vegetables comply with to be allowed on the European market? [Retrieved 08/06/2020]

[7] Jones, T (2019). Laboratory Testing for Your GFSI Certification [Retrieved 08/06/2020]

This entry was posted in Accreditation, Conformity assessment, Food Safety, Quality Infrastructure, Quality Management and tagged , , , , , by Dr. Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke

Dr Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke is a global expert in the field of international economic development cooperation. With more than 25 years of consulting experience, he is active in all phases of a project and program development (preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation) and collaborates with various implementing organizations and development banks (German Development Cooperation - GIZ and PTB -, Inter-American Development Bank, European Union and United Nations). He has consulting experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr.Harmes-Liedtke is an experienced trainer and process consultant. He works with groups and teams to reflect on their situation and to then formulate change projects to improve their reality. He enables dialogue, facilitates and designs workshops, processes, and sense-making processes. He is certified in facilitation, mediation, and communication techniques which allow him to deal with sensitive, diverse, and even conflict situations. He supports systemic economic development in various roles: • As an expert and trainer in international trade, national quality policies, industrial policy, clusters, and global value chains • As a process consultant in designing and leading diagnostic processes that result in change, adaptation, and improvement • As a facilitator of dialogue, workshops, training, and sense-making processes • As a transdisciplinary researcher in the field of systemic economic development Born 1965, Ph.D. in political science and economics (Bremen 1999), MA in economics (Diplom-Volkswirt) (Hamburg 1991). German nationality.

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