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Food inspection

Food quality control: boxes of frozen fish being inspected by a customs officer at Agadir port ┃ © FAO / Giuseppe Bizzarri
Moving towards risk-based food inspection

Inspection and monitoring programmes are at the heart of the enforcement system.

In the old conception of food control, inspection activities focused on sampling and testing of end products to determine their compliance with regulations.

It is now considered more efficient to focus inspection activities on ensuring compliance of systems for food safety management (implementation of the general principles for food hygiene and HACCP based approaches) that can minimise the occurrence of food safety problems.

This shift from a “reactive” towards a “preventive” approach to food safety risks is subject to a general international consensus.

This new approach requires that inspectors have new skills (i.e the ability to analyse processes and assess the relevance and efficiency of different paths to reach a food safety outcome, rather than merely checking for compliance with prescriptive provisions).

While inspection primarily focuses at ensuring compliance of food business operators with regulatory requirements, monitoring programmes are aiming at a systematic gathering information on food safety  in a specific context, thus providing a “picture”of a given situation.

They provide data which are used in risk based planning, allowing for example a more focused programming of inspection activities, as well as other regulatory (elaboration of new regulations) and non regulatory strategies (training and sensitization programmes among food business operators, consumers) and policy level decisions.

They are also a tool for increased credibility of food control systems on international markets.

We support national authorities in their shift towards risk based food inspection and monitoring activities in providing tools and tailor made technical assistance (specific advice and training courses) on:

  • the use the risk analysis framework for  building monitoring and inspection programmes
  • the management of inspection programmes and services
  • technical skills requested for risk based inspection
  • specific sampling issues ( e.g. impact of  different options for sampling plans, sampling techniques in relation to specific contaminants)