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Voluntary third-party assurance adding value to National Food Control Systems


Steve Wearne, Vice-Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, from the United Kingdom, spoke at the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement (or SPS) committee’s thematic session on 3 November 2020, to explain the value that voluntary third-party assurance (vTPA) can add to National Food Control Systems.  Participants heard about the UK experience of using vTPA data in a new approach to animal feed inspection and enforcement, which has achieved an 83 percent reduction in official inspections, while investing more than ever in interventions in higher risk premises and activities. 

The UK currently chairs a working group established by the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) to develop draft principles and guidelines for use of vTPA, together with co-chairs Canada and Mexico.  The objective is to promote a harmonised, robust approach to assessment and use of vTPA schemes by competent authorities as part of their National Food Control Systems. “This is timely, as we see a growing number of countries using vTPA programmes in this way”, said Wearne.

The draft guidelines are at Step 5 of the Codex process and reflect the experiences of Codex Members.  They include principles relating to transparency and confidentiality of information, and a framework for assessing vTPA programmes.  They do not oblige competent authorities to use vTPA data or programme outcomes – this decision remains with each authority.  And they do not change the fundamental responsibilities of businesses to produce safe food and feed, or of competent authorities to conduct verification, official controls and enforcement.

“I hope that the further discussions planned for CCFICS in March 2021 will progress the draft guidelines and that the Codex Alimentarius Commission will be able to consider their adoption at Step 8 later in the year”, he said.


Read more

UNIDO survey of countries’ use of vTPA:

Presentation on vTPA delivered at CCFICS 24 side event

Draft text at Step 5: REP 19/CCFICS Appendix 3


Learn more about the WTO and SPS.


Photo Credit

©FAO/Jenna Jadin / FAO