Partnering to improve food safety outcomes: accreditation and the role of vTPA programmes

Partnering to improve food safety outcomes:  accreditation and the role of vTPA programmes

VIENNA/GENEVA, 9 June 2020 – On World Accreditation Day 2020, this year with the theme: food safety, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) organized an online global discussion on voluntary third-party assurance (vTPA) programmes, and the importance of accreditation. Experts from the food safety community, including food regulators and development practitioners, as well as from the accreditation field, shared their views on how the vTPA approach could best be used in developing countries.

The session started out with an overview of the ongoing work of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Certification and Inspection Systems (CCFICS) on guidance for regulators, presented by Mike O’Neill from the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom. From this presentation, the audience learnt about the role of accreditation in the introduction of a vTPA approach, thus contributing to improved food safety outcomes. Showcasing an example, Steve Wearne, Vice Chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and Director of Global Affairs at the UK Food Standards Agency, shared the UK's experience, pointing to the benefits of more efficient feed and food inspection practices through trusted data generated by accredited vTPA programmes.

Joining the discussion, Ali Badarneh, Chief of the Sustainable Food Systems Division at UNIDO, highlighted the importance of existing local capacities and practices for vTPA programmes, noting that developing countries often face the challenge of not having the required enabling environment to develop their own food safety schemes.

Referencing STDF's new pilot projects in Central America and West Africa, Marlynne Hopper, Deputy Head of the STDF, emphasized the value of connecting public and private sector stakeholders across countries to pilot and learn from innovative approaches in order to catalyze wider benefits.

As a representative of a beneficiary country, Delilah Cabb-Ayala, from the Belize Agriculture and Health Authority, pointed to the enthusiasm of food safety regulators to participate in these regional pilots, and learn more about the potential benefits of the vTPA approach in a developing country context.

The audience also heard about different conformity assessment services required for an accredited vTPA programme, as well as global cooperation opportunities from Merih Malmqvist Nilsson, Chair of the International Network on Quality Infrastucture (INetQI), which brings together specialized organizations working on quality infrastructure, including UNIDO,

More than 230 participants worldwide joined the webinar, sharing comments and questions, and highlighting the value of the session in increasing their knowledge on the topic of vTPAs. During the Q&A session, key questions focused on the potential of vTPA approaches to help respond to the new challenges posed by COVID-19, opportunities to increase trust across the public and private sector, and key experiences from countries that are already using the vTPA approach.

You can watch the presentations and listen to the discussion here.