As a result of the recently updated statement from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), we had to align our COVID-19 position paper for Certification Bodies (CBs). We have published a new COVID-19 requirements document for CBs on 26 March 2020.
Important update 26 March 2020:
The Foundation is in ongoing consultation with our internal and external stakeholders to ensure a consistent approach throughout the certification community on how to best deal with the current Coronavirus pandemic. As a result of the recently updated statement from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), we had to align our COVID-19 position paper for Certification Bodies (CBs). We fully support a global, harmonized approach across the food industry and we will continue our collaboration with stakeholders in an effort to find suitable and sustainable solutions in these extraordinary circumstances. Our main objective is to maintain the integrity of the Scheme and to ensure the production of safe food for all.
In line with GFSI, the maintenance and validity extension of existing FSSC 22000 certificates is allowed for certified organizations affected by the Coronavirus based on a detailed risk assessment to be conducted by the CBs. More details are provided in the newly published position paper for CBs on how to apply the exception. We trust that this will provide some interim relief for the certified organizations and assist in keeping food supply chain safe and functional.
About the requirement documents
As the Coronavirus pandemic is evolving, more restrictions are imposed in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. This is also impacting on the world of third-party certification, including Food businesses, Certification Bodies, Accreditation Bodies and Training Organizations. During these uncertain times, it is crucial to maintain food safety and the integrity of FSSC 22000 certification. The Foundation is therefore monitoring the Corona crisis very closely and collaborating with other industry and governing bodies, such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), to establish ways of working. In addition, a wider risk assessment has been conducted to determine the short- and long-term risks and subsequent impact on business continuity related to FSSC 22000 certification activities and the integrity of the Scheme. We have therefore created further guidance to our Certification Bodies and Accreditation Bodies that is available on our website.
We have also drafted a Q&A to provide information and clarity on questions the pandemic might cause. This page will be updated accordingly as the situation changes.
Q1 Does the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have an impact on the certification status of organizations due to audit constraints?
No, the current epidemic of the COVID-19 may impact the Certification Bodies (CBs) ability to complete the scheduled audits. However, the safety of people that conduct audits is top priority as determined by governmental regulations, industry and CB own policies. The Foundation FSSC 22000 has decided to grant an exception in the case of the Coronavirus where this is preventing CBs from travelling to organizations in affected areas/countries. For this reason, guidance has been issued for CBs as to how to manage postponed audits which do not impact the certification status in the next 6 months.
Q2 Is it allowed to use remote audit ICT technology to maintain the validity of FSSC 22000 certifications during the COVID-19 crisis?
No, in the case where the certificate will expire, a validity extension of up to 6 months is allowed following a documented risk assessment by the CB following IAF MD4:2018 – The use of information and communication technology (ICT) for auditing/assessment purposes. This is only applicable when the ‘CB requirements in relation to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)’ apply.1
Q3 Can the Corona virus pose a food safety risk?
The European Food safety Authority (EFSA)2 has stated on 9th March 2020 that there is no evidence to assume that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.
Q4 Is food safety at risk due to audits which cannot be performed anymore?
No, because the safety of CB auditors and site personnel is of prime importance therefore on-site audits are postponed to later this year. Instead, CBs conduct risk assessments on the certified organizations in the meantime, to ensure continued compliance with FSSC 22000 Scheme requirements.
Q5 How does FSSC continue to assure compliance of certified organizations with Scheme requirements?
In order to maintain the integrity of FSSC 22000 certificates issued by our licensed CBs, the Foundation is in close contact with its partners namely industry CBs and Accreditation Bodies (ABs). FSSC 22000 monitors the global situation on a daily basis and defines actions to be taken. At this moment we have developed guidelines and requirements to be followed by our CB and AB partners. Furthermore, will conduct additional reviews of risk assessments and remote assessments performed by our CBs while additional actions will be developed when necessary.
1. The CB Requirements in relation to Novel Coronavirus are applicable when:
a) the certified organization is situated in an area with known Corona cases;
b) the certified organization is in an area affected by government restrictions and/or official travel bans;
c) the certified organization’s company policy is temporarily prohibiting visitors due to COVID-19 and not allowing auditors on their premises;
d) the CBs corporate policy is prohibiting auditors from travelling.
2. EFSA 2020. Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route. EFSA News 9 March 2020. Available at: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/coronavirus-no-evidence-food-source-or-transmission-route