Last updated on 25 August 2020

During these uncertain times, it is crucial to maintain food safety and the integrity of FSSC 22000 certification. The Foundation is, accordingly, 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 new ways of working. Additionally, FSSC 22000 conducted a more comprehensive risk assessment to determine the short- and long-term risks, the 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, Training Organizations, and Accreditation Bodies that is available on our website in the section Scheme documents.

Find below a Q&A to provide information and clarity on questions related to the pandemic. 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, although the current COVID-19 pandemic may impact the Certification Bodies (CBs) ability to complete the scheduled audits. However, the safety of auditors and company employees is a 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. As a result, we have issued specific guidance for CBs on how to manage postponed audits and certificate validity extensions.

  • Q2 Is it allowed to use remote audit ICT technology to maintain the validity of FSSC 22000 certifications during the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes, the Foundation has recently published a new Annex to the Scheme that allows the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) tools, while still ensuring a robust audit. The ICT audit approach consists of a 2 step process, namely a remote audit focusing on document review followed by an onsite audit to verify the implementation of the FSSC 22000 scheme requirements. The requirements as set out in IAF MD4 on the use of ICT for auditing/assessment purposes are mandatory. It is important to note that this is an alternative but voluntary option and requires the mutual agreement of the certified organization and the CB.

  • Q3 Can the Coronavirus pose a food safety risk?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)2 has stated that there is no evidence to assume that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. The WHO has confirmed this statement in their COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businessess3 on 7 April 2020.

  • Q4 Is food safety at risk due to audits which cannot be performed anymore?

No, additional measures have been put in place to ensure food safety and the integrity of FSSC 22000 certification.  Where it is not possible to access the premises of a certified organization, the annual audit may be postponed or the certificate validity extended based on a risk assessment.  The risk assessment focuses on the certified organization’s ability to deal with the current pandemic, the measures taken to ensure food safety is not compromised, that the food safety management system is operating effectively and to ensure continued compliance with FSSC 22000 Scheme requirements.

  • Q5 How does FSSC continue to assure compliance of certified organizations with Scheme requirements?

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 daily 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, we will conduct additional reviews of risk assessments performed by our CBs while developing further actions when necessary.

Notes
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
3. World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses. WHO IRIS: 7 April 2020. Available in multiple languages from: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/covid-19-and-food-safety-guidance-for-food-businesses