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Fran Freeman is what you might call a multitasker: she both chairs the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) and leads the Exports Division of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This dual role gives her a multifaceted perspective on the role of the public sector in facilitating trade and harmonising global food safety standards.

Fran brought her unique perspective to the fourth annual G2B Meeting, held in conjunction with the GFSI Conference 2019 in Nice. She also shared her insights with conference attendees at the Breakout Session titled “How Third-party Certification Supports Trade Harmonisation”. Read for highlights from her talk, which shared insider knowledge on the principles and agenda of Codex as well as the public-private partnerships that facilitate her work in the Australian Government.

It was a great pleasure to speak at the “How Third-party Certification Supports Trade Harmonisation” session at the GFSI Conference 2019.

Being the Chair of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS), I highlighted the committee’s aim to address the challenges exporting countries face in complying with importing country food safety and certification requirements. This means that in developing its guidance, the committee recognises the differing levels of sophistication of food control systems across the globe.

Importantly, I noted that CCFICS develops principles-based texts that:

  • protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade
  • are science-based
  • are the least trade restrictive
  • provide for equivalence, where appropriate
  • are WTO consistent.

I also outlined the work currently on the CCFICS agenda, including:

  • developing draft principles and guidelines for the assessment and use of voluntary third-party assurance programmes
  • developing draft guidelines on recognition of equivalence of national food control systems
  • developing draft guidance on paperless use of electronic certificates
  • considering CCIFCS’s role with respect to the challenge of tackling food fraud in the context of food safety and fair practices in the food trade.

Serving as the chair of a committee which does cross-cutting work of relevance to so many countries is both challenging and rewarding and I look forward to continuing this important work.

Third-party Certification in Australia for Traded Food

After providing a potted summary of CCFICS, I then spoke about the Australian Government Department of Agriculture’s regulatory role in relation to food safety for traded food, focussing on third-party certification.

Australia has a range of agreements with third-party certification bodies. These are aimed at minimising duplication of audit elements that are required for both commercial certification and to assure the government that companies are meeting regulatory requirements (including importing country requirements). For example, in Australia, AUS-MEAT Limited, is an industry-owned company responsible for developing, maintaining and reviewing the Australian Meat Industry Classification System. This system is intended to provide an accurate, objective description of meat and meat products. All Australian export registered abattoirs must be AUS-MEAT Accredited and are required to maintain an AUS-MEAT Approved Quality System.

On the import side, we have legislation that strengthens the risk-based management approach to imported food. One of the recent changes will allow Australia to require a food safety management certificate for food where at-border testing alone is insufficient to provide assurance of food safety. This approach recognises that for certain foods, controls along the entire production-line are required to manage food safety hazards and assure their safety. Under this approach, it is envisaged that the third-party certification programmes benchmarked by GFSI will be recognised by the Australian Government as meeting the requirements of a food safety management certificate.

These approaches highlight the importance the Australian Government places on the safety of traded food while seeking to minimise the regulatory burden on trading entities.

To hear more from Fran about the public sector’s role in trade harmonisation, don’t miss her GFSI Experts Interview, also featuring GFSI Codex Committee member Himanshu Gupta.

This blog was written and contributed by:

Fran Freeman
Department of Agriculture & Water Resources
Australian Government
Chair of CCFICS

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