Progress has been made on guidelines for remote audits but not on a food fraud text, according to reports from a recent Codex meeting.

The Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) met in May in Australia.

The development of draft guidelines on the prevention and control of food fraud was limited, with the text sent back to a redrafting stage.

The potential inclusion of geographical indications (GI) in the document received mixed views from members. Other areas discussed included definitions and types of fraud.

The United States is leading the Electronic Working Group (EWG), which includes the United Kingdom, China, the European Union, and Iran. Revised draft guidelines, based on feedback received, will be discussed at the next CCFICS meeting.

Virtual audit work
A proposed draft on the principles and guidelines on the use of remote audit and inspection in regulatory frameworks was sent to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption.

Work was undertaken by Australia, Canada, China, and Singapore. It includes definitions, types of remote audits and inspections, roles and responsibilities and planning and implementation.  

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is expected to publish a paper on the costs, benefits and effectiveness of remote audits for food safety by July 2023. This includes interviews with authorities in 10 countries and five other stakeholders plus a survey with more than 160 responses.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is also looking at onsite, hybrid and remote audits. A second call for evidence is planned to assess the impact on food safety of changes introduced to GFSI certification standards, audit protocols and the practice of using virtual tools on a larger scale.

Information will be collected on the time taken to prepare the audit; its duration; cost of the audit under different scenarios; outcome, such as the number of non-conformities and certification results; the overall impact on each aspect of the audit; and whether there are any changes to food safety performance of sites. A webinar is scheduled for June 29 to share survey results.

Inspections and e-cert
If given approval by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United States, UK, Australia, Ecuador, and Honduras, will start preparing a revision of the principles for traceability/product tracing as a tool within a food inspection and certification system for the next CCFICS meeting.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is also expected to publish guidance on risk-based inspection sometime this year.

Draft guidelines on recognition and maintenance of equivalence of national food control systems had been under consideration at Codex since 2014. The Electronic Working Group is chaired by New Zealand and supported by the United States and Kenya. Proposed guidelines were forwarded to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption.

Efforts on guidelines related to equivalence are ongoing with a report to be submitted at least three months ahead of the next CCFICS session.

India, assisted by Nigeria, will prepare an updated discussion paper and project document, on appeals when it comes to rejection of imported food and the processes to be followed by exporting and importing countries. This will be debated at the next CCFICS meeting.

Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and the United States are to work on a proposal to promote the use of electronic certification. Current issues include repetitive information and a lack of consistency and transparency in communication.

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