Core Guiding Principles of a Food Control System Series: Part 5
The Food Safety Network (FSN) is releasing an eight-part blog series on different technical topics from the Food Safety Distance Learning Module, focusing on the core guiding principles of a food control system. These principles were selected based upon the internationally accepted guidance of Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) and founded upon the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Having access to a safe food supply is vital to ensuring that the greater global community can receive the essential energy and nutrients necessary to lead healthy and fruitful lives. As research and data continue to become available on food safety risks, “food safety hazards are increasingly being recognized as a major public health problem worldwide, which has significant and wide-ranging socioeconomic consequences for human welfare and economic performance” (Jaffee et al. 2019). By developing a proactive strategy and prioritizing the problems and measures needing attention, countries can diminish losses resulting from the burden of foodborne illness and ultimately minimize disruptions to stakeholder livelihoods, markets and the overall country’s economy. With every country at a different stage of economic development and with differing priorities related to food safety, the process for enhancing or modernizing one’s food safety system looks vastly different around the globe. Throughout the development process, many of the actions taken and decisions being made are with consideration given to the formative work of the WHO, FAO and Codex.
In this fifth part of our eight-part series we will explore the next two of the 16 core guiding principles of a food control system: equivalence and systems recognition.
Equivalence and Systems Recognition
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), equivalence describes a situation where governments can recognize other countries’ sanitary and phytosanitary measures as providing the same level of public health protection, even if that country’s measures taken are different from their own. The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) states that, “Members shall accept the sanitary or phytosanitary measures of other Members as equivalent, even if these measures differ from their own or from those used by other Members trading in the same product, if the exporting Member objectively demonstrates to the importing Member that its measures achieve the importing Member's appropriate level of sanitary or phytosanitary protection.” Often seen as a trade facilitating mechanism, an equivalence determination for entry of a product into a country’s market ensures that the importing country has determined that an exporting country’s food safety system provides the same level of public health protection as they do. Trade is facilitated by providing a structure for assuring that imports or exports provide the level of protection required by the importing country. Demonstration that all or a portion of an exporting country’s food control system (and associated food products) is equivalent to an importing country’s system can be be accomplished through an in-depth assessment of the system and can be formally recognized through an equivalence agreement.
Countries may wish to use other means of providing assurances with respect to foods traded internationally. For example, countries may establish a compliance agreement where an exporting country agrees to comply with an importing country’s requirements for a specific food product or products. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established an approach termed “Systems Recognition,” in which the FDA determines that an exporting country’s food safety system is able to provide food safety outcomes that are similar to those of the FDA. Such an approach, which the FDA views as a cooperative partnership, allows the FDA to leverage the capabilities of the foreign country's food safety competent authority (such as accepting its food establishment inspections and modifying certain import requirements) and to otherwise encourage regulatory cooperation.
While systems will differ among economies based upon their available resources and capacity, establishing a modern control system that is harmonized with the internationally accepted principles of Codex and the SPS Agreement can create an enabling environment for equivalence assessment and systems recognition.
Consideration of these guiding principles are just two of many when working through the development process. Stay tuned each week as we explore the rest of the guiding principles throughout our eight-part series. Want to learn more about concepts within food safety? Check out our free, self-paced online Food Safety Distance Learning Module, which explores the history of the United States food safety system, the value of a modern food safety system, all of the core principles of a national food control system and concludes with a case study that allows learners to walk through a fictional country’s journey to modernize their food safety system. Visit spscourses.com today to sign up for a free account and access this module and so much more! Visit the FSN home page to learn more.