Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (F 50)



  UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) welcomes the enquiry by the Agriculture Select Committee into organic farming and the organic food market. UKAS believes that the Committee should examine carefully the integrity of the supply chain, particularly regarding claims by suppliers with respect to the organic nature of their products.


  UKAS is the sole, recognised accreditation body for the UK in the areas covered by a Memorandum of Understanding with the DTI on behalf of the Government. It assesses and accredits testing and calibration, and those organisations that evaluate management systems, processes, services, equipment, products and people.

  It is a non-profit-distributing company, limited by guarantee and having members instead of shareholders. Any operating contribution is retained for reinvestment on areas of new activity. UKAS is a member of the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

  In a letter dated 15 June 2000, the DTI Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science, the Lord Sainsbury of Turville, re-affirmed to the UKAS Chairman Dr Bryan Smith his support for existing accreditation policy and the role played by UKAS. He wrote "I appreciate the importance of a properly structured accreditation framework to the competitiveness of business and to the protection of consumers".


  The work of UKAS extends beyond the DTI to encompass some of the activities of other Government Departments such as DETR, HSE, MoD and MAFF and their related bodies. In relation to MAFF, UKAS is involved in the accreditation process for activities that include food enforcement laboratories and certification bodies involved in beef labelling schemes.

  UKAS has entered into an agreement with MAFF and DH which provides for the accreditation of official food control laboratories to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Official Control of Foodstuffs Directive (89/397/EEC), and the Additional Measures concerning the Official Control of Foodstuffs Directive (93/99/EEC).

  UKAS currently has accredited over 200 laboratories involved in testing foodstuffs. The benefits of accreditation are recognised by the major supermarket chains who require the testing laboratories of their suppliers to be accredited.


  The UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) is an independent third party organisation established at the request of MAFF to set production standards for, and establish a register of approved producers of, organic foodstuffs. UKROFS provides a certification system for individual producers of organic food as well as approving other certification bodies to operate certification schemes for organic food.

  UKAS provides an accreditation service for certification bodies operating in the food sector. Because of the potential for conflict of interest, UKAS is not allowed, under the internationally recognised standards to which it works, to certify organisations as well as accrediting bodies who themselves provide a certification service.

  Although there have been discussions between the two organisations over several years there is currently no recognition of UKAS accreditation by UKROFS. Certification bodies involved in both organic and non-organic food certification schemes may need to seek UKROFS approval as well as UKAS accreditation for their activities; the purpose of having a single national accreditation body (UKAS) is to avoid such duplication and therefore reduce costs for the certification body.


  It is UKAS' view that UKROFS is the appropriate body to set and maintain the standards for the production and processing of organically produced agricultural products and to be the Custodian of the register of individual organic producers. We believe that the accreditation of the certification bodies that ensure that producers comply with these standards should be separate from the standards-setting body and should be carried out by an independent third party such as UKAS. The international aspects of organic food production are significant when considering the acceptance of produce from other countries. UKAS, as a member of EA and IAF, is in a very good position to ensure that the UK's interests in the control and monitoring of organic producers, are considered through the international accreditation infrastructure.


  We would encourage the Committee to consider the respective roles of UKAS and UKROFS with respect to the integrity of the organic food supply chain and, to further consider the international issues, where organic products may be sourced from outside the UK.

10 July 2000

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