What's in a name: Certification versus Accreditation

Have you noticed the increase on the use of HACCP on food products lately – there are a range of variations – HACCP certified, HACCP accredited, Manufactured in a HACCP certified organization or just plain HACCP. Is this allowed? What does it mean?

Well let’s deal with the technicalities first.


What does accreditation mean in the context of food safety management systems?
There is much incorrect use of the term accreditation in the food industry in the context of HACCP and ISO 9001 systems. The intent of this article is to try and clarify the correct use of the terms.

According to SANAS, the South African National Accreditation Service, the global trend is towards a free market with no economic trade barriers and no technical trade barriers. For this to occur the trading countries must have confidence in the quality and environmental systems, personnel and product certification and inspection systems as well as the measurements and tests conducted by each other.

The World Trade organization and the European Union have both noted that the lack of acceptance of test results and certification are the most significant barriers to trade.

In an attempt to overcome these barriers, internationally agreed standards and specification have been compiled, many of these by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). These standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria such as for a quality management system (ISO 9001:2000). ISO do however not assess conformity to the standards. This process is conducted by certification bodies, which are independent of ISO and the businesses they certify. “Certification” or “registration” as it is also known, is the process of when an independent and competent third party certifies that a product, service, system, process, material, person conforms to specific requirements of a standard such as ISO 9001:2008 or SANS 10330:2007 or ISO 22000:2005 for HACCP.

However the certification bodies should also be monitored or “accredited” to ensure that the way they conduct their assessments is independent and competent and that it delivers its services in the most time and cost effective way.

SANAS state that the accreditation of laboratories/inspection bodies and certification bodies, using common standards and practices is seen as the most effective way of defeating trade barriers. Accreditation reduces the risk for government, business and customers by ensuring regular surveillance of certification/registration bodies.  To this end, major trading countries, including South Africa have established independent and internationally credible accreditation bodies.

SANAS is a government gazetted body that falls under the DTI. SANAS is a member of the International Accreditation forum(IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation(ILAC), both of which are at the apex of the world accreditation pyramid. The IAF state their purpose is to ensure that their members only accredit competent bodies. Multilateral recognition agreements(MLA’s) are set up between countries and regions to provide assurance of equivalence of the operation of certification/registration bodies in those countries. These agreements are set up after stringent peer reviews of the accreditation body seeking recognition.

The IAF requires that certification/registration bodies comply with international ISO guides 62/65 or 66 depending on the scope of certification. These guides are to ensure that the certification /registration bodies are both competent to carry out the work involved and operate independently of the businesses certified. Thus the accreditation body accredits the certification body, that is, gives formal recognition that the body is competent to carry out specific tasks. According the SABS, ACCREDITATION is the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body is competent to carry out specific tasks.


What about certification or registration??

CERTIFICATION is the procedure by which a third party gives assurance that a product, process or service conforms to specified requirements. This is the correct terminology to use for a company seeking to gain recognition for their HACCP or ISO 22000 system. A company is assessed by an accredited certification body to confirm compliance to the requirements of SANS 10330:2007 for a HACCP system will be CERTIFIED or REGISTERED and NOT accredited. A company seeking certification or registration would be well advised to use only an ACCREDITED certification/registration body as this way there is some confidence in the competence of the body. For more details on who these bodies are go to It is also advisable to inform SANAS of the activities of any other non SANAS accredited certification body operating within the borders of RSA to ensure that they are able to monitor their activities in terms of the MLA’s.

International recognition and / or acceptance of certificates have been established through the multilateral European Accreditation of Certification (EAC) agreement. The national accreditation bodies of several European countries agreed to recognise the equivalence of one another’s system and the certificates of the certification bodies accredited under those systems. This paves the way for international trade.

So, don’t say your company is HACCP ACCREDITED – WRONG WORD!

It is important to understand that a company can only claim to be certified if they have indeed been audited by a certification body. You must know that there are many private auditing companies that can audit your system but this would not be recognized as a certification audit. Could you use this audit as a claim that you have a HACCP system in place? There is currently nothing preventing you from making this “First party claim” as it is referred to but it can be seen as misleading advertising.

Can you advertise that you have been audited by a certification body? Yes – BUT!!! Each certification body will have rules and regulations concerning it’s logo and what may be said on any marketing material. Make sure you check this out first and make sure your marketing department also know. The certification body can take action against any company abusing its certification status.

So what to make of all the advertising we are being bombarded with? Most of it is probably a first party claim – the company stating they have a system in place. The confidence in that? Well you be the judge…


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