Memorandum submitted by the United Kingdom
Accreditation Service (F 50)
UKAS AND ITS ROLE IN ORGANIC FARMING AND
THE ORGANIC FOOD MARKET
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
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".
3. UKAS AND MAFF
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
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.
4. UKAS AND UKROFS
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
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