Quality Management and Internal Control at the FASFC
Every day, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) encourages operators to set up a reliable self-checking system and to have that system certified. But what about quality management inside the FASFC ?
The Agency’s integrated quality and environment system
The mission statement of the Agency is the basis of the quality policy : “To guarantee the safety of the food chain and the quality of our food in order to protect the health of humans, animals and plants.”.
The search for quality is therefore permanently included in the strategic targets of the FASFC. One of the targets of the 2009-2011 business plan was, among other things, to achieve compliance of all the activities with the international quality management standards that are relevant for the Agency, i.e. ISO 9001, ISO 17020 and ISO 17025. At the same time, the Agency has developed an environmental management system.
That target has now been concretized. The requirements of the different standards have been brought together within one quality and environment system in order to obtain a more efficient and more user-friendly tool. This integrated system has now led to a platform that is firmly embedded in the Agency and makes it possible to comply with the different legislations, standards or other requirements and to develop, support or encourage efforts and activities with respect to quality
The results achieved in that context are mentioned below.
ISO 9001 certification of the central processes
In October 2008, the Agency obtained a first ISO 9001:2000 certificate for some of the activities carried out in the central administration and in the provincial control unit (LCU) of Vlaams-Brabant.
In a second stage, a major part of the central activities were certified according to ISO 9001 by Vinçotte in July 2010, following an extension audit
The process was successfully concluded in December 2011 with the last stage of the extension audits.
In 2016 the transition was made to the new version of the standard and the FASFC obtained the ISO 9001:2015 certificate for those activities.
At present, the new ISO 9001 certificate covers the following processes :
- the key process and activities of the FASFC dedicated to the safety of the food chain
- all activities with major significance or influence on consumers, the community, operators, national and international authorities and instances and the external partners
- all other activities related to management and delivery of support services
- environmental management process within the FASFC
A detailed list of these activities is given in the Annex attached to the certificate.
Why has ISO standard 9001 been chosen ?
ISO 9001 certificates are used to increase the satisfaction and confidence of customers with respect to the products and services supplied. These certificates are widespread in the private sector, but are less common in the public sector. It should be noted that in de public sector notions such as “customer” and “product” are less obvious. Among our customers there are citizens and businesses who expect the public sector to observe good management principles and, in particular, that this sector carries out its mission and reaches its targets in an efficient manner, i.e. by carrying out its mission as well as possible using the least possible resources.
The idea that quality management systems increase the efficiency and the professionalism of organizations is generally accepted, all the more as organizations are larger and their need for standardization is greater.
The standard ISO 9001 also emphasizes the obligation to act in accordance with the legal and regulatory requirements in force and thus sustains the implementation of this basic principle
In addition to these benefits, some specific advantages for the FASFC are obvious :
- operators of the food chain expect that controls are harmonized and that analyses are reliable;
- standardization leads to administrative simplification;
- on an international level the ISO 9001 standard may improve the image of the FASFC, which may have a positive effect for operators who would like to engage in exports ;
- finally, the ISO 9001 standard is compatible with standards ISO 17020 (inspection bodies) and ISO 17025 (competence of testing and calibration laboratories) and is therefore ideally used as a common basis for the central processes of the Agency, with links to the accredited control and analysis activities.
The BELAC accreditations give evidence not only of the implementation of a quality management system, but also of the technical competences of the control and analysis entities of the Agency.
ISO 17020 : Inspection bodies
Accreditation certificate issued by BELAC in accordance with the criteria laid down in standard ISO/IEC 17020 for control activities in the business sectors primary production, processing, distribution and import controls carried out in the border inspection posts as described in certificate No 428-INSP and its technical annex.
ISO 17025 : Testing and calibration laboratories
Accreditation certificate issued by BELAC to DG Laboratories with the five FASFC laboratories in accordance with the criteria laid down in standard ISO/IEC 17025, giving evidence of their competence to perform tests as described in certificate No 014-TEST and its technical annex.
Accreditation certificate issued by BELAC to the Federal Laboratory for Food Safety in Melle in accordance with the criteria laid down in standard ISO/IEC 17025, giving evidence of its competence to perform calibrations as described in certificate No 014-CAL and its technical annex.
ISO 17043 : Proficiency Testing for Interlaboratory Comparison
Accreditation certificate issued by BELAC to the Federal Laboratory for Food Safety in Gembloux in accordance with the criteria laid down in standard ISO/IEC 17043, giving evidence of its competence to perform proficiency tests as described in certificate No 014-PT and its technical annex.
According to the INTOSAI (International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions) and the “Guidelines for internal control standards for the public sector” (F. VANSTAPEL, 2004) internal control is an integral process that is effected by an entity’s management and personnel and is designed to address risks and to provide reasonable assurance that in pursuit of the entity’s mission, the following general objectives are being achieved :
- Executing orderly, ethical, economical, efficient and effective operations;
- Fulfilling accountability obligations;
- Complying with applicable laws and regulations;
- Safeguarding resources against loss, misuse and damage.
Internal control is a dynamic integral process that is continuously adapting to the changes an organization is facing.
The integrated quality and environment system of the FASFC, the structure of which is based upon the processes, is the working basis for the implementation of internal control. In this respect, the system has recently been completed by a methodology for managing process related risks with an aim to controlling the risks that might arise and jeopardize the achievement of the goals set, in spite of good management.