STC Number - 357

Accreditation of third-party bodies to conduct food safety audits and to issue certifications

Maintained by: United States of America
Raised by: China
Supported by: Belize; Brazil; Korea, Republic of
First date raised: October 2013 G/SPS/R/73, paras. 3.1-3.3
Dates subsequently raised:
Number of times subsequently raised: 0
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/USA/2570
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; Risk assessment; Equivalence; Private standards
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2013, China raised concerns regarding the US proposed FSMA-related rule allowing for accreditation of third-party auditors/certification bodies to conduct food safety audits of foreign entities and to issue food and facility certifications (G/SPS/N/USA/2570). China noted that the statistics provided by the United States had demonstrated a generally safer level of imported foods than foods domestically produced in the United States. China requested the United States to provide scientific justification for proposing this overly burdensome and costly rule on imported foods. China considered that the proposed rule discriminated unjustifiably between foreign and domestic sources of supply and went beyond international standards without scientific justification. China urged the United States to accept the results of internationally accredited certification/audit bodies, and queried how the United States would recognize the equivalence of foreign food safety programmes, systems and standards. Referencing Article 13 of the SPS Agreement, China enquired what measures the United States would take to ensure that third-party auditors/certification bodies were WTO-compliant, and recalled that under Article 10 of the SPS Agreement, Members are to take into account the special needs of developing country Members in the preparation of SPS measures. China urged the United States to seriously fulfil its WTO obligations, take concrete steps to base its rule on the disciplines of the SPS Agreement and the relevant international standards, to ensure that the final rule would not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
Belize, Brazil and Korea shared China's concerns. Brazil noted in particular the role of private third-party auditors and certification bodies, and, with reference to Article 13 of the SPS Agreement, queried how the United States would ensure that such bodies complied with the relevant provisions of the SPS Agreement. Brazil also requested more information on how the United States would recognize the equivalence of foreign systems.
The United States recalled that it had provided information on the proposed rule in the Committee and elsewhere, including in China, and invited Members to submit their comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov) by 26 November 2013. The comment period had been extended to 120 days, to ensure that Members had enough time to provide their comments.