KINGSTON — Jamaica joined the international community in the observance of World Accreditation Day on June 9, even as the country’s nearly US$1.5 billion export sector is being challenged by increased emphasis on strict adherence to internationally recognised and accepted standards and a sharpened focus on the integrity of accreditation.
This year’s theme for Accreditation Day was: ‘Accreditation, supporting the work of Regulators’.
To commemorate World Accreditation Day 2011, Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC), hosted a Stakeholders’ Breakfast Meeting at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Addressing the meeting, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Reginald Budhan emphasised the importance of the US Food Safety Modernisation Act and advised stakeholders in the local export trade to recognise and appreciate its implications.
“This Act is intended to institute critical steps towards strengthening the US food safety system, and places greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illnesses. This law was promulgated to protect the US consumers from potential hazards from the farm to the fork that could pose a health and safety risk. Consequently, the law requires that a programme for testing of foods by accredited Labs be implemented within two years,” he explained.
Mr. Budhan cautioned that the enactment of this law and its attendant regulations will have significant implications for Jamaican companies exporting food into the US market. “This law will put greater responsibility on food production and processing companies. Importers of food in the USA will now be required to import foods only from companies that have prescribed risk prevention measures in place,” he noted.
The Permanent Secretary also observed that the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which was originally designed to regulate children’s products, will now be extended to all consumer products entering that market.
“These two laws and their attendant regulations require the products to be tested by an accredited laboratory as a requirement before being allowed access into the US market. The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act also further requires that the Accreditation Body be signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA),” he explained.
Mr. Budhan said that the establishment of JANAAC and the Certification Body of Jamaica are critical institutional infrastructure, which the Government has put in place to support the National Export Strategy.
Accreditation can be defined as a formal process by which an authoritative body vested with the responsibility for accreditation, grants formal recognition that Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) is competent to carry out specific tasks/services. Conformity assessment bodies include: medical and testing laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies. These conformity assessment bodies ensure that products, processes, systems, persons, and services maintain compliance with the requirements of the various regulations.
Internationally agreed standards and accreditation play a key role in support of cross-border trade. In these highly competitive markets, it is essential that measurements, testing, inspection and certification of products and services that are traded between countries, meet agreed international standards. Credible accreditation programmes, based on internationally-recognised standards, provide a fair and meaningful basis for identifying qualified and competent providers.
As economies expand, governments enact laws and regulations as part of efforts to protect consumers and other players in their market. This process is gaining momentum worldwide.
For example, a new Regulation in Europe provides a legal framework for the provision of accreditation services within the Community. In the Asia-Pacific region, accreditation has been endorsed, and is now used to underpin the conformity assessment component of the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC) agreements.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has included accreditation in their Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) for electrical and electronic equipment as a means of meeting the mandatory requirements of each member and to facilitate the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area.
In the Americas and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Accreditation Co-operation (IAAC) has emphasised the value of accreditation to Regulators and government entities to ensure that they rely on results from accredited laboratories to meet mandatory requirements especially in the areas of food safety.
Earlier this year, US President Barak Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernisation Act. The new legislation represents the first major overhaul of that country’s food-safety infrastructure since 1938.
The US Food Safety Modernisation Act now moves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) away from its early 20th-century role of responding to adulterated food to a more modern one of requiring companies to stop contamination before it happens, by looking for the places where things can go wrong and fixing them.
It also allows the FDA to issue mandatory recalls and hire more food-safety inspectors. The FDA oversees most of the nation’s food supply, except for meat, poultry and processed eggs, which are the purview of the US Department of Agriculture. This new regime sets in motion sweeping changes for organisations in the food industry – both in the US domestic market and internationally.
The JANAAC is Jamaica’s national accreditation body, authorised to provide accreditation services to Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs). JANAAC, through its provision of accreditation services, provides a bridge to assist manufacturers and service providers to clear potential Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) that these regulations could pose. This position and structure was designed to facilitate global acceptance of products tested by a JANAAC accredited CAB, and will support the mantra of the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation, ‘Tested once, accepted everywhere’.
By ALLAN BROOKS, Senior PR Account Executive