Compliance support infrastructure and services - FAO

Compliance support infrastructure and services - FAO

Information dated: 2017

Renata Clarke

Senior Officer,

Food Safety and Quality Unit (AGFF)

E-mail: Renata.Clarke [at] fao.org


SPS – animal health and trade in livestock and livestock products:


Animal Production and Health Division

SPS – plant health, phytosanitary aspects

Jingyuan Xia, Secretary, IPPC Secretariat,

Plant Production and Protection Division

E-mail: Jingyuan.Xia [at] fao.org

Food safety is critical for eliminating hunger and achieving nutritional sufficiency. The demonstrated ability to produce and deliver safe food is also a prerequisite to access international trade channels and export agricultural products. The health-protective and trade-inclusive standards of the Codex Alimentarius Commission are an essential element in facilitating trade and protect public health.

As GATT tariffs fell, the negotiators wanted to make sure that other policies, including standards and technical regulations, were not used as disguised trade restrictions. In the 1970s, an Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Agreement or "Standards Code") was negotiated. Then in the Uruguay Round trade negotiations (1986-1994) Members went further in reducing or eliminating trade barriers, including in the agriculture sector. In addition to revising the TBT Agreement, Members negotiated the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), since there was a fear that these measures could be used for protectionist purposes, particularly in the agricultural sector. The food safety standards of the Codex Alimentarius Commission provide a benchmark for reasonable SPS and TBT compliant food standards, and for plant health related issues, IPPC serves as the comparable benchmark.

However, for the developing countries, in general, and the LDCs in particular, applying Codex Alimentarius standards and complying with WTO rules is a challenge. This includes, in particular, developing the associated infrastructure and services necessary to participate in agricultural trade. The common aim of all FAO services in this category is to assist countries to both comply with these rules and develop an associated infrastructure.

FAO hosts the Secretariat for two international standard setting organizations recognized as the benchmark for the purpose of the SPS Agreement:

  • on food safety: Codex Alimentarius, whose secretariat is joint with WHO.
  • on phytosanitary issues: the International Plant Protection Commission.

The SPS Agreement specifically identifies Codex standards, guidelines, and recommendations as the international benchmark for food safety. Codex standards also play an important role in the provisions concerning technical regulations and standards of the TBT agreement, which recognizes the Codex Alimentarius Commission as one of the international standard setting organizations. This provides FAO with a unique position to deliver targeted assistance to member countries to ensure compliance with these two agreements.

The services provided under this category include:

On food products (both on safety - SPS and quality – TBT issues)

FAO works with concerned stakeholders at international, national and local levels from both public and private sectors in identifying weaknesses in the management of food safety, in formulating strategies that promote the application of good practices along the food chain and in ensuring compliance with national and internationally recognized food safety requirements. This includes mainly four services:

  • Development of policy support tools to guide planning and investment in national food control systems harmonized with Codex standards and WTO requirements, and technical advice for the development and improvement of integrated and modern food control systems

This comprises specifically the development of technical tools and guides related to various policy, managerial and technical aspects of food control including: risk analysis (core to the SPS Agreement); food laboratories, food sampling and inspection, food safety/quality management, traceability, specific quality schemes as well as consumer awareness and education. Strengthening monitoring and inspection programmes is one of the key challenges many developing countries have to face to access international markets. For many countries, the shift to a more integrated food chain approach and risk-based food inspection may require significant changes to food inspection policy, legislation as well as changes to inspector training programmes; and new education and information programmes targeting the private sector. FAO supports member countries to implement or strengthen risk-based food inspection systems and related food safety and quality management systems through specific in-country capacity development projects, and the provision of broad policy and technical advice through the publication of a number of manuals, guidelines and training materials.

  • Enhancement of effective participation in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other international fora

This includes, in particular, the development of countries’ capacities in relation to Codex through a wide range of activities both upstream and downstream of standard-setting: developing capacities of countries to contribute with data and expertise to the development of scientific opinions that underpin Codex discussions; supporting improved national consultation on Codex issues; supporting national capacities for implementing and enforcing food standards harmonized with Codex. FAO’s Food safety capacity development activities also support the ability of developing countries and countries in transition to participate more effectively in Codex meetings and discussions.

  • Preparation for emerging food safety issues including new technologies applied in food and agriculture

FAO assists countries in building food safety emergency prevention and management systems, thus contributing to strengthen country resilience to food chain crises through integrated surveillance along the food chain continuum, the development of coordination frameworks for the preparation of food safety emergency response plans and the application of risk analysis principles during food safety emergencies. An important part of the FAO’s Food Safety programme of work is also dedicated to gathering and interpreting food safety intelligence leading to the development of proactive strategies/plans to identify and address emerging issues – including the provision of targeted scientific and policy advice on specific emerging issues, as appropriate.

  • Support to field projects addressing food safety and quality issues that have been prioritized by member countries

FAO combines its vast expertise in a range of food production and food safety disciplines to identify sources of food safety risks and to develop measures to prevent or minimize these risks at the most appropriate stages of the chain and ultimately allowing for safe trade. FAO works with concerned stakeholders at national and local levels from both public and private sectors in identifying weaknesses in the management of food safety in specific sectors and in formulating strategies that promote the application of Good Hygienic Practices and ensure compliance with national and international food safety requirements.

On phytosanitary issues

  • Strengthening plant health to meet IPPC and SPS requirements. The main purpose of these services, in general, is to assist countries in improving plant health and, in particular – in the context of international trade / market access in agriculture and forestry – to assist members as they harmonize phytosanitary measures necessary to achieve the appropriate level of protection in their trade in line with the IPPC and the WTO SPS agreements. Key activities include: (i) building capacities (technical assistance through, for example, establishing and strengthening national plant health control systems); and (ii) coordination and resource mobilization to help countries comply with the IPPC and SPS standards.
  • Assisting countries to participate in international standard-setting work; and (iv) sharing information (web portal www.ippc.int, network groups and regional and global forums).
  • Capacity building work in the framework of the IPPC. In the area of plant health, FAO’s capacity building work in the framework of IPPC, in collaboration with relevant partner organizations and institutions, is coordinated directly by the IPPC Secretariat to upgrade the phytosanitary capacity of developing member countries, and to support their effective participation in IPPC work, resulting in strengthening national phytosanitary control systems. Specifically, the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation (PCE) tool allows countries to undertake a self-evaluation of their country’s phytosanitary capacity (with initial guidance only provided by a consultant) according to their needs and in compliance with international frameworks and standards. This allows countries to undertake a phytosanitary gaps analysis, create a strategic plan (to feed into many processes), establish their national phytosanitary priorities, and use the results of this analysis to engage FAO and donors to develop the necessary national phytosanitary capacity.
  • Encouraging Implementation of the IPPC. IPPC contracting parties encourage compliance through an active programme that analyses IPPC and standards implementation challenges and gaps and then suggests programmes to overcome these weaknesses. This positive approach encourages participation instead of the negative compliance measurement. The IPPC Implementation Review and Support System (IRSS) encourages participation, transparency, and cooperation to meet the implementation of the IPPC and associated standards.

For more information: www.fao.org/ag