What is a Quality Assurance Scheme?
A Quality Assurance Scheme, for a food product, is a programme whereby the food is produced to a set of standards (rules) and the producer/processor is inspected (audited) to ensure that production is in accordance with those standards. In the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes all steps in the food chain from production to final packaging for sale to the end user are Quality Assured; these include the farm or growing unit, the meat factory or packing centre and any secondary processing food factory (smoking, curing, cooking etc)
There are 3 basic components in a Quality Assurance Scheme:
The standards are the rules that members must comply with and these are drawn up by a panel of experts. These experts are selected from various parts of the industry/supply chain and include independent scientific and food safety expertise. This panel meets on a regular basis to update the standards in accordance with changes in legislation and improvements in best practice. The main areas covered by the standards include traceability, animal welfare, care for the environment, safe use of medicines and chemicals at farm level; and animal welfare, food safety, hygiene and traceability at factory level.
The audit is the inspection of the farm or factory to ensure that the food is being produced in accordance with the standards. The audit is conducted by independent auditors and all members of the Quality Assurance Schemes receive inspections at regular intervals to ensure compliance. In addition random audits are also carried out where necessary. The auditor makes a recommendation as to whether the farm or factory is to be certified.
After the audit is completed, and provided that the farm or factory meets the requirements of the standard, the next step in the process is certification. An independent certification committee makes the decision to certify. Certification is official confirmation that the audit has been passed and the member is then eligible to apply to use the Bord Bia Q mark on product where appropriate.