WORLD – The Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) has developed a draft guidance document on paperless use of electronic certificates, which includes an electronic version of the generic Model Official certificate.

The Generic Model Official Certificate explains the structure and the meaning of the information that will be exchanged and used by all parties.

Parties at the meeting approved this milestone document for submission to the next session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in November 2021 for final adoption.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint 189-member body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is the body that creates international food standards to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.

The Commission has established the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) as the global body to develop principles and guidelines for food inspection and certification systems.

By implementing CCFICS instruments, Governments support fair trading practices, protect the health of consumers, and reduce food degradation and waste in international trade.

The importance of this work has been elevated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such there has never been a greater need for this guidance material.

“This text provides timely, solid and consistent Codex guidance for international paperless exchange of official certificates between Competent Authorities,” said Erik Bosker, head of CCFICS’s Netherland delegation.

Since the global pandemic, providing countries with information on how to participate in paperless electronic business has become even more relevant in a globally connected world.

Bosker also commented that the updated guidance provides a modernized instrument for other standard setting organizations that are involved in facilitating electronic businesses including Coordinated Border Management.

The standard for this electronic certification will be UN/eCERT which was developed by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), a global standardization body which operates under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

UN/CEFACT standards allow for interoperability and information exchange in international trade and are becoming increasingly important for the sustainability of agricultural trade and to address trade-related environmental challenges.

The proposed guidance will transform food trade in the future by enabling paperless exchange of electronic certificates for food between Competent Authorities of different countries, decreasing both the time and costs of trade – an increasing priority amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The paperless use of electronic certificates can also be connected with the application of modern, risk-based methods and electronic methods to support controls and inspections of food, a measure that will further strengthen the application of rules and regulations and protect the health of consumers. 

The new draft of Codex Guidelines and their reference to the wider body of UN/CEFACT standards will further promote the introduction and use of modern, standards-based electronic methods in international trade, to enhance its sustainability, to reduce the use of paper documents and environmental impact, and to protect the interests of citizens and consumers.