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Are you ready for APS inspections?

BY Dumisani Mnkandhla

WHAT IS APS?


The Agricultural Products Standards (APS) Act of 1990 requires inspections of products of agricultural origin so as to regulate their quality standards. According to section 2 (3) (a) of the Act, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has the authority to appoint assignee(s) who on behalf of the ministry may be designated to carry out inspections for the purposes of the application of the Act. Previously it was authorised inspectors of the Directorate Inspection Services of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) who were responsible for carrying out inspections. Due to personnel and other constraints at DAFF, there is currently inadequate enforcement, hence the need for assignees. Assignees may be any person, body, institution, association or board who are subject matter experts with respect to the product concerned.

 

WHO WILL PERFORM THESE INSPECTIONS ?


The current list of assignees is as follows:

  1. The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) – responsible for all fresh processed agricultural products destined for export.
  2. Product Control for Agriculture (PROKON) – responsible for local regulations for potatoes, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. The South African Meat Industry Company (SAMIC) – responsible for local regulations for red meat.
  4. Agency for Food Safety – responsible for poultry meat and eggs
  5. Leaf Services – responsible for grains and grain products
  6. Nejahmogul Technologies and Agricultural Services – responsible for dairy, imitation dairy products and edible ices

WHICH TYPES OF FOOD WILL BE INSPECTED ?

 

The assignees are operational throughout all selling or inspection points such as ports of entry, silos, pack houses, milling factories, processing facilities, distribution centres, wholesalers, retail outlets, fresh produce markets, bakeries, just to mention a few. Inspections will cover a wide spectrum of agricultural products such as fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, poultry and meat to processed products such as fruit juices, canned pasta, jam, fat spreads etc.

 

WHO WILL PAY FOR THESE INSPECTIONS ?


All inspections by the assignees are done at the cost to the owners, however these costs are to be based on gazetted tariffs which are informed by an objective cost recovery model. In the meantime section 3 (1)(a) of the APS act allows an assignee to charge fees for services rendered albeit on a non-profit basis. There is ongoing consultation with stakeholders on an industry wide fixed fee structure for inspection fees and food producers are encouraged to take part. There have been questions around who exactly the “owner” of the product to be tested is. According to DAFF, the owner is the person/company that offer, advertise, keep, expose, transmit, convey, deliver or prepare the product for sale, or exchange or dispose of such product in any way for any consideration.

 

HOW WILL THE INSPECTIONS BE PERFORMED?


The inspection process involves sampling products using prescribed methods and samples are taken at the discretion of the assignee who is guided by regulations. Sampling will also be done per batch/consignment at frequencies which will be agreed upon with individual industries and is likely to depend on the risk profile of the particular product among other things. Fixed sample sizes are yet to be determined so as to achieve a balance between sufficient sampling confidence levels and collecting samples that won’t result in losses to the owners/sellers. Assignees have been instructed to prevent redundancy, that is inspections of the same product at different stages of the supply chain and the DAFF Director has assured that mechanisms to ensure this are in place. Assignees must have inspection models which shall be agreed with the industry concerned and once again this calls for stakeholder involvement to ensure that the final model which shall be gazetted is at the least representative of the desires of the majority. However it is recommended that inspections should be performed at source/place of production where it is least disruptive to the trade.

 

WHY ARE THESE INSPECTIONS NECESSARY?


The importance of implementing these regulations will result in the promotion of fair trade practices, consumer protection, reduction of food fraud and ensuring consistent quality products. Furthermore this will prevent poor quality products from being imported into South Africa as both locally produced; exported and imported products will be subjected to the same regulation. It is however, worth emphasizing that the inspections’ main focus is on product quality, with the food safety element mainly featuring in the exported products as these are subject to international market requirements. On the product quality front, one of the major targets of the act is to curb food fraud which comes in the form of misleading claims by manufacturers on their product packaging. It will be a requirement that an organization possess factual proof to substantiate claims that they have on their products. Currently the inspections focus on product grading, packing & marking, which is often the basis or at the least a major contributing factor in the pricing of products.


HOW CAN ENTECOM HELP YOU?


One of the main questions that food producers and manufacturers have asked is whether any due diligence that they are already undertaking, mainly in the form of food safety systems will go any way in meeting the requirements of the APS act. To this effect DAFF has moved in to clarify that enforcement of the food safety of foodstuffs is the mandate of the Department of Health in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act of 1972. DAFF on the other hand is concerned with the quality or composition of foodstuffs. So strictly speaking all regulations published under the APS act must be adhered to regardless of certification to food safety systems by a manufacturer or processor. This does make a lot of sense since it is very possible to have food that is safe to consume but it is of poor standards or the seller has made false claims about its nutritional composition for instance.


It is however worth noting that there is an overlap in the requirements of the APS act and the requirements of food safety systems. This is particularly the case with the new version of FSSC 22000 certification which now has requirements to combat food fraud. Since this clause will ensure that manufacturers/processors will be required to make truthful and validated claims in their product specifications and labelling, this can be seen as killing two birds with one stone. In addition to this, there are other areas where food safety management systems (FSMS) can prepare an organization for APS inspections. FSMS requirements on supplier management, raw material specifications, incoming product testing, COAs and product specifications are all important in ensuring compliance to the APS Act. This would be instrumental in a case where a manufacturer is supplied with substandard or poor quality raw materials as it would help identify the quality shortcomings of raw materials. This in turn allows businesses to make informed decisions as to whether accept or reject raw materials. Furthermore FSMS require tests such as nutritional information to be based on scientific tests from accredited laboratories, a similar requirement from the APS Act.


Entecom is currently offering a bridging course to the latest FSSC 22000 requirements version which now includes food fraud. We have developed a new Food Fraud Workshop to ensure that food companies understand how to implement food faud prevention controls. Entecom also offers consulting to companies to prepare for the APS inspections. For companies that are exporting their products to international markets, the inspections also entail food safety testing since this is a requirement for exports. In such cases due diligence which comes with FSMS implementation comes into play and ensures that a business is ready not only for inspections but also to supply safe and quality products to the market.

 

For more detail regarding the APS inspections please visit this link

 

Contact Entecom Head Office for assistance at info@entecom.co.za

 

 June 30, 2017
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Dumisani Mnkandhla

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