Quality and certification requirements and challenges across markets and products

International trade is governed by a paramount principle, which states that when products cross countries, they should comply with the regulations and quality standardization of the importing country or as per international standardization.

Over the years the technical and quality requirements of countries have become more integrated owing to the global demand for safe and high-quality products. Both voluntary and mandatory technical quality requirements need to be conformed to, as per international standards, by the producers and the exporters.

The mandatory compliance stipulation pertaining to sanitary, phytosanitary, environmental or technical requirements involving conformity assessment procedures such as testing, certification, and declaration of conformity, inspections and so on is crucial for exports.

Quality requirements are stringent

Different markets have different quality requirements for which they require different certifications. Once the products are ready to target the export markets, the exporter has to document reports that show that the products are in complete compliance to the quality standards of the importing country and also as per international standards laid down by certification agencies.
Both Indian and Foreign certification bodies carry out this conformity assessment procedure. It is only after approval and certificate by these bodies that exporters can ship their goods to the importing country.

Out of a wide range of products that are exported to other countries certain products, for instance, agricultural produce, food and drugs, wine, pharmaceuticals, and electrical products require certain quality regulations that need to be strictly complied with.

Some foreign certification agencies

  1. UNITED STATES FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION [USA]

USFDA, The United States Food and Drug Administration, is a regulatory authority that regulates an array of products that enter the US market. Exporters have to mandatorily comply with the regulations laid down by the FDA to enter the US market.

The products that fall under the jurisdiction of USFDA are:

  • Food products such as dietary supplements, water bottled, additives used in food, infant food, food made of meat, poultry, and egg products.
  • Drugs including generic and over the counter drugs.
  • Biologics such as tissue and tissue products, vaccines, blood-related products, allergenic, etc.
  • Medical equipment, for instance, surgical and dental implant and prosthetics, and simple and complex technology-based items.
  • Electronic products that emit radiation, including microwave ovens, x-ray equipment, laser products, sunlamps, or ultrasonic equipment
  • Cosmetics, for instance, nail polish, perfumes, skin moisturizers, cleansers, and color additives used in personal care products.
  • Veterinary products including pet foods and livestock feed.
  • Tobacco products, such as cigarettes, smokeless and cigarette tobacco.
  1. EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY [EUROPEAN UNION]

EMA, The European Medicines Agency, is equivalent to USFDA, in Europe. EMA is a regulatory agency to evaluate and supervise medicines to ensure human and animal health in the European Union. In order to enter the European market, the medicines or drugs must meet with EMA’s stringent regulations.

  1. EUROPEAN FOOD SAFETY AUTHORITY [EUROPEAN UNION]

EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority is a regulatory agency. It demarks the set standards for food and food products that enter the EU market. The level of pesticide residue, metal involvement, chemicals and other additives that could cause food products to be unsafe for consumption are governed by the EFSA including the standards set by GLOBAL GAP, i.e., for fruits and vegetable production.

  1. MEDICINES AND HEALTHCARE PRODUCTS REGULATORY AGENCY [UNITED KINGDOM]

MHRA, The Medicines, and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is an executive agency of the United Kingdom that ensures that medicines and medical devices that enter the UK are safe for consumption.

  1. Thai Food and Drug Administration lay down regulations regarding quality of drugs, food, cosmetics and narcotics in Thai countries.
  2. Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices is a regulatory authority in Germany that sets regulations for the pharmaceutical products entering the country.
  3. Medical Products Agency, Sweden is a regulatory agency of Sweden.
  4. The National Agency for Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria regulates the import quality standards of food and pharmaceutical products in the country.
  5. BUREAU VERITAS QUALITY INSPECTION [BVQI]

Bureau Veritas, operational since 1828, is an international certification and inspection agency. It is functional globally to improve quality and productivity and verify that the products are in compliance with the set standards. BVQI has its headquarters in Paris and France.

It is the responsibility of the buyer that seeks BVQI services that the products supplied to them meet all required parameters.
Thus, the buyer must attach the BVQI inspection certificate to the shipping documents.

The Indian BVQI began functioning in 1971 and is responsible for testing, inspection and certification services to ensure that the quality of the products complies with the international standards.

  1. SOCIETE GENERALE DE SURVEILLANCE [SGS SA]

SGS SA is an international company with its headquarters at Geneva, Switzerland providing inspection, verification, testing and certification services. It ensures that the products meet the required and relevant regulatory international requirements. It also checks the condition and weight of imported /exported goods at trans-shipment. SGS tests the quality, safety, and performance of the products in terms of health and safety standards

Thus, SGS certifies that the products or systems comply with the national or international standards and regulations or the standards required by the importer.

  1. TECHNISCHER UBERWACHUNGSVEREIN / TECHNICAL INSPECTION ASSOCIATION [TUV RHEINLAND]

TUV Rheinland AG is an organization with headquarters in Cologne, Germany, providing technical test service and certification. It has offices in several other countries such as Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. TUV certifies that the safety standards and the quality of products, management systems, manufacturing processes, and personnel meet the required parameters. Also, it ensures that they are in compliance with the international standards.

Quality regulations in Japan

Food products, milk, and milk products, food additives are regulated in Japan under the Food Sanitation Act and relevant legislation. Japan is very strict with the permissible amount of pesticide present in the food imported into the country. Foods, which have a higher level of pesticide, veterinary drug than the regulatory maximum residue limit as defined under the said legislation are not allowed to be sold in Japan.

Certification requirements in the Middle East countries

Middle Eastern countries, i.e., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar and/or Syria function on stringent mandatory Conformity Assessment Programmes. It is to ensure that inferior quality or unsafe goods do enter their market from other countries.

All shipments have to comply with product conformity documentation, which includes safety test reports and technical data sheets. For electrical equipment sold in the Gulf region, it is essential that products comply with the technical requirement laid down by the Gulf Standards Organization (GSO). It is vital that products successfully cross the Gulf conformity marking, i.e., G Marking.

Sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in countries

The export country must comply with certain international standards. This is to ensure that the produced food is safe for consumption and adheres to strict health and safety regulations.

In the last decade, international sanitary and phytosanitary requirements of countries have become very strict and inflexible. Importing countries deny consignments that have not complied with their laid down food requirements.

Sanitary requirements refer to minimum pesticide residues, metals, and other contaminants to be present in the export food. Therefore, it emphasizes that the export food products are entirely safe for consumption without any harmful effects.

In the same manner when a country imports plants or plant products, fruits and vegetables, cut flowers and branches, grain or any other regulated articles from another country, they mandatorily require a certificate along with the consignment, which is termed as a phytosanitary certificate.

The phytosanitary certificate is an official document. It declares that consignment being sent to the importing country is in complete accordance with the specified phytosanitary import requirements and with the requirements of the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of the importing country.

World Trade Organization (WHO) provided an international framework by entering into SPS Agreement. Therefore, the SPS Agreement ensures that the health, hygiene standards or regulations that are met with by the countries to avoid the spread of animal and plant diseases.

Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.) and World Health Organization (W.H.O.) adopts these standards.

An EndNote

Thus, India, as an exporting country, understands the importance of quality standards set for different commodities among fresh fruits and vegetables and other products and has incorporated measures to meet the various features and required parameters pertaining to Indian products for improving the quality of produce for exports.