» First Seeds of Accreditation for Plant Health Inspection Bear Fruit

21 October, 2011

The UK’s first accreditation for plant health inspection has been granted by United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). The achievement has put FERA in the unique position of being accredited by UKAS for both plant health inspection and plant health diagnostics.

Upon receiving the award, Mike Wray, Director of Operations at FERA said. “The UK imports thousands of different plant materials every year, some of which are potential carriers of organisms that are injurious to indigenous plants or pose a threat to the delicate balance of the ecosystems. Plant health inspection activities are therefore essential to reducing risks of importing harmful objects such as viruses, viroids, bacteria, fungi, insects, mites and nematodes. Achieving UKAS accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020 demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the quality of our inspectors’ work.”

The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate at FERA underwent a rigorous assessment by UKAS to evaluate the inspectorate’s competence. The assessment examined in detail the knowledge and experience of the inspectors, the breadth of their training; including co-operation with other organisations to determine and prioritise risks from pests and diseases. Inspection methods were witnessed and their detection capability and sampling strategy and inspection regimes closely analysed for compliance with EU Directive requirements. Internal performance monitoring and evaluation processes as well as quality assurance procedures for Inspectors’ work were evaluated for effectiveness. Even working hours were scrutinized to ensure there were sufficient resources to handle consignments entering the country outside the normal working hours.

Yuk Cheung, Assessment Manager at UKAS said “Rigorous plant health inspections are necessary to ensure the ‘protected zone’ status of the UK. Consistency, reinforcement of training and learning, transparency in quality assurance, demonstration of conformance to EC requirements and improvements to biosecurity for the UK are just some of the perceived benefits that the accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020 brings.”