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EHEDG centralizes certification processes

One of the first decisions of the newly compiled EHEDG Executive Committee was to centralise the allotment of EHEDG certifications. Dr. Peter Golz, chairman of the EHEDG Product Portfolio Sub-Commission, explains how retrieving the mandate for issuing EHEDG certificates will secure the validity of EHEDG certificates in the years to come.

For many years, certificates were issued by test institutes. Why change that?

Dr. Peter Golz: “The independent test institutes are doing a great job and will continue to take care of all the product testing in the future. EHEDG centralised the final stage of the allotment of EHEDG certificates to make sure that all tests are harmonised and that all current EHEDG certification criteria are applied. Another reason for the centralisation is that EHEDG needs to have control over the prolonging of the certificates. Prior to the centralisation, there was no system in place for the recertification and re-evaluation of formerly certified products. Equipment that was certified in a time when old certification schemes were operative remained valid after new guidelines and certification schemes came into effect. This created an uneven playing field for new applicants. By centralising its mandate for issuing certificates, EHEDG can continue driving innovation and can guarantee that every single piece of EHEDG certified equipment listed on its website complies with the applicable EHEDG certification criteria.”

How does this centralised certification and recertification process work?

“To assess whether a specific application meets all the necessary current EHEDG certification class criteria, one needs reliable test results and the right expertise to interpret those results. The test institutes still gather their test results based on clear testing instructions, but the evaluation of these results is done collectively by the members of the EHEDG Certification Working Group. This group consists of Authorised Evaluation Officers who control each other and must follow strict procedures that are defined by the EHEDG Executive Committee and guarded by an independent EHEDG Certification Officer. This Certification Officer is also responsible for granting or denying EHEDG certificates and reports to the EHEDG Executive Committee. A comprehensive system of checks and balances secures that all working group members can act objectively and independently and that all approvals and rejections of certification applications are well substantiated. Furthermore, anything that can have an impact on the certification and recertification process is discussed by the members of the working group. They also prepare, monitor, update and develop test methods and assessment schemes.”

What does this mean for holders and applicants of EHEDG certificates?

“According to the new certification scheme, certificate holders have to sign up their components for a recertification process once every five years. Once a year they are requested to declare that the design of their certified component has not changed since the certification date. Certificate holders who want to renew their certificates need to initiate the recertification process in time to receive a new certificate issued under the current EHEDG certification scheme. As the re-evaluation needs to be done by one of the EHEDG Authorised Evaluation Officers, the applicant should contact one of them to initiate the process. A list of these officers is published on the EHEDG website. For equipment that was tested and certified before the introduction of the current certification scheme in 2015, EHEDG implemented a transition policy. By 2020 only certificates which have been issued or reissued under the current certification scheme will be listed on the EHEDG website.”

Is everything going according to plan up to now?

“We are making great progress, but initially we experienced some unexpected drawbacks because we underestimated the time and efforts it takes to obtain all the certification data from the various test institutes. Some contact data was outdated, and some test institutes that issued old certificates no longer exist. As a result, some holders of old certificates weren’t noticed about the need to re-certify their certificates as timely as intended. Our apologies for that. In hindsight, it would have been better to have finished the centralisation first and to implement the recertification policy later. For now, we are completing our certification database and developed an online registration tool that certification holders can use to update their information and help us to reach the appropriate people within in their organisations before we have to take down their equipment from the EHEDG website.”

Does equipment that is withdrawn from the EHEDG website bear a higher hygiene risk compared to the listed components?

“Not necessarily. It simply means that the withdrawn equipment was due for recertification and hasn't been re-certified in time. Nothing may have changed from a technical point of view, and the equipment might still meet all requirements of the current EHEDG certification scheme, but EHEDG cannot guarantee it. There is no other way for EHEDG to ensure that every single piece of equipment listed on its website complies with the current EHEDG certification criteria than to clean this list up. It’s in the common interest of food producers an all stakeholders contributing to the advancement of hygienic design. There are clear procedures on what needs to be done to get withdrawn equipment back on the list. If in doubt, please contact us. We are happy to help out."

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