Option A3: Group Certification 2017-11-22T13:11:43+00:00

Option A3 combines Group Certification with elements of the four-year audit cycle.

Similar to Option B Group Certification, producers can be CanadaGAP®-certified by organizing themselves as a Group and running a central food safety management system.

This approach was developed based on GLOBALG.A.P.’s group certification scheme. If cost considerations are the driver for group certification, it should be noted that this approach, to date, has proven most beneficial to larger groups (e.g., at least 75 members) where existing resources of the group can be effectively applied and economies of scale achieved.

NOTICE: Effective April 1, 2018, Option A3 will see the introduction of an Unannounced Audit component. See Appendix III.2 of the CanadaGAP Program Management Manual (Version 7.0 2017) or contact the CanadaGAP office for details.

Essentially, Group Certification offers a two-layered approach to auditing, involving:

i. Use of qualified internal auditors engaged by the Group to audit member sites (i.e., production, storage and packing locations), review member self-declarations and self-assessments, and internally audit the Group Management System, and

ii. External audits of the Group by a licensed Certification Body.

The Group’s internal audit program must cover all member sites over a four-year period. Certified members must submit self-declarations and self-assessment checklists to the Group Management in the intervening years. Every three years, the Group must undergo an external (third party) audit of the Group Management System, including sampling of central sites and internally audited members.

Internal audits

Using a qualified internal auditor(s), the Group must carry out audits each year on 25% of registered group members, all central storage and packing facilities, and the Group Management System. The audits of production, storage and packing sites must cover the full CanadaGAP Audit Checklist. New members must pass the audit prior to being entered on the registered list. The audit reports, corrective actions, etc. must be impartially reviewed by the Group Management System Internal Auditor or another qualified person who did not perform the audit of the group member’s operation.

The Group must collect and review the CanadaGAP Self-declaration and Self-assessment checklist submitted by each group member who is not internally audited in a given year.

The Group must engage a qualified Group Management System Internal Auditor to perform an annual internal audit based on using the CanadaGAP Group Management System Checklist. In effect, the Group is charged with acting as if it were a certification body operating with initial certification and surveillance audits of its members’ operations. For further details, refer to the CanadaGAP Management Manual, Appendix III.2.

External audits

Audits of the Group by a licensed Certification Body. The external audit functions must be carried out by a CanadaGAP-licensed Certification Body. Sampling of the group members (i.e., production, storage and packing sites) is permitted to certify the Group under Option A3. All external audits for Option A3 are announced, and are performed by the Certification Body every three years. For further details, refer to the CanadaGAP Management Manual, Appendix III.2. The specifics as to who is audited and at what minimum frequency are outlined in the table below for “Option A3”. Some cost information is also indicated in the chart.

Option A3 Certification (Group) – Certification Components:

 Component   Unit Cost Requirement 
Year 1Year 2 Year 3Year 4
Group Annual Program Fee (Up to 25 group members)$2,625YesYesYesYes
Annual Program Fee for Additional Group Members (per each additional 25 group members)$525YesYesYesYes
Internal Audit of Group Management System by Group Management System Internal AuditorGroup responsible for delivery and costsYesYesYesYes
Internal Audits of each Central Storage/Packing Site by Group’s qualified internal auditor(s)Group responsible for delivery and costsEach central siteEach central siteEach central siteEach central site
Internal Audits of each Member by Group’s qualified internal auditor(s)Group responsible for delivery and costsMinimum: 25% of group members (i.e., producers, storage and packing sites)Next 25% of group members (i.e., 50% of group members audited over 2 years)Next 25% of group members (i.e., 75% of group members audited over 3 years)Remaining 25% of group members (i.e., 100% of group members audited over 4 years)
Review of Self-Declarations and Self-Assessment Checklists by Group’s qualified internal auditor(s)Group responsible for delivery and costsAll group members who are not internally audited in Year 1All group members who are not internally audited in Year 2All group members who are not internally audited in Year 3All group members who are not internally audited in Year 4
Certification Body (External) Audit of Group Management SystemCheck rates with Certification BodyYesNot requiredNot requiredYes
Certification Body (External) Audits of Central Storage/Packing SitesCheck rates with Certification BodySquare root of # of central sitesNot requiredNot requiredSquare root of # of central sites
Certification Body (External) Audits of Selected Group Members – in conjunction with Group Management System AuditCheck rates with Certification BodyMinimum: Square root of number of internally audited producers, storage and packing sitesNot requiredNot requiredMinimum: Square root of number of producers, storage and packing sites
Certification Body (External) Triggered Audit (if needed to investigate a potential Food Safety risk at a particular site)Check rates with Certification BodyPossible Possible Possible Possible
Certification Body Auditor Travel CostsVaries by locationCost varies by location

(Note: Certification to Option A3 occurs on a three-year basis. Nothing in the chart below is meant to suggest a four-year certification period. The chart is simply intended to illustrate activities that occur each year over a four-year period.)

* A triggered audit would only be deemed necessary to investigate a potential food safety risk at a particular site. These could be triggered as a follow up to an on-site visit, from the audit of the Group Management System, etc. The cost of triggered audits would be borne by the Group. Participants can avoid triggered audits by managing risks as outlined in the CanadaGAP manual.

IMPORTANT: You are advised to check with your customer regarding acceptance of various CanadaGAP certification options.

Cost Implications

With Option A3, cost savings may be found in terms of a lower Annual Program Fee payable to CanadaGAP for delivery of program services (on a per-producer basis, as compared to individual certification options). However, in contrast to individual certification options, Option A3 includes the additional cost for the Group itself to deliver the required internal (second party) audits. The cost of administering an internal food safety management system and delivery of internal audits is up to the group, allowing for these costs to be scaled to decisions made relative to internal administration.

Nonetheless, Option A3 participants can expect that costs will be approximately one-third of Option B, the other available CanadaGAP Group Certification Option. Under Option A3, there are fewer external (third party) audits and a lesser frequency of internal (second party) audits by the Group of its members.

Option A3 involves four cost components:

Paid by the program participant to CanadaGAP. The fee covers CanadaGAP’s costs to administer the program, process enrolment applications, maintain the technical standards and training materials, oversee Certification Bodies, maintain government recognition status, collect and analyse data, monitor developments in food safety science and media, offer technical support to the CBs, communicate to program participants, program marketing/education, office overhead, staff and related expenses.
Costs to manage their internal system, conduct internal audits, review audit reports of Group member farms, follow up on corrective actions, review self-declarations and self-assessments, etc.
Paid directly by the program participant to the Certification Body. Covers the CB’s cost to deliver audit and certification services including auditor’s time to perform audits, auditor travel time and expenses, technical review of audit reports, follow-up on corrective actions, issuing certificates, administration and office overhead, billing functions, etc.

Costs vary depending on location of the facility, closest available auditor, and proximity to other audit sites. Every effort will be made to schedule audits in such a way to minimize auditor travel expenses.