Towards a computing tool to support inspection systems

Traceability is a fundamental requirement for the effective and efficient application of official checks on food safety for fishery products. The information management system of a Competent Authority (CA) must be able to provide reports and conclusions on steps taken for the approval of production tools, landing sites and establishments, as well as the results of follow-up inspections, laboratory tests and even certification files on exported products.

Although it is possible to use a paper-based system, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can offer significant improvements. For this reason, the SFP Programme has developed a digital database system, dedicated to food safety, that the CAs can use. It was decided from the outset to establish a common “model” structure that would meet the fundamental needs of information management. This would then be used as a basis for developing specifically adapted national systems. A standard model and guidelines for its use were first created by the SFP expert, Danny Wells, developing a database using Microsoft Access 2003 that incorporates sections for information on export certificates, inspections, establishment approvals, corrective action follow-up and sampling and results of analysis. These initial requirements were taken from the “Manual for the setting up of Inspection systems of Fish and Fish Products for Human Consumption”, published by the SFP programme. The standard database, which can be modified to meet the specific needs of the Competent Authorities in the beneficiary states, was then installed in three countries (Mauritius, Guyana and Namibia) and adapted to their particularities. After running tests on the model, new needs were identified and improvements made. A French version of the user interface was even developed during the mission to Mauritius. “With the installation in the field we realised that the system developed was more complex than initially foreseen,” explains Danny Wells. “It is therefore imperative for the CAs to have an internal resource person with real computing knowledge to ensure local maintenance and to deal with any bugs.” It also seems worth studying the possibility of linking the database to the Internet. These missions also made it possible to establish functional specifications for the design of more detailed databases. Most of the development work specific to each country will be undertaken as part of field missions, with some already scheduled. Simultaneously, DG SANCO has launched the TR@CES system for the digitisation of the issuing of health certificates. This tool is proposed as a voluntary service-based application for countries that have taken up membership. The two systems therefore provide two complementary databases, one upstream (tracing the history and national inspection work leading to the certification of the products) provided by the SFP programme and one downstream (certifications for export to the EU) supplied by TR@CES.