While Italy does everything to not turn off the engines and be ready to restart, the IFS – International Food Standard effectively blocks the issue of certificates in favor of Italian products.
Let’s take a step back. The IFS certification represents one of the necessary requirements to operate in the large-scale distribution sector in countries such as France and Germany and has the aim of promoting the effective selection of food suppliers, based on their ability to provide safe products, compliant with contractual specifications and to the legal requirements. If the audit for the maintenance of the certification cannot be performed on time, the certificate cannot be renewed.
Remote controls are also blocked, not allowed because they are considered valid only for document inspection and not for reliable verification of the production site. Existing IFS certificates remain valid until their expiration, after which they will lose their validity.
In other words, due to the restrictions for the containment of Covid-19 applied to our territory, the auditors could move less easily and it might not be possible to guarantee the performance of all the controls on the field, although these could be replaced, without losing of effectiveness, from off-site assessments.
In times of extraordinary difficulty, the possibility of a limited extension of the certificates validity was not even taken into consideration. No glimpse or margin to negotiate alternative solutions to the checks regularly made in person.
Consequence of this position is that the usual products, temporarily not subjected to direct verification, will not have the consequent rating and the stamp that accompanies the certified articles. Italian products could immediately lose value, as well as find the doors of exports barred. In the meantime, weeks go by, spring advances and the oncoming mild climate means that the harvests of Northern Europe appear on the markets.
It is worth mentioning that Italian products are the safest in Europe and represent the main wealth of the country which, with the chain extended from the fields to the shelves, up to the restaurant sector, is worth 538 billion euros, equal to 25% of GDP and it employs 3.8 million people. (Coldiretti data)
Now that the coronavirus is no longer just a Chinese and Italian affair, it will be interesting to understand how the IFS will decide to handle the situation with the products of the other states affected by the epidemic.