Once a reserved designation has been recognized, an external certification body ensures that the specifications manual is rigorously applied and certifies products to which the reserved designation is granted. Certification of a reserved-designation product by an external body ensures that criteria of independence, impartiality, confidentiality and competence are met, in accordance with recognized international requirements. Certification guarantees the consumer that all the criteria in the accredited specifications manual for the product have been met, and that the product’s traceability is established.
In Québec, certification bodies must be accredited in order to be able to certify products bearing a reserved designation or added-value claim. As stipulated in the Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims, this mission is carried out by the Comité d’Accréditation en Évaluation de la Qualité (CAEQ) – a technical unit of the Conseil specializing in accreditation. It is thus responsible, on the one hand, for evaluating the competence of certification bodies applying for accreditation and, on the other hand, for monitoring certification activities to maintain that of those who are already accredited.
The accreditation process is made up of several important stages through which the certification body must demonstrate that it has the necessary competencies. CAEQ auditors examine files and then conduct audits in person, either in the office of the certifying body or in the field, in order to determine whether the certification body’s personnel are qualified for the task. These audits are exhaustive and take several days. Some are done without prior notice. The examinations may be conducted over a period of 6 to 12 months. Once they are complete, the certification body receives a written authorization known as an “attestation of accreditation” or “certificate of accreditation.”
Thereafter, certification bodies are assessed continuously and independently by the CAEQ to check that the standards and requirements of the specifications manual continue to be met. Any substantial failing that is not corrected may lead to suspension or cancellation of accreditation.
In this way, accreditation of certification bodies provides twofold verification for the benefit of consumers plus a guarantee that current national and international standards are rigorously applied. It can also facilitate national and international exchanges of certified products through mutual recognition of accreditation and certification between the various players.