We caught up with Leonor Fishman, Product Integrity Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), to talk about the concept of Chain of Custody, why it is important, and how companies can get certified.
Leonor has worked at the MSC since 2011; originally in the Logo Licensing team, before moving over to the Product Integrity Team within the MSC Standards department in 2012. As part of the Chain of Custody Program Review, undertaken this year, she has worked to improve the Chain of Custody Certification Requirements by making them clearer and more accessible for global Chain of Custody auditors.
1. What is the link between MSC’s Chain of Custody and the ASC?
The MSC shares the Chain of Custody programme with ASC. This means that a company can undergo one audit to be certified to sell both MSC and ASC products. The MSC also administers use of the ASC logo.
2. What is Chain of Custody?
MSC Chain of Custody is a traceability and segregation standard that is applicable to the full supply chain from a certified farm to final sale.
To sell certified seafood, processors, traders, and restaurants must be audited by a third-party certifier that verifies compliance with the MSC Chain of Custody standard.
This ensures that certified seafood is sourced from a Chain of Custody certified supplier, is not mixed with uncertified product, is kept separate and identified, and is fully traceable – providing assurance that any seafood sold or labelled as ASC originated from an ASC certified farm.
3. Why is traceability (Chain of Custody certification) important?
Substitution and mislabelling of seafood is a globally-recognised problem. With a complex international supply chain for many seafood products, Chain of Custody ensures that companies selling certified seafood have identification, segregation and traceability processes and procedures in place.
The Chain of Custody team carries out full supply chain reconciliations and DNA testing on a sample of labelled products to test the Chain of Custody system for additional supply chain assurance.
4. How can a company become Chain of Custody certified?
Chain of Custody certificates are issued by independent, third-party certifiers, not by the ASC.
There are 4 steps to achieving Chain of Custody certification:
Step 1: Nominate someone who will be responsible for implementing and maintaining Chain of Custody in your business.
Step 2: Shop around and choose a certifier. The ASI website provides a list of certifiers who are able to conduct Chain of Custody audits. Ask about all aspects of the services they provide as well as the costs.
Step 3: Schedule your first audit and start preparing. During the audit, your certifier will check whether the processes and procedures you have put in place meet the requirements of the Chain of Custody standard. They will do this by checking records or certified product, interviewing staff, and observing how your company identifies, segregates and traces certified product.
Step 4: If your company passes the audit and closes out any non-conformities raised, a Chain of Custody certificate is granted for three years. During this period, your certifier will also carry out surveillance audits to ensure your systems continue to meet the requirements in the Chain of Custody standard. After three years, your company can be re-certified to remain in the Chain of Custody programme.
For more information about Chain of Custody and how to be part of the programme, please visit the Chain of Custody supply chain section of the MSC website.
5. What are the benefits of Chain of Custody certification?
Global consumers are increasingly concerned about seafood, demanding assurance that products are responsibly sourced and traceable.
Chain of Custody certification allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to responsible sourcing and to provide evidence of their seafood claims through an independently-verified mechanism.