What is Certification and Accreditation all about?

So, what does the dictionary say?

Certification is the formal confirmation of certain characteristics of an object, person, or organisation. This confirmation is normally provided by some form of external review, assessment, or audit.

Accreditation is a specific organisation's process of certification.



So, in simple terms, certification is the checking of a company’s processes and practices against a formal standard by an external person. It is a way to check a company is doing what it should be doing.

Accreditation is checking the certification scheme works.


Why become certified?

Many customer’s use certification against an accredited standard to approve a new supplier. Because there has been an audit of the supplier, it saves the customer from having to do their own and saves the supplier from having multiple customer audits.

Many certification schemes also allow branding/logo use (Red Tractor, LEAF logo) to promote a specific benefit or feature of the product.

Some certification schemes have a scoring system that can be used to benchmark companies’ performance against similar companies.


Where to begin.

There are many different types of certification available to farming and food businesses. The relevance of the different schemes is detailed below.

Red Tractor

This is a UK wide farm standard with different options for fresh produce, combinable crops, beef & lamb, dairy, poultry and pigs.

The Fresh Produce standard covers all stages from site selection through to harvesting and where applicable packing of whole fruit/veg on farm. It does not cover processing of crops (i.e., not relevant to peeled potatoes). It is focused primarily on food safety (risk assessment, malicious contamination and residues and contaminants), but also covers soil and crop health, pesticide and fertiliser storage and use, water management, seed selection, harvesting and packhouse controls, environmental awareness, energy efficiency, Integrated Crop Management, staff training and Health & Safety. It is seen as a minimum requirement for supply into large retailers or food processors.

If you pack product on farm and want to use the Red Tractor logo on the product, you will need an additional audit, that checks you are only packing Red Tractor certified products in the packs (.


This is a worldwide farm standard and again has various options that cover crops, aquaculture and livestock.

For the crops standard, like Red Tractor it covers all stages from site selection through to harvesting and where applicable packing on farm. It covers similar sections to the Red Tractor standard.

If you are looking to export, then GlobalG.A.P. certification is usually required. If you do export, then you have a choice of either a full GlobalG.A.P. certificate, or you can obtain a Red Tractor equivalence GlobalG.A.P. certificate (done at the same time as the Red Tractor audit to make it easier).

Organic Standards

There are 8 UK official organic certification bodies. These are: Organic Farmers & Growers, Organic Food Federation, Soil Association, Biodynamic Association Certification, Irish Organic Association, Organic Trust CLB, Quality Welsh Food Certification and OF&G (Scotland) Ltd.

Other than the Quality Welsh Food Certification scheme which only covers dairy and livestock, all the other organic standards have options for produce and livestock and some have options for aquaculture as well. There are different options for farmers and processors as well.

All of these standards focus solely on organic crops (i.e. doesn’t cover conventional grown crops).

LEAF Marque

LEAF is a worldwide recognised environmental assurance standard recognising sustainably farmed products. It requires a farm baseline audit (Red Tractor or GlobalG.A.P.) to be held.

The LEAF standard focuses the sustainable farming principles of Integrated Farm Management on 9 sections including: organisation & planning, soil management & fertility, crop health & protection, pollution control and by-product management, animal husbandry, energy efficiency, water management, landscape & nature conservation and community engagement.

Currently one UK retailer requires this certification to supply directly, and others would like producers to go for this, but it is not essential.

M&S Select Farm Produce

For fresh and frozen produce suppliers into the M&S supply chain (both direct into the retailer, or via a processors (such as a ready meal manufacturer), they need to ensure that they meet the requirements of the M&S Select Farm Standard. Depending upon the crop grown this may be as simple as having Red Tractor or GlobalG.A.P. certification if the produce item is classed as low risk, or it may require a Select Farm audit if the produce item is classed as high risk. The M&S Select Farm standard focuses significantly on microbiological and allergenic hazards within the growing process with the aim to prevent food safety issues in the M&S brand.

SALSA stands for Safe & Local Supplier Approval. It has been created in the UK as a food safety standard for smaller processors who want to supply into small and large retailers. The SALSA scheme is limited to food producers based in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Scheme members must be physically involved in food processing, not solely wholesaling or distribution, and cannot operate from domestic premises.

From a farm point of view, SALSA would not be relevant, unless you were processing the produce you grow (i.e. turning fruit into jam).

BRCGS Food Standard

The BRCGS Food Standard, is like the SALSA standard in that it would only cover pack house or processing operations, but it is aimed at larger companies who supply retailer own branded products in the main.



Red Tractor: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/

Fresh Produce Standard: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/standards/search?c=13

Crop Specific Protocols: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/standards/fresh-produce-crop-protocols

GlobalG.A.P: https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/

GlobalG.A.P. Standards: https://www.globalgap.org/uk_en/documents/#fq=gg.subscope:(%22fruit%22)&fq=con_locales:(%22en%22)&fq=gg.document.type:(%22checklist%22+OR+%22regulations%22+OR+%22cpacc%22)&fq=gg.standard.gg:(%22ifa5%22)

Organic Certification Bodies








LEAF: https://leafuk.org/supplying/leaf-marque

SALSA: https://www.salsafood.co.uk/index.php

BRCGS: https://www.brcgs.com/our-standards/food-safety/