A certification body is an organization that will examine a product, service or system and compare it to an established international or national standard.
For example, a certifier may randomly collect a sample from producer and take what the standard requires for purity and contamination and then test and/or inspect the sample to measure whether those levels of purity are met and contaminants are not exceeded. The certifier typically uses a laboratory that is qualified to do the testing so that the results are proven.
Accredited certification body
An accredited certification body is a certifier that has been audited by a world body to make sure that it is reliable for you. Two world bodies exist, the International Accreditation Forum, and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation. Both bodies operate global networks to assess certifiers and laboratories to make sure that they are legitimate, fair, objective, and that they have the people and equipment to produce reliable tests and certifications for you the producer. Most international buyers and importers expect that produce meets standards and that an accredited laboratory or certifier has issued the proof that your product meets those requirements.
Information about the process to certify product including costs
A certification body or laboratory that is accredited is required under the international system to provide its customers and applicants with information on the certification / testing process. Ask for this information from the individual organizations.
Process of certification and the related costs
Both the process and costs will depend on the standard, but generally you will be asked to complete application forms to provide the certifier with general information about your company, its products, personnel, production systems and so on. Depending on the product and its technical complexity, you will be asked for detailed technical information on the product such as design specifications. For a commodity such as a cereal or grain, questions will centre around production processes. In almost all cases samples will be required by the certification body / laboratory and inspections of the place of production will be carried out by the certification body to ensure it meets requirements specified in the applicable standard. The samples will be tested and inspected and a complete report with the findings of the test, inspection and certification will be issued to you. The process can vary in length of time but do not be surprised about a two to three month process depending on the amount of work being processed by the certifier or laboratories. As well, some tests are time dependant if for example bacterial growth is required. Costs are difficult to estimate. It depends on both the type and number of site inspections and tests that are necessary. These agencies are required under their accreditation to provide a certain level of customer service and so you are entirely within your right to ask for and expect a reasonable cost estimate for the certification and testing required.