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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Food security - food transfers standard 3: Food quality and safety

Food distributed is fit for human consumption and of appropriate quality.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Food quality: Foods must conform to the food standards of the recipient government and/or the Codex Alimentarius standards with regard to quality, packaging, labelling and ‘fitness for purpose’. Food should always be ‘fit for human consumption’ but should also be ‘fit for purpose’. When food does not have the quality to be used in the intended manner, it is unfit for purpose even if it is fit for human consumption (e.g. the quality of flour may not enable baking at household level even if it is safe to consume). For quality testing, samples should be drawn according to the sampling plan and systematically checked by purchasing agencies to ensure quality is appropriate. Whenever required, foods purchased either locally or imported should be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates or other inspection certificates. Random sample testing should be carried out on stocks. Fumigation should use appropriate products and follow strict procedures. When large quantities are involved or there are doubts or disputes about quality, independent quality surveyors should inspect the consignment. Information on age and quality of food consignments may be obtained from supplier certificates, quality control inspection reports, package labels and warehouse reports. Food unfit for purpose should be carefully disposed of (see Food security–food transfers standard 4, guidance note 10).
  2. Genetically modified foods: National regulations concerning the receipt and use of genetically modified foods must be understood and respected. Such regulations should be taken into account when planning food transfers that are expected to use imports.
  3. Complaints and response mechanism: Agencies should ensure adequate complaints and response mechanisms are in place on food quality and safety for accountability to recipients (see Core Standard 1, guidance note 2).
  4. Packaging: If possible, packaging should allow direct distribution without re-measuring (e.g. scooping) or repacking: appropriate package sizes can help ensure ration standards are met. Food packaging should not carry any messages that are politically or religiously motivated or divisive in nature. Environmental risks can be minimised by the choice of packaging and management of empty packages (such as sacks and tins). Ready-to-use foods packaging (such as foil wrappers) may require specific controls for safe disposal.
  5. Storage areas should be dry and hygienic, adequately protected from weather conditions and uncontaminated by chemical or other residues. They should also be secured against pests such as insects and rodents (see also Food security– food transfers standard 4 and Solid waste management standard 1).