FAQs on becoming Chain of Custody certified — Marine Stewardship Council
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FAQs on becoming Chain of Custody certified

What is Chain of Custody?

MSC Chain of Custody is an identification, control and traceability program. It ensures that products labelled or sold as MSC certified, can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.

Why is traceability 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 systems in place. Traceability also assures you and your customers that certified seafood comes from legal and sustainable sources.

Why do I need Chain of Custody certification?

If your company wishes to handle or sell seafood products as MSC certified you should apply for Chain of Custody certification. Each company that takes financial ownership of certified product is required to obtain their own certificate.

Does everyone need Chain of Custody certification?

Not all companies need Chain of Custody certificate. Businesses do not require Chain of Custody certification or an ecolabel licence if they:

  • Buy pre-packed certified products that will be sold to the end consumer without being opened, re-packed or re-labelled (these are known as consumer-ready tamper-proof products);
  • Buy certified products but do not wish to sell these on as certified. In this case the chain is broken and their customers may not make any claims about the product being certified either.

If you are unsure whether your company fits these scenarios, consult your local MSC office.

What are the benefits of obtaining Chain of Custody certification?

Chain of Custody certification can be a unique selling point for your business and allows your company to meet the increasing demand for sustainable and traceable seafood. Furthermore, sourcing and selling MSC seafood can be part of your corporate environmental responsibility strategy.
More about benefits of Chain of Custody certification >

How can I use the MSC trademarks?

Once you are certified for Chain of Custody, if you wish to use the MSC ecolabel or MSC claim actively to promote products as MSC certified, you need an ecolabel licence from the MSC's trading company, Marine Stewardship Council International (MSCI).
More about MSC ecolabel use >

What does Chain of Custody certification involve?

To gain certification your business will need to complete an audit. An auditor will check that your company and staff have adequate procedures in place to identify, segregate, control, manage and trace MSC certified seafood.

The MSC does not conduct audits. Certification operates through a third-party system to ensure MSC's complete independence from the process. Accreditation Services International (ASI) manages the accreditation of certification bodies to conduct MSC audits.
More about certification and audit process >

How much does Chain of Custody certification cost? How long does it take?

The cost of the initial and subsequent audits can vary and depends on the complexity and size of your operation and your certification body's rates and expenses. Certification bodies will be able to estimate the amount of time the audit will take and its costs. In general, the more prepared your company is, the quicker and easier the audit will be.

What can I expect during an audit?

At your audit, the auditor will be looking for evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness and durability of the procedures, processes, systems and training that your company has in place to fulfill the requirements of the standard. They will therefore ask to review documents or records, interview staff, and see your process in action.
More about certification and audit process >

How long is the certificate valid for?

The certificate is valid for 3 years and involves surveillance audits every 12 or 18 months depending on the type of business and the level of risk identified by the auditor.

What is the MSC Chain of Custody Standard?

There are three versions of the MSC Chain of Custody Standard to meet the needs of the diverse range of supply chain businesses:

  • Default - Appropriate for any individual or multi-site company handling or trading certified products.
  • Group - Applicable to any organisation handling certified products at multiple sites, where sites are controlled and monitored by a central office (such as co-operatives or processing companies with several factories).
  • Consumer-Facing Organisation - Applicable to companies selling directly to final consumers (such as restaurants, contract caterers, fishmongers, and retail fish counters). Please note it is optional to be certified against this standard.

Certification bodies will help to advise you as to which version best suits your organisation or consult your local MSC office.

What is the link between MSC and other certification schemes?

The MSC certification process is similar to other international certification schemes, such as organic and those recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative. If you already have audits for other schemes (for example, British Retail Consortium or Global Gap) it is worth checking with your certification body to see if they can introduce the MSC Chain of Custody audits into your schedule.

The MSC and ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) have partnered to share the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. This means you can have one certification audit to be certified to sell both MSC and ASC products. The MSC also administers use of the ASC logo.
More about Chain of Custody certification for ASC >

What other useful resources are available to assist certification?

  • In addition, your organisation may also need to reference MSCI’s Certified ingredient percentage rules if you wish to use non-certified seafood as an ingredient in certified products.
  • Use the MSC Chain of Custody Pre-audit Checklists to determine how much of the standard your company currently meets, without having to make any changes, and where you need to make adjustments to your operations.

Looking for further advice? Contact your local MSC office >

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