Why do we need MSC Certification?
Chain of Custody certification is a supply-chain assurance scheme, with 4 distinct aims:
To check that businessess which claim they sell MSC certified fish are actually doing so
To prevent mixing of MSC and non-MSC fish through the supply chain
To give consumers a solid guarentee of the integrity of the MSC ecolabel
To ensure the fish if fully traceable - from fishery to fork
Every business in the supply chain must have an MSC 'Chain of Custody' certificate to be able to serve or sell MSC certified fish. This means that both you and your customers can have full confidence that the fish is from a sustainable and well managed fishery
Does all my fish need to be MSC Certified?
No - many certified businessess serve both MSC and non-MSC fish, and are adding more MSC certified options as the availability of certified fish improves. If all your fish is MSC certified, there are some pretty good advantages - the chances of mixing up are effectively zero so the requirements are lighter (this is explained further in the handbook)
The key thing (as explained in the handbook) is that you must keep MSC fish labelled or separate in your kitchen to prevent it being mixed up, and you must clearly label your menu to show which dishes contain MSC certified fish
What about farmed fish?
The MSC only certifies wild-caught fish. Fish farming is becoming more and more widespread, and the subject of an equivallent standard for sustainable farming has been discussed a lot. The MSC now has a sister-organisation, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, which is now starting to work with farms and the first products should be coming to the UK over the next couple of years. The good news is that if you have Chain of Custody certification, you can sell both MSC or ASC products, you just add ASC onto your scope as you would if you were adding a new supplier or species to your menu
How can we be sure that MSC certified fish is sustainable?
Fisheries in the MSC programme are assessed by an independent team of experts. They must meet 31 performance indicators, covering the population status of the fish stock, the impact of the fishing gear on the environment (including by-catch), and how well the fishery is managed to make sure fishing is controlled.
There is a short film which goes into more detail about the MSC's environmental standard on the MSC website
And lots more information on the MSC website here:
How much does the ROC Group Cost?
There are 2 fees involved in getting the MSC ecolabel on your menu:
1. The ROC Group Audit Fee. The audit fee is much cheaper than through conventional MSC certification, and available on request. Please email with:
• A bit of info about your type of restaurant
As you may be entitled to a discount.
There is a set fee of £250 per year for NFFF Quality award holders.
2. Ecolabel License Agreement:
In addition to the ROC Group fees, the MSC charge a License Fee for using the ecolabel, which funds the MSC’s work with fisheries and the supply chain.
For small businesses they charge a flat fee of $250 per year – around £170. This will be charged annually at the end of the financial year.
Do I need an onsite audit?
Year 1 – (Before certification)
Normally the first audit will be on-site, to check that the MSC requirements are in place on the ground. However, you are able to have a remote audit – which is easier and can be done in your own time, if you:
• Are already MSC certified, and moving over from conventional assessment to the ROC Goup
• Are an NFFF Quality award holder
In the above cases, you will be asked to complete a remote audit form, which includes providing copies of some photographs or copies of your documents
Years 2 and 3 – Annual audits
These audits will be completed remotely, using a remote audit form, unless one or more non-conformities have been raised in your business, in which case an onsite audit will be conducted.
Notes on your remote audit:
For remote audits, a list of the requirements checked and the evidence required is included in the audit checklist.
If you have electronic records, this is ideal for emailing, but in many cases paper records are still used and copies of these are required. The easiest way to do this is probably either to:
• Scan (if you have a scanner) and email
• Photocopy and send through the post
• Photograph and email the digital files
Today’s smartphones have a resolution more than sufficient for photographing documents.
All this may mean that you have large file sizes to send, and there are a few ways round this:
1. Compress (Zip) your files and send a zip file. To do this, put all your documents and files in one folder. Then right-click on the folder, point to Send to, and then click Compressed (zipped) folder. A new compressed folder is created in the same location. You can then email this compressed file as it should be much smaller. If you have an apple computer I’m afraid I have no idea. You probably just look at it or talk to it and it works.
2. You can share large files via dropbox. You do need to register for a free account, then you can upload your files to a ckoud storage program and send an invitation to me to have access to the files.
3. You can send large files via WeTransfer, which is Google’s large-file sending programme. It’s supposed to be very easy to use although I am not as familiar with it as dropbox.
If you operate across more than one postal address, you can still join the ROC group - each site would be required to follow the handbook and complete an audit, and sites can do this individually or all at the same time. The ROC group is designed to particularly benefit single-site establishments, so it may work out preferable to obtain your own MSC Group Certificate.
Broadly the things to take into account are:
• In the ROC Group the requirements are interpreted for you and template documents created, so the process is simple, and effort minimal
• In the ROC Group the audit of each site is conducted by the Group Manager. If you set up your own group, someone in the group must take responsibility for conducting an audit of each site annually
• In the ROC Group, day-to-day running of the certificate is managed by the Group Manager (including reconciliations, communication to sites, policy changes and problems), so workload for the restaurant is minimal.
• The ROC Group MAY be cheaper – broadly speaking for groups below 4-5 sites this is probably the case, but you would be wise to contact an auditor for a quote so you can compare the options.
For a multi-site quote for the ROC Group, please contact
Who is eligable to join the ROC Group?
To get certified through the ROG Croup you must be:
Based in the UK
A business producing food for the final consumer, but not a retailer (i.e. in the 'foodservice' sector). This could be a restaurant, cafe, fish and chip shop, take-away, caterer (based at one geographical location), school, pub, or sandwich shop
In posession of a valid food hygiene certificate, or the equivalent food hygiene scheme in Scotland
You don't need to be a single-site operation, but multi-sites may find conventional assessment preferable