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A Review of Certification and its Impact on Regulatory Intervention

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This paper is an intermediate output of the author's project: "Economic Research on Food Safety Standards," in collaboration with Dr Marion Frenz. Background The Nederlandse Voedsel-en Warenautoriteit (The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, NVWA) is the competent authority responsible for the supervision and enforcement of food safety regulations in the Netherlands. As part of its inspection regime, the Regulator has monitored the results of the supervision of Food Business Operators (FBOs) for the 2015-2020 period. This information records compliance performance against the food-associated regulations and whether the business is certified to a recognised food safety management system. This paper explores the interplay between regulations and certification, and whether third-party certification results in improved compliance, and therefore a means to ensure that food manufactured into the market in the Netherlands is safe for consumers.
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A Review of Certification and its Impact on
Regulatory Intervention
Ray Lambert
Independent Consultant and Associate Research Fellow,
Department of Management,
Birkbeck, University of London
r.lambert@bbk.ac.uk
Date:
July 2021
Abstract
The Nederlandse Voedsel-en Warenautoriteit (The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety
Authority, NVWA) is the competent authority responsible for the supervision and enforcement of
food safety regulations in the Netherlands. As part of its inspection regime, the Regulator has
monitored the results of the supervision of Food Business Operators (FBOs) for the 2015-2020 period.
This information records compliance performance against the food-associated regulations and
whether the business is certified to a recognised food safety management system. This paper explores
the interplay between regulations and certification, and whether third-party certification results in
improved compliance, and therefore a means to ensure that food manufactured into the market in the
Netherlands is safe for consumers.
1 Acknowledgements
The findings of this paper draw on data provided by the Nederlandse Voedsel-en Warenautoriteit
1
(NVWA - The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) as part of its annual
evaluation of the collaboration between BRCGS and the Dutch Regulator. The data covers the
monitoring results of audits of Food Businesses (FBOs) for the 2015-2020 period. The author is
grateful to NVWA for permission to access the data and to publish the subsequent findings.
Page 2 of 12
Contents
Abstract 1
1 Acknowledgements 1
2 Foreword 3
3 Introduction 4
4 About BRCGS 4
5 About NVWA 4
6 Regulation and standards 4
7 Food standards and regulations in the Netherlands 5
7.1 Regulation 5
7.2 Monitoring 5
7.3 Standards 5
8 Standards and food safety indicators 5
8.1 The indicators 6
8.2 FBOs with a form of intervention 2015-2020 6
8.3 FBOs requiring a major intervention 2015-2020 7
8.4 FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-Biological Criteria) 7
8.5 FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 852/853 (Food hygiene) 8
8.6 FBOs requiring a notification 8
9 Conclusions 8
List of tables
Figure 1: Number of industrial business-to-business and cold store FBOs inspected by NVWA per year 2015-
2020.
Figure 2: Breakdown of certification status of industrial business-to-business and cold store FBOs inspected per
year 2015-2020.
Figure 3: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject to a form of intervention.
Figure 4: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification compared to other certification programmes subject to
a form of intervention.
Figure 5: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject to a major intervention.
Figure 6: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification compared to other certification programmes subject to
a major intervention.
Figure 7: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-Biological
Criteria)
Figure 8: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification compared to other certification programmes with an
intervention on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-Biological Criteria).
Figure 9: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 852/853 (Food hygiene).
Figure 10: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification compared to other certification programmes with an
intervention on EC reg. 852/853 (Food hygiene).
Figure 11: Percentage of BRCGS and other certified FBOs visited in relation to a notification, alert or
complaint per year.
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2 Foreword
By Hans van der A
Senior Advisor NVWA Public-Private Partnerships.
Legislation states that Food Safety Operators (FBOs) are responsible for providing safe products. In
order to produce, process and distribute safe foodstuffs, companies usually require assurances from
their suppliers in the form of certificates based on private standards and independent assessments. The
NVWA wants to encourage this form of self-regulation. We do this, among other things, by
collaborating with providers of private certification and control systems that, like the NVWA, monitor
compliance with (parts of) legislation. It is important to realise that private control systems cannot
replace NVWA supervision, but they can support it. The NVWA wants to enter into a sustainable
partnership with these providers in order to work together to promote FBO compliance to legislative
requirements, by making agreements about sharing information and coordinating each other's
activities.
The NVWA sees the collaboration as a continuous process of improvement, in consultation with the
certification program owner. The aim is to place responsibility where it belongs, to strengthen mutual
trust, to organize efficient information exchange, and to realise a more effective deployment of
resources based on risk analyses. Ultimately, all parties involved (government, business and
consumers) will benefit from this.
Since 2016, we have been successfully collaborating with several GFSI recognised Certification
Programme Owners (CPOs) active in the food sector. Without altering the division of responsibilities,
this public-private partnership has led to better outcomes in safeguarding the general public interest of
safe foodstuffs. Both nationally and internationally, public-private partnerships are becoming
increasingly important in our changing society. The NVWA would like to contribute to this and sees
GFSI recognised CPOs as reliable partners for jointly safeguarding food safety now and in the future.
Page 4 of 12
3 Introduction
Food safety is essential at all levels of the
manufacturing supply chain, which has been a
driving factor in the adoption of third-party
certification programmes such as ISO 22000
2
and GFSI benchmarked certification
programmes
3
, such as BRCGS.
BRCGS certification programmes are
increasingly considered as a benchmark for
best food safety practices
4
. A majority of
Brands, Retailers and Quick Service
Restaurants are now requiring BRCGS
certification from manufacturers of branded
food products
5
. BRCGS certification helps
to promote consistency across the
supply chain for food manufacturers,
wholesalers, and distributors.
This paper explores the interplay between
regulations and standards, and the value that
third-party certification provides as means to
ensure that food manufactured into the market
in the Netherlands are safe for consumers.
As part of the annual evaluation of the
collaboration between BRCGS and the
NVWA, the NVWA presented the monitoring
results for the 2015-2020 period
6
.
This information, which has been used as a
reference for this paper with the permission of
the NVWA, aims to identify the extent of non-
compliance with legislative requirements on
the part of Food Businesses (FBOs) in the
Netherlands, and how this is affected by the
use of third-party standards.
4 About BRCGS
BRCGS is the operator of the world’s most
rigorous third-party quality and safety
certification schemes that help build
confidence in the supply chain. Its Global
Standards for Food Safety, Packaging and
Packaging Materials, Storage and Distribution,
Consumer Products, Agents and Brokers,
Retail, Gluten Free, Plant-Based and Ethical
Trading set the benchmark for good
manufacturing practice, and help provide
assurance to brands and consumers that
products are safe, legal and of high quality.
The data analysed in this report relates to the
monitoring results of industrial food
production companies, with approximately
900 of these companies certified to the
BRCGS Global Standard for Food Safety.
5 About NVWA
NVWA monitors animal and plant health,
animal welfare, and the safety of food and
consumer products, as well as enforcing nature
legislation in the Netherlands. It is an
independent agency in the Ministry of
Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality
7
and a
delivery agency for the Ministry of Health,
Welfare and Sport
8
.
It is the competent authority responsible for
the supervision and enforcement of
regulations. It supervises businesses operating
within the food supply chain and monitors
their compliance with the legal requirements
for safe food. This supervision covers the
entire food supply chain, focusing on both
plant-based and animal-based food production.
While there are approximately 250,000
businesses
9
operating within the food supply
chain in the Netherlands, the data used for this
analysis relates only the supervision of
industrial production locations of food and
food storage locations, which represent
approximately 14,000 locations. The data used
for this paper is of a general nature and is
indicative. It should be noted that no
distinction is made between the type and
reason for inspection and/or audit. Nor has the
scope of certification, and the certification
coverage by business category been taken into
account.
6 Regulation and standards
In general, approaches to ensuring food is safe
for consumers include:
regulations, requiring suppliers to
meet specific conditions or to follow
specific practices and
standards or codes of practice, which
are voluntary and set out best practices
in aspects of food processing and
distribution.
In some markets, certification programmes can
Page 5 of 12
provide earned recognition where regulatory
bodies factor in certification as part of their
inspection programmes
10
. But where public
health issues are important, as in food
processing and distribution, regulations are
common. Standards demonstrate due diligence
and a method of meeting regulations, for
example by setting out the processes needed to
supply safe food where the conditions for
achieving that purpose are specified in a
regulation.
7 Food standards and regulations in the
Netherlands
Food safety rules in the Netherlands are set in
National and EU legislation. The latter is
embodied in the General Food Law
11
. The
relevant EU Regulations are (EC) 852/2014
12
,
(EC) 853/2004
13
and (EC) No 2073/2005
14
which relate to Food Hygiene and micro-
biological criteria and cover all stages of the
production, processing, distribution and
placing on the market of food intended for
human consumption. The underlying principle
is that food companies are responsible for
complying with regulations and supplying
safe, edible foods. If they discover some form
of contamination or hazard in foods that they
have placed in the supply chain they must
immediately withdraw the products and inform
customers, consumers and the relevant
authorities of the affected foods.
The types of hazard that underly the legal basis
for encouraging safety in food, in Europe and
elsewhere are:
Chemical
Micro-biological
Physical
The regulations are designed to prevent these
hazards entering the food supply chain and to
ensure the rapid withdrawal of affected foods.
Between 2015-2020, there were a total of 496
safety alerts of food products entering the
Dutch market
15
, of which 457 were identified
as serious.
The relevant EU regulation requires FBOs to
set up food safety processes based on HACCP
principles as set out in the Codex
Alimentarius
16
.
Standards for food processing, handling,
packaging and labelling are based on HACCP.
They offer more detailed, practical guidance,
supported by regular audits, on how to ensure
that the organisation and management of all
processes in the supply chain prevent
contamination or untoward risks from any of
these hazards.
7.1 Regulation
Supervision and enforcement for all food
related laws and regulations are the
responsibility of the NVWA.
7.2 Monitoring
The NVWA undertakes systematic monitoring
of FBOs food safety processes, through
programmes of testing and audits of the safety
of FBOs processes
17
.
Testing - Samples of food products from
domestic sources and imports are tested for
Chemical and Biological contamination and
for the presence of physical hazards.
Audits and Inspections - Samples of Food
Business Operators (FBOs) are audited or
inspected against the requirements of the
legislation. Remedial action is required from
those who do not meet the criteria.
7.3 Standards
In a previous report published in 2018
18
,
NVWA emphasised that compliance with the
legislation can be materially supported by
certification to a third-party standard. It was
noted that compliance with third party
standards usually involves annual audits,
compared with less frequent risk-based
inspections that the regulator may undertake,
provided that the standard has a clear scope
and is clearly defined against regulations
combined with sufficient data exchange to
substantiate the risk-based resource allocation.
As a result, the NVWA perceives that
standards and regulation can be
complementary in promoting food safety.
8 Standards and food safety indicators
The findings of this paper draw from a
selective analysis of data from the results of
audits of FBOs by the regulator against the
requirements of National and EU laws, which
records if the FBO is certified to one of the
Page 6 of 12
recognised Global Food Safety Initiative
19
(GFSI) third-party certification programmes.
GFSI, a part of the Consumer Goods Forum
(CGF)
20
, brings together 34 retailers and
manufacturers from across the CGF
membership and an extended food safety
community to oversee food safety standards
for businesses.
The data covers a period between 2015 and
2020, and reports on an average of 3,300
inspections per year from a population of
14,000 industrial business-to-business and
cold store FBOs. In general, these companies
produce, import, process, store, distribute and
transport vegetable, animal (including fish)
and composite foodstuffs. 2,500 of these FBOs
are industrial food producers, of which 600 are
approved by the European Commission for
exporting.
Figure 1: Number of industrial business-to-business and cold
store FBOs inspected by NVWA per year 2015-2020.
Figure 2 shows the breakdown of industrial
business-to-business and cold store FBOs that
have been inspected between 2015-2020. It
demonstrates that a total of 3,118 were
certified to BRCGS, 4,083 certified to other
GFSI programmes, and 12,941 not certified at
all.
Figure 2: Breakdown of certification status of industrial
business-to-business and cold store FBOs inspected per year
2015-2020.
8.1 The indicators
A set of indicators are derived which provide
insight into the compliance of FBOs against
food related regulations. Regulation (EC)
852/2014 and Regulation (EC) 853/2004 relate
to hygiene of foodstuffs and food of animal
original. Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 sets
out the microbiological criteria for food. The
regulations also cover packaging, by-products,
storage and transportation.
The analysis uses NVWA monitoring data to
summarise FBOs found to be in breach of
these regulations to some degree, and therefore
require remedial action and / or intervention.
The paper will identify differences in
compliance levels between FBOs that are
certified to a recognised third-party GFSI
management system, and FBOs that are not
certified. Further analysis will be carried out to
determine whether regulatory compliance and
the levels of intervention differ between FBOs
certified to BRCGS to those on other
programmes. The results related to other
programmes are aggregated and reported as
one population.
For most indicators, the observations used are
the percentages of FBOs that experienced an
NVWA intervention.
8.2 FBOs with a form of intervention 2015-2020
Figure 3 sets outs the percentage of industrial
business-to-business and cold store FBOs
found to be in breach of the food safety laws to
some degree and therefore requiring remedial
action.
Figure 3: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject
to a form of intervention.
On average across the period, 25% of all FBOs
were subject to an intervention. This consisted
of 28.5% of FBOs without certification, and
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23.1% of FBOs with certification.
For each year of the period from 2015 to 2020,
FBOs certified to a third-party standard were
materially less likely to require an intervention
than those that relied only on their own
resources to meet the regulations.
Figure 4: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification
compared to other certification programmes subject to a form of
intervention.
Considering the data for certified FBOs only,
in four of the six years, those with BRCGS
certification were less likely to trigger an
intervention that those holding other
certifications. Taking the period as a whole,
22% of BRCGS certificated businesses
experienced an incident compared to 24% on
other certification programmes.
8.3 FBOs requiring a major intervention 2015-
2020
An average of 6.9% of non-certified industrial
business-to-business and cold store FBOs were
subject to major interventions against all food-
related regulations. This compares to an
average of 5.2% for FBOs with a certified
management system.
Figure 5: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject
to a major intervention.
In each year of the period, while a similar
share of certified businesses in general were
subject to major interventions, BRCGS
certified FBOs were less likely to trigger
major interventions in four of the six years. An
average of 5.6% FBOs certified to other
certification programmes were subject to a
major intervention, compared to 4.7% of
BRCGS certified organisations.
Figure 6: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification
compared to other certification programmes subject to a major
intervention.
8.4 FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 2073
(Micro-Biological Criteria)
For microbiological issues, a more serious
health hazard, certification is associated with a
substantially lower probability that an
intervention will be required.
Figure 7: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with
an intervention on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-Biological Criteria)
Intervention was required for an average of
8.3% of industrial business-to-business and
cold store FBOs. For certified businesses, this
reduced to 5.8%.
Looking at certified FBOs only, interventions
are lower for businesses with BRCGS
certification, with an average of 5.2% fewer
interventions than 6.4% for other certification
programmes.
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Figure 8: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification
compared to other certification programmes with an intervention
on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-Biological Criteria)
8.5 FBOs with an intervention on EC reg.
852/853 (Food hygiene)
For EC regulations 852/853, concerned with
food of animal origin, certified industrial
business-to-business and cold store FBOs were
substantially less likely to face an intervention
in each reported year.
Figure 9: Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with
an intervention on EC reg. 852/853 (Food hygiene)
19.8% of non-certified businesses were subject
to a remedial intervention, compared to 13.1%
of FBOs with certification.
Figure 10: Percentage of FBOs with BRCGS certification
compared to other certification programmes with an intervention
on EC reg. 852/853 (Food hygiene)
BRCGS certified businesses were less likely to
require an intervention in four of the six years
between 2015-2020. On average, 13.1% of
businesses with other certification programmes
required an intervention compared to 11.7%
on BRCGS’s programme.
8.6 FBOs requiring a notification
The final indicator is of a different type, not
directly involving remedial interventions by
the regulator following systematic audits.
Instead, the data relates to the regulator
attending an FBO on the basis of some type of
concern such as a complaint or other
information giving rise to concern.
Figure 11: Percentage of BRCGS and other GFSI certified
FBOs visited in relation to a notification, alert or complaint per
year
Between 2016 and 2019 these affected around
2-4 % of FBOs, with smaller differences
between firms certified to different standards
(average of 5.9% for other schemes and 5.2%
for BRCGS). The spike of incidents in 2020 to
10 to 12 % is linked to the Covid-19 pandemic
and NVWA’s policy to pay more attention to
the follow-up of notifications in view of the
inability to carry out on-site inspections.
9 Conclusions
Third-party food certification programmes and
regulations are both based on HACCP, good
manufacturing practice and quality
management system principles and can act
together in a complementary way to support
the supply of healthy food to retailers and
consumers.
Data from the NVWA’s interventions under
various aspects of the regulations indicates that
industrial production FBOs with certifications
to third party food safety standards are
substantially less likely to experience an
intervention than those without.
Page 9 of 12
FBOs with BRCGS certification in place
performed well and reported fewer non-
compliances with the regulation than both non-
certified organisations, as well as those
operating on other certification programmes.
The improved performance level of BRCGS
certified FBOs may be attributed to a number
of factors in the framework, management and
operational delivery of the programme. The
requirements of BRCGS’s standards extend
beyond those set by GFSI. The standards are
rigorous and use prescriptive language which
provide a clear framework for global
application. A clear point of difference
between BRCGS and other certification
schemes is a compliance programme that
provides control over the operational delivery
of its certification programmes and consistent
outcomes. This includes delivery partner
performance management, management of
auditor competence based on exams and
training, analytics to benchmark performance,
and a confidential reporting system to register
issues.
The steady increase in the take up of
certification schemes is based on their
effectiveness in raising FBOs ability to
provide safer and higher quality food to world
markets. They also provide a valid basis for
businesses to be rewarded with true ‘earned
recognition’ in the form of lighter touch
regulatory oversight.
BRCGS has commissioned an economic
research study to evaluate the global impact of
BRCGS certification on consumer safety,
when compared to other GFSI food
certification programmes. It will explore the
value that BRCGS provides to those that are
certificated to its standards, and the supply
chain assurance that it provides brands,
retailers and major specifiers. The outcome of
this work will feed into the larger research
project, due to be published later in 2021, as it
supports BRGCS’s aim to provide brands and
specifiers with the ability to strengthen their
resilience and supply chain assurance. The
provision of a service package with a portfolio
of tools and technical content enables suppliers
to continuously improve and position
themselves as a best in class supplier, together
with a compliance programme to ensure robust
and consistent outcomes.
Page 10 of 12
10 List of References
1
Nederlandse Voedsel-en Warenautoriteit (The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety
Authority) https://english.nvwa.nl/
2
https://www.iso.org/iso-22000-food-safety-management.html
3
https://mygfsi.com/how-to-implement/recognition/
4
Food Certification Market Global forecast to 2025, Markets and Markets
5
QSM Magazine, Deloitte
6
van der A, J.G. (2020). Annual meeting BRCGS-NVWA. PowerPoint presentation monitoring
results. Aavailable on request from the author
7
https://www.government.nl/ministries/ministry-of-agriculture-nature-and-food-quality
8
https://www.government.nl/ministries/ministry-of-health-welfare-and-sport
9
https://www.nvwa.nl/documenten/nvwa/organisatie/jaarplannen/2019/verantwoordingsrapportage-
2019
10
https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Using-alternatives-to-regulation-to-achieve-
policy-objectives1.pdf
11
https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/general_food_law_en
12
EC 852/2014 concerning the authorisation of L-methionine as a feed additive for all animal species
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014R0852&from=PL
13
EC 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down specific hygiene rules for
food of animal origin https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32004R0853
14
EC 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-
content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32005R2073
15
RASFF the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.
16
http://www.fao.org/3/Y1579E/y1579e03.htm
17
https://www.nvwa.nl/onderwerpen/hygienecodes-haccp/rol-nvwa
18
The Food Safety Statement https://english.nvwa.nl/binaries/nvwa-
en/documents/consumers/food/safety/documents/food-safety-statement/food-safety-statement.pdf
19
https://mygfsi.com/who-we-are/overview/
20
https://www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/
Page 11 of 12
11 Annex
This annex sets out the data that is used in the report based on the data provided by the NVWA.
Number of industrial business-to-business and cold store FBOs inspected by NVWA per year
2015-2020, and breakdown by certification status
Not
Certified
Other
Certified
BRCGS
Certified
2015
2071
628
497
2016
2269
774
610
2017
2264
683
505
2018
2208
703
531
2019
2091
687
520
2020
2038
608
455
Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject to a form of intervention against all
regulations
Not Certified
Other Certified
BRCGS
Certified
2015
31.9
26.9
27.4
2016
30.6
29.7
25.1
2017
29.9
25.8
22.2
2018
28.2
24.7
19.8
2019
28.2
22.5
18.8
2020
22.3
15.8
18.9
Average
28.5
24.2
22.0
Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs subject to a major intervention
Not Certified
Other Certified
BRCGS Certified
2015
4.8
3.8
2.6
2016
4.6
5.4
3.9
2017
8.0
5.6
5.9
2018
9.7
8.7
5.3
2019
7.4
5.4
5.0
2020
6.8
4.6
5.7
Average
6.9
5.6
4.7
Page 12 of 12
Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 2073 (Micro-
Biological Criteria)
Not Certified
Other Certified
BRCGS Certified
2015
7.0
4.3
4.6
2016
9.0
5.8
4.9
2017
8.6
8.2
6.3
2018
9.6
10.6
7.2
2019
9.3
7.0
4.4
2020
6.2
2.1
4.0
Average
8.3
6.4
5.2
Percentage of certified and non-certified FBOs with an intervention on EC reg. 852/853 (Food
hygiene)
Not Certified
Other Certified
BRCGS Certified
2015
23.9
18.4
19.5
2016
22.3
18.2
14.6
2017
20.6
13.8
9.5
2018
18.9
8.8
5.3
2019
19.6
12.4
10.8
2020
13.3
6.9
10.3
Average
19.8
13.1
11.7
Percentage of BRCGS and other certified FBOs visited in relation to a notification, alert or
complaint per year
Other Certified
BRCGS Certified
2016
4.1
3.6
2017
4.0
3.6
2018
3.4
4.2
2019
3.9
2.9
2020
13.9
11.7
Average
5.9
5.2
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Food Certification Market Global forecast to 2025, Markets and Markets 5 QSM Magazine, Deloitte 6 van der A
Food Certification Market Global forecast to 2025, Markets and Markets 5 QSM Magazine, Deloitte 6 van der A, J.G. (2020). Annual meeting BRCGS-NVWA. PowerPoint presentation monitoring results. Aavailable on request from the author