Official Controls Qualification
(Animal Health Paraprofessional) OCQ(AHP)

You are here:  Home > Qualification > Food Competent Certifying Officer Qualification

Food Competent Certifying Officer - OCQ(CO) - FCCO

The Official Controls Qualification (Certifying Officer) - Food Competent Certifying Officer (OCQ(CO) - FCCO) course provides training for Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety Officers who wish to work on behalf of the Government to complete Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for certain animal products. At present, this qualification is for GB only.

To view FCCO Briefing Notes on the APHA Vet Gateway, click here.


The minimum requirements for registration for the Food Competent Certifying Officer (FCCO) course are:

  • to be employed or contractually engaged by either:
    • a Local Authority in GB and authorised according to the Food Law Code of Practice for the inspection and execution of official food hygiene controls; or
    • Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and deemed competent to carry out the role of FCCO.
  • to hold a recognised qualification, demonstrating the skills and knowledge to undertake official controls according to the Food Law Code of Practice for the country in which they are authorised to act, namely:
    • Diploma in Environmental Health awarded by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS); or
    • Certificate of Registration as an Environmental Health Practitioner awarded by the Environmental Health Registration Board (EHRB) (including its antecedents and replacement); or
    • Higher Certificate in Food Control (HCFC) awarded by the Environmental Health Registration Board (EHRB); or
    • Higher Certificate in Official Control (HCOC) awarded by the Scottish Food Safety Officer’s Registration Board (SFSORB); or 
    • Higher Certificate in Food Practice awarded by the Scottish Food Safety Officer’s Registration Board (SFSORB); or
    • Advanced Professional Certificate in Food Hygiene and Standards Control awarded by CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health); or
    • Other qualification deemed to be equivalent by their recognised Professional Body (Annex I).
  • to have had their contact email address and eligibility criteria verified by their Lead Food Officer
  • to have a 'basic disclosure check' with no unspent convictions relating to fraud, animal health or public health
  • to be proficient in English, being able to communicate for the purposes of a Certifying Officer
  • to have no known conflict of interest in the proposed work

Candidates wishing to become an FCCO but who do not fully meet the listed eligibility requirements can download and complete this ET210 form to request an eligibility check from APHA. The form should be submitted to

The FCCO course covers:

  1. The purpose of export certification
  2. Commodities which FCCOs can certify
  3. The code of conduct for certification
  4. Processes supporting certification
  5. Paperwork supporting certification
  6. Food safety
  7. Completing an Export Health Certificate

The qualification requires each candidate to complete the following phases:

  1. Study the online course
  2. Pass the end-of-course online examination
  3. Receive authorisation from APHA

^ back to top


FCCOs with full authorisation will be required to revalidate the OCQ(CO) - FCCO every four years.

FCCOs authorised prior to 30 November 2021 will be required to complete the FCCO training course by 31 May 2022 in order to maintain their authorisation. After this, revalidation will be needed every four years, as above.

^ back to top


To study the FCCO course you must first register on the AHP database. When you register, you will be asked to nominate your Lead Food Officer (for Local Authority employees) or Senior Manager (for FSS employees), who will confirm your right to work and eligibility for the qualification (see the Supervisor Requirements page for more information).

The person you nominate will receive an email asking them to confirm that the checks have been completed and that you fulfil the requirements. You will be notified by email when this confirmation has been made.

Once your employer has confirmed your eligibility, you or your employer will then need to email the APHA OV Team to let them know that you have registered and require access to the FCCO revalidation course. The APHA OV team will grant you access to course enrolment and send an email confirming this to either you or your employer. The confirmation email should be received within two working days and will include an invoice code for enrolment.

After receiving confirmation and an invoice code from the APHA OV Team, you will be able to log in and enrol on the FCCO course.

^ back to top

Registration and enrolment fees

The course is subsidised. A code for registration and enrolment will be required and will be provided by APHA.

^ back to top

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I access the training?

The training is accessed via your own Personal Training Dashboard, once you are registered and enrolled on the course. The training can be done at a time to suit you, over more than one session, and is followed by an invigilated, online, multiple choice exam.

How long does the training take?

The length of time it takes to complete the online course depends on your pace of study, but will take in the region of six hours for the OCQ(CO) - FCCO course.

When will I receive my authorisation?

For new FCCOs, the APHA will be notified automatically that you have passed the exam and will process your authorisation for FCCO status; a process which takes up to ten working days. You cannot start work while you are waiting for authorisation. Once your authorisation is granted, you will be notified by email and will be able to download your certificate of authorisation from your Personal Training Dashboard. The APHA will send you a personal stamp to use on official export supporting documents. This will be sent to the address that you used for registration. If you are a new FCCO there is no time limit for completion of the training, but you cannot be authorised until it is successfully completed.

If you were authorised as an FCCO prior to the introduction of the training course, you will have until 31 May 2022 to complete the training. Your current authorisation will continue up to this deadline.

Why is APHA asking FCCOs to do this training?

FCCOs are required to complete the training as part of the APHA's FCCO authorisation process. The Policy for Authorisation of FCCOs by APHA sets out the relationship between FCCOs and APHA as the competent authority responsible for their authorisation. The training has been devised to ensure that FCCOs have the information and support to help them in their certification role as part of the authorisation process. OVs also must undergo similar training as part of their authorisation to certify goods to the EU and the rest of the world.

Who will invigilate my online examination? 

Candidates may nominate an FCCO, a vet, a doctor or a lawyer to invigilate their online examination. The online examination will only become available once the invigilator has provided a professional registration number (if the invigilator is an FCCO, they can enter the number on their official stamp if they have one, otherwise they should enter their job title/position instead) and confirmed that they are happy to accept the role. 

^ back to top

Change of employment

If such circumstance arises that an FCCO wishes to move from one Local Authority’s employment to another, their FCCO authorised status will stay with them (as long as all conditions for authorisation are met). Similarly, FCCOs can work temporarily for a different LA at the agreement of both LAs involved. The FCCO must notify APHA of the move which must be confirmed by the Lead Food Officer at the new LA. The FCCO can continue to use their existing stamp while working for the new LA. Moves between FSS and LA will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, subject to meeting specific requirements.

^ back to top

Latest updates

Animal Health Paraprofessional training

Welcome to the Improve AHP website.

Counts of AHPs/COs Authorised by APHA in GB

OV Training

For Official Veterinarian training visit

Independent, confidential and free help for everyone in the veterinary community.