Global Food Safety Initiative

What is GFSI?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) began in 2000 as a collaboration amongst members of the Consumer Goods Forum with a goal of improving the management of food safety risks across the supply chain and reducing audit fatigue. Since its inception, GFSI has been a driving force behind the implementation of HACCP based food safety management systems amongst suppliers as a result of its benchmarking process, which recognizes food safety certification programs (aka schemes) as meeting a core set of requirements necessary for the production of safe food. Today, there are fourteen different recognized certification programs covering a range of supply chain sectors.

In 2008, Walmart became the first retailer to require its suppliers to achieve certification to a GFSI-recognized scheme. Since that time a common element of supplier agreements with retailers, food service providers and major manufacturers has evolved to include the requirement for GFSI-recognized certification.  Largely, this has been in response to the growing number of recalls, consumer demands, and prevailing food regulations. This is because certification to a GFSI-recognized scheme assures buyers that a supplier is committed to implementing safe food practices, which are continually monitored, verified and improved.

GFSI’s success and reach is largely attributed to its extensive network of stakeholders committed to GFSI’s vision of “safe food for consumers everywhere”. GFSI is governed by the GFSI Board, which is comprised of food safety and quality executives from major retailers, manufacturers and food service companies. The Board supports GFSI’s mission for continuous improvement in food safety management systems and safe food assurance for consumers through stakeholder communication and resulting mandates, which are directed to the Technical Working Groups for development and implementation.

What are the benefits of certification to a GFSI-recognized program?

Certification to a GFSI-recognized food safety program benefits suppliers, retailers and most importantly, consumers. This is accomplished through the many programs GFSI initiates including benchmarking of food safety certification programs, development of auditor competencies, Global Markets Program, and sector-specific programs.

Key benefits of GFSI certification appreciated by suppliers and retailers include the following:

  • Production of food according to internationally accepted food safety standards
  • Increased global market access
  • Brand protection and improved product integrity
  • Greater employee awareness of food hazards and safe food practices
  • Reduced supply chain audits
  • Alignment with food safety regulations
  • Continuous improvement, which can enhance operational efficiency
  • Due diligence defense, which is objectively documented in the certification audit report

Getting started

Getting started with a GFSI-recognized certification program requires commitment by a company’s senior management to consistently produce safe food, implement and maintain a system that meets all requirements of the selected scheme, and provide the necessary resources for initial and continued participation in the program.

Once the commitment is made, there are several basics steps companies should consider when getting started.

  1. Determine which food safety program is right for your business by asking some of the following questions.
  • Which schemes cover your company’s supply chain sector (e.g., farming, processing of animal and plant products, production of food packaging, etc.)?
  • Do your customers require certification to a particular scheme?
  • Do company employees have training or experience with a particular scheme?
  • Is your company currently certified to other food or management system programs and if so, is the program compatible with one or more GFSI-recognized programs?
  1. Download the applicable standard and certification protocol documents from the certification program owners (CPOs) website and review. Conduct a gap analysis of your company’s food safety program or practices against scheme requirements to help identify areas needing development.
  2. Develop and implement a food safety management system according to scheme requirements. Ensure the program is fully implemented and controls are verified for effectiveness before proceeding with the certification audit.
  3. Contact FoodChain ID Certification for an application and information on scheduling an audit and the certification process. We recommend contacting us at least 3 months in advance of your desired audit timeframe.
  • A pre-assessment audit may be requested at the time of application for the purpose of having a qualified auditor evaluate the system against scheme requirements to determine the site’s level of preparedness. Pre-audits do not result in certification.
  1. Undergo the initial certification audit. Maintain the program for recertification.

Global Markets Program

The Global Markets program is a step-wise approach for achieving certification to a GFSI-recognized program. Recognizing the diversity in size and sophistication of food production and manufacturing operations across the globe, GFSI developed the Global Markets Program in 2011 to support small businesses or those with developing food safety systems. The program is based on three levels of implementation and assessment, which culminates in accredited certification against a GFSI-recognized scheme. The program is applicable to supply chain sectors for the farming of plants and manufacturing of processed foods.

Each scheme offers checklists comprised of Basic and Intermediate level requirements, which are derived from the scheme’s benchmarked standard. Sites may enter in at the Basic or Intermediate level depending upon their current food safety system. Basic and Intermediate level assessments do not result in certification but rather, serve as building blocks for the development of a HACCP-based food safety management system and attainment of GFSI-recognized certification.

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