GFSI. Global Food Safety Initiative

This food safety group was founded in Belgium in 2000. The public faith in food safety was low. Food manufacturers and wholesalers were subjected to numerous audits with confusing requirements. The food supply chain, including the public’s demand for ready to eat foods, was increasing in complexity and risk. Larger vendors, in contrast, wanted suppliers with food safety plans, strict preventive controls and reduced risk.

A group of international retailers, food safety experts, and government representatives met to unify and harmonize food safety standards and practices across both developed and emerging markets. The result, Global Food Safety Initiative, is not a food safety standard or requirement. It is voluntary but often is required by large vendors as evidence that their suppliers practice proactive food safety.

It serves as a library of food safety management standards which can be applied in the industry. It also creates a forum for manufacturers, retailers, regulators, and consumers to collaborate to improve food safety, share knowledge, address issues, and develop globally recognized best food safety. Since its inception, the group has grown in acceptance to the point where 38800 follow on LinkedIn, 40 countries were registered at the latest GFSI educational conference and 150 countries worked with GFSI in more than 25 working groups

At the center of its benchmarking model is the GFSI’s Guidance Document, which was developed with the input of multiple stakeholders and drafted by food experts from across the globe. The document outlines the ways in which food safety schemes or projects become GFSI-recognized and provides direction for their inception. The Guidance Document is updated regularly to promote relevant and robust food safety management requirements.

GFSI itself is not a certification program, nor does it perform certification or accreditation activities. Instead, there are a number of certification programs that meet the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. In order to quality as one of these programs, a certification group must be accredited against ISO/IEC 17065 or ISO/IEC 17021 (see for details about ISO standards). This provides a proven framework of checks and balances that significantly improves the consistency of the audit and certification process.
Companies that wish to become GFSI-certified must pursue certification in one of nine major projects that best align with their activities. Then the developer of that project, a GFSI-certified program owner, will help that company to pursue certification. As of 2020, there were nine major GFSI certified projects (“schemes”) as follows: Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF), BRC Global Standards, FSSC 22000, Canada GAP, Global Red Meat Initiative, Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood, GlobalG.A.P, Primus GFS and IFS. Each project has a limited food safety focus.
Please research each project and read their information carefully, to be sure it applies to your company’s activities and requirements. Apply to the administrator for information about becoming certified. After certification is complete, contact the administrator for a list of certified auditors to verify the scheme requirements.
Global Food Safety Initiative is well recognized by international food safety experts and major vendors such as Tesco, Whole Foods and Amazon. This extra layer of proactive food safety is good business. Certification establishes trust across international markets, instant credibility with every vendor in your supply chain, as well as providing better food safety and efficiency.
Resources for this article (information about GFSI activities and 9/15/2020 Tiffany M. Donica “A Guide to GFSI Compliance and Certification”