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What is Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)?

What is GFSI and how do I get started

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is vital in ensuring food safety management systems. It endorses auditing platforms that meet its gold standard for food safety audits, instilling customer confidence and attracting new ones. GFSI evaluates suppliers based on disclosure, operational compliance, and traceability to ensure consistent, safe food production. Accreditation, capability building, and benchmarking contribute to improved industry practices and market accessibility. GFSI’s efforts benefit stakeholders by upholding the highest standards in food safety, product integrity, and cost efficiency. It serves as a cornerstone of the food industry’s commitment to consumer protection. By the end of the article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the GFSI, its objectives, its impact on the food industry, and how it ensures the highest standards in food safety, product integrity, and consumer protection.

What Is Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)?

What is the global food safety initiative

GFSI, short for the Global Food Safety Initiative, is driven by businesses aiming to establish food safety management systems that guarantee safe food production in food facilities for consumers.

The Global Food Safety Initiative is a private organisation responsible for overseeing and endorsing various auditing platforms meeting their specified criteria. This criterion is a universally recognised gold standard for specific food safety audits.

This implies that a food processor or manufacturer with GFSI certification can promptly and convincingly demonstrate to their customers and potential clients that their facility operates under a well-organised, all-inclusive, and effective food safety program.

So to effectively attract new customers and retain existing ones, obtaining a GFSI audit and certification can instil confidence in them by assuring that your product is unlikely to present any food safety issues.

What Is the Role of GFSI?

GFSI serves an important purpose by assessing suppliers based on three key aspects:

  1. Supplier’s Disclosure: GFSI reviews the supplier’s policies and procedures to determine if they clearly communicate their operational practices.
  2. Operational Compliance: GFSI evaluates whether the supplier effectively implements the practices they claim to follow. This involves on-site inspections, employee interviews, and process observation.
  3. Traceability and Documentation: GFSI examines the supplier’s records to ensure that they maintain accurate and comprehensive documentation of their processes, enabling traceability.

By considering these elements collectively, a GFSI audit guarantees that a supplier consistently produces safe food throughout the year.

While it may initially cause stress for a supplier to discover that a crucial contract depends on obtaining an unfamiliar certification, those who successfully pursue GFSI certification often reap substantial benefits from the dedicated effort they invest.

What Falls Outside the Scope of GFSI?

GFSI Circle
  • No Policy Making: GFSI does not create policies for retailers, manufacturers, or food safety certification program owners (CPOs). Their focus is on evaluating and recognizing existing standards.
  • No Accreditation or Certification Activities: GFSI does not conduct accreditation or certification processes. Instead, it assesses and benchmarks existing certification programs against its recognized benchmarks.
  • No Ownership of Programs or Standards: GFSI does not own any food safety programs or standards. Its role is to review and approve existing standards that meet its criteria.
  • No Involvement Beyond Food Safety: GFSI’s scope is limited to food safety. It does not engage in activities related to animal welfare, environmental concerns, or ethical sourcing.

By clarifying these aspects, it becomes evident that GFSI’s primary focus is endorsing and promoting rigorous food safety standards within the industry while refraining from involvement in other areas of concern.

The Importance of Accreditation in Certification

Accreditation is crucial in the certification process as it officially recognises a certification body’s competence to provide certification services. GFSI emphasises that Certification Bodies working with GFSI-recognized Certification Programs must hold accreditation following ISO/IEC 17065 or ISO/IEC 17021. These standards address various critical aspects, such as preventing conflicts of interest, managing customer information, and ensuring qualified personnel.

Moreover, the Certification Bodies undergo evaluation by Accreditation Bodies that are members of the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) and signatories of the IAF MLA (Multilateral Recognition Arrangement). This framework establishes a proven system of checks and balances, enhancing the thoroughness and consistency of the audit and certification process. By adhering to accredited certification bodies, GFSI ensures the credibility and reliability of the certification services provided.

Capability Building

Enhancing Food Safety Through Third Party Certification

To achieve our objectives, we employ capability building as one of our strategies. In 2011, GFSI introduced a range of capability-building tools to assist companies with less advanced food safety systems in obtaining GFSI-recognized certification.

These tools, collectively known as the Global Markets Programme, serve as a comprehensive guide and implementation framework. They offer companies seeking to establish or enhance their food safety systems a pathway to address the challenges of ensuring food safety while simultaneously enhancing market accessibility.

The GFSI Global Markets Programme is a collaborative initiative developed by industry experts, emphasising inclusivity and open-source principles. Significantly, it serves as a non-accredited entry point for companies, providing a step-by-step program that fosters capacity building within primary production and manufacturing operations while facilitating continuous improvement.

The GFSI Global Markets Programme is a collaborative initiative developed by industry experts, emphasising inclusivity and open-source principles. Significantly, it serves as a non-accredited entry point for companies, providing a step-by-step program that fosters capacity building within primary production and manufacturing operations while facilitating continuous improvement.

GFSI Benefits to Stakeholder

Benefits for Suppliers

  • Certification brings about operational efficiencies and expands market opportunities.
  • Certification demonstrates process equivalence across different countries and continents, facilitating international trade.
  • Many purchasing companies accept certificates from recognized food safety certification programs, leading to reduced audits.
  • Certified companies establish a framework for legal defence in case of any issues.
  • Working within a structured food safety management system allows continuous improvement to internationally accepted standards.
What are the benefits of GFSI recognition for suppliers

Benefits for Buyers

How GFSI's Partnership with IAF Benefits buyers
  • GFSI-recognised standards serve as practical tools for shared risk management and brand protection.
  • The proactive management approach required by recognized food safety certification programs enhances product integrity.
  • Convergence of food safety management practices across supply chains results in cost savings.
  • Certification improves market connections and simplifies the purchasing process.

Benefits for Food Systems

  • Creation of a safer global supply chain.
  • Enhanced product integrity.
  • Improved access to markets.
  • Reduction in duplication and audit fatigue.
  • Adoption of a comparable audit approach and consistent outcomes.
  • Continuous improvement within recognized food safety certification programs.
  • Cost efficiency through reduced failures.
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Benchmarking and Harmonisation

gfsi audits for food processing systems

GFSI strives to enhance food safety and business efficiency by establishing a shared acceptance of good food safety requirements. To achieve this, GFSI has implemented a benchmarking process that compares the procedures of various food safety-related schemes or platforms to their Guidance Document. Initially developed with input from food safety experts, the Guidance Document continues to play a crucial role in defining the benchmarking process for food safety schemes, ensuring global recognition.

The foundation of the GFSI benchmarking process lies in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. These requirements serve as the basis for private standards organisations (certification program owners) to seek recognition. Upon completing the benchmarking process, a scheme is recognised by GFSI when all its criteria are deemed equivalent to the requirements set by GFSI.

By fostering mutual acceptance within the industry and reducing inefficiencies, GFSI promotes global harmonisation and reduces trade barriers. It focuses on recognising certification programs rather than certifying individual companies.

What Are the GFSI Schemes?

GFSI schemes refer to the food safety schemes recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) for meeting the food safety requirements outlined in the GFSI Guidance Documents. It’s important to note that GFSI itself is an organisation that benchmarks and approves various auditing standards. While there isn’t a specific audit called “The GFSI Audit,” there are multiple standards that GFSI has benchmarked.

The following are examples of GFSI benchmarked schemes:

  • Primus GFS
  • Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood
  • Global Gap
  • FSSC 22000
  • Global Red Meat Standard
  • Canadagap
  • SQF
  • BRCGS Global Standard
  • IFS International Featured Standards
  • Japan Food Safety Management Association
what are the gfsi schemes

These schemes have undergone the benchmarking process established by GFSI and have been recognised for their alignment with GFSI’s food safety requirements. Each scheme contributes to the overall goal of promoting food safety and ensuring the highest standards within the food industry.

How to Get Certified?

To attain GFSI-recognized certification, companies must undergo a third-party audit conducted by a GFSI-recognized Certification Program Owner (CPO). To find a suitable Certification Programme, companies can refer to our Recognized CPO module, choose their industry scope, and access the Certification Programmes’ website for detailed information on achieving certification. For additional guidance, GFSI’s “How to Get Certified” fact sheet provides more comprehensive information.

If you’re seeking an evaluation of your facility’s processes by ORAPI to determine your eligibility for certification, you can access our assistance through the recently launched ORAPI Partner Program.

By signing up for the ORAPI Partner Program, you will enjoy many more benefits, such as having a dedicated account manager to assess, evaluate, and customise solutions; product and application training to make you aware of the protocols as well as educate your staff; and priority liaising with 24/7 agile support on-demand among many more. 

Conclusion: Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)

In conclusion, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is crucial in endorsing and promoting rigorous food safety standards within the industry. By providing a universally recognised gold standard for food safety audits, GFSI certification instils confidence in customers and attracts new ones. With a focus on assessing suppliers and ensuring consistent safe food production, GFSI contributes to a safer global supply chain and improved market access. Through accreditation, capability building, benchmarking, and harmonisation, GFSI enhances business efficiency, reduces trade barriers, and promotes shared risk management. Ultimately, GFSI’s efforts benefit stakeholders by ensuring the highest standards in food safety, product integrity, and cost efficiency, making it a cornerstone of the food industry’s commitment to consumer protection.

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