What is GFSI?

Getting Started with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)

What is GFSI?

GFSI stands for The Global Food Safety Initiative. It is a business-driven initiative for the development of food safety management systems to ensure food facilities are processing safe food for consumers. 

The GFSI is a private organization that oversees and approves different auditing platforms as meeting their criteria. This criterion provides a universal gold-standard of recognition to specific food safety audits.

In practice, this means that a food processor or manufacturer who can point to their GFSI certification can effectively and immediately show their customers and potential customers that their plant is operating with a structured, comprehensive, and effective food safety program.

In dollars and cents, this means that if you want to reach new customers and keep existing customers, a GFSI audit and GFSI Certification will help them to know that they aren’t likely to face food safety problems with your product.

Think of GFSI as a Parent...

Their job is to make sure that all of the children or schemes/platforms follow the rules of safe food. If they do, they maintain their GFSI certification.

As the parent, GFSI has created a benchmarking process where they compare procedures of food safety-related schemes or platforms to the GFSI Guidance Document. The Guidance Document first drafted with input from food safety experts continues to help define the process in which food safety schemes can be benchmarked by GFSI and be recognized across the globe.

What does GFSI do?

Every GFSI standard effectively reviews three things:

  • Does the supplier say what they do? (Reviewing policies and procedures)
  • Does the supplier do what they say? (Observing processes while they run, interviewing employees, inspecting the facility)
  • Does the supplier track that they do what they say? (Reviewing records)

Putting all of these elements together, a GFSI audit ensures that a supplier is producing safe food year round.

While it can be stressful for a supplier to learn that an important contract hinges on obtaining a certification they’ve never heard of before, suppliers who successfully pursue GFSI certification generally find that the effort invested leads to significant rewards.

So, what are GFSI Schemes?

A food safety scheme is recognized by GFSI when it meets the food safety requirements defined in the GFSI Guidance Documents. Remember that GFSI is an organization that benchmarks and approves different auditing standards. There isn't technically any single audit called "The GFSI Audit," but there are several standards that are GFSI-benchmarked.

GFSI benchmarked schemes:

  • Primus GFS
  • Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood
  • Global Gap
  •  FSSC 22000
  • Global Red Meat Standard
  •  Canadagap
  • SQF
  • BRC Global Standard
  • IFS International Featured Standards
  • Japan Food Safety Management Association

How do I know which scheme to pick?

Short Answer:If you are a food processor or manufacturer in the United States you can choose any of the applicable GFSI schemes, though, getting a GFSI Audit will most likely mean getting a BRC or SQF audit.

Longer Answer: Each company is different and schemes are not one size fits all. It is important that you take the time to do your homework and choose the one that is right for you. If you want more help choosing a scheme, schedule a free consultation with Sam Greenlee, our Auditing Services Manager and he can talk you through the process.

The Roadmap to GFSI Certification [FREE E-book]

In this guide, you will find an introduction to the GFSI platform, an explanation of HACCP, and guidelines to GFSI certification, all to assist you in determining which audit scheme is right for your company.

Getting Started with GFSI Certification

Many food processors first hear of the Global Food Safety Initiative when a customer asks for a copy of their GFSI Certificate. Because GFSI is such a large and complicated institution, it can be difficult to grasp what exactly GFSI certification means on your own.

Starting with HACCP

HACCP, short for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points is where it all begins. Without HACCP, you won’t be successful in your food safety program, so make sure you take a class to get educated on everything there is to know about this fundamental piece of food safety. On top of being extremely helpful, HACCP training is required under many GFSI schemes.

Fun Fact *According to a study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), food recalls cost companies an average of $10 million per incident.

HACCP Learning Library

BRC & SQF Certification

As explained above, there are ten different platforms under the GFSI umbrella. But when it comes to Food Processing, two of the largest are BRC and SQF. Globally SQF has 6588 certified sites and BRC has 20903 certified sites, showing the footprint that the two platforms have.

How do I get an SQF or BRC audit?

This question has a long answer and a short answer.

The short answer: it’s easy. Contact an accredited Certification Body (like Safe Food Certifications) and tell them which audit you want. The Certification Body will get your information, provide you with a quote, contract, and audit date, and you are good to go.

The long answer: Let’s assume that you don’t simply want a GFSI-benchmarked audit, but actually want to pass it. The answer is a bit more complicated.

While you can get a BRC or SQF audit whenever you like, you really shouldn't rush your audit if you aren't ready. A failed audit isn't the end of the road for your facility. But, no facility wants anything less than a successful one.

Getting Help with GFSI 

No matter where you are on your GFSI certification journey, nothing should dissuade you from your goal of achieving BRC or SQF certification. Instead, you should honestly assess your possible gaps and timeframe. A facility with a good HACCP program in place and a practitioner attending SQF or BRC training next week might well be ready for an audit in four months. A facility still grappling with a HACCP program might need to plan on an audit for a year or more down the line.

It can be beneficial to speak to a representative at a Certification Body about your particular facility to get some input on your likely timeline as well. They work with many processors in the same situation and can help you in determining your needs towards achieving certification.

No matter how far out your timeline may be, it is a good idea to connect with a Certification Body to discuss getting your audit on the schedule early. BRC and SQF audits are in high demand and are often booked out months in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Why Work with Safe Food Certifications?

Becoming certified for the first time can be intimidating but you don’t have to do it alone. We understand the liabilities and the worries. In order to smooth out your learning curve, contact Safe Food Certifications to help you establish a road map for pursuing GFSI certification for your facility. No matter your level of preparedness and scheme-specific requirements, we will help you meet you food safety goals.

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