Wow, there are so many audit schemes out there these days. I know what you are thinking, “Why would a company even submit themselves to an audit?” Reality is that audits, and with them the certificate a facility receives, are table stakes now for retailers, exporters, and manufacturers alike. Few retailers don’t require audit certificates anymore. Retailers want to protect themselves from recalls and place the responsibility for safe food in the hands of the processor. Unfortunately, we have seen many recalls recently, especially in the fresh produce arena.
That is why investment in food safety is so important. With the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now able to focus on implementing effective prevention of food safety issues. FSMA includes Preventive Controls for Human Foods, The Produce Safety Rule, Foreign Supplier Verification, Sanitary Transport of Food and Feed, and Intentional Adulteration. Now every facility is required to comply with the various rules. Because of the passing of FSMA, food companies have become empowered to not only follow regulations but also go above and beyond with GFSI certification. Read more here about FSMA, compliance dates, and what the different rules entail.
If you are overwhelmed, like many are with the regulation and requirement demands, you aren’t alone. In those moments, remember why food safety is important. We create safe food for the public. Becoming Primus certified helps to ensure that happens.
What Is Primus GFS?
Where does Primus GFS come in? Processing facilities “post farm gate” are covered by a selection of available Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes such as BRC or SQF. For facilities that are not ready for such an involved food safety system or are just starting out, HACCP or even a GMP audit may be a better choice.
But what about farms and packing houses “pre-farm gate”? The traditional GFSI schemes don’t quite fit this type of an operation because the scope is different from post farm gate. Primus GFS offers a tailor-made food safety approach for facilities that grow, harvest, pack, or deliver preliminary processing such as washing and repacking produce. This platform covers the food safety of agricultural and plant products and provides the ability to have all information generated in an electronic format that is functional and can be transferred directly to retail or other buyers.
Why Primus GFS?
In July 2018 the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Board of Directors announced that PrimusGFS had achieved recognition against Version 7.1 of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. In short, Primus GFS is now a GFSI benchmarked scheme. With the certification comes retailer recognition, opening doors to retailers for farming operations. Now, Primus GFS certified sites meet the universal food safety standards endorsed and accepted by the largest retailers worldwide. That is powerful!
How is Primus GFS different than other Farm-Focused GFSI schemes?
Comparable farm-focused GFSI schemes include Global Gap, Canada Gap, and Harmonized Gap. While retailers accept all of these, Global Gap and Primus GFS are probably the most adopted by the industry. Global Gap is based in Germany and has only two representatives available for questions here in the USA. The Certification Body you choose to work with will have to frequently communicate with the Scheme Owners (Primus GFS, Global Gap, etc.). A local entity such as California-based Primus GFS with its premier customer service might be easier to reach by your CB and thus create a faster response time to your business.
Is Primus GFS right for you?
Check it out – here is a summary of the modules that are covered by Primus GFS:
Module 1: Food Safety Management System (FSMS) APPLICABLE TO ALL OPERATIONS
Module 2: Farm APPLICABLE FOR FARM OPERATIONS
Module 3: Indoor Agriculture (formerly greenhouse, where crops are grown in a controlled environment in a temporary or permanent enclosed structure) APPLICABLE FOR INDOOR AGRICULTURE OPERATIONS
Module 4: Harvest Crew APPLICABLE FOR HARVEST CREW OPERATIONS
Module 5: Facility (a handling operation carried out in one or more buildings where the product is being handled and or stored – examples include: storage and distribution centers, cold storage, packing houses) APPLICABLE FOR FACILITY OPERATIONS
Module 6: Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) System – required for GMP operations APPLICABLE TO ALL FACILITY OPERATIONS
Module 7: Preventive Controls (PC) – optional and applicable to GMP operations only OPTIONAL TO ALL FACILITY OPERATIONS
Each of these modules changes with the industry. Food safety principles, stakeholder input, GFSI benchmarking requirements, and analytical evidence for improvements in case a non-conformity is discovered in the audit, greatly influence the Primus GFS content.
To learn more about the details covered in these modules and the audit checklists, click here.
What To Expect If You Want To Go Forward With Primus Certification
- Check that your operation’s products are within the PrimusGFS GFSI-recognized scope. See General Regulations, section 6, Food Categories, Page 6.
- Decide on kind of operation type(s) you need to have audited:
- GAP – Growing Area (Ranch or Greenhouse), Harvest Crew.
- GMP/HACCP – Cooling & Cold Storage, Packinghouse, Processing, Storage & Distribution.
- Review relevant documents on the PrimusGFS website, notably:
- General Regulations.
- Checklist and Expectations.
- Relevant Interpretation Guidelines (to better understand questions and expectations in the audit).
- Choose a certification body (CB) to work with
- Talk with the CB about your audit needs and double-check that you have the correct audit scope & operation types. Extending the scope of an audit post-certification is difficult & not always possible; it is crucial to have all your products & processes covered in the audit you are booking.
- Talk with the CB about auditor availability, expense costs, & audit costs.
- Consider an optional Pre-Assessment Audit if you feel it would be beneficial.
- We strongly recommend performing a full self-audit on your operation(s). A good self-audit will allow you to detect potential non-conformances and implement corrective actions before a formal audit, thus improving your performance on the day of the audit.
- The auditor will perform an opening meeting, tour and audit the operation, audit documentation, and then hold a closing meeting. We recommend that you ensure the auditor leaves you a document/emails you copy of the detected non-conformances either on the day of the audit or within 24 hours of the audit so that you are immediately ready to start the corrective action completion phase.
- Completion of corrective actions
- Completing corrective actions can help improve your audit score.
- Auditees have thirty (30) days from the day of the audit to complete and record corrective action work. Please see here for instructions of recording corrective actions.
- Certification decision
- Once the audit report and corrective actions are completed, the CB will review all of the details in readiness for the certification decision.
- Certification Bodies are supposed to issue certificate decisions within forty-five (45) days of the audit date.
- Note that CBs can refuse certification not only because of failing overall or section audit scores, but also if critical food safety issues not covered in the audit scheme have been detected. Additionally, a CB can also refuse to certify for such problems as falsified records, inappropriate auditee behavior, etc.
- Auditees can (in writing) appeal audit reports and certification decisions with their CBs if they wish to do so (ask your CB for a copy of their appeals, complaints and dispute SOP).
- Receive PrimusGFS Certificates
- Certificates usually valid for 12 months from the day of the certification decision (check certificate detail).
- Certificates are sent via email along with a copy of the final audit report.
*Information for Primusgfs.com
Because we believe in food safety here at Safe Food Alliance, our sister company, Safe Food Certifications, is in the process of becoming a Certification Body (CB) who offers Primus GFS audits along with our other audit offerings such as HACCP, BRC, and SQF. We will offer this service in2020 – we fill our schedule early and wanted to give you a chance to familiarize yourself with this audit scheme and decide whether it’s right for your operation.
Feel free to contact our sister company Safe Food Certification’s Auditing Services Coordinator Sam Greenlee for a conversation about Primus GFS or other audit schemes at (916) 246-2806 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org