Written by Kim Ray and Sam Greenlee
Do you know what fees are included in your Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) audit program? Is your company new to the world of GFSI and trying to decide which auditing scheme to choose? Programs such as BRC, SQF, GlobalG.A.P., or Primus GFS are some of the most common in the United States. Most companies perform their due diligence, or initial research, and price shop for a reputable certification body to conduct their audit. Sometimes when you receive a quote, it’s pretty straight forward. However, there are also times when you receive a quote, and the items listed are ambiguous, or there are hidden costs that you might not notice until you receive your final invoice. This article helps to explain common fees included in the price of an audit, as well as some potential hidden costs.
Here are some of the standard fees that you will find on a quote:
- Audit time on-site – calculated using criteria from the certification program codes, using variables such as how large a facility is, how many employees there are, or how many HACCP plans are in use.
- Report writing time – usually a flat rate determined by the certification body, based on the estimated time required.
- Administrative fees – a flat rate determined by the certification body to capture the costs associated with the technical review, report uploading, generating the certificate, etc.
- Travel time – this may be a flat rate quoted upfront or an hourly rate to be billed based on actual time. In either case, this helps capture the cost of the auditor’s time spent traveling to and from your facility.
- Travel expenses – can include airfare, mileage, lodging, rental cars, tolls, meals, etc., and is typically billed at cost after the completion of the audit. You will want to pay attention, however, to whether or not the certification body adds any additional fees onto the cost. Local auditors may help reduce total travel expenses.
- Certification/Registration fees – mandatory fees that the auditing scheme charges the Certification Body to perform each audit.
- Additional module costs – these can be retailer-specific or requested by a customer, such as FSMA, Quality, or Costco addenda.
As mentioned above, the fees assessed for audit time on site are determined by specific criteria that the certification program (like BRC or SQF) have already established. Things like how big your facility is, how many employees you have at that site, or how many HACCP plans are in use. Below are the links to a few GFSI scheme’s codes.
GlobalG.A.P. fee schedule – Chapter 1
Primus GFS Duration Calculator – starting on page 8
While most costs are spelled out upfront on an audit quote, you will sometimes find that other charges are more difficult to estimate in advance and not included in the quote.
The two most common hidden fees are:
- Travel Time – if travel time is not charged as a flat fee, it is likely to be charged on an hourly basis to reflect actual travel time. If a quote notes that the invoice will bill for travel time, you will want to make sure to find out what the hourly travel rate is and how far you can expect the auditor to be traveling for your audit.
- Non-Conformity/Corrective Action Review – an essential portion of an audit requires the Certification Body to review the corrective actions for any non-conformities identified during an audit. While some Certification Bodies include this review process in the flat fees for report writing and administrative fees, others charge for this review separately either with a cost per non-conformity or an hourly rate for analysis. Bear in mind that most audits will have at least a few non-conformities identified and those sites new to a certification program often have several; therefore, these charges can add up.
Potential range of prices per scheme
Here are some general prices ranges that you can expect for the following auditing schemes. The ranges provided here are meant only to give a broad idea for initial budgeting purposes. Every facility is unique, and various factors impact actual pricing. For an accurate quote for your specific facility, contact Safe Food Certifications to request a quote.
A typical 2-day BRC Certification Audit is likely to run between $5300 and $7500, excluding travel expenses.
Initial Certification for SQF requires two separate audits—a Desk Audit and a Facility Audit. Combined for a typical facility needing a 2-day Facility Audit, they are likely to run between $7300 and $9000, excluding travel expenses.
SQF Recertification audits take place in just one visit. A typical 2-day recertification audit will likely run between $4500 and $6000, excluding travel expenses.
“The GlobalG.A.P fee calculation is based on the type of certification standard or the kind of assessment(e.g., Integrated Farm Assurance or GRASP), the sub-scope (e.g. aquaculture base or crops base), the product (e.g. lettuce, Atlantic Salmon) and often also the production quantity (e.g. 5 hectares or 1,000 tons)”. Because of this, the Producer Registration Fee can is between 0.11 and 5000 British pounds, depending on how large the farm is. The certificate license fee varies based on the option chosen with a price of 1 to 130 British pounds. In addition to these fees, the certification body you work with will charge and auditing fee and travel expenses.
As stated by Primus GFS, a GAP audit consists of documentation review and visual inspection. “Audit duration includes the time from the opening meeting to the closing meeting (where the non-conformances found are reviewed). The timeframes shall be indicated in the audit report. CBs must be able to justify significant audit duration deviations” (Primus GFS General Regulations). The GAP audit document review is between two and five hours, and the visual inspection is between one point five and four hours long. A typical audit is likely to run between $1,600 and $2,500, excluding travel expenses.
- If you are price shopping for an audit, pay attention to the total cost in the quote. Each certification body has its way of labeling things on the quote or where items are listed.
- Ask questions about travel time and expenses. Finding a local auditor can help reduce the total cost of the audit.
- Familiarize yourself with the process for corrective actions and reviewing non-conformities. Does your Certification Body charge an extra fee during this process?
Reach a real person to discuss any questions you may have! Safe Food Certifications currently offers auditing services for BRC and SQF certification programs. We are committed to providing competitive pricing at the best value, contact us, and get your quote today.