- Agustina Branz
The Journey Towards a Safer Industry: A Look Into the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)
Food safety is the foundation of not only a safer food industry in the present but also of the development that will ensure a more sustainable and reliable future. And at the same time, it’s about building trust between stakeholders that stretch all the way from farmers to consumers.
And that trust begins with meeting a benchmark, living up to a standard.
It was in 2000, in answer to large-scale food safety concerns and product recalls, that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmark was established. A benchmarking process based on rigorous requirements designed to ensure that food safety management systems all live up to the highest quality.
The ultimate goal of the GFSI? To harmonize food safety standards, reduce food safety risks, and improve consumer confidence through reliability.
Why is the GFSI’s safety so important for safety in a global market
In today's global market, food safety is of paramount importance. When ingredients are being sourced from across the world and end products shipped off back to consumers in every corner of the globe, ensuring that products are safe and free from harmful contaminants is crucial.
The GFSI Benchmark brings together stakeholders from across the food industry to work collaboratively on improving food safety management systems. At the heart of this lies a benchmark that provides the framework for standardizing food safety.
GFSI’s globally recognized Benchmarking Requirements allow food manufacturers and brands to demonstrate that their products meet the highest standards of food safety. And it's the organization's ability to answer the need for a paradigm shift in the food industry as risks emerge that has helped it build an unshakeable legacy in just over two decades.
By working with the GFSI, food brands and manufacturers can enhance their credibility and increase consumer trust, making it easier to work together towards a common goal of improving food safety and ensuring that consumers can have confidence in the food they consume.
How does the GFSI stay ahead of the curve in the industry?
The strength of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) lies in its collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders across the food industry. Partnerships and collaborations are a key part of GFSI's approach, bringing together expertise from different areas of the industry that all align with a common goal.
These collaborations range from governments, academia, NGOs, and other food safety organizations. Working with industry-leading partners, the GFSI is helping organizations share knowledge, develop best practices, and promote the harmonization of food safety standards across the industry.
Knowledge sharing is a vital part of the GFSI’s journey. It is what makes it more than just a benchmark, but a support system that is helping to create a more informed culture in the food industry. Businesses who work with the GFSI or any of the GFSI-recognized Certification Programs are actively raising awareness of food safety issues and the factors in their own facilities that affect them. And it’s this internal change that allows businesses to gradually change the market as a result.
How is the GFSI simplifying certification ecosystems?
It’s important to remember that the GFSI does not itself provide any form of certification. Instead, the organization works closely with certification programs that meet the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. It’s this GFSI-recognized Certification that provides assurance.
But what makes GFSI-recognized Certification so great is the simplified “once certified, accepted everywhere” approach.
Duplicate audits lead to unnecessary inefficiencies and trade barriers. But when the Benchmarking Requirements for Professional Recognition Bodies was launched in November 2021, it helped to simplify the food safety certification ecosystem drastically.
Once registered with a GFSI-recognized Professional Recognition Body, a single certification is accepted everywhere. And as one of the most-widely recognized certification guides in the world, the GFSI Benchmarking Process helps businesses provide assurance without hindering business growth.
What makes GFSI-recognized Certification reliable?
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Benchmarking Process is what allows food safety certification programs to exist in a harmonized certification ecosystem. To achieve GFSI recognition, food safety certification programs must undergo a third-party auditor assessment that measures every section of the certification against the benchmark.
Accreditation is only achieved when the certification lives up to ISO/IEC 17065 or ISO/IEC 17021 standard, which both address factors such as conflicts of interest, the importance of data privacy, and qualifying personnel.
Well-known programs that are part of GFSI-recognized food safety schemes are SQF, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, and IFS.
How can your facility obtain GFSI-recognized Certification?
Certification takes place in six easily defined stages:
SCOPE: Find out which schemes apply to your facility
Determine which sub-sector your facility falls under within the agri-food sector and find the GFSI-recognized Certification Programs that cover your scope.
CONTACT: Get in touch with a CPO
Find the program that suits your business best by getting in touch with the applicable GFSI-recognized Certification Program Owners (CPOs) and obtaining their specific requirements directly from them.
ASSESS: Complete an internal audit ahead of your CPO audit
Assess the gaps that exist between your facility’s food safety management practices of your facility and those required by the CPO. This step may require outside support to ensure you cover all the bases.
PREPARE: Get your facility ready for the external audit
Once you’ve reviewed your CPO’s prerequisites, you have to perform an HACCP analysis. While you prepare your procedures for the audit, establish process control points and ensure that the site meets the scheme’s requirements.
AUDIT: Stand back, relax, and await your certification (or feedback)
Contact an accredited certification body from a list of accredited partners which can be obtained on the CPO’s website or requested directly from them. Begin the certification program.
MAINTENANCE: Keep your facility safe and in good shape
As with any safety program, your certification will require follow-up audits to ensure that a facility continues to meet requirements.
Putting people first in the journey to a thriving food industry
The GFSI’s commitment to an ongoing journey and the creation of a harmonized industry mirrors Ingredient Brothers own mission.
Our vision of a democratized industry with quality food and long-term relationships at its heart can only become a reality if the safety of the products we send into the world is always on our minds.
It’s only through people and through our relationships with everyone from farmers through to consumers that our industry can thrive. And it’s only by putting safety first that we can protect those relationships.