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Frequently Asked Questions


The purpose of this document is to assist with any questions that may be raised in order to provide consistent answers and help to eliminate any possible ambiguity.


What is the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a collaboration between some of the world's leading food safety experts from retailer, manufacturer and food service companies, as well as service providers associated with the food supply chain. GFSI is a non‐profit making foundation, created under Belgian law. The daily management of GFSI is undertaken by the Consumer Goods Forum.

What is the relationship between The Consumer Goods Forum and GFSI?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is co‐ordinated by the Consumer Goods Forum and was launched in May 2000. The GFSI has a separate governance structure and is a registered independent non‐profit Foundation, governed by Belgian law.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is a global, parity‐based industry network, driven by its members. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of over 650 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries and reflects the diversity of the industry in geography, size, product category and format. Forum member companies have combined sales of EUR 2.1 trillion.

The Forum was created in June 2009 by the merger of CIES ‐ The Food Business Forum, the Global Commerce Initiative (GCI) and the Global CEO Forum. The Consumer Goods Forum is governed by its Board of Directors, which includes 50 manufacturer and retailer CEOs and Chairmen.
The Forum provides a unique global platform for knowledge exchange and initiatives around five strategic priorities – Emerging Trends, Sustainability, Safety & Health, Operational Excellence and Knowledge Sharing & People Development – which are central to the advancement of today’s consumer goods industry.

The Forum’s vision is: “Better lives though better business”. To fulfil this, its members have given the Forum a mandate to develop common positions on key strategic and operational issues affecting the consumer goods business, with a strong focus on non‐competitive process improvement. The Forum’s success is driven by the active participation of the key players in the sector, who together develop and lead the implementation of best practices along the value chain.

With its headquarters in Paris and its regional offices in Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, the Forum serves its members throughout the world.

What is the GFSI Vision?

Under the umbrella of The Consumer Goods Forum, the vision for GFSI is ‘safe food for consumers everywhere’. By drawing on the expertise of its international stakeholders working in various sectors, GFSI is able to have a truly global approach when tackling food safety issues.

What is the GFSI Mission?

Since it was launched in May 2000 following a number of major food safety scares, the GFSI has aimed to:

“Provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide”

What are the GFSI Objectives?

The GFSI objectives are to:
1) Reduce food safety risks by delivering equivalence and convergence between effective food safety management systems
2) Manage cost in the global food system by eliminating redundancy and improving operational efficiency
3) Develop competencies and capacity building in food safety to create consistent and effective global food systems
4) Provide a unique international stakeholder platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and networking

What does GFSI do?

  • Benchmarking (see also section 4 – Scheme Benchmarking)

Within GFSI, benchmarking is a “procedure by which a food safety‐related scheme is compared to the GFSI Guidance Document,” a copy of which can be found on www.mygfsi.com under ‘Information Resources). The process is intended to be executed in an independent, unbiased, technically proficient and transparent manner. The GFSI Board benchmarking a scheme successfully means that all recognized schemes have a common foundation of requirements which should provide consistent results, in regard to the common requirements applied during the audit, but the benchmarked schemes cannot be considered as equal.

  • Reductions in audits through common acceptance

Under the umbrella of GFSI, 8 major retailers came to a common acceptance of four GFSI benchmarked food safety schemes in June 2007.
Each scheme has now aligned itself with common criteria defined by food safety experts from the food business, with the objective of making food production and manufacture as safe as possible. As a result, this will also drive cost efficiency in the supply chain and reduce the duplication of audits. The GFSI vision of ‘once certified, accepted everywhere’ has now become a reality. In addition to the original retailers Carrefour, Tesco, ICA, Metro, Migros, Ahold, Wal‐Mart and Delhaize who agreed to reduce duplication in the supply chain through the common acceptance of any of the GFSI benchmarked schemes, many other food service, retail and manufacturing companies have joined this approach.

While GFSI encourages businesses within the retail, food service and manufacturing sectors to choose GFSI recognized schemes, these businesses can make individual choices whether or not to implement the program. Whilst choosing a GFSI recognized scheme may be a large investment for a business initially, the number of audits is expected to be reduced significantly after implementation. Additionally, an outside customer may require specific audits, but under the GFSI framework only one scheme would be required.


Board Structure

Who are the members of the GFSI Board?
The GFSI Board members are drawn from major retailers, manufacturers and food service operators. The Board provides the strategic direction and oversight of daily management of GFSI. Current Members of the GFSI Board are:

  • Hugo BYRNES, Product Safety and Consumer Affairs Director, ROYAL AHOLD, Netherlands
  • Kevin CHEN, Vice President, CHINA RESOURCES VANGUARD CO. Ltd., P.R. China
  • Peter BEGG, Director Global Quality Programs, KRAFT FOODS INC, USA
  • D.V DARSHANE, Director Policy & Standards, Global Quality, THE COCA‐COLA COMPANY, USA
  • Hervé GOMICHON, Quality Director, CARREFOUR GROUP, France
  • Cenk GUROL, General Manager SCM Re‐engineering, AEON GLOBAL SCM CO., LTD., Japan
  • Cindy JIANG, Director of Worldwide Quality, Food Safety and Nutrition, MCDONALD’S CORPORATION, USA (Vice Chair)
  • Micheal Liewen, VP Global Quality Assurance, YUM! BRANDS INC., USA
  • Jürgen MATERN, Division Manager Quality Assurance, METRO GROUP, Germany (Chairman)
  • Payton PRUETT, Vice President, Corporate Food Technology & Regulatory Compliance, THE KROGER CO., USA
  • Yves REY, Corporate Quality General Manager, DANONE (Vice Chair)
  • Michael ROBACH, Vice President, Corporate Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs, CARGILL, INC., USA
  • Rick ROOP, Senior Vice President, Food Quality Assurance, TYSON FOODS INC, USA
  • Zoatian WAN, Vice President, COFCO CORPORATION, CHINA
  • Frank YIANNAS, Vice President of Food Safety & Quality Assurance, WAL‐MART STORES INC, USA

Will the number of GFSI Board members increase?
A new governance structure has recently been implemented whereby the GFSI Chairman, a representative from the retail industry, is supported by two vice‐chairmen from the manufacturing and food service sectors. This ensures that the key partners in the supply chain are equally represented in the decisionmaking process of the Board. Membership is by invitation only and the statutes of the GFSI Foundation allow for a maximum of 19 Board Members, with a term of office of 3 years, renewable once. An application procedure is available upon request, should you wish to join this group.

What is the GFSI Board Mandate?
The GFSI Board steers the Initiative with the support of the Advisory Council and the Stakeholder Group input. The GFSI secretariat ensures that GFSI delivers the objectives set by the Board, integrating the expectations of all stakeholders.
To this end, the Board:
•    oversees and steers the Initiative’s strategy and implementation;
•    ensures progress is being made against agreed timelines and deliverables;
•    coordinates all communication activities for the Programme;
•    seeks advice from the Advisory Board (from February 2010) and keeps it informed by communicating minutes of its meetings;
•    appoints the Chairman of these Working Groups;
•    assigns one or two Board Member Liaisons to each Technical Working Group to support and monitor their work and progress;
•    ensures the Programme is adequately resourced and oversees the allocation of these resources.

GFSI Advisory Council

The GFSI Advisory Council is a body of experts composed of academics, non‐government organization members and government members who will provide further expertise to the GFSI Board in their decision making process on matters related to the mission, objectives and goals of GFSI. The Advisory Council has been in place since 2010.

Technical Working Groups

The GFSI Technical Working Groups were formed in September 2006 and are composed of retailers, manufacturers, food service operators, standard owners, certification bodies, accreditation bodies, industry associations, academics and other technical experts. These groups work together independently throughout the year, feeding back to the entire group at the main committee meetings held three times a year. Information on the working groups currently being convened can be found on this website.

GFSI Stakeholder Group

Who is eligible to participate in GFSI?
The Stakeholder Group is open to any person who would like to provide input at the general meetings. The GFSI Stakeholder Group is an international forum which currently attracts retailers, manufacturers, certification bodies, accreditation bodies, standard owners, food safety experts and consultants. This forum is held annually, usually prior to the Global Food Safety Conference. It aims to:
•    Provide an update on GFSI activities
•    Give stakeholders the opportunity to define future GFSI objectives
•    Create an open dialogue on current and emerging food safety issues
•    Identify areas for collaboration on common top priority food safety issues

Through these discussions the group identifies future work items for recommendation to the GFSI Board.
The intention is to ensure that GFSI is run and managed by its members and is as inclusive and transparent as possible. The next meeting will be held on 15th February 2012 in Orlando, USA. For more information please email India Roger at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

What is the relationship between the GFSI Board, the Advisory Council, the GFSI Technical Working Groups and the GFSI Stakeholder Group?
Any issues raised at the GFSI Stakeholder Meeting are considered by the GFSI Board and Advisory Council.
They in turn provide the mandate of work items to the GFSI Technical Working Groups. The GSFI Technical Working Groups are charged with delivering the objectives set by the GFSI Board and Advisory Council and providing the recommendations on technical issues. It is felt by utilising such a governance process, there is an exchange of information and identification of best practice issues at an international and multistakeholder level thus ensuring the GFSI mission is achieved.

GFSI Priorities

Priorities are set on an annual basis and are developed using feedback from the stakeholder forum and to meet market needs. The GFSI Board sets these priorities.
The priorities for 2011 are:
•    Develop and maintain a robust Guidance Document.
•    Reduce the proliferation of schemes
•    Communication, education, transparency and awareness building ‐ continue to maintain GFSI’s presence in Europe, build momentum in North America and develop a strategy for APAC and Latin America.
•    Apply the once certified accepted everywhere concept to reduce cost in the system
•    Auditor competency/capacity/consistency/accreditation
•    Government acceptance and relations

Will GFSI ever become involved in areas outside of the food safety domain?
Since GFSI was formed in 2000, considerable effort has been expended to achieve harmonisation and agreement on food safety matters in the last eight years. With the success of the GFSI in relation to food safety, the GFSI Board will continue to mandate work items relating to food safety only. The Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) at The Consumer Goods Forum, a business‐led scheme to improve working and environmental conditions in global supply chains, was created to address such issues.


GFSI drives convergence between food safety standards from farm to fork through a benchmarking process. The tool used to do the benchmarking is called the GFSI Guidance Document, soon to be released in its sixth version. The document will be made freely available on www.mygfsi.com and has been developed by a group of multi‐stakeholders.

What is the GFSI Guidance Document?

The Guidance Document sets out the key elements for production of food as requirements for food safety management schemes and gives guidance to schemes seeking compliance with it. The Document provides a framework in which food safety management schemes can be benchmarked. It also sets out the requirements for the delivery of conforming schemes and contains guidance on the operation of certification processes.

How often is the GFSI Guidance Document updated?

The first GFSI Guidance Document was issued in 2002 and the sixth edition will soon be released. The current sixth edition was published in January 2011. The Guidance Document is reviewed every three to five years, depending on market needs and to ensure it remains the driver of continuous improvement in the recognized GFSI schemes.

Where can I find the GFSI Guidance Document?

The GFSI Guidance Document is freely available on www.mygfsi.com
What are the differences between Edition 5 and Edition 6 of the GFSI Guidance Document?
There is a document detailing the differences between the two editions of the GFSI Guidance Document freely available on www.mygfsi.com under ‘Information Resources’.


Comprehensive information on the GFSI Guidance Document Sixth Edition and the GFSI Benchmarking Process can be found here.
The progress of the schemes that are currently going through the benchmarking process can be found here.

ISO 22000

Does the GFSI recognise ISO 22000?

At the present time GFSI does not formally recognise the ISO 22000 standard. The GFSI has no intention to be restrictive in its activities, but by the very nature of the benchmarking process, any submitted standard must meet the requirements defined in the GFSI Guidance Document.

  • There are three main areas where differences exist:
  • The lack of defined pre requisite programmes in ISO 22000
  • The accreditation requirement for ISO 22000 differs from that specified in the GFSI Guidance Document
  • Ownership and accountability issues

In September 2007 the GFSI Technical Committee published a paper ‘What is ISO 22000?’, which has led the way for further work by a number of organisations interested in gaining recognition by the GFSI. The document is freely available on the GFSI website.

Will GFSI ever recognise ISO 22000?

The GFSI Board has recognised that ISO 22000 has an crucial role in global food safety and will consider its recognition but within the GFSI benchmarking framework.
The CIAA (the European Food Manufacturers Trade Body) has developed a pre requisite programme (PAS 220) which is available from BSI in the UK. The Foundation for Food Safety Certification (FSSC) has developed a new certification scheme combining ISO 22000, PAS 220 and specific audit protocols which has been conditionally recognised by GFSI. This scheme, FSSC 22000, has been officially recognised by GFSI. However, ISO 22000 as a standalone standard will not be recognised by GFSI.


Why is auditor competence an issue?

Auditor competence is a key factor relating to the integrity of any scheme and has long been recognised by scheme owners as a matter which must be managed and controlled to ensure consistency and fairness. At each of the stakeholder meetings held by the GFSI at previous conferences, this has been the subject of much debate.

What has GFSI done about auditor competence?

There are a number of things that GFSI have done in the past year in this area and work with other stakeholders will continue in order to address the concerns of the Industry.
2008 ‐ In 2008 an Accreditation Task Force was formed, comprised of GFSI recognised standard Owners, IAF and EA representatives and Technical Committee members to assist with a review to create a more harmonised approach to accreditation.
Each GFSI recognised scheme validates and monitors each auditing company and individual that works for them. In addition, GFSI requirements also mean that the auditing companies have to meet internationally recognised accreditation rules that are in place, validated and monitored on a regular basis by other accreditation bodies who ensure that the auditing companies also abide by these rules. This provides a system of checks and balances that helps to ensure the integrity of each audit, and that they are all carried out in a uniform and consistent manner.
2010 – In September 2010 GFSI established an Auditor Competence Working Group, working together to:

  • Establish generic food safety auditor competencies underpinning GFSI benchmarked schemes
  • Recommend options by which they can be assessed and verified
  • Integrate generic competencies into the Guidance Document to ensure that all scheme owners harmonise their basic requirements, thereby reducing duplication and removing unnecessary cost.


The Global Food Safety Initiative recognizes a series of schemes that via systematic benchmarking process using an agreed set of criteria, which is defined within a Guidance Document (currently the GFSI Guidance Document Version 5). All the schemes recognized by GFSI have been derived, over many years, from standards developed by individual organisations, e.g. retailers or inspection/ certification organisations. TheGFSI‐recognized standards have their origins based on standards dating back to the early 1980s, with the major influence being the requirements specified by retailers on their own brand suppliers.

The GFSI‐recognized standards, by their very nature, are written in differing style, but all ‘amplify’ or describe in more detail the requirements laid down in the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice. They are revised and implemented more regularly than the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice and therefore have attempted to address issues that are currently faced by the Food Industry; good examples of this are incident management, food security and allergen management.

There are within all GFSI recognized standards, requirements above and beyond those laid down in the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice, which are seen by the Food Industry as being crucial to food safety or highly desirable to ensure continuing compliance with requirements; good examples of these are requirements related to product specifications, product analysis, purchasing procedures, internal audit and full product/ingredient traceability.

Although it is very difficult to trace the origin of these standards, they all reflect the need for compliance to meet legal requirements and are based on HACCP principles, food safety management standards and prerequisite programmes (GMP). It must be appreciated however, that these standards were all based on best practice and therefore by inference can be traced back to the base requirements of Codex standards, but are not particularly referenced as such.

As these standards were developed, there are a relatively small number of specific requirements that cannot be referenced back to Codex standards, however were placed in these standards to emphasis business needs between supplier and customer; good examples of these are stock control, complaint handling and internal audit.

Codex and the GFSI Guidance Document

A detailed document has been developed by the GFSI to cross reference Codex standards to the GFSI Guidance Document and each of the recognised post farm gate standards. This document also takes into account not only food safety requirements, but also supporting management mechanisms. This document is freely available on www.mygfsi.com under ‘Information Resources’ and ‘GFSI Recognised Schemes’.

Codex and the GFSI Global Markets Working Group

The GFSI Global Markets Technical Working Group has been working for the past two years to:

  • Develop food safety requirements for small and/or less developed businesses based on current best practices.
  • Produce a protocol for the food business
  • Drive the continuous improvement process by facilitating market access locally, creating mutual acceptance along the supply chain and mentoring suppliers.

The programme is based on a three‐step approach to drive continuous improvement of the food safety system for small and/or less developed businesses. The three steps are as follows:
Step 1: An unaccredited assessment of a supplier is carried out against the Basic Level Requirements. The technical requirements at this level are comprised of 30% of the key elements of the GFSI Guidance Document, including Food Safety Systems, Good Manufacturing Practices and Control of Food Hazards.
Step 2: An unaccredited assessment of a supplier is carried out against Intermediate Level Requirements, which include the Basic Level Requirements, a further 40% of the GFSI Guidance Document elements, and the Codex Standard CAC/RCP 1‐1969 Rev 4‐2003.
Step 3: Accredited certification against one of the GFSI recognized standards.

Following a meeting in May 2010, this working group will collaborate on a project to show how the Codex Alimentarius requirements can be used practically by the private sector. The working group will show how Codex has been used as a basis in the development of its Basic Level food safety requirements, and add several Codes of Practice to the guideline that will be used by the assessor at the Intermediate Level. UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) will incorporate this into their Intermediate Level pilot programme beginning soon in Egypt. It is believed that this collaboration will continue to pave the way in discussions with entities such as the SPS committee of the World Trade Organization.


Has the GFSI considered the development of one global scheme?

This was the subject of great debate in the early years of the GFSI and it was decided that the preferred option was benchmarking of existing or new schemes. It was felt that, if there had been a move to develop one global standard, there were a number of complex issues, such as legislative, political and cultural differences, that would have been extremely difficult to overcome and the time frame to actually develop such a scheme would have been seen, by the then users of standards, as being excessive.
The framework for benchmarking was also a complex and difficult issue, however was successfully achieved by the commitment of the GFSI members. We believe, given the developments seen in 2008, the GFSI vision has been achieved albeit after several years’ hard work.

Why do not all retailers accept GFSI benchmarked schemes?

The use of any scheme is voluntary and therefore the use is purely at the discretion of the individual retailer or supplier. Individual companies are also responsible for their own food safety systems and the use of schemes does differ widely depending upon company policy, general regulatory requirements and liability.
The GFSI can only encourage the use of recognised schemes and cannot dictate to individual companies how, or if, they use them. GFSI however has been successful in promoting harmonisation and facilitating cooperation between global retailers and suppliers and will continue to do so as this is one of the GFSI founding principles.

Why do some retailers keep performing their own audits?

There are two reasons:
1. They do not recognise any scheme
2. They carry out supplementary audits to a scheme they recognise
If they do recognise a scheme, but still carry out audits, this may be a policy decision as they feel that they require more information or have a different requirement to those within a scheme standard itself. For example they may wish to assess their own label product being manufactured rather than rely on an audit where their product may have not been made on the date of the audit.
Users of schemes are responsible for the way in which they use the audit information and GFSI cannot dictate to individual companies how they manage and control their food safety systems.
However with recent announcements by several major retailers and GFSI members the number of such audits is likely to reduce.

If I am a supplier, how do I implement GFSI?

GFSI is actually a benchmark framework in which we recognise existing pre and farm gate standards that meet internationally recognised criteria that we lay out in our Guidance Document (currently in its 6th edition). This document has been put together by all the actors in the food supply chain. These standards are recognised once they meet the minimum food safety requirements laid out in the document and once audited, the certificates are recognised by many international and regional and national retailers or suppliers. GFSI does not intervene in retailer or supplier policy.
For certification to a GFSI recognised scheme, contact the scheme owner directly (all scheme owner contact details can be found on www.mygfsi.com under ‘Contact us’), or an audit company that is accredited to audit against a GFSI recognised scheme.

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