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’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:
What does GFSI do?
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.
Under the umbrella of GFSI, 8 major retailers came to a common acceptance of four GFSI benchmarked food safety schemes in June 2007.
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 StructureWho 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:
Will the number of GFSI Board members increase?
What is the GFSI Board Mandate?
GFSI Advisory CouncilThe 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 GroupsThe 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 GroupWho 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.
What is the relationship between the GFSI Board, the Advisory Council, the GFSI Technical Working Groups and the GFSI Stakeholder Group?
GFSI PrioritiesPriorities 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?
THE GFSI GUIDANCE DOCUMENTGFSI 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’.
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.
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:
THE RELATIONSHIP WITH CODEX
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 DocumentA 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 GroupThe GFSI Global Markets Technical Working Group has been working for the past two years to:
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:
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.
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.
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.