GFSI Frequently Asked Questions
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a facilitated collaboration between food safety experts from retail, manufacturing and food service companies, as well as international organisations, governments, academia and service providers.
GFSI provides leadership and guidance on food safety management systems for the food supply chain. GFSI is managed by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global, parity-based food industry network.
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
During the 90s, there had been a series of high-profile international food safety crises including those involving BSE, dioxin and listeria. Within the food industry there was a growing audit fatigue as retailers and brand manufacturers audited factories against their countless in-house standards, each developed in isolation and with no consideration of convergence. The results showed no consistency. Consumer and food industry confidence was low.
The CEOs of the world’s food retailers, working through their independent network CIES - The Food Business Forum, now the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), agreed to take collaborative action. In May 2000, the Global Food Safety Initiative was founded.
The vision was laid out at the very beginning and remains a compelling message: “Once certified, accepted everywhere.”
GFSI is managed and advised by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global, parity-based food industry network. With its headquarters in Paris and its regional offices in Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, the CGF serves its members throughout the world.
CGF brings together the CEOs and senior management of over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries and reflects the diversity of the industry in geography, size, product category and format. The member companies have combined sales of EUR 2.5 trillion and directly employ more than 10 million people with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain.
The CGF members discuss and decide on key issues for the GFSI to focus on. Corresponding mandates are presented to the GFSI board by the CGF. The GFSI reports regularly to the CGF on the progress of each project.
GFSI DOES NOT:
We believe that the collaborative structure of GFSI enables all stakeholders to work together to achieve the following shared benefits:
GFSI does not have a 'membership' system. Our initiative is an open collaborative approach for all that are interested.
However, it is possible for companies to join The Consumer Goods Forum, which manages GFSI. More information on this is available on the CGF website.
There are a number of options:
If you sign up for GFSI news, you will also be notified about opportunities to volunteer to join our Technical Working Groups or to comment on our documents when they are released for open comment.
There is an up-to-date list of board members on our website.
The 18 GFSI Board members are drawn from major retailers, manufacturers and food service operators. The Board provides the strategic direction of GFSI’s activities and collaborates on the daily management with the Secretariat.
GFSI is a business driven organisation and Board seats are not provided for associations, scheme owners, certification bodies or accreditation bodies.
All of the members of the board have signed a commitment that they will promote actively the “once certified, accepted everywhere” principle by accepting GFSI recognised schemes in their respective supply chains without preference.
GFSI Stakeholders are any interested party that wants to be a part of our work. They participate in the decision-making process through a meeting that takes place every year in conjunction with the Global Food Safety Conference when they discuss their strategic priorities. These views are considered by the Board and form the basis for the annual work programme. Further consultation continues throughout the year.
The issues raised by stakeholders at their annual meeting indicate to the GFSI Board what the priorities are among parties interested in GFSI. Following consideration, the Board mandates a GFSI Technical Working Group to advance the identified key topics.
This process allows the Board to re-evaluate GFSI priorities and ensure that they match those of the Stakeholders.
These are multi-stakeholder groups composed of volunteer food safety experts from organisations with an interest in our work. Facilitated by the Secretariat, they provide technical expertise and advice to the GFSI Board and meet 3 times a year to work on identified key topics. Between these face-to-face meetings, there are individual and group tasks with conference calls and consultations.
When a new working group is created, an announcement goes out to all stakeholders in our database which calls for interested experts to participate. Bearing in mind the need to keep a geographical balance as well as between industry sectors, the GFSI Board chooses 21 people.
These are industry driven multi-stakeholder groups mandated by the GFSI Board to develop competencies and capacity within a country or region. They provide an international neutral platform for collaboration. Their generic mandate is limited to two key themes:
Following a public call for nomination on the GFSI website, any individual whose profile matches the brief can inform the GFSI Secretariat that they would like to be involved in a local group. Bearing in mind the need to keep a balance between interested sectors, the GFSI Board chooses up to 28 people.
“GFSI certification” does not exist. GFSI does not carry out any accreditation or certification activities. However, it is possible to achieve certification against one of the GFSI-recognised food safety certification programmes.
In recent years third party food safety audits have come under critical scrutiny from the mainstream media. Food manufacturing sites with reportedly excellent ratings by these independent auditors have been linked to outbreaks associated with serious illness and death, and have subsequently been closed down by regulators. In most reported cases to date, these instances were one-to-one arrangements between suppliers and independent non-accredited audit agencies, without any oversight or recognition.
Accredited certification, as recognised by GFSI, does not deliver a guarantee of food safety nor prevent food safety incidents. It provides a proven framework of checks and balances that significantly improves the rigour of the audit process and reduces the risk of food safety failures.
Food businesses should not rely solely on third party audits to provide evidence of their food safety compliance. However, accredited third-party certification audits, if used correctly, are worthwhile tools for any food business seeking to implement and maintain behaviours and practices within their facilities.
There are six steps to the process:
Step One: Choose your GFSI-recognised certification programme
Step Two: Select and appoint a Certification Body
Step Three: Prepare for the audit
Step Four: Go through the audit process
Step Five: Follow a corrective action plan
Step Six: Maintain certification
Learn more about how to become certified to a GFSI-recognised CPO.
The cost of certification can vary greatly because there are many variables to consider. For example, your own starting position when compared with the requirements of the certification programme that you choose will be quite different from that of another company.
We do not maintain a centralised database but all of the certification programme owners (CPOs) who have been recognised by GFSI have one. If you know against which certification programme your supplier is certified, they can help to provide you with the relevant information you are looking for. You can find contact information for all of the recognised CPOs on our website.
Accreditation is the formal recognition that an organization is competent to perform specific processes, activities, or tasks (which are detailed in a scope of accreditation) in a reliable credible and accurate manner. Find out more about accreditation here in a document prepared by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
Since 2001, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has welcomed delegates from all over the world to the Global Food Safety Conference. Its programme is planned by the GFSI board and Secretariat. The venue for the annual event alternates between Asia, Europe and North America.
The GFSI Board and Technical Working Groups take the opportunity to hold their meetings during the conference and many companies arrange their own team events. The GFSI Stakeholder Group is convened by the GFSI Chairman on the morning before the conference begins.
Delegates share knowledge in plenary and break-out sessions and benefit from presentations by industry experts. However, perhaps the most important experience for any delegate attending the Conference is the opportunity to meet and network with industry peers.
One of the GFSI objectives is to “provide a unique international stakeholder platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and networking”.
Focus Days contribute to achieving that objective by raising food safety awareness around the world, specifically in regions that are less familiar with our work. Focus Days provide an opportunity for participation to many delegates who are unable to travel to the Global Food Safety Conference.
The GFSI Board members support Focus Days by sharing their personal experiences of managing food safety in their own organizations. The events also help to build the local food safety network and can provide the first step towards the creation of a GFSI Local Group.
In August 2001, GFSI published the first draft of its Benchmarking Requirements, previously known as the GFSI Guidance Document.
This benchmarking model, drafted with input from food safety experts from all over the world, defines the process by which food safety certification programmes may gain recognition by GFSI. It gives guidance and specifies the requirements for a food safety certification programme owner (CPO) seeking recognition. The document is collaboratively updated on a regular basis with global industry input to ensure robust certification programmes.
It’s important to note that the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements tool is not in itself a food safety standard and that GFSI is not involved in certification or accreditation activities.
A certification programme is ‘recognised’ by GFSI when it has been verified that it meets internationally recognised minimum food safety requirements. These are developed through a multi-stakeholder process which is set out in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. A neutral committee, including an independent leader, a retailer, a manufacturer or producer and the GFSI Team is convened to conduct a preliminary screening of applications for benchmarking. If an application is accepted, then it will be reviewed in further detail by the Benchmarking Committee and the CPO will be involved.
Once the Benchmarking Committee is satisfied that the application meets the GFSI requirements, a written consultation period will begin. The Committee will then recommend that the GFSI Board accept or reject the application until further modifications to the certification programme are made.
The full methodology can be found in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.
We believe that the harmonisation of food safety standards increases transparency and efficiency in the supply chain by cutting costs and providing assurance of safe food for consumers worldwide.
GFSI encourages buying companies to accept certificates issued during third party audits against the GFSI-recognised certification programmes, thus enabling their suppliers to work more effectively through less audits. This means resources can be redirected to ensure the quality and safety of food produced and sold worldwide.
Learn more about new applications for certification programme owners (CPOs).
Buying companies that work within the GFSI framework of “Once certified, recognised everywhere” should accept any of the recognised certification programmes as delivering equivalent results. GFSI does not have preferred certification programmes. We believe that the benchmarking process establishes equivalence with our Benchmarking Requirements. However, each of the CPOs strives to create their own best practice and the market decides on which CPO to use.
GFSI does not 'recommend' or provide any lists of consultants or certification bodies.
An application fee of €1000 is charged to the scheme owner to cover the internal administrative costs of ensuring that all of the documents are complete and that all necessary sections of the certification programme have been received. A payment of €4000 is due upon completion of the benchmarking process irrespective of the outcome.
The GFSI Global Markets Programme is a voluntary programme, made available free of charge, that businesses can implement internally according to their needs and strategic objectives. It is designed as a non-certification assessment process. Documents provide guidance to the food businesses, service providers and stakeholders.
This programme is ideal for small or less sophisticated businesses that, because of their size, lack of technical expertise, economic resources or the nature of their work, may encounter difficulties in implementing food safety management systems in their food business. Successful implementation would allow them to take advantage of emerging market opportunities as the supply chains become more formal with increased rigour.
One of the GFSI objectives is “to develop competencies and capacity building to create effective global food systems”. This work was started in 2008 to provide a new entry point for small or less sophisticated suppliers that aspire to achieve certification to GFSI-recognised food safety certification programmes.
The GFSI Global Markets Programme considers both primary production and manufacturing. Capacity building in food safety is achieved, whilst access to local markets is facilitated and a system for mutual acceptance along the supply chain at this “entrance level” is created.
The programme was launched in 2011 for the manufacturing scope and in 2012 for primary production. The programme considers key requirements extracted from the GFSI Guidance Document but is primarily based upon the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice.
The GFSI Global Markets Programme has published voluntary food safety requirements in the form of a checklist and a protocol that aim to drive a continuous improvement process. Buying companies may choose to use the programme or a company may decide to implement the programme as part of its business development both in manufacturing sites and in primary production.
Governance of the Global Markets Programme is provided by the Global Markets Technical Working Group with authority from the GFSI Board.
The benefits are similar to those for full certification. However, because this is a non-accredited assessment rather than an accredited certification, the market credibility is very different.
For the Supplier:
For the Buying Company:
This is neither a standard nor a light version of one. This is a tool for small or less developed suppliers to continuously improve their food safety programme. In many cases, these suppliers will go on to ultimately gain certification against one of the GFSI recognised schemes.
The Global Markets Technical Working Group designs, develops and manages all documentation for the Programme. They review and improve the process; sharing knowledge so it can be used.
Locally, various entities may work individually or collaboratively, depending on their strategy.
Please note: GFSI is not a training organisation and does not develop or deliver any training courses.
The Training and Competency Framework has been developed to provide guidance on good practice for training for food companies that are implementing the GFSI Global Markets Programme. There are two elements:
This document defines the roles and responsibilities of the following stakeholders in the training and learning process as they relate to the Global Markets Programme:
These competencies are a set of skills defined by the stakeholders involved in the work stream for the Global Markets Programme. They are written for an individual (or team) responsible for managing the food safety requirements in order to comply with the Global Markets Programme for Manufacturing at Basic and Intermediate Levels.
An individual implementing the Intermediate Level requirements should also have achieved all competencies identified at Basic Level.
The protocol is a document that covers the entire structure of the GFSI Global Markets Programme and provides a description of progression through its phases.
The Programme is designed for Suppliers to progress toward certification and have better market access. It recognises that this is a process with a series of steps.
Businesses are able to enter the program at either a Basic Level or an Intermediate level depending on their current progress in food safety management.
To ensure the integrity of this GFSI Global Markets Programme there are two possible routes to selecting an Assessment Provider:
The food chain is as strong as its weakest link. Effective delivery of food safety systems relies on the auditor and their competence.
Since 2005, the GFSI Stakeholder meeting has been held the day before the Global Food Safety Conference. The delegates are asked by the GFSI Board for their consideration of the priorities for the following years. Again and again, one of the top three items has been Auditor Competence.
The GFSI has an Auditor Competence Scheme Committee (ACSC) that is working in parallel on all four phases of a competency implementation project. They are:
The first edition of the GFSI Food Safety Auditor Competencies was published in 2013 for all interested stakeholders and covers auditors working in food manufacturing. Competencies for primary production, both agriculture and horticulture, have been prepared and are in review. A written examination for auditors and a template for skills assessment are in development.