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GFSI Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL INFORMATION / GFSI GOVERNANCE / TECHNICAL WORKING GROUPS / GFSI LOCAL GROUPS / GFSI AND CERTIFICATION / GFSI EVENTS / BENCHMARKING PROCESS / GLOBAL MARKETS PROGRAMME / AUDITOR COMPETENCE

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

What is GFSI?

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.

What are the objectives of GFSI?

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

How did GFSI get started?

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.”

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

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.

What does GFSI do?

GFSI DOES:

  • Collaboratively specify the requirements for the recognition of food safety certification programmes in its GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.
  • Determine the equivalence of existing food safety standards for the full food supply chain through an objective comparison with GFSI defined requirements.
  • Bring together food safety experts from all over the world

GFSI DOES NOT:

  • Make policy for retailers, manufacturers or food safety standard owners
  • Undertake any accreditation or certification activities
  • Own any food safety schemes
  • Provide any training
  • Have any involvement outside the scope of food safety, such as animal welfare, the environment or ethical sourcing
What are the benefits for everyone involved in GFSI?

We believe that the collaborative structure of GFSI enables all stakeholders to work together to achieve the following shared benefits:

  • Improved consumer confidence and safer food
  • Less audit duplication
  • Comparable audit approach and outcomes
  • Continuous improvement in recognised food safety certification programmes
  • Cost efficiency through reduced failure
How does GFSI recognition benefit suppliers?
  • Certified companies are more disciplined, more efficient and more profitable.
  • Certified companies show equivalence of process across countries and continents thereby enabling trade.
  • Many buying companies recognise the GFSI recognised certification programmes so audits are reduced.
  • Certified companies will have the framework for a legal defence in place.
  • Working within a food safety management system that is structured to be continuously improved to internationally accepted standards.
How does GFSI recognition benefit retailers, brand manufacturers and food service companies?
  • The GFSI-recognised certification programmes provide effective shared risk management tools for brand protection.
  • The proactive management approach required by the GFSI recognised food safety certification programmes improves product integrity.
  • Convergence of food safety management across supply chains saves money.
  • Certification against GFSI-recognised certification programmes improves market linkages and enables simpler buying.
What are the benefits for governments?
  • Industry members collaboratively promote compliance with legislation throughout their shared supply chains.
  • Continuous improvement is driven through self-regulation
  • Progress is made through a new type of public-private liaison
  • GFSI is a tool for prioritization of compliance resources
Can I become a member of GFSI?

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.

How can I get involved in GFSI?

There are a number of options:

  • Attend our annual Global Food Safety Conference which moves between Asia, Europe and North America. It is usually held in late February or early March.
  • Contribute to our strategy by attending our annual GFSI Stakeholder meeting held on the morning of the first day of our annual conference. This is open to any interested food safety professionals.
  • Attend one of our regional GFSI Focus Days. These are held around the world and there are always full details on our website.
  • Sign up to receive GFSI news by email. Register here.

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.

  • Find GFSI on LinkedIn: Search ‘Global Food Safety Initiative’ under the LinkedIn Groups.
  • Follow GFSI on Twitter @mygfsi

GFSI GOVERNANCE

Who is on the GFSI Board and what do they do?

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.

Who are the GFSI Stakeholders and can I join them?

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 Stakeholder meeting is free of charge and all attendees of the Global Food Safety Conference will receive an invitation to attend. If anyone would like to attend without attending the Global Food Safety Conference, then they should send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

How does the GFSI Board decide what needs doing and then actually get things done?

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.

TECHNICAL WORKING GROUPS

What are the GFSI Technical Working Groups and can I join one?

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.

GFSI LOCAL GROUPS

What are the GFSI Local Groups and how can I join?

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:

  • a) Local engagement and awareness building. This includes representing and promoting GFSI, and building a network with public institutions, academia and other trade associations to share the GFSI approach. They gather and share feedback on the uptake and impact of the GFSI approach.
  • b) Local implementation platforms. This includes supporting key strategic projects and localising the global work on creating linkages with public policymakers. They support capacity building by helping to implement pilot programs, acting as a regional and local relay for communication and supporting the work of the Technical Working Groups.

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 AND CERTIFICATION

Is there such a thing as “GFSI certification”?

“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.

Why certification against a GFSI-recognised certification programme?

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.

How can I become certified with a GFSI-recognised CPO?

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.

How much does it cost to become certified with 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.

Do you have a database of suppliers certified against GFSI-recognised CPOs?

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.

What is Accreditation?

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).

GFSI EVENTS

What is the Global Food Safety Conference?

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.

What is a GFSI Focus Day?

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.

BENCHMARKING PROCESS

What is are the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements and how are they developed?

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.

How does GFSI benchmarking work?

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.

Why is benchmarking important?

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.

How to apply for Benchmarking?
Is there a preferred or more popular CPO?

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.

Is there a list of consultants to help through this process?

GFSI does not 'recommend' or provide any lists of consultants or certification bodies.

How much does the benchmarking process cost?

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.

GLOBAL MARKETS PROGRAMME

What is the GFSI Global Markets Programme?

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 developed 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 developed 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.

How does the Programme work?

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.

What are the benefits of the Programme?

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:

  • Improvement in food safety which could lead to less recalls and withdrawals
  • Roadmap for continuous progress towards certification against a GFSI‐recognised scheme.
  • Financial incentive
  • Acceptance and satisfaction from customers

For the Buying Company:

  • Improved confidence in the supply chain
  • Knowledge that there is a continuous improvement in the management system
  • Improved efficiency through consistency in factory assessment

For Governments:

  • Industry members collaboratively promote compliance with legislation throughout their shared supply chains
  • Self-regulation drives continuous improvement
  • Progress is made through a new type of public-private liaison
Is the GFSI Global Markets Programme a ‘light’ standard?

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.

What is the role of GFSI in the Global Markets Programme?

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.

  • Suppliers can be mandated by Buying Companies to progress through the Programme.
  • Buying Companies can mandate their Suppliers and partner with them as they progress through the Programme.
  • International Organisations can use the Programme as the basis for capacity building projects, using local experts to ensure relevance.
  • Assessment Providers can partner with Buying Companies or Suppliers directly to carry out assessments against the Programme checklists.
What is the Training and Competency Framework?

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:

  1. Guidance on the development and delivery of training.
  2. The competencies required to achieve the GFSI Global Markets Programme Basic and Intermediate Levels.

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:

  • Companies choosing a training provider are encouraged to specify that any training plans meet the criteria defined in this framework.
  • Training providers should use this guidance to develop their training programs.
  • Individual learners should use this document to help them develop their own training plan.
What are the competencies that have been defined in the Framework?

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.

What is the Protocol?

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.

Why are there two levels (basic and intermediate) within the GFSI Global Markets Programme?

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.

Who can carry out assessments against the Basic and Intermediate Level Requirements?

To ensure the integrity of this GFSI Global Markets Programme there are two possible routes to selecting an Assessment Provider:

  1. A Certification Body that is accredited to deliver a GFSI-recognised food safety management certification programme
  2. An Assessment Provider that has been specified by the relevant Buying Company.

AUDITOR COMPETENCE

Why is auditor competence such an important issue?

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.

What has GFSI done to address the issue of 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:

  • Publication and further development of competencies
  • Examination of Knowledge Competencies
  • Assessment of Auditor Skills
  • Governance Structure for credentialing of auditors

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.

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