I’m speaking today on behalf of the Global Food Safety Initiative, more commonly known as GFSI. My name is Karil Kochenderfer and I represent GFSI in North America. GFSI is a non-profit organization based in Paris that brings together food safety experts from around the world to identify the best food safety management practices across the agri-food supply-chain, and then to encourage the auditing and certification of those practices at food facilities worldwide to provide “Safe Food for Consumers, Everywhere.”
Like FSMA, GFSI is based on the principles of transparency, science, risk management and the international food safety standards of the Codex Alimentarius and ISO. It is not surprising, therefore, that food safety professionals familiar with GFSI who are busy working to comply with the new law see similarities between the two. In fact, we often say “GFSI is a marketplace FSMA” operating quietly in the marketplace between customers and their suppliers.
Local, Regional, National, Global: 100,000+ Certified Facilities; 160 Countries
We all acknowledge that government, industry, and consumers each have a vital role to play in providing food safety. Food processors and producers, in particular, must ensure their products remain safe through each phase of production, processing and distribution. The rapid expansion of local supply-chains into regional, national and even global networks reinforce this need.
The best way for food companies to provide safe food to consumers is through the adoption of best management practices, audited and verified at each stage of the production process. GFSI provides this critical framework for agricultural producers and transporters, food processors and packagers, food retailers and food-service establishments worldwide, regardless of size or location. Today, GFSI recognized schemes audit and certify more than 100,000 food operations and facilities in 160 countries annually and the numbers continue to grow.
Global Mark of Distinction
To many, certification to a GFSI-recognized scheme is a global mark of distinction representing the best in food safety management practices. Some of the most well-known and widely respected companies in the world annually certify their operations to a GFSI-recognized scheme or require their suppliers to become certified. For those of you who shop and eat locally, they include Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Wegmans Food Markets, Giant (a subsidiary of Royal Ahold U.S.), McDonald’s, Cheesecake Factory, Domino’s Pizza, Lone Star Steakhouse, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dole, Bimbo, Danone and others. For those of you shopping abroad, it is Aeon in Japan, Carrefour in France, Cofco in China, Metro in Germany and Tesco in the U.K. And, should you find yourself in Japan for the 2020 Olympics, you can be assured the food will safe as the Tokyo Olympic Committee has required food vendors to be certified under GFSI, too.
GFSI Global Markets Program
Yet, while I’ve mentioned the names of many, large, multinational companies, it is the small, local businesses and producers that benefit most from GFSI, acquiring the necessary food safety tools they often lack to produce safe food that meets these same high standards through our Global Markets Program. The two-year program is open to any producer and processor by simply down-loading the materials on our website. Often participants are supported and mentored by their customers.
For example, I know many of enjoyed guacamole with your Super Bowl festivities. I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge the investment in GFSI’s Global Markets Program by avocado producers in Mexico. With the support of Walmart, they trained their workers to ensure Mexican avocados were safely produced, picked, packaged and transported to U.S. retailers in time for the big game.
GFSI: A Marketplace FSMA
GFSI has closely followed implementation of FSMA and its impact on agri-food operations both in the United States and in the 160 countries where there are facilities certified under GFSI. We have met with FDA on several occasions over the years to share our food safety expertise and experience. And, we have invited Agency leaders to speak at our annual conferences. We met most recently last month in White Oak to assess the alignment between the PC Human Food rule and the new GFSI Benchmarking Requirements (Version 7) that will be issued later this Spring. The meeting was upbeat and productive, and we expect our talks to continue.
We had similar discussions with the Government of Canada, and assessed the alignment between the new Safe Food for Canadians Act and GFSI, too. We were pleased with both the outcome and the Government of Canada’s issuance of a November 2015 policy recognizing the role of private standards as one criteria among many for demonstrating compliance with their new law. In fact, just this past week, I participated in a webinar hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs to promote GFSI as a means for compliance with the new law among small producers and businesses in Ontario. (Thank you, Paul, Mark.)
GFSI Welcomes Government Engagement: February 27 “G2B”
GFSI welcomes the opportunity to engage with other governments as well. Last year, adjacent to the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin, the GFSI Board of Directors hosted a meeting with food safety leaders from 19 countries – including Canada, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, the United Kingdom, China and others. With the support of the Government of Canada and the Netherlands, GFSI will do so again at the end of the month in Houston -- this time with food safety leaders from nearly 40 countries. Let me extend a personal invitation to all the Governments in this room to have their top food safety leader join us for the meeting in Houston, and extend a personal invitation to everyone to join us for the Conference as well.
Finally, before closing, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the North American representatives of GFSI-recognized schemes. While you regularly hear about “GFSI certificates,” it is these organizations – or Schemes, as we call them – that have been reviewed and found consistent with GFSI’s global requirements – that actually work with and issue certifications to facilities in the 50 states and globally.
Doing what Non One Company Can Do Alone
Under GFSI, food companies are coming together on a non-competitive basis to do what no one of them can do alone: To ensure “Safe Food for Consumers Everywhere.” It is doing something unique, something special and valued. GFSI is a win for consumers, for business and for industry.
On behalf of GFSI, I want to thank the Agency for the opportunity to make these remarks. I welcome your questions … and look forward to seeing ya’ll in Houston.
This post was written and contributed by:
North American Representative, Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)
The Consumer Goods Forum