In 2000, CEOs of global companies came together at The Consumer Goods Forum (CIES at the time) and agreed that consumer trust needed to be strengthened and maintained through a safer supply chain. GFSI was created to achieve this through the harmonisation of food safety standards that would drive reduce audit duplication throughout the supply chain. At the time, there was no existing scheme that could be qualified as “global” that could be adopted by all. GFSI therefore chose to go down the route of benchmarking, developing a model that determines equivalency between existing food safety certification programmes, whilst leaving flexibility and choice in the marketplace.

The GFSI Benchmarking Requirements

In August 2001, GFSI published the first draft of its Benchmarking Requirements, formerly known as the GFSI Guidance Document. It is not in itself a food safety standard and GFSI is not involved in certification or accreditation activities. 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 owners (CPOs) seeking recognition. It lists the key elements for the production of safe food, feed or packaging, or for service provision. The document is collaboratively updated on a regular basis with global industry input to ensure robust certification programmes.

 Access the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements

What it is:

  • It is a tool which fulfils one of the main objectives of GFSI, that of determining equivalency between food safety management certification programmes.
  • It provides a formal process for benchmarking
  • It is science-based, contemporary, and rigorous. 

What it is not:

  • It is not a food safety standard.
  • Food businesses cannot be audited or certified against it
  • It does not dictate policy for food retailers, manufacturers or CPOs, or prescribe requirements for food quality, animal welfare, environmental standards, or any other area outside the scope of food safety.


Benchmarking and its Relevance

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 of food produced and sold worldwide. Harmonising food safety standards would increase transparency and efficiency in the supply chain, cut costs and provide assurance of safe food for consumers worldwide. Buying company Quality Managers could accept their supplier’s products without the need for an audit as long as these suppliers maintain certification to a standard recognised by GFSI. This approach is voluntary, and GFSI does not make policy for any stakeholder.

The Benchmarking Process

Within GFSI, benchmarking is a “procedure by which a food safety‐related certification programmes is compared to the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements”. The process is designed to be executed in an independent, unbiased, technically proficient and transparent manner. A certification programme is ‘recognised’ by GFSI when it has been verified that it meets internationally recognised minimum food safety requirements laid out in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.

An independent benchmarking committee, including an independent chairman, a retailer, a manufacturer or producer and the GFSI team is convened to conduct a preliminary screening. If the 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 by all GFSI Stakeholders will begin. The benchmarking committee will then recommend that the GFSI Board either accept, reject or reject until further modifications to the certification programme are made.


  • Benchmark existing food safety standards that are used starting with the farm and progressing through food distribution, manufacturing, wholesale and retail.
  • Compare existing standards against the requirements of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.
  • Any standards that are recognised by GFSI will have as a minimum the requirements in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.


  • Make policy for retailers or manufacturers
  • Make policy for standard owners
  • Undertake any accreditation or certification activities

Supply Chain - Scopes of Recognition

A Technical Working Group was convened in 2009 to define the food supply chain and its varying scopes. As a result, CPOs coming forward for benchmarking against the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements can clearly specify the scopes covered by their certification programme, thereby facilitating communication on exactly which components of the programme have been recognised by GFSI.

Benchmarking criteria (key elements) for the below scopes are currently included in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. GFSI is continuously convening working groups to cover all of the scopes in the below diagram, so that eventually the entire supply chain is covered by the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.