Award season is upon us, and just days after the Oscars, GFSI sat down with the first-ever #GFSIawards winners at the Global Food Safety Conference taking place in Houston this week!

Timing would indeed seem to be the only thing these award ceremonies have in common. The GFSI Awards are celebrating continuous improvement in food safety systems, with a focus on a capability building through GFSI's Global Markets Programme.

The award comes at a time when food businesses throughout the supply chain are looking to further strengthen their food safety systems, meet new regulatory requirements, expand market access and most importantly, reinforce consumer confidence in the safety of the products they buy. The award is made possible by long-term GFSI supports greenfence.

“At GFSI, we want to raise the profile of companies around the world implementing this capability building programme and celebrate the work that’s already having an impact” said Véronique Discours-Buhot, GFSI Director at The Consumer Goods Forum.

To be considered for the award, applicants must have leveraged the GFSI Global Markets Programme, from beginning to end, resulting in full certification to a GFSI-benchmarked food safety management scheme. The winners were recognised on stage in front of 1,150 industry peers and presented with the award Mike Robach, Chair of GFSI, and Mitch Chait, CEO of greenfence at the end of the second plenary session on ‘Collaboration – Driving Food Safety Systems for Growth’.

Without further ado, over to the 2017 winners of the GFSI Awards - Champion Petfoods. Gayan Hettiarachchi, Director of Food Safety at Champion Petfoods sat down with our very own Anne Gerardi, GFSI Manager at #GFSiTV.

Anne- Hello Gayan, we're very happy to have you here!

Gayan - Well thank you very much! I'm humbled and honoured to be here at the GFSI Food Safety Conference.

Anne - Can you tell me about Champion Petfoods?

Gayan- We recently achieved a GFSI based SQF certification for our DogStar® Kitchens in Kentucky, USA. This is a huge testament to the continuous improvement of our food safety system through leveraging GFSI and their programs.

Our facility is located in Auburn, Kentucky and is referred to as our DogStar® Kitchens - a state of the art custom built kitchen designed to produce our award-winning ACANA and ORIJEN food and treats. Our DogStar® Kitchens were built to advance our mission of making Biologically Appropriate™ dog and cat foods from Fresh Regional Ingredients that are Never Outsourced – otherwise known as BAFRINO.

Anne- What are the benefits of using the Global Market Program?

o Comprehensive tool to help achieve a GFSI certification
o Globally recognized program to help facilitate international trade
o Adherence to this program will achieve regulatory compliance
o Builds trust through a robust food safety system

Anne- Tell me briefly about your journey towards GFSI certification.

Gayan- We started our journey towards a GFSI based food safety certification even before beginning commercial production on January 4th, 2016. We looked in to the GFSI Global Market Program guidelines and conducted a self-assessment. We picked SQF as our scheme of choice, considering the GFSI recognition of the pet food sector and setup a project team. By conducting third-party gap assessments we further refined our food safety program and decided to conduct the certification audit in December. We were extremely excited to achieve SQF certification with a score of 94% after only a year of operations.

Anne- How important is this award to Champion Petfoods?

Gayan- At Champion, one key way we build trust is through safe food. From the executive and senior leadership teams to the food production team, we are fully committed and always look for opportunities to improve our food safety systems. The achievement of this award reflects our commitment to a rigorous and credible food safety management system and culture. In addition, this is a testament to our vision of being trusted by pet lovers everywhere.
What advice do you have for other food manufacturers or producers around the world thinking of GFSI certification?

No matter where you live, what products you produce or the size of your organization, GFSI Global Market Program is the best starting point to commence your journey towards certification. It is free of charge and has a wealth of food safety assessment criteria covering all aspects of food safety.

Finally, we want to thank everyone involved in achieving this recognition including our Champion team who is dedicated to building trust, the GFSI and Consumer Goods Forum, as well as the event organizers, sponsors and everyone else involved.

Watch an excerpt of the interview on GFSI YouTube.

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