As contributed by Chris Anstey, Independent Consultant to the GFSI Global Markets Working Group to Food Quality Magazine, Autumn 2014 Issue. Food Quality Magazine is targeted to food safety professionals with the aim to provide them with up to date information to help them to develop, maintain and improve their food safety and quality management system. With the focus on the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) approved standards, there are frequent articles on topics of BRC, IFS, FSSC22000 and similar standards development and requirements.

 If you were working in food safety in the ‘90s, you will remember a series of high-profile international food safety crises. Audit fatigue was prevalent within the industry as retailers and brand manufacturers audited factories against their own standards, developed in isolation and with no consideration of convergence. Your professional contacts may have been limited to the people you worked with, your personal network may have stemmed from your university days. 

Fast forward to 2014 and you have your Linked-In groups, access to countless news feeds and your web browser will answer any question you can think of. You may also participate in the unique, neutral platform called the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Following 14 years of steady growth and achievement, it can rightly claim to be the biggest example of technical cooperation in one of the world’s biggest industries.

How GFSI started
It started in the ‘90s with three crises in Europe: BSE, Dioxin and Listeria. 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 to improve consumer confidence. In May 2000, GFSI was founded.

The Proposal
The original vision in 2000 remains a compelling message: “Once certified, accepted everywhere.” That reflected the first steps that were taken to find a convergence of approach through benchmarking. The aim for the benchmarking model was to credibly determine equivalency between food safety schemes, whilst leaving flexibility and choice in the marketplace. The harmonisation of food safety standards would increase transparency and efficiency in the supply chain, cut costs and provide assurance of safe food for consumers worldwide.

GFSI Today
GFSI has developed beyond benchmarking. Its collaborative approach brings together international food safety experts from the entire supply chain at Technical Working Groups and Stakeholder meetings, conferences and regional events. Everything is done collaboratively by experts from companies, scheme owners, academics and governments. These Working Groups have delivered ground-breaking change to food safety management schemes through six revisions of the GFSI Guidance Document, which contains the benchmarking requirements. They have pioneered entry level unaccredited assessment for small and less developed suppliers through the GFSI Global Markets Programme. They are in the process of developing a global food safety auditor programme. In short, the world of food safety professionals and their ways of working have become global, just like food supply chains.

How GFSI works
Strategic direction for GFSI is provided by an industry-driven Board of Directors, supported by the CGF Board composed of 50 CEOs from the world’s biggest food companies. The GFSI Board is responsible, with the support of the GFSI Team, for the general management and performance of GFSI.

The recognised schemes
The GFSI Guidance Document has been developed to recognise the various scopes under which schemes operate. The 14 scopes include animal and plant production, processing, feed manufacture, packaging and storage and distribution... Continue reading on page 10 

Read entire article on pages 10-13 of Food Quality Magazine

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