The late 1990s saw the food industry evolving to mass manufacturing and a global distribution model. At the same time, many serious food safety issues, food recalls, food quarantines, and negative publicity about the overall safety of our food was occurring globally. Consumers were losing confidence in the manufacturing, production, and labeling of foods, and the industry knew they needed to act quickly to standardize the food supply chain to create safer food and rebuild consumer confidence.

GFSI was formed (in 2000), providing “a global network of recognized food safety standards that provide retailers, manufacturers and foodservice operators with confidence in sourcing, comparable audit approaches, and above all, safer food for the consumer.”

Once you decide to audit your business to a GFSI standard you are informing your buyers or consumers that you have the following processes in place:

Food Safety Management

A Food Safety Management System is a formal commitment by management to develop and maintain a series of programs and standards through policies and procedures that are implemented company-wide; they establish roles and responsibilities for the safe handling of food. The commitment is also financial and provides resources for food safety. The organization's most senior leaders sign a food safety policy and are displayed in a location for all employees to read.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) or Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

Good Agricultural Practices occur on the farm, where the food is grown; GAP’s ensure a safe growing and handling environment for raw agricultural products and reduce risks in growing such as water quality, chemical management, control of microbiological hazards that may or may not be naturally occurring.

Good manufacturing practices occur within the processing and manufacturing of food. GMP’s ensure the safe production of food from receipt of ingredients to the final packaging and labeling of food, a rigorous set of standards ensures consistency and safety of the food being produced.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)

Hazard Analysis is a globally recognized system that identifies, evaluates, controls and monitors, chemical, biological and physical hazards to food. Critical control points based in science and technical documents are implemented and verified throughout the processing of foods.

Prerequisite Programs

These food safety programs support the HACCP plan discussed above. Programs include cleaning and sanitation, pest control, supplier management, environmental monitoring, etc.

General requirements

All GFSI schemes contain parameters for corrective actions, traceability, and the ability to recall your product from the marketplace if an adverse food safety issue occurs. Certifications expire annually, and a qualified auditor requires recertification.

As the industry and global market continue to grow and develop, the GFSI standards also continue to evolve and adapt, updates to the benchmarking standards are rolled out periodically, and the changes trickle down through the various global standard schemes such as PrimusGFS, BRC, SQF, GlobalGAP, FSSC 22000, etc.

So how does GFSI certification benefit you?

GFSI certification is one certificate accepted everywhere. Historically, global and domestic manufacturers indicated they had more than 15-20 audits per year which is a substantial financial burden on an organization. Time is better spent ensuring compliance with a globally recognized and accepted scheme than a variety of homegrown specific audit types.

Once certified, your GFSI certification will open doors that can grow your business exponentially. GFSI is either mandatory or strongly preferred by many small, medium, and large retailers and co-packers. Remember, foodborne illness is not good for anyone’s business. Your buyers and partners have a brand and a reputation to protect. GFSI certification gives them peace of mind. You have a comprehensive food safety program that controls each step in your production process.

GFSI certifications are available for the following food sectors:

Farming of Plants (other than grains and pulses)

Growing or harvesting of plants, including horticultural products and hydrophytes for food. On-farm storage of plants, including horticultural products and hydrophytes for food.

Farming of Grains and Pulses

Growing or harvesting of grains and pulses for food on-farm storage of grains and pulses for food

Farming of Fish and Seafood

Raising of fish and seafood used for meat production. Growing, trapping, and fishing slaughtering at point of capture. Associated temporary farm packing without modification or processing of the product.

Farming of Animals for Meat/ Milk /Eggs / Honey

Raising of animals (other than fish and seafood) used for meat production, egg production, milk production, or honey production. Growing, keeping, trapping, and hunting (slaughtering at point of hunting) Associated temporary farm packing without modification or processing of the product.

Pre-process handling of plant products

Activities on harvested plants, including horticultural products and hydrophytes for food, keep the products whole and integral. Cleaning, washing, rinsing, fluming, sorting, grading, trimming, bundling, cooling, hydro-cooling, waxing, drenching, packing, repacking, staging, storing, loading / or any other handling activity that does not significantly transform the product from its original harvested form.

Animal primary conversion

Conversion of animal carcasses intended for further processing, including Lairage, slaughter, evisceration, bulk chilling, bulk freezing, bulk storage of animals and game Gutting, bulk freezing of fish, storage of game.

Processing of perishable animal products

Production (and packing) of animal products including: fish, seafood, meat, eggs, dairy, fish products, as well as perishable pet food from animal products only. Deboning, cutting, washing, trimming, grading, pasteurization, cooking, curing, fermentation, smoking, chilling, freezing, packed in modified atmosphere, packed in vacuum packing.

Processing of perishable plant products

Production of plant products, including fruits and fresh juices, vegetables, grains, nuts, pulses and perishable pet food from plant products only. Washing, slicing, dicing, cutting, shredding, peeling, grading, pasteurization, cooking, chilling, juicing, pressing, freezing, packing in modified atmosphere, packed in vacuum packing or any other activity that significantly transforms the product from its whole original state.

Processing of perishable animal and plant products (mixed products)

Production of mixed animal and plant products, including ready-to-eat and perishable pet food. Mixing, cooking, chilling, freezing, packing in modified atmosphere, packed in vacuum packing.

Processing of ambient stable animal and plant products (mixed products)

Production of food products from any source stored and sold at ambient temperature, including canned food and ambient stable pet food. Aseptic filling, baking, bottling, brewing, canning, cooking, distilling, drying, extrusion, fermentation, freeze-drying, pressing, frying, hot filling, irradiating, milling, mixing and blending, packing in modified atmosphere, packed in vacuum packing, pasteurizing, pickling, roasting, salting and refining.

Production of feed

Production of feed from a single or mixed food source, intended for food-producing animals. Cooking, milling, mixing and blending, and extrusion.

Catering

Preparation, storage and, where appropriate, delivery of food products for consumption at the place of preparation or at a satellite unit. Cooking, mixing and blending, preparation of component products.

Retail / Wholesale

Buying and selling of food, feed, and/ or packaging products to a customer, including minor processing activities in counters when this is not the main activity of the business.

Food Broker / Agent

Buying and selling food, feed, and/or packaging products, excluding the production, storage and any physical handling of the product.

Provision of Food Safety Services

Provision of services related to the safe production of food, feed and/ or packaging, including water supply, pest control, cleaning services, waste disposal.

Provision of Storage and Distribution Services

Storage facilities and distribution vehicles for the storage and transport of food, feed and/ or packaging products. Note: any packing with labeling activities are excluded.

Production of Food Packaging

Production of food and feed packaging materials. Packaging components in the form of raw materials, partly processed, semi converted, converted, or fully finished packaging materials and products for use in the supply chain.

Hygienic Design of Food Buildings and Processing Equipment (for building constructors and equipment manufacturers)

Manufacturers of equipment, including any components necessary to link them together, and their utilities and utensils needed for their operation, for farms food production facilities, food retail and wholesale operations, and packaging dedicated to food; Architects, Engineers, and Designers of food handling facilities, including farm, food manufacturing, storage, and retail buildings; The builders of above facilities.

Hygienic Design of Food Buildings and Processing Equipment (for building and equipment users)

Specifying, purchasing, design and construction of buildings or refurbishments by farmers, food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and packaging manufacturers for their use; specifying, purchasing, design, and construction of equipment, including any components necessary to link them together, and their utilities and utensils needed for their operation, and facilities by farmers, food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and packaging manufacturers for their use.

Production of (bio) chemicals and bio-cultures used as food ingredients or processing aids in food production

Production of food and feed additives, vitamins, minerals, bio- cultures, flavorings, enzymes, and processing aids.

Note: pesticides, drugs, fertilizers, and cleaning agents are excluded.