Private organization : GFSI, Global Food Safety Initiative

In a world where food security is a major global concern, the diversity and complexity of standards pose considerable challenges. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), founded in 2000, is committed to unifying practices and standards to ensure consumer confidence. Learn about GFSI’s objectives, standards and certification procedures.

What is the GFSI ?

Initiated in February 2000 by a group of food safety experts from various backgrounds, such as distribution, manufacturing and service, the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) represents a collaborative approach to establishing a universal standard for food safety management systems. Its purpose is to ensure trust in, and traceability of, our food in a global market.

Contrary to what some may think, GFSI is not an entity that issues food certifications. Rather, it functions as a recognition body, evaluating and validating existing certification programs, referred to as CPOs (Certification Program Owners), based on strict and unified criteria. The standards validated by the GFSI are therefore perceived as equivalent and adopted by the various actors of the food supply chain.

The GFSI is led by a steering committee, which includes representatives of food industry heavyweights such as Mondelez, The Kroger Co, Pick n Pay, and GAP Plus+. The initiative also draws on the expertise of technical working groups, local groups, strategic partners and other stakeholders. Every year, GFSI organizes a global conference, bringing together thousands of professionals involved in food security, to exchange best practices, innovations and challenges to be met.

Why did you create the GFSI ?

The creation of the GFSI stems from a worrying situation observed at the turn of the millennium, where food crises such as mad cow, dioxin contamination and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) followed at an alarming rate. These crises threatened not only the health of consumers but also the image of the companies involved.

Moreover, the food security landscape was fragmented, with a plethora of divergent standards and regulations across countries, regions, and even sectors, creating a cost and complexity burden for supply chain actors. In the face of this fragmentation, it became clear that a common framework and a universal reference for food security were imperative at the global level.

In response, GFSI was created in 2000, thanks to the initiative of European retail giants such as Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, and Ahold. These precursors, by joining forces, aimed to standardize and improve food safety management. Their ambition was to restore consumer confidence and ensure the traceability of food products internationally, through standards widely recognized and accepted by all links in the supply chain.

The mission of GFSI is therefore to minimize public health risks, increase transparency, stimulate innovation and promote sustainable growth in the food industry.

What are the existing GFSI standards and are they mandatory ?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) currently recognizes 11 certification programs critical to food supply chain safety. These certifications encompass a wide variety of sectors, from agricultural production, food processing, transportation and distribution. Including storage, retail, packaging and food contact materials. The programs certified by GFSI are :

  • BRCGS (Brand Reputation through Compliance of Global Standards)
  • FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification)
  • IFS Food (International Featured Standards)
  • Safe Quality Food (SQF)
  • GlobalGAP (Good Agricultural Practice)
  • PrimusGFS (Primus Global Food Safety)
  • BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices)
  • CanadaGAP (Canadian Horticultural Council On-Farm Food Safety Program)
  • GlobalGAP Certification for Aquaculture
  • Certification HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)
  • ISO 22000 (International Organization for Standardization)

These programs adhere to the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), a globally accepted methodology for detecting and managing food safety risks. They also incorporate the specifications of ISO 22000, an international standard for food safety management systems. Although GFSI standards are not imposed, their adoption is strongly recommended by food industry professionals as a distinctive sign of quality and reliability.

GFSI standards help reduce health risks, promote trade, simplify audit processes, enhance competitiveness and meet consumer expectations.

Which products require GFSI certification ?

It is important to specify that a company cannot be certified "GFSI" as such, but rather through a standard recognized by the GFSI. This organization plays a recognition role, evaluating and approving different certification programs. As a result, the products that must be certified according to a GFSI standard are those that fall within the areas covered by the programs validated by this organization.

Areas of application of GFSI programmes

The programs validated by GFSI concern several sectors of the food supply chain, defined through activity codes (such as agricultural production, processing, transportation and distribution, storage, retail, and food contact packaging and materials) and scope codes (such as categories of products, including those of animal or plant origin, dairy products, seafood, cereals, confectionery, beverages, etc.).

Each GFSI program specifies its application areas on the GFSI website. For example, the BRCGS programme covers agricultural production, processing, packaging and materials in contact with food, storage and distribution, retail and consumer services, as well as a wide range of product categories.

Products covered by the GFSI standards

Products that must be certified by a GFSI standard mainly include those that fall within the aforementioned areas. This includes not only food products, but also food contact packaging and materials, given their potential impact on food safety. Products outside the food supply chain, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or chemicals, are not covered by GFSI standards.

GFSI certification is not mandatory, but strongly recommended by food industry professionals. It is seen as a symbol of quality and trust, reducing health risks, simplifying audits, improving competitiveness and meeting consumer expectations.

Which GFSI certification program should I choose ? Should I choose several ?

The decision to choose a GFSI certification program depends on various elements such as industry, scope code, specific customer needs, cost, timelines and available resources. It is important to note that there is not a single GFSI program that is superior to the others. However, some may be more appropriate depending on a company’s specific situation. To guide you in choosing a GFSI program, consider the following :

The field of activity and scope code

Verify that the GFSI certification program you choose covers your business line and scope code. If, for example, your company produces dairy products, the program will have to specifically address food processing and dairy products. The application areas of the various GFSI programmes are available on the GFSI website or on the websites of the certification programme owners (CPOs).

Customers' requirements

It is crucial that the selected GFSI program meets the expectations and needs of your customers. Some customers may prefer a specific program depending on their purchasing policy, market or country of origin. Look for your customers’ preferences and see which GFSI program they favour. Market research can also help you identify the most requested GFSI programs in your sector or region.

Costs, time and resources

Ensure that the GFSI program is aligned with your organization’s financial resources, implementation timelines and capabilities. Each program has separate certification requirements, with differences in duration, frequency of audits, complexity, required documentation and training.

Compare programs to find the one that best aligns with your business goals. To facilitate this process, you can request the support of consulting or training organizations specialized in GFSI standards.

Choosing multiple GFSI programs is not an obligation as they are generally considered equivalent and recognized by all actors in the food supply chain.

However, choosing more than one certification can make sense if your company operates in diversified sectors, aims to distinguish itself from the competition, or seeks to penetrate new markets. In this case, it is essential to respect the requirements of each selected program while seeking to optimize synergies between them.

What are the essential criteria for obtaining one of the GFSI standards ?

Certification by a GFSI standard requires compliance with key criteria developed on the basis of the principles of Codex Alimentarius, the world authority on food safety. These criteria are divided into seven main categories :

Part I : Management system

The first category focuses on food safety management system requirements. This includes setting up, documenting, maintaining and continuously improving the system, including company policy, objectives, division of responsibilities, resource allocation, communication methods, management assessments, and records management.

Partie II : Good practices

This section focuses on the requirements for good hygiene and sanitation practices to be adopted at all levels of the food supply chain. This is to ensure hygiene, prevent contamination, effectively manage pest control and ensure appropriate waste management.

Partie III : Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)

This section details the requirements for hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), an internationally accepted method for identifying and controlling food safety risks.

Key steps in this method include building a HACCP team, describing the product, defining its intended use, developing and verifying the manufacturing diagram, identifying risks, identifying critical points, the setting of critical limits, the establishment of a monitoring system, the establishment of corrective measures, the implementation of audits, and the development of necessary documentation and records.

Partie IV : Product traceability

The fourth category addresses the criteria related to product traceability throughout the supply chain. It is crucial to ensure easy identification of non-compliant products, effectively manage incidents with a robust traceability system, correctly mark products, maintain adequate records and perform traceability tests.

Partie V : Emergency and Incident Management

This section details the procedures to be followed to prepare and respond effectively to emergencies and incidents, thus ensuring food security. This requires the prior identification of emergencies and incidents, the development of an emergency plan, the training of staff, the establishment of clear communication with all stakeholders, the implementation of the necessary corrective actions and the regular updating of the contingency plan.

Partie VI : Personnel training

This section focuses on staff training, stressing the importance of having a qualified, competent and aware team of its impact on food security. It covers the definition of training needs, the organization and execution of training, the evaluation of their effectiveness and the maintenance of training records.

Partie VII : Requirements specific to the field of application

Addressing the specific requirements of each sector, this section stresses that, according to the GFSI programme applied, additional standards must be met. This may include regulations concerning allergens, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the usefulness of materials in contact with food, the use of additives and preservatives among others.

What are the differences between GFSI, HACCP and GMP ?

The food safety field frequently uses the terms GFSI, HACCP and GMP, which although closely related, are distinguished by their specific applications. Let’s discover the particularities of each.

GFSI : Initiative mondiale pour la sécurité alimentaire

GFSI is a collaboration to unify and improve food security systems globally. Rather than a standard, GFSI is an entity that evaluates and validates certification programs according to strict criteria. GFSI-approved certifications are recognized and respected throughout the food chain, helping to minimize health risks, increase transparency, encourage innovation and promote sustainable growth in the food industry.

HACCP : Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points

HACCP is an internationally standardized approach to identifying and controlling food safety hazards. This method includes risk analysis, defining critical control points, setting limits, monitoring procedures, applying corrective measures, verification of process effectiveness and maintenance of rigorous documentation. HACCP is based on the principles of the Codex Alimentarius, the world authority on food standards.

GMP : Good Manufacturing Practices

GMP refers to a set of mandatory guidelines and procedures for food chain actors to ensure the hygiene and safety of food products. These standards cover various aspects, such as cleanliness, contamination prevention, pest control and waste management. They are part of good hygiene practices defined by Codex Alimentarius, including appropriate agricultural, distribution and storage practices.

In short, GFSI plays a facilitative role in recognizing certification programs that incorporate HACCP and GMP, systems and standards essential to ensuring food safety.

How much does one of these certifications cost ?

The price for obtaining GFSI certification varies according to different criteria, such as the selected GFSI program, the size and complexity of your business, the number and duration of audits, as well as fees related to certification and accreditation. It is therefore difficult to state an exact amount, but in general, the average annual cost of a GFSI certification is between 10,000 and 30,000 euros. To better understand this cost, consider :

The cost of compliance

This cost covers all the expenses your business must incur to comply with GFSI requirements, including the time, resources, and equipment required. It includes, among other things, the costs of staff training, documentation, equipment upgrades, internal audit, and correction of detected anomalies. This amount can fluctuate depending on the initial state of your food safety management system, the support you need, the type of product you offer, and can be reduced through the use of online tools and training.

The cost of external audit

This cost represents the fees charged by the certification body to perform the external audit, which is necessary to obtain GFSI certification. It includes the costs of preparing, moving, executing, reporting and monitoring the audit. This amount varies depending on the GFSI program selected, the size and complexity of your business, the number of sites to audit, and the length of the audit. It is advisable to ask for quotes from different certification bodies in order to benefit from the best price.

The cost of certification and accreditation

This fee is charged by the Certification Program Owner (CPO) and the Accreditation Body for obtaining and maintaining GFSI certification. They include the cost of registration, licensing, monitoring and renewal. These costs may vary depending on the GFSI program chosen, the number of certified sites and the duration of the certification. Generally, these costs are included in the quote provided by the certification body.

The price of a GFSI certification is subject to variation and depends on many criteria. It is essential to carry out a thorough analysis of the expected needs and benefits, while comparing the offers available on the market. It is also important to consider the potential return on investment, since a GFSI certification can offer many benefits, such as reducing risks, facilitating trade, simplifying audit processes, improving competitiveness and increasing customer satisfaction.

La procédure classique

Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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