What is GFSI?

GFSI is a global food network made up of hundreds of retailers and manufacturers worldwide. The GFSI organization determined which set of requirements would be essential to a good food safety management system. GFSI recognizes (benchmarks) food safety standards that include those requirements.

GFSI is not a certification programme in itself, nor does it carry out any accreditation or certification activities. Instead, GFSI recognizes certain food safety standards. GFSI recognition means a standard meets internationally recognized food safety requirements, developed by a multi-stakeholders group, which are set out in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. The ethos of GFSI benchmarking is “audited once, accepted everywhere."

So, if you become certified to one of those standards (SQF, FSSC 22000, BRC, etc.) the certificate will be recognized by GFSI but the certificate itself will not come from GFSI but from the Standards Body you are certified to.

Why Achieve Certification?

Manage Risk

A robust traceability system will provide your farm with effective management of food safety hazards by creating an environment capable of producing safe product and a management system to continually manage, monitor, validate and improve the system. Strong traceability reduces recall reaction time, protecting consumers and your brand.

Expand Market Reach

Statistics show that approximately 1 out of 4 certified companies are asking their suppliers to achieve certification. Chances are that if you have not been asked yet, you will be asked in the near future. Starting on your certification can help you stay competitive and qualified to work with your current customers, as well as gain access to larger global retailers. 

If your customer or market is requesting that you become certified to a GFSI standard, then you can select one of the GFSI Benchmarked standards. These include:

However, only the following GFSI-recognized standards are applicable to primary producers of fresh fruit and vegetables:

BRC Global Standard

BRC Global Standards was founded in 1996 to reduce audit duplication by UK retailers. Its Global Standard for Food Safety scheme, which is applicable to primary producers of fresh fruits and vegetables, was first published in 1998 and is now in practice around the world. BRC's Global Standard for Food Safety was the first standard to be GFSI-benchmarked.

Global GAP's Fruit & Vegetables Standard

The set of traceability standards for food production that would become known as GLOBAL G.A.P. were devised in 1997 by several European supermarket chains and their major suppliers. These retailers and suppliers had noticed consumers' growing concerns for product safety, environmental impact, and animal and worker safety. They decided to harmonize their individual standards and procedures and develop an independent certification system for Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.).

Then known as EUREPGAP, the set of standards helped growers comply with Europe-wide accepted criteria for food safety, sustainable production methods, worker and animal welfare, and responsible use of water, compound feed and plant propagation materials. The harmonized standards also saved growers money - no longer did they need to conduct multiple different audits for different parties every year.

Over the next decade, a growing number of growers and retailers around the world expressed interest in adopting EUREPGAP. To reflect its now global impact and its goal of becoming the leading international G.A.P. standard, EUREPGAP changed its name to GLOBALG.A.P. in 2007. Today, GLOBALG.A.P. is translated for use in more than 135 countries and is considered the world's leading farm assurance program.

The GLOBALG.A.P. Fruit & Vegetables Standard covers all stages of production, from pre-harvest activities such as soil management and plant protection product application to post-harvest produce handling, packing and storing.

The GLOBALG.A.P. Fruit & Vegetables Standard has been successfully assessed against the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements and achieved GFSI recognition for scope B1 Farming of Plants and D Pre-Processing Handling of Plant Products.

GLOBALG.A.P.'s Harmonized Produce Safety Standard

GLOBALG.A.P.'s Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) is designed to serve the unique needs of American fruit and vegetable producers, and those selling into the United States market.  The HPSS was drafted by a diverse technical team consisting of leaders in the produce industry.  GLOBALG.A.P. led the benchmarking of the core Harmonized Standard, and is proud to announce that our HPSS is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and accepted by many of the largest retailers in North America.

CanadaG.A.P.

CanadaGAP is a food safety program for companies that produce, handle and broker fruits and vegetables.  The program has received full Canadian Government Recognition, and is designed to help implement and maintain effective food safety procedures within fresh produce operations. Two manuals, one specific to greenhouse operations, the second for other fruit and vegetable operations, have been developed by the horticultural industry and reviewed for technical soundness by Canadian government officials.

ASIAGAP

The Japan GAP Foundation is a private nonprofit organization developing and managing ASIAGAP and JGAP. ASIAGAP, as they are known collectively, is the only international standard developed in Japan. Established as an NPO corporation in November of 2006, JGAP’s third-party certification system began the following year.  Target categories included fruits and vegetables, tea, grains and pulses, and livestock and livestock products.

Traceability and integrity, from field to shipment, are mandated for agricultural products.

Primus GFS

PrimusGFS is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked and fully recognized audit scheme covering both Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) scopes, as well as Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). The GFSI recognition of the PrimusGFS scheme helps move the produce industry one step closer to the desired goal of global food safety harmonization. The PrimusGFS scheme covers the scope of the supply chain from pre- and to post- farm gate production and provides an integrated supply chain approach.  Primus GFS's largest presence is in South and Central America.

Safe Quality Food Initiative SQF

SQF apples to produce growers through its Module 7: SQF Fundamentals for Primary Production, Basic - Good Agricultural Practices for Farming of Plant Products.  SQF is translated into English, French Canadian, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese.

How to Choose The Right GSFI Certification Programme for Your Operation

When choosing a a GFSI-recognized certification program, a grower should take into account the follow considerations:

Audit FAQ

How long do audits last?

The length of time for an audit depends on the size of your operation.

Do I need to submit any documentation prior to the audit?

Initially, you will be asked to send the auditor records, such as an aerial map of your fields. These records may help identify potential sources of contamination in proximity to your production area.

Do audits certify an entire farm or just one crop?

Audits vary from location to location, but audits most commonly certify an individual crop.  So, it is up to you, the grower, to specify which commodities and which fields or packing facilities you would like certified. The auditor will then schedule a visit when your specified produce is being harvested.

Day of the Audit

Here is what to expect on the day of your food safety audit:

1. REVIEW: The auditor will first review your customized food safety plan that you have generated and any attached documentation.

2. OBSERVE: The auditor will observe that the stipulations of your food safety plan are being met.  Note that they are observers, not regulators.  For example, you may have entered in your food safety plan that every field worker is required to wear gloves, an apron and a hat or hairnet.  The auditor can observe that all field workers are following the policy, but they do not stipulate what the policy should or should not entail.

3. POINT SYSTEM: The auditor will assess whether you have implemented all the items outlined in the food safety plan using a ?matrix? checklist in which each risk area is assigned a point system based on compliance. For example, 80 percent of the possible points are required for GAPs Certification.

4. PHYSICAL INSPECTION: The inspection includes the physical assessment of each field or facility that you have chosen to be considered for certification. The auditor will observe harvesting operations and may even question your employees to ensure that they have a working knowledge of the food safety plan. During the inspection, the auditor will also take into account items such as corrective action procedures, inspections of field equipment, documentation of water tests, cleanliness and proximity of toilet facilities, your traceability system and pest control management.

5. REASONS FOR FAILING INSPECTION: There are many reasons an audit can automatically fail. Examples may be the presence of an immediate food safety risk, evidence of pests, unsanitary conditions and falsification of records. At the point when an automatic failure is observed, the audit will stop and you will be issued a corrective action form. You would then need to determine which measures must be taken to correct the problem and reschedule the audit.

6. FOOD SAFETY CERTIFICATION: The auditor will review your food safety report with you. The complete report will then be sent to the certification body, and your final audit report and certificate will be mailed to you.