Tom Chestnut, Vice President, NSF Food Safety & Quality, discusses the importance of the Global Food Safety Initiative and what steps manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, and distributors can take to be more proactive.
People want to know that the food they eat is safe, and retailers want to make sure that the food they sell is safe. News reports have increased consumer awareness of health and safety issues related to food, and companies are concerned about consumer perceptions and liability risks. As the supply chain for food has expanded globally, it has become apparent that there are weaknesses in the chain that can be improved by utilizing more rigorous food safety standards. In response, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)* has emerged as a way to better address the safety and quality of the global food supply.
The foodservice sector recently created a strategic alliance with GFSI through the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA recognized the importance GFSI provides in strengthening food safety systems in the supply chain and capability of increasing consumer confidence by utilizing GFSI-recognized food safety standards worldwide. The alliance will provide a unique international stakeholder platform for networking, knowledge exchange, and sharing of best food safety practices and information. This article will provide additional background on GFSI and the internationally recognized GFSI standards, which include British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Food (SQF), International Food Standard (IFS), Dutch HACCP, as well as other international benchmarking programs, such as Global GAP.
The Global Food Safety Initiative was established to ensure confidence in the delivery of safer food to consumers, while continuing to improve food safety supply chain management. GFSI provides a benchmark to ensure consistency between countries and the products that have been certified.
GFSI was launched in May 2000 by CIES - The Food Business Forum, an independent, global food business network in more than 150 countries, with retailers as its largest group. GFSI was a retailer-driven certification program that is now strengthened with the participation of the foodservice sector. Currently, seven major global retailers (Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, Migros, Ahold, Wal-Mart, and Delhaize), along with the NRA, have agreed on common acceptance of the aforementioned four global food safety certifications. Certifications cover food, packaging, consumer goods, storage, and distribution, for primary producers, manufacturers, and distributors. CIES benchmarked the following standards as part of GFSI: BRC, SQF, IFS and Dutch HACCP.
NSF International and NSF-CMi are recognized providers of third-party audits with expertise in BRC, SQF, IFS, and GlobalGAP, a similar benchmarking program for the produce industry. Our goal is to help clients determine which international food safety and product certification best fit their needs. NSF and the NSF-CMi teams will help meet these requirements through certification, testing or auditing solutions to BRC, SQF, IFS, or GlobalGAP.
The BRC Global Standard is a standard developed by the British Retail Consortium for companies supplying retailer-branded food products. It was created for food and ingredient manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to reduce the number of customer audits and consolidate customer requirements. It evolved into a global standard and now encompasses food, packaging, consumer products, storage, and distribution. BRC assists in promoting consistency across the supply chain. It provides clients with a means to prove due diligence in the event of a legal challenge. All certifying bodies are required to sign a contract with BRC. This is the most widely accepted GFSI standard and there are 17 product categories. NSF lead auditors are trained and qualified for the product categories applicable to each of their clients' facilities. The standard covers critical topics such as:
For more information, visit the BRC Global Standards website.
The SQF Program, which is owned by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), is a comprehensive food safety and quality management certification system for food manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. It can be applied at all levels of the food supply chain. SQF provides independent certification that a product, process, or service complies with international, regulatory, and other specified standard(s) and enables a food supplier to give assurances that food has been produced, prepared, and handled according to the highest possible standards. While SQF is a food safety program, the audit also covers product quality. SQF offers optional modules to certify that a supplier is engaging in responsible environmental and social practices:
For more information, visit the SQF Institute website.
German food retailers in 2002, from the HDE (Hauptverband des Deutschen Einzelhandels), developed a common audit standard called International Food Standard (IFS). In 2003, French food retailers (and wholesalers) from the FCD (Fédération des Entreprises du Commerce et de la Distribution) joined the IFS Working Group and have contributed to development of IFS version 4. The aim of the IFS is to create a consistent evaluation system for all companies supplying retailer branded food products with uniform formulations, uniform audit procedures, and mutual acceptance of audits, which will create a high level of transparency throughout the supply chain. The IFS defines requirements in content, procedure, and evaluation of audits and a requirement profile for the certification bodies and auditors. Structure of the IFS (catalogue of requirements):
For more information, visit the IFS Standards website.
Formerly known as EurepGAP, this certification is intended for agricultural producers. GlobalGAP is a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. Based on good agricultural practices, it encompasses all process activities on the farm and its certification is a business to business certification. It covers 80 countries and is based on review of crops, livestock, and aquaculture.
The Dutch HACCP Code is a technical specification designed by the Dutch National Board of Experts that specifies the requirements for a HACCP-based food safety system with international and national legislation, along with codes of practices within a management system framework. Particularly suited for suppliers that supply food products to the Dutch market, it includes coverage of management responsibility, HACCP application, and pre-requisite programme implementation.
For more information on GFSI or GFSI standards, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-827-6802.
* The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), an independent non-profit foundation managed by The Consumer Goods Forum, was founded in 2000.