Food safety

GFSI Certification: A Key to Global Food Safety Standards

GFSI is a global standard for benchmarking and recognizing food industry standards. It's recognized around the world, ...

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GFSI is a global standard for benchmarking and recognizing food industry standards. It's recognized around the world, setting up businesses for global success.

There have been many efforts by the food industry stakeholders to ensure food safety throughout the global food supply chain. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has emerged as a key player in this mission. This organization was made by major stakeholders in the food industry to benchmark standards on food safety and allow for the production of safer food for consumers. 

In this article, we discuss the fundamentals of GFSI, explore its importance in the food industry, and explain the steps and strategies for obtaining GFSI certification. Let’s dive in!

Key points covered:

  1. GFSI means Global Food Safety Initiative.
  2. GFSI was made by a collaborative effort of major food businesses and non-governmental organizations worldwide.
  3. GFSI aims to benchmark standards for food safety and quality for safer global food trading.
  4. The most common GFSI schemes include the FSSC 22000, SQF, BRCGC, ISF, PrimusGF, GLOBALG.A.P, and CanadaGAP.
  5. The appropriate GFSI scheme for a food business depends on the scheme’s compatibility and the business’ nature.
  6. GFSI offers global certification and the assurance of having a strong food safety management system.
  7. GFSI certification involves choosing the applicable scheme, implementing an effective food safety program, and undergoing a comprehensive audit process by food safety experts.
  8. A GFSI consultant is an industry expert knowledgeable about GFSI requirements.
  9. FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System can help food businesses establish a comprehensive monitoring system in just 15 minutes.
  10. Smart auditing tools from FoodDocs can help businesses perform internal audits and gap analysis.
  11. FoodDocs' Traceability System can help businesses log product and ingredient information and improve production management.

Learn more about the GFSI certification program and how can our innovative software help you efficiently achieve a significant label for your business. 

What is GFSI?

The GFSI is a program launched by an organization of leading food retailers, manufacturers, and food safety experts.

One of the main objectives of the program is to reduce food safety hazards and potential risks within the food supply chain. It achieves this by recognizing and benchmarking existing food safety standards and certifications against a set of internationally recognized criteria. This enhances the assurance of food safety throughout the entire supply chain on a global level.

Different stakeholders of the food supply chain often seek GFSI recognition to improve product quality and show their commitment to food safety. There are different schemes available for food manufacturers, retailers, food service providers, and suppliers as part of the program.

The girl holds a card with the text FOOD SAFETY


What are GFSI schemes?

GFSI schemes are the various food safety standards and certification programs recognized by the organization. These programs have different focus points for evaluating food safety and quality.

Certification schemes approved by the GFSI are referred to as GFSI-recognized or GFSI-benchmarked schemes. They contain accredited frameworks for food producers, manufacturers, retail sellers, and food service companies for implementing an effective food safety management system.

Here are seven popular GFSI-recognized schemes in the food industry:

  1. FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification). This scheme combines the requirements of ISO 22000, food safety management standards, and additional food safety standards for food processing, ingredient production, and packaging material manufacturing.
  2. SQF (Safe Quality Food). This scheme focuses on improving food safety systems and quality standards.
  3. BRCGS (British Retail Consortium Global Standards). This scheme is a globally recognized standard for food safety, quality, and operational criteria for retail and food services.
  4. IFS (International Featured Standards). IFS focuses on food safety management of products for manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors handling food ingredients.
  5. PrimusGF. PrimusGFS is a GFSI-recognized standard that focuses on food safety certification for agricultural and produce industries.
  6. GLOBALG.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices). This scheme focuses on the certification of agricultural practices, ensuring the safety and sustainability of agricultural products.
  7. Global Seafood Alliance. This scheme is dedicated to ensuring proper and safe handling of seafood and related products by food processors.

It’s important to note that schemes have undergone a comprehensive benchmarking process before becoming GFSI-recognized. By complying with one of these GFSI-recognized schemes, your food business will be seen as strongly committed to producing high-quality and safe food.

Fortunately, FoodDocs software would be a huge help if you're trying to comply with these GFSI-recognized schemes efficiently. You can use it to easily set up a comprehensive and smart Food Safety Management System.

Keep in mind that a complete monitoring system is a major food safety requirement of most GFSI schemes. With the help of our smart software, you can have a complete system for monitoring your entire production process set up in no time. You can also document your compliance with robust food safety practices using our automatically generated monitoring tasks.

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What are the benefits of GFSI recognition?

GFSI recognition offers many benefits to food businesses. Here are six important ones to be aware of:

  • Enhanced food quality and safety. GFSI-recognized schemes focus on food safety practices. So GFSI recognition means your business is optimized for safe food production and committed to reducing foodborne illness risks, food safety crises, product recalls, and contamination incidents.
  • Global acceptance. Being recognized by GFSI-accredited schemes introduces your business to the global food industry. It means that your business follows international food safety standards and prevents food fraud. This can give you a competitive edge in the industry, even across international markets.
  • Supply chain efficiency. GFSI recognition encourages improvements in operational efficiency and transparency. It promotes the use of food safety management systems with proper traceability documentation to make the management of the supply chain easier.
  • Reduced costs. GFSI recognition helps reduce food safety incidents, product recalls, and the associated financial losses that come with these. Companies may also benefit from lower insurance premiums and improved risk management.
  • Continual improvement. GFSI schemes aim to maintain continuous improvements in the food businesses they recognize. They require continuous monitoring, auditing, and improvement of management systems.
  • Compliance with international regulations. GFSI recognition helps reduce non-compliance and associated legal issues by ensuring your business meets regulatory requirements.

To put it briefly, GFSI recognition opens a wide range of market opportunities for food businesses.

GFSI recognition portrays your business as an organization that takes food safety seriously to investors, key stakeholders, and partners. It also helps promote a culture of food safety and quality throughout the supply chain, allowing you to produce high-quality and safe products that customers love.

Portrait of supervisor and workers in food processing plant


How to know which GFSI scheme to choose?

Choosing the appropriate GFSI scheme for your business depends on several factors.

The goals of your chosen scheme must align with those of your food business and must be compatible with the appropriate food safety regulations.

Consider the following factors when choosing a GFSI scheme:

  1. Your business operations and products. Different schemes specialize in different fields of the food industry. You must thoroughly understand the types of your products, the scope of your operations (e.g., food manufacturing businesses, retail, and food service), and your target market before choosing a GFSI scheme.
  2. Applicable regulatory requirements. Research which regulatory requirements apply to your business and geographic location. Ensure that the GFSI scheme recognizes the same requirements.
  3. Customer market and demands. Consider the expectations and requirements of your potential customers, especially if you supply to major retailers or food service providers.
  4. Gaps in your business. Before choosing a scheme, it is important to conduct a gap analysis. Results from this analysis will help you determine which scheme can help you fill in these gaps.
  5. Resource availability. Evaluate the resources, including personnel and financial resources, available for implementing and maintaining your chosen scheme. Certifications may be costly and require consistent investment from your side.
  6. Certification body availability. Ensure that you can access GFSI-recognized certification services in your region.

Remember, understanding what your business needs to ensure food safety is important when choosing a GFSI-recognized scheme. This will also help you determine which areas to focus on for improvement.


What is GFSI compliance?

GFSI compliance refers to a business’ adherence to food safety requirements established by a GFSI-recognized scheme. It shows that your business has implemented comprehensive food safety management systems and other strict food safety standards.

It also shows that your business has established procedures to reduce the risks of food hazards and is continuously working toward improving your management system.

Compliance involves aligning your food safety practices and management system with one of the GFSI-recognized standards, such as SQF, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, or IFS. And companies undergo regular audits by accredited certification bodies to achieve and maintain it. These audits assess an organization's adherence to the chosen GFSI-recognized standard.

The good news is that you can easily achieve and maintain GFSI compliance with the help of FoodDocs' intuitive Food Safety Management System, which lets you set up a comprehensive monitoring system in just 15 minutes.

The monitoring system that you will get includes automatically generated monitoring tasks, which saves a significant amount of time. You can also conduct in-house audits and inspections by using our Food Safety App and use the gathered information to improve your operations.

What are GFSI standards?

Although all standards for the different GFSI-recognized schemes focus on safety and quality, there are a few variations in focus and compliance requirements.

But still, there are several common elements and principles that food businesses must comply with as part of any GFSI certification scheme. These include:

  1. Food Safety Management System. All schemes require an effective management system that covers policies, procedure monitoring, and recordkeeping for food safety.
  2. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Food businesses must be able to identify all potential food safety hazards in their business and establish proper controls to prevent them.
  3. Documentation system for procedures and records. Food businesses must document the development and maintenance of detailed procedures and records related to food safety, including records of monitoring, verification, and corrective actions.
  4. Training and competence. All food handlers involved in a certification process must be properly trained and oriented to ensure food safety effectively. Effective communication between the management and food handlers must also be established.
  5. Traceability and recall procedures. Food businesses must also be able to trace products at all stages of production and distribution, along with procedures for product recall in the event of a food safety issue.
  6. Corrective action plans. Another requirement is to have the appropriate procedures for addressing non-conformities and proper documentation of the process.
  7. Regular audits and inspections. As a commitment to continuous improvement, GFSI schemes require annual audits and accreditation activities to analyze the competence of a business' management system. After the initial certification, your business must be able to uphold consistent compliance.

Keep in mind that these are general categories of common GFSI requirements. International standards may have additional, industry-specific requirements. For example, production-specific schemes will require minimum manufacturing controls, which may not be present in food service-specific schemes. So it is important for any food business seeking GFSI certification to review the standards and requirements of each scheme.

What is GFSI certification?

GFSI certification is a globally recognized food safety certification that shows your business’ compliance with food safety standards benchmarked by the GFSI. It assures consumers and stakeholders that a food producer or supplier follows rigorous food safety practices, reducing the risk of contamination and ensuring product safety.

It’s important to note that the GFSI does not provide the certificates directly. Instead, it is provided by one of the GFSI-recognized schemes.

The voluntary program involves evaluating your business's food safety management system, recordkeeping system, and compliance with standards through a comprehensive inspection and auditing. This is conducted by a team of food safety experts.

You can use FoodDocs' intuitive Food Safety Management System to comply with the certification requirements of all major GFSI-recognized schemes. With the help of our smart software, you can easily set up a system for monitoring your food safety compliance and ensuring commitment to global standards.

You’ll get a complete and customizable Food Safety Management System when you sign up for our services or book a demo with us. You will also explore a real-time dashboard that you can use to oversee your daily food safety progress and save time on micromanaging your team.

What does GFSI-certified mean?

When a food business gets the status of "GFSI-certified," it means they have successfully passed the assessment and audit scheme of a GFSI-recognized system.

In other words, it means that the business has demonstrated having a strong food safety management system and compliance with global standards.

It's important to remember that the GFSI does not develop or administer food safety standards. Instead, it benchmarks and approves existing standards developed by organizations like BRC, SQF, FSSC 22000, and IFS.

Therefore, when a business is GFSI-certified, it means they have met the specific requirements of one of these recognized standards, which has been independently verified.


How much does GFSI certification cost?

Some GFSI schemes may cost as low as $1000, while others charge anywhere between $5000 and $7500.

The exact cost of your GFSI certification will vary based on several factors, such as the certification scheme you chose, the complexity of your operations, your location, the auditing services available in your region, and whether or not you hire a consultant.

Here are some other expenses that might also affect the general certification cost:
  1. Training and education
  2. Documentation and system implementation
  3. Reevaluation and ongoing maintenance

Inspection quality control

It’s a good idea to obtain quotes from the available certification bodies or auditing firms to understand the exact costs your business will have to pay.

What is the average GFSI certification time?

GFSI certification can take anywhere between five months and a year, depending on how fast you can comply with the necessary requirements.

The time will also depend on the general findings during the certification audit, the complexity of your operations, and how fast you address the food safety issues raised by your inspector.

Here are nine key factors that will determine your GFSI certification time:

  1. Preparation time
  2. Gap assessment
  3. Documentation development
  4. Employee training
  5. Implementation and testing
  6. Audit duration
  7. Application of corrective actions
  8. Certification decision
  9. Recertification and ongoing compliance

Planning, conducting a gap analysis, and implementation take the most time out of all GFSI certification processes. If you want to cut the time needed to achieve your GFSI certification significantly, consider establishing a food safety management system, training your team, documenting all your food safety tasks, and establishing a traceability program using FoodDocs. You can do all of this within 15 minutes using our tool

What is a GFSI audit?

A GFSI audit is an assessment stage of your business’s food safety management system and practices to determine your level of compliance.

The main objective of a GFSI food safety audit is to determine if a food business meets the requirements of a GFSI-recognized scheme and effectively manages food safety risks throughout its supply chain.

The third-party audit will be performed by an expert or representative acknowledged by the scheme.

Here is a GFSI audit checklist to help you easily pass the audit and get certified quickly:

GFSI audit checklist

GFSI audit checklist

Once your business passes a GFSI audit using this checklist, it will be recognized by international organizations, setting you up for global success.

What are the differences in examples of GFSI by region?

Although internationally recognized, GFSI standards differ based on their applications and regional popularity.

For example, the SQF certification — which focuses on food retailers and manufacturers – is the most popular scheme in the United States. On the other hand, IFS (which focuses on senior management responsibility, resource management, pre-planning, and productivity) is more popular in Europe.

But keep in mind that all GFSI schemes are globally recognized and it’s important to choose one based on its application instead of popularity.

Who is a GFSI consultant?

A GFSI consultant is a professional with expertise in GFSI schemes. Their role is to help businesses navigate the complicated world of GFSI standards, prepare for audits, and implement food safety best practices to meet relevant requirements.

You can employ GFSI consulting during your preparation stages, where a consultant will conduct a gap analysis of your business and train your food handlers. They will also prepare you for external GFSI audits via mock audits and readiness assessments.

The only downside is their cost – consultants can charge anywhere between $500 to $1000 per consultation day, something important to keep in mind.

How to get GFSI compliant with using FoodDocs?

After choosing a GFSI scheme to apply for, your business will need to dedicate months of preparation before the certification process. You can skip this long preparation stage with the help of FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System.

It offers the following smart software features:
  1. Customizable monitoring tasks for comprehensive monitoring
  2. Step-by-step instructions for training food handlers
  3. Smart auditing tools for verifying compliance with GFSI scheme standards
  4. Traceability system for tracking product and ingredient movement
  5. Real-time dashboard for reviewing food safety status

1. Customizable monitoring tasks for comprehensive monitoring

Every GFSI-recognized scheme requires a comprehensive food safety management system. With the help of FoodDocs, you can get a wide variety of automatically generated customizable monitoring tasks.

These tasks are based on your company's operations and can be used to monitor food safety compliance. You can further improve each task according to the legal requirements of your chosen GFSI scheme.

Examples of the most commonly used monitoring tasks include:
  • Temperature log
  • Cooking log
  • Calibration log
  • Cleaning checklist


In addition to these automatically generated logs, you can also make your own detailed forms and checklists with FoodDocs. Our experts have written easy-to-follow instructions for making new forms, which will help you set them up in no time.

You can customize these forms based on the monitoring requirements of your chosen GFSI scheme with just a few clicks. You can also quickly edit all monitoring tasks after an internal audit to comply with what your consultant suggests.

2. Step-by-step instructions for training food handlers

Food handler training is another important aspect of all GFSI schemes. And you can save time on training your team with our software's detailed step-by-step instructions.

That’s because each automatically generated monitoring task and checklist from FoodDocs comes with detailed educational instructions. These instructions can be used to train food handlers on proper food safety practices.

In addition, managers are allowed to upload their versions of instructions as images or videos. This will let you create customized instructional media to train food handlers on a particular GFSI scheme requirement.

3. Smart auditing tools for verifying compliance with GFSI scheme standards

You can also perform internal audits and inspections of your GFSI compliance with the help of our smart Food Safety App. It lets you upload audit checklists based on GFSI scheme lists or create new ones from scratch. This can help you perform mock audits and address food safety issues before the actual food safety inspection. The best part? Auditing can be done through any mobile device.

4. Traceability system for tracking product and ingredient movement

It’s crucial to show GFSI auditing inspectors how you track product and ingredient movement for successful certification. You can do that via our two-in-one Traceability system, which makes logging information about your ingredient and product movement super easy. It can record information such as:

  1. product name
  2. batch number
  3. product yield
  4. expiry dates

You can also use the advanced search option to find specific production details and print them out for analysis or product recalls.

What's more, our Traceability System comes with production management features, which help you perform automatic recipe recalculation and ensure accurate production plans.

All of this allows you to ensure transparency and accountability, which are two of the main objectives of GFSI-compliant food safety schemes.


Traceability System from FoodDocs software

5. Real-time dashboard for reviewing food safety status

Our real-time dashboard lets you maintain complete control of your food safety status and get a quick overview of all your food safety tasks.

You can ensure that all areas concerning the GFSI certification program are maintained with the help of this dashboard. More importantly, you can immediately identify areas that are non-compliant and address them with corrective actions.

According to our estimates and user feedback, you’ll save at least 20% of the time it takes to ensure compliance with food safety rules by using our dashboard.


Real-time dashboard from Fooddocs software

As you can guess by now, our smart Food Safety Management System is packed with useful features that will help you achieve GFSI recognition. You can save a significant amount of time during the preparation stage while ensuring that all data is organized and can be presented to inspectors at any time.

So, optimize your operations and ensure compliance with GFSI requirements with our smart solutions today – it will take only 15 minutes to set up! Curious to learn more? Schedule a one-on-one demo with our experts for a more detailed explanation.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To help you understand more about GFSI certification, here are a few of the most common questions asked regarding this topic:

What does GFSI stand for in food safety?

GFSI stands for Global Food Safety Initiative in food safety.

Is GFSI the same as HACCP?

No, GFSI is not the same as HACCP. HACCP is a specific food safety system that focuses on identifying and controlling critical points in food production to prevent hazards. On the other hand, GFSI is an initiative that evaluates and recognizes various food safety standards. HACCP is a common component of GFSI-recognized schemes.

Is GFSI the same as BRC?

No, GFSI is not the same as BRC (British Retail Consortium). BRC is one of the food safety standards recognized by GFSI. GFSI evaluates and approves multiple standards, including BRC, based on their ability to meet food safety requirements.

Is ISO 9001 a GFSI Recognised scheme?

ISO 9001 is not a GFSI-recognized food safety scheme. ISO 9001 is a quality management system standard, whereas GFSI focuses specifically on food safety. While ISO 9001 can complement food safety efforts, it does not replace the need for GFSI-recognized food safety certification standards for business facilities in the food industry.

 Why is ISO 22000 not recognized by GFSI?

ISO 22000 covers a very broad range of food production sectors. It applies to all stages of the farm-to-fork process. GFSI-approved standards are comparatively more food sector-specific. The GFSI-recognized and more specific counterpart of ISO 22000 is the FSSC 22000.



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