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GFSI Overview

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is coordinated by The Food Business Forum CIES. This forum is a global food network made up of approximately 400 retailers and manufacturers worldwide.

Many large food processors, manufacturers and retailers are asking their suppliers to obtain a GFSI Recognized Certification. While GFSI does not certify and does not have a certification scheme itself, it does evaluate (benchmark) other food safety certification schemes to determine which ones meet their criteria and will be recognized by the organization.

If your organization needs to become certified to a recognized standard, evaluate the different schemes available to see which ones are applicable to your organization. You can do this quickly and easily at: GFSI Scopes of Recognition. Once you have identified which schemes include your business activity in the scope you will have your list of choices for certification.

Three of the GFSI Benchmarked Certification Schemes that are popular and well recognized in the United States as well as globally are: SQF, FSSC 22000 and BRC and any of these are a good choice.

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Benefits of GFSI recognized certifications

  • Many large retailers and multinational food manufacturers are demanding that their suppliers are certified to a GFSI recognized standard.
  • Obtaining a GFSI recognized food safety certification is a Must to do business with these organizations.
  • Food processors, manufacturers and packaging manufacturers are all finding that more and more customers want to see this type of certification.
  • Certification will assist companies in meeting the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) because of requirements in the certification programs that overlap with FSMA requirements including HACCP Plans, food safety management plans, traceability, recall management and management of incidents.

How do GFSI recognized standards compare?

Safe Quality Food, SQF

  • SQF is a program managed by the Safe Quality Food Institute, SQFI
  • SQF can be applied to all food industry sectors through the use of the applicable GMP module in the standard
  • SQF has two levels that are recognized by GFSI:
    SQF Code (formerly called Level 2) - Food Safety
    SQF Quality Cod (formerly called Level 3) - Food Safety and Quality
  • SQF uses a modular approach, different industry segments register to the same SQF code, but use the appropriate GMP module for their activities.
  • Certification audits are scored and certification is ranked: Complies, Good or Excellent based on the audit score.
  • The SQF Code and guidance documents are available to download free of charge at the SQFI website
  • There are more than 5000 certified organizations worldwide

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, BRC

  • Applies to food packing and processing organizations
  • BRC/IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials applies to food packaging manufacturers
  • The standard and guidance documents may be purchased from the BRC Websites
  • There are more than 18000 certified companies worldwide

Food Safety System Certification, FSSC 22000

  • Managed and owned by the Foundation for Food Safety Certification
  • Uses the ISO standard ISO 22000 along with a the applicable document for prerequisite programs, based on industry sector
  • Companies use the appropriate prerequisite program document for their activities (for example ISO/TS 22002-1 for food processors, the PAS 223 for food packaging manufacturers)
  • Documents are available from FSSC 22000 and ISO
  • Over 5000 certified companies worldwide

Comparing the programs

  • Each program includes the principles of HACCP found in the Codex Alimentarius
  • Each program include management system requirements and GMP/PRPs (Good Manufacturing Practices and Prerequisite Programs.)

The organization of the standards vary:

  • The SQF Code consists of different modules. Every company must comply with Module 2 containing the management system elements and choose the module that applies to their sector for GMPs.
  • The BRC standard has the management system requirements, prerequisite program requirements and site standards in one document.
  • The FSSC 22000 scheme requirements are found in several standards, FSSC 22000, ISO 22000 and the applicable prerequisite program document. For example, ISO/TS 22002-1 or PAS 223.


  • Because they are GFSI Benchmarked, the programs are all well recognized.
  • To choose the best certification program for your organization, you may want to consider what program your customers use
  • Consider the target market (geographic, product)


  • GFSI has benchmarked these standards and determined that they meet the requirements outlined by GFSI, so there is a similarity of requirements between programs
  • Requirements are not identical, but address the same key points
  • A GFSI benchmarked scheme will have requirements for processes that include:

    Food safety management
    Food safety policy
    Food safety manual
    Management responsibility
    Management commitment
    Management review
    Resource management
    Documentation requirements
    Internal audits
    Corrective action
    Control of non-conformity
    Product release
    Control of purchasing activities
    Supplier performance monitoring
    Complaint handling
    Serious incident management
    Control of measuring and monitoring
    Product analysis
    Prerequisite programs (PRPs)
    Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)

Video Tutorial: What is GFSI?

The GFSI committee felt there was a need for additional specifications. To address this issue, another document has been developed- ISO/TS 22002-1 (formerly the PAS 220), defining requirements for prerequisite programs for food manufacturers. It is designed to define the requirements for a prerequisite program to be used to meet the ISO 22000.

Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) is now the owner of this certification scheme based on these two documents and responsible for accreditation of registrars and management of the certification scheme.

The FSSC 22000 Certification scheme is GFSI Benchmarked. If you are looking for certification to a GFSI recognized scheme, this is one of the available choices, and is growing rapidly in popularity.

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