What is GFSI?

Cynthia Weber, August 8, 2023


 A Complete Guide to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) 

GFSI Certification is a powerful tool for a business looking to push food and beverage products across borders. It’s a glowing stamp of approval that highlights your dedication to a higher standard of food safety and is often required by many potential customers of your business. 

What Is GFSI & What Does It Stand For?  

The Global Food Safety Initiative, or GFSI, is a nonprofit initiative designed to promote the development of food safety management systems and to help ensure food facilities are processing safe food for consumers.  

The GFSI oversees and approves different auditing platforms that meet their food safety criteria. This criterion also provides recognition of superior standards for certain food safety audits and schemes. 

It differs from SQF, ISO, and others in that GFSI establishes standards and benchmarks that SQF and other schemes must adhere to in order to be globally recognized as a structured, comprehensive, and effective food safety program. 

A Brief History of GFSI 

GFSI started in 2000 following a series of food safety issues and various changes to regulatory laws in the food industry, including food laws of the European Union. With legal obligations imposed on their supply chains, and overall compliance tied to their liability, European retailers elected to use a set of technical standards to help comply with the new changes.

Since then, global industry experts have been collaborating to tackle food safety issues defined by various GFSI stakeholders. 

Today, GFSI Certification represents the gold standard of food safety and recognizes various food safety management programs such as: 

  • BRC Global Standard (BRCGS)
  • Safe Quality Food Code (SQF)
  • International Featured Standards (IFS)
  • Freshcare FSQ 
  • FSSC 22000 
  • And several others 

How to Become GFSI Certified 

When it comes to GFSI, many individuals in the food and beverage industry are still first introduced to its existence when a potential client asks to see their GFSI-benchmarked certificate.  

GFSI can be a complicated institution to initially grasp, but the simple fact is that, regardless of which scheme or program you decide to pursue, everything starts with HACCP. 

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) sets you up to be successful in your food safety program, as it’s not only extremely helpful for food safety, but HACCP training is often required under several GFSI-recognized schemes. 

Once you find and complete your HACCP training online, you can take the next steps in pursuing a GFSI-Benchmarked Certification. 

Step 1 – Select the Appropriate Scheme 

When choosing a recognized scheme under GFSI Certification, you should first check with the retailers, suppliers, further processors, or other potential clients you’re looking to do business with. In many cases, they’ll tell you which certifications they either accept or require. 

If you’re still unclear or were given too many options, consider your business and its potential needs. For example, if you have a larger international operation, the advantages of seeking the Food Safety Management System Certification FSSC 22000 may outweigh that of more product-focused certifications like SQF.   

Step 2 – Access the Right Training 

Training is a critical part of the process. The person in charge of the project needs a good understanding of the scheme requirements and how to implement them as well as of HACCP.  

Your team and management need to understand the requirements involved and internal Auditors need to be trained on both the requirements and on the auditing process. Even employees need to get in on the training regarding food safety and their role in maintaining compliance. 

Your chosen scheme will come with specific requirements that will determine which training and courses will not only be the most effective, but also essential in obtaining your GFSI Certification. 

Step 3 – Implement Plans & Procedures 

As you begin implementation, you want to be sure to assign an individual or an entire team to oversee and document the entire process. You should equip them with the appropriate training and then provide them with the procedure templates, plans, and gap information. 

This individual or team will then take this information and help identify necessary changes that you can refine and continue to refine through regular internal audits until — and after — you’re ready for review. 

Step 4 – Undergo the Certification Audit 

After a few rounds of internal audits and necessary adjustments, you will be ready to work with  the certification body you chose for GFSI who will conduct your certification audit.  

The review process will scrutinize every detail of their required standards to ensure your operations are in compliance. Once approved, you’ll earn your GFSI-benchmarked Certification. 

Global Food Safety Initiative FAQ 

With how broad GFSI can be, it’s fair to call it a bit complicated. We’ve put together a small FAQ that answers some of the more Common questions about GFSI:   

How Much Does A GFSI Certification Cost?  

The answer honestly depends on what you need, how much time it will take you, and what scheme you’re pursuing. You also need to consider internal costs (such as staff), consultancy or software fees, training programs, and the certification audits and accreditation costs themselves.  

The certification body you choose will charge for its audits. These costs will obviously vary depending on the overall size and complexity of your business and other factors.  

Is A GFSI Certification Worth It?  

You can think of GFSI Certification as a type of food safety passport. Your commitment to food safety is recognized everywhere with this certification and global retailers will be more than willing to accept your product on their shelves. In fact, major retailers require a GFSI-recognized certification. 

 If you’re looking to boost your reach and your revenue, then GFSI is more than worth it.    

What Is the Difference Between GFSI & SQF? 

GFSI is a private nonprofit organization that exists to ensure higher standards across different food management systems. SQF, or Safe Quality Food, is one of these systems your company can implement in order to achieve GFSI Certification. 

What Is the Difference Between GFSI & ISO?  

Similar to SQF or any other food management system, ISO, or International Organization of Standardization, is a broader approach to food safety that by itself is not recognized by GFSI.  

ISO 22000 is that it does not have specific requirements for prerequisite programs. Instead, it requires that the organization identifies and implements the appropriate programs making it more flexible as food organizations of any type can implement and be certified to ISO 22000. 

It’s important to note that ISO 22000 is part of the FSC22000 scheme which qualifies for GFSI Certification. ISO 22000 can be a starting point for GFSI for many organizations.  

Online GFSI Certification Training By Registrar Corp 

Obtain global recognition for your commitment to food safety with GFSI Certification through Registrar Corp’s online training. We offer a host of courses that will help you master various food management systems the Global Food Safety Initiative recognizes and stands behind.  

Discover how our comprehensive and specialized GFSI training can open doors to your business that would have otherwise remained shut.