Global Food Safety Initiative: Which One is Right for You?

Food Safety is a growing global concern. As barriers to market entry are reduced worldwide, an inherent need to protect the consumer has become a growing concern. To address this issue on a global scale, the Consumer Goods Forum developed the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to benchmark existing food standards against food safety criteria. Some of the more commonly accepted food safety schemes included: BRC, FSSC 22000, SQF and IFS. However, with each of these alternative schemes, which one is right for your organization?

BRC – British Retail Consortiumfresh blueberries

An excellent choice for facilities that are looking for clear guidance from a standard and often used at sites that do not have a large corporate backing. Described as, “rigorous and detailed, yet easy to follow and understand”. There is a straight forward certification process with this standard. There are seven sections within BRC: Management Commitment, HACCP – Food Safety Plan, Food Safety and Quality Management System, Site Standards, Product Control, Process Control and Personnel. Issue 6 states that at least 50% of the audit should be focused auditing production areas.

FSSC 22000 – Food Safety System Certification

Well suited for facilities that are not typical food processors, for example food grade chemical manufacturers. This program is designed to merge food safety management with other management systems such as ISO 9001. It is a BRC - British Retail Consortiumcombination of ISO 22000:2005 and PAS 220:2008. The ISO 22000 was designed to cover the various processes throughout the food chain and includes a thorough Management System combined with HACCP and GMPs. The PAS 220:2008 portion of the standard is a supplement for the Prerequisite Programs which allows for benchmarking to the GFSI standards.

SQF – Safe Quality Foods

Requires an SQF Practitioner to develop, validate, verify, implement and maintain the SQF System. This person may be in-house or an outside consultant. There are three levels of certification for each SQF standard (SQF 1000 and SQF 2000). Generally, the customer will indicate to the manufacturer which level of certification is required.

  • Level 1 is mainly for low risk products and it incorporates fundamental food safety controls.
  • Level 2 is a certified HACCP food safety plan that is benchmarked by GFSI.
  • Level 3 is a comprehensive implementation of safety and quality management systems that incorporates Level 2.

When achieving level 3, facilities can use the SQF logo on their products. This scheme is widely used in the USA.

IFS – International Featured Standards

Developed by German and French trade associations to combine food safety requirements of various retailers into one standard. This is a common scheme required by many European retailers due to the full range of food processing it can cover. There are two levels of certification: Foundation Level and Higher Level which are based on the audit score. If a Higher Level certification is received twice, the time between audits may be increased from 12 months to 18 months. This standard is not very common in the USA at this point, but there are more than 12,500 IFS certificates worldwide.

– Jill Carson, Food Safety Lead Auditor