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.

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

Food Safety and the Media

Anyone who is keeping up with the political primaries is well aware of actions taken by politicians along the campaign trail.  Every misstep is documented, scrutinized and goes viral rapidly.  The same can be said about food safety missteps at the manufacturing level.  Now that we have the technology to test for outbreaks rapidly and medical experts have the knowledge of identifying common food borne illnesses it seems like we are hearing about people getting sick much more often than previous times.  Case in point, the Jensen Farms facility that has been accused of improperly processing cantaloupe and causing the death of 30 people and causing illness in approximately 150.

Food borne illness is a very serious issue that affects an untold number of people each year and it still remains poorly understood.  More than half of the known outbreaks are caused by unknown sources.  The reality is that our media focuses on topics such as the Listeria outbreak when there were more than five million cases of Norovirus and more than one million Salmonella cases that received significantly less attention.

Even the best implemented HACCP plan by a manufacturer comes to an end once the product has been shipped out the door.  The does not mean that food safety ends at the manufacturing site, it is just as important for basic GMPs to be followed at home such as hand washing and avoiding cross contamination between raw and cooked products.

By:  Jill Carson, Lead Auditor