Bakers Journal

Get GFSI savvy

June 22, 2011
By Paul Medeiros

Are you ready for GFSI? Better yet, why should you be ready for GFSI?
GFSI is the Global Food Safety Initiative and being certified by an
approved scheme of theirs, such as SQF 2000 or BRC, has become the price
of admission for selling products to many large customers.

Are you ready for GFSI? Better yet, why should you be ready for GFSI? GFSI is the Global Food Safety Initiative and being certified by an approved scheme of theirs, such as SQF 2000 or BRC, has become the price of admission for selling products to many large customers. Even if you’re not planning to become certified, possessing a better understanding of stringent food safety requirements can only help your business.

What is GFSI?
The Global Food Safety Initiative is a non-profit foundation launched in May 2000, following a number of major food safety scares. GFSI develops an international regime for food safety, creating opportunities for collaboration, networking and information sharing among key players in the industry.

The GFSI board is international in scope. Members are drawn from major retailer, manufacturer, and foodservice operations, including Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Kraft.


What does GFSI do?
GFSI doesn’t produce food safety standards itself; rather, it defines the process by which food safety schemes are submitted and benchmarked. Plainly put, food safety standards created by organizations such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Foods Institute (SQFI) or the Foundation for Food Safety Certification (FSSC) are presented to the GFSI for rigorous evaluation. Schemes that successfully meet the GFSI’s pre-established criteria are benchmarked under the GFSI umbrella of approval.

In 2009, Loblaw Brands Ltd. introduced new rules, making certification under one of the GFSI recognized schemes mandatory for vendors. A growing number of food retailers and manufacturers, including Wal-Mart, have followed suit.

The following manufacturing schemes have been GFSI benchmarked:

  • Dutch Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Option B
  • FSSC 22000
  • Synergy 22000

Several primary production schemes (such as CANADA GAP) have also
been benchmarked.

What are the requirements under GFSI?
Picture HACCP on steroids and you’ll begin to gain a sense of the food safety requirements under GFSI. In addition to safety, there are requirements for quality and system management.

The GFSI Guidance Document defines how food safety schemes are submitted and benchmarked. As such, reviewing food safety management criteria in the guidance document is a good way to gain a general understanding of the requirements of the individual certifications.

In summary, the individual schemes must require food companies to have the following in place:

  • A robust, verified and validated HACCP program
  • A series of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that includes elements such as pest control, employee training, site standards, and storage practices
  •  A food safety policy that has been adequately communicated, and a complete food safety manual
  • A clear organizational structure that includes food safety related job functions and  descriptions
  • An internal audit program that assesses the company’s food
  • safety system
  • Protocols addressing corrective action, non-conforming product, and the release of product
  • Purchasing controls to ensure the safety of externally sourced materials and services, and to manage supplier performance
  • Complaint handling programs
  • and metrics

Assess your readiness by considering the following:

  • Do you already have a written food safety commitment statement in place? Are you able to answer the question, “How do you know the food you sell is safe?”
  • Have you assigned a point person for food safety? Does that person report directly to the top facility manager or owner?
  • Do supervisors and lead hands play an active role in enforcing food safety in your facility?
  • Was your HACCP program developed in isolation by
  • your food safety lead or a consultant or was it a cross-functional,
  • team approach?
  • Depending on the current completeness of your food safety system, are you prepared to allocate an average of one to two days per week of someone’s time, for anywhere from two to six months, to leading the development and implementation of the necessary upgrades?
  • Are you currently operating in a culture that calls for written procedures and records? If not, are you prepared to adapt?
  • Are you able and willing to invest capital to bring your operation up to speed, if necessary?
  • In situations where the “right” food safety decision will either upset a customer or cost you money, what decisions have you made in the past? Are you willing to incorporate formal food safety procedures into all decisions?
  • Are you interested in GFSI certification solely to meet customer requirements? Or do you view certification as an opportunity to improve product safety and strengthen your brand?

Bakeries already face ever-shrinking margins and significant time and production pressures. Now bakeries are facing yet another challenge in GFSI certification. As I sit in my office writing this article, I wonder how I can balance the many responsibilities I face. I think of all the food company managers, owners and employees who, like me, struggle to fit in all the important things required to grow their business and sometimes, just to survive. GFSI certification should not be undertaken lightly. It is an important decision that must be tackled with the same dedication and energy as any other strategy.

Are you ready? Then get set and go! For more information on GFSI, visit, or for testimonials. / BJ

Paul Medeiros is manager of consulting services at Guelph Food Technology Centre. Contact him at

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