HACCP Certification and GFSI – Differences in Global Food Safety Initiatives (GFSI)

February 13, 2015 By

BRC, ISO22000, SQF, IFS, GlobalGAP… Which one is right for our organization to obtain HACCP Certification?

There are many common threads in the programs that are approved under GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiatives) for HACCP Certification. GFSI was developed to ensure food organizations previously going through repetitive audit processes as vendors, manufacturers and suppliers to retail, could provide assurance to their customers for food safety with one audit scheme.  The goal was that any of the GFSI approved standards would not only be recognized across the industry, but recognized across the world and ultimately reducing duplication of audits, providing safe foods to consumers and providing a means to establish a standard for HACCP Certification.

It is important to understand the differences in each program before you decide on which one is best suited to your operation and customer base.  The five major GFSI approved food safety standards commonly implemented by operations are BRC, FSSC 22000, SQF, IFS and the Global GAP.

All five schemes have different procedures and structures, but all five demonstrate the implementation and maintenance of the following three requirements:

  • A Food Safety Management System
  • Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Distribution Practices and Good Agricultural Practices
  • Hazard Analyses and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the leading trade body for UK retailers. Manufacturers certified under BRC have several benefits. The BRC requirement has a descriptive requirement for process and hygienic control which gives clear steps on how food safety should be obtained. The certification process is a simple process that only requires an onsite audit.  It includes an option for voluntary unannounced audits to show a high level of commitment to food safety and quality. 

The Foundation for Food Safety System Certification owns FSSC 22000.  This standard combines the ISO22000 Food Safety Management Standard and Pre Requisite Programs PRP requirements covered under PAS 220. Benefits of this standard include comprehensive requirements detailing how the organization can conduct an effective HACCP analysis.  This standard promotes continuous improvement in food safety. It easily integrates with an organization’s existing management system. It allows small, less structured organizations to implement an externally developed system. 

SQF code covers the entire food supply chain from food manufacturing, ingredient manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and primary production. Considering all options for HACCP Certification, SQF is often regarded as the gold standard. It was originally developed in Western Australia, but now it is owned by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in the USA. The program goal is to meet the needs of buyers and suppliers worldwide. The code certifies that a supplier’s food safety and quality management system complies with international and domestic food safety regulations. The SQF code can be achieved at 3 different levels. Level 1 does not meet the GFSI standard. Level 2 is GFSI approved.  If level 3 is achieved organizations can use the SQF quality mark on their products.  None of the other GFSI standards allow for product certifications.

IFS  (International Features Standard) was originally developed by an association of German retailers, to serve as an alternative to the BRC standard. French and Italian retailers play an important role in the operation of IFS. IFS covers the complete food supply chain with the following related standards: IFS Food, IFS Broker, IFS Logistics, IFS Cash and Carry, IFS Packaging. Benefits of certification to this scheme include that the IFS has a global network of offices covering Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Suppliers are given a 12 month time period to make corrective actions (when not directly related to food safety or regulatory compliance). This allows for budget planning and continuous improvement. Audits can be conducted electronically and safety and quality audits are both covered in one audit, saving money by reducing the potential for further audits. All of the IFS criteria are risk based and there are no prescriptive elements.

GlobalGAP encourages Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and is focused on supporting food safety and sustainability in the agricultural, livestock and aquaculture supply chains. Compliance with GlobalGAP ensures that food products are safe and farmed or raised in a sustainable manner. This standard covers all aspects of production processes up to the farm gate.  This includes feed, seeds and all the farming activities up to the point the product leaves the site. Members of GlobalGAP are made up of farmers, ranchers, product marketing organizations, grower’s co-operatives, food manufacturers and retailers. Benefits of certification to this standard include enhanced on-farm food safety management systems.

Whichever standard is chosen by your organization, it is expected that your organization can demonstrate senior management commitment to food safety as well as review of all customer requirements. Each scheme also requires that your processes be clearly defined.  Ultimately you will need to demonstrate that you have consistent control over all identified hazards. 

dicentra can help you analyze and identify the gap in your existing quality and safety system and bring you to the point of being  ready and confident for your HACCP Certification audit.