GFSI Mission: Provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide.

– Global Food Safety Initiative


Headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was established by Belgium’s legislature in May 2000 to be “an industry-driven initiative providing thought leadership and guidance on food safety management systems necessary for safety along the supply chain.” The GFSI conducts its work in partnership with The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), an industry-based network consisting of retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses.

According to GFSI’s website, the vision of the organization is “Safe food for consumers everywhere.” Its contributions to this effort primarily consist of providing consultative services relating to food safety mechanisms. Specifically, the organization has established its own food safety benchmarking standards, by which private businesses can voluntarily evaluate their practices. The organization has also done the same with farm quality-assurance standards.

This article examines the practices and impact of the GFSI.

Benchmarking Overview

GFSI benchmarking standards were founded on recognized, science-based food safety standards. Guiding these standards is the Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code” in Latin)—a set of internationally-recognized food safety guidelines, practices, and recommendations. Otherwise known as CODEX, these food safety tenets were founded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1963.

The purpose of benchmarking standards is to serve as the “method by which a food safety scheme is objectively compared to defined requirements as laid down.” The process is overseen by qualified food safety experts appointed by GFSI; these experts, in turn, determine whether or not an organization’s “scheme”—its food safety system—meets GFSI benchmark standards.

Benchmarking Scheme Classifications

The benchmarking process is unique to each scheme classification. The guidance document lists the following classes, each with their own benchmark criteria:

– The farming of animals for meat/milk/eggs/honey
– The farming of fish and seafood
– The farming of grains and pulses
– The farming of plants (other than grains and pulses)
– Animal conversion
– The pre-process handling of plant products, nuts and grains
– The processing of perishable animal products
– The processing of perishable plant products
– The processing of perishable animal and plant products (mixed products)
– The processing of ambient stable products
– The production of feed
– Catering
– Retail/wholesale
– The provision of food safety services
– The provision of storage and distribution services
– The manufacture of food processing equipment
– The production of bio-chemicals (additives, bio-cultures, enzymes, flavorings, minerals, processing aids, and vitamins)
– The production of food packaging
– The production of food packaging

Benchmarking Criteria

GFSI’s Guidance Document specifies the necessary requirements that applicants must meet in order to achieve GFSI certification. Standards are defined according to the abovementioned schemes, and fall under the following sets of criteria: food safety management, feed safety management, food and feed safety management, good agricultural practices, good manufacturing practices, and good distribution practices.

Food Safety and Feed Safety Management Requirements

GFSI requires all member organizations to document, implement, improve, and maintain their respective Food Safety Management System. General management requirements include the following:

(a) identify the processes needed for GFSI-compliant, food safety management system
(b) determine the sequencing and interaction of processes
(c) determine the necessary criteria and methods to ensure efficacy in the control and operation of the processes
(d) ensure that information necessary to support processes is readily available
(e) analyze, monitor, and measure processes; implement necessary actions to both achieve planned results and continuous improvement

These requirements place particular emphasis on organizations having a clear and documented food safety policy, along with concise, detailed objectives on implementing the policy according to GFSI guidelines.

General requirements of feed safety mirror those of food safety in regards to documentation, implementation, improvement and maintenance. Requirements a-e, as defined above, are also similar, with one exception: feed safety organizations must account for HACCP (hazard control) and related prerequisites.

Good Agricultural Practices

GFSI Good Agricultural Practices focus on the hygienic, safe production of meat, milk, eggs, and honey. In particular, producers must ensure that all “agricultural and veterinary inputs” (e.g., water sources, soil, medicines and vaccines, and feed systems) are of good quality. Comprehensive management of inputs is necessary to minimize the potential for chemical or microbial contamination.

Good Manufacturing Practices

GFSI Good Manufacturing Practices focus on an organization’s facilities, equipment, maintenance, hygiene, education and training, and package/storage of products. For example, all buildings must be well-constructed and pass all building codes. Staff must remain in compliance of any and all hygiene standards. They must also have the necessary education and training to ensure the safe production of foodstuffs.

Good Distribution Practices

GFSI Good Distribution Practices are comprised of tenets to ensure the safe transport and shipping of food products. All transport and transport materials (e.g., vessels and containers) must be in good repair, maintain required environmental conditions, and kept clean through the duration of transport to “control the risk of product contamination.