Customer requirements are very compelling reasons when food industry players
make important decisions. Embarking in Global Food Safety (GFSI) Initiative
certifications, for instance, is certainly one of those motives; in both national
and international arenas. Food companies, therefore, face the need to research
the GFSI benchmarked standard(s) their customers want.
Food Safety certification options in
the realm of food distribution seems to be limited today. (Crandall, Mauromoustakos, O’Bryan,
Thompson, Yiannas, Bridges and Francois,
2017). Bogadi, Banovi? and Babi? (2016) also note that despite
the similarities among them, they have some differences that can make it
difficult to know which certification scheme is appropriate to implement.
problems and business needs can have a big impact on the identification and
implementation of a GFSI standard. In fact, choosing which GFSI benchmarked standard an enterprise
should incorporate can become hard-going endeavor.
That being the case, the author has considered a Consultative Report
for the food distributor for whom he works. Such enterprise has 24,000
employees, over 70 distribution centers across the U.S., and multiple foodservice
and grocery offices. Recently the company decided to embark in GFSI
certifications in 2018.
Just in the foodservice division, the business serves 36,000
restaurant locations across the U.S through 49 strategically located
distribution centers; and exports to 52 countries around the globe. The author considers his employer to be an
industry leader. Similarly, his company looks forward to soon engaging in the
continuous improvement culture through either SQF, BRC, IFS or the like.
Report category would offer the author the opportunity to address the dilemma
his company is encountering in deciding the right fit for a GFSI standard. He
will need to work closely with a faculty advisor and company management. Also, he
will eventually have to perform the consultation for the company and write
recommendations. The goal is for this work to equip similar food supply chain
businesses with the knowledge and methods to ascertain a scheme that has the
overall best fit for their organizations.
Maybe the selection and implementation process of such standard(s) may
be less daunting.
Based on the literature review from
the author, there appears to be a lack of scholarly articles on the GFSI topic.
It seems instead that there are more trade publications, as the subject of
global food safety certifications is relatively an emerging food safety
According to Crandall et al.
(2017), there are about half a dozen options when considering an
internationally accepted food safety certification for wholesale grocers and distributors.
challenges and business needs can have a big impact on the identification and
implementation of a GFSI standard. In fact, selecting the GFSI standard a given
company would have to implement can be an intimidating decision (Almanza &
Let us take an example of a large U.S. based food distributor with
thousands of employees, dozens of foodservice and grocery warehouses servicing
chain restaurants, mass merchants, convenience stores and drugstores. Once such
company has decided to embark in GFSI certifications, what is next? And, most
importantly, what to consider when choosing a recognized GFSI management
Company Characteristics and Customer
Silverman, and Baroudi (2010) suggest that, when choosing a food safety scheme
for a company, it is very important to make sure that the scheme fits the
organization perfectly. Crandall, Van Loo,
O’Bryan, Mauromoustakos, Yiannas, Dyenson, and Berdnik. (2012) conclude that it is imperative to select the scheme
that best suits the enterprise by knowing well the requirements of the rules,
and the customers.
is a vital reason, especially when a significant number of European agri-food
distribution companies demand that their suppliers meet some type of standard.
So, if the customer demands a certain standard, reasonably, a necessary step to
maintain the business relationship in the medium and long term is to certify by
that scheme (Higgins, 2011).
deciding which standard to be certi?ed by, a company should ask its customer(s)
if they prefer a specific certification scheme. Jacxsens, Boxstael,
Nanyunja, Jordaan, Luning and Uyttendaele. (2015) show that the organization can also visit with
fellow processors that are GFSI certi?ed and discuss with them what scheme they
are certi?ed by and why they chose that scheme.
Nationality of your foreign clients and the diffusion of the norm:The origin of clients is a very important aspect. Depending on their countries of origin or nations where they operate, customers can demand one or multiple standards. BRC began by addressing the needs of British distributors (members of the British Retail Consortium) servicing worldwide retailers and manufacturers of own-brand products, especially in the United States and South America. About five years ago, there were 13,000 BRC-certified suppliers in more than 100 countries. In the case of IFS (International Food Standard), the number of certified companies was 17,000 worldwide in 2012. That year it appeared to be the most globally widespread, having been translated into 20 languages. While BRC was available in only 10 the same year (Crandall et al., 2012). Bogadi et al. (2016) point out that the IFS standard is widely found in Europe, with a strong presence in the countries of origin (Germany, France and Italy). It is also the most prevalent standard in Spain and has a presence in the American continent and Asia: a total of 96 countries. Currently, the IFS standard has seen a strong expansion in the number of certification audits. Natu’oil Services (2016) invites us to believe that IFS could become one of the most requested quality and food safety standards in the future—something quite important to evaluate when deciding on one rule or another.
Nature of standards:Although the goals of the different GFSI schemes are the same, they use different means to achieve certification. The basis of each audit is very similar, but the criteria they follow and their evaluation levels are different. For IFS, there is a rating and scoring system that BRC does not have. The differences between them lie in cultural issues. For example, according to Kassa, Silverman and Baroudi. (2010), BRC makes it possible to certify a supplier with significant dissatisfaction, provided that such supplier produces objective evidence that it has remedied such disagreement within 28 days. In contrast, IFS does not allow certification if there is any type of nonconformity (Crandall et al., 2017).
simple suggestion would be to visit the websites of potential GFSI schemes a
company is considering. (Labs, 2014) suggest that information a firm should
look for on a scheme’s website includes a copy of the code for the type of GFSI
audit, guidance document(s) explaining what is required to comply with the
code, a listing of approved certi?cation bodies for the scheme, etc.
Potential certi?cation bodies:
Correspondingly, companies should
visit the websites of potential Certi?cation Bodies (CB). That can help in con?rming
that the certi?cation body is approved to conduct audits for their type of
operation. Learn what services the certi?cation body offers, like consulting,
pre-audits and audits (Crandall et al., 2012).
Most certi?cation bodies provide
consulting in numerous areas, aside from preparing for a GFSI audit. They will
also conduct pre-audits in which they visit and conduct an unof?cial pre-audit
and provide audit results. Crandall et al. (2017) found that this allows
companies to learn what specific de?ciencies are so they can correct them before
an of?cial audit. Jacxsen et al. (2015) state that combining a pre-audit with
consulting services not only permits the identification of specific
deficiencies, but it offers opportunities for advice on how to correct them as
well. Of course, the certi?cation bodies do conduct of?cial audits for the
scheme they represent.
If possible, it is beneficial to
select a certi?cation body with which a firm already has a relationship (Labs,
2014)— perhaps an organization that has conducted third-party Good
Manufacturing or Food Safety Audits for the company. Certification Bodies tend
to be very busy, so it is recommended to schedule certification audits well in
advance. Also, Jacxsens et
al. (2015) found that it is important to strategize when to schedule the ?rst
of?cial audit because, most likely, it will determine the time each year that
the firm will have the annual GFSI audit. Generally, a yearly GFSI audit is
within a 60-day window of 30 days before to 30 days after the original audit
date (Crandall et al., 2017). Therefore, it is wise to discuss this with the CB
before scheduling the ?rst of?cial certification audit.
Forecasts of future of each standard:Another practical view, as found in Crandall et al. (2012), is that the most successful standard can be one that is required by most companies. Jacxsens et al. (2015) also mention that, as more food companies are likely to want to market their products in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands than in the United Kingdom, the standard that would eventually be more successful could be IFS. That may also be a good reason to choose it. Consider again the author’s employer, where the company delivers more than 50,000 different consumer products to almost 110,000 locations across the U.S.