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GFSI has recently received some questions around the opportunity to converge towards a unique standard for food safety. In today’s post, we respond to these questions and explain the GFSI position on this topic.

For those who know GFSI well, you know that we provide a framework for harmonising food safety Certification Programmes, while leaving market demand to drive the creation of such programmes. We selected this model for a number of important reasons, such as tailoring programmes based on industry sector, customers and regional needs. This model focuses on the harmonisation of certification programmes’ food safety outcomes, it ensures trust in all GFSI-recognised CPOs and their acceptance by GFSI Board members and users of GFSI recognition – often summarised in “once certified, recognised everywhere”.

How we achieve this harmonisation of food safety outcomes is through the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. This is the reference document setting the bar for Certification Programme Owners (CPOs) to achieve recognition.

At the foundation of these Benchmarking Requirements are relevant standards from internationally-recognised organisations such as Codex Alimentarius and the International Standard Organisation (ISO). These are complemented with requirements defined by food industry members and subject matter experts. A read-through of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements will show numerous references to the ISO standards and Codex Alimentarius guidelines.

It is worth noting, however, that GFSI does not write or publish standards.

This is of critical importance and we wish to also emphasise that GFSI does not support the approach of “one standard for the food industry.” We support an open market model and understand the value of specialised industry programmes. Our objective rather is to reduce the duplication of food safety audits by fostering trust in and acceptance of all GFSI-recognised Certification Programmes.

Some of you might then wonder if this may lead to an ambition to also reduce the need for second-party audits. GFSI believes that third-party and second-party audits play complementary roles:

  • Third-party audits are an independent and systematic verification of the alignment of an organisation’s system/product to common and internationally recognised standards;
  • Customer/second-party audits focus on key customer/brand differentiators; they may also have a targeted scope to investigate a specific issue or validate practice of particular risk for the customer.

Certification to any of the GFSI-recognised Certification Programmes guarantees a robust food safety system; it provides a means by which food safety elements should be unnecessary in standards from customers whose suppliers are certified to a GFSI-recognised certification programme. On the other hand, the customer/second-party audit is justified by its link to a brand/company differentiator. This does not prevent customers from raising concerns on food safety practices when visiting a site, referring to the aforementioned international standards, and/or the third-party standard this site may be certified against. In fact, this is an essential component of monitoring the performance of third-party certification to a GFSI-recognised Certification Programme, and drive continuous improvement.


GFSI-recognised Third-Party Audit Customer/second-party audit
Verification at a point in time of an organisation’s food safety management system and Good Industry Practice (GMP, GAP), and their compliance to it

● HACCP (Codex Alimentarius)

● GMP, GAP (Codex Alimentarius, OIE)

● FSMS: food fraud, food defence, incident management, resource

Complementary of:

● Outcomes

● Standards

Verification at a point in time of a supplier’s compliance to customer expectations:

● Compliance to specification

● Quality management

● Product development

● Compliance to codes of conducts, corporate responsibility

● B2B relationship

● Targeted issue and process validation


Here you can find the GFSI position on the complementary role of 3rd party and 2nd party audits, and here you can find the position on the coexistence of food safety standards.

If you have questions about this, we invite you to reach out to us as well, and make sure you are subscribed to GFSI News and Blog so you don’t miss any upcoming posts. 

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