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Version 8 of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements is set to release in February 2020, just in time for the 2020 GFSI Conference! The first full revision of the Benchmarking Requirements since 2017, Version 8 is designed to be clear, practical and applicable along the entire supply chain from farm to fork. By regularly developing new versions of the Benchmarking Requirements, we can ensure that GFSI and our stakeholders stay up to date with shifting trends in food safety and the food industry.

In order to achieve this timeliness and broad applicability, GFSI assembled a Stakeholders Advisory Forum to direct and shape the work of revision. On today’s episode of the GFSI Experts Series, our own Marie-Claude Quentin speaks to two leading members of group of industry experts, Chair Olivier Robin and Co-Chair LeAnn Chuboff, who share a sneak peek of V8’s new developments. Watch their conversation on GFSI Youtube, or read the transcript below.

Marie-Claude: Can you please introduce yourself and your role?

Olivier Robin: Of course. First of all, thanks for the opportunity to be with you, and to share my opinions about the Benchmarking Requirements and specifically what we do. I’m Olivier Robin. For Nestlé, I have two responsibilities within quality. The first one is quality compliance, which means quality policy, quality management systems, quality standards and certification. The second one is quality and manufacturing, which is quality for factories, from raw materials to product release. In October, I was appointed by the Stakeholders Advisory Forum members to basically lead, with my colleague LeAnn, the work on Version 8 for next year.

LeAnn Chuboff: Sure. Thank you very much for inviting me to talk to you about the Stakeholder Advisory Forum and the Benchmarking Requirements document. My name is LeAnn Chuboff, and I’m the Vice President of Technical Affairs at SQFI. SQF is a benchmarked standard by GFSI, and I represent all things technical within SQF. Alongside Olivier, I am the Co-Chair [of the Stakeholders Advisory Forum], with Olivier being the Chair. I am here to support Olivier and really keep him on track; make sure he’s doing the right things.

Marie-Claude: What is new in V8 of the Benchmarking Requirements, and when will it be released?

Olivier: The date is already known. It is, at the moment, going to be released at the GFSI Conference. It will be one of the highlights of next year’s global conference.

We are trying to bring two things. First of all, we are trying to make it more operational, and by doing this we would like to simplify what can be simplified, to standardise what can be standardised and to harmonise what can be harmonised. This is the first element that I would like to cover.

The second one is to keep it up to date. GFSI has been a pioneer for many years in food safety. GFSI is driving the conversation on food safety. So we need, fundamentally, for the industry and for stakeholders, to ensure and continue to ensure food safety everywhere. Next year, we are going to bring in food safety culture, which has been talked today and will continue to be mentioned during the next days, I’m sure. Second, we’re going to have a certain number of new scopes in order to support food safety where it is needed.

LeAnn: Our goal in the Version 8 is to provide a more consistent, harmonised approach. We’re focusing on defining specific terms, language and terminology that are used throughout the document. In the end, it would bring a more harmonised approach when CPOs get benchmarked. It’s easily interpreted, and it goes across all the industry scopes from farm to fork, from on the farm — livestock, produce — all the way through manufacturing, food packaging, storage and distribution, and even some of the new industry scopes we talked about this morning.

Marie-Claude: It seems that the Benchmarking Requirements get updated very regularly. Is it really necessary to update them so often?

Olivier: Yes, it is necessary, because we are in a world which is evolving very fast. In order to keep aligned with what we need to do — what we need to provide to the food industry but also to the stakeholders — we need to keep it up to date. And I would say there is another element to that. I think the frequency of the update is not so important. What is important is that the consumer takes precedence. In the context of food safety, we need to do what is important, so if we need to do an update, we have to do an update. That’s my short answer to that.

LeAnn: It seems like it’s being updated frequently, but it almost isn’t updated frequently enough. There are emerging food safety issues all the time. What I think is great about GFSI and the role of the Benchmarking Requirements document is that we try and address those emerging challenges that we face with food safety throughout the supply chain. And it’s a challenge.

What the Stakeholder Advisory Forum does is take this global approach and apply all our technical and food safety knowledge to the requirements document. Then it’s spread along to the CPOs, and we can make sure that our codes and standards are up to date.

Marie-Claude: How can industry benefit from these frequent updates?

Olivier: Well, before talking about the industry, I would like to talk about the consumers. I think the key thing that GFSI brings is first and foremost for the consumers. It brings better transparency for the consumers. I think it brings more trust as well, more confidence in what the food industry is doing. And I think this is extremely important for the consumers.

The second benefit I can look at is for manufacturers. For manufacturers, it brings a safer supply chain end-to-end, from farm to fork. So this is one benefit. The second benefit is in relation to audits. By having GFSI-recognised schemes, we reduce the duplication of audits. It also reduces audit fatigue, which is requested by lots of players. It helps to improve access to the market for a lot of small players. I think it simplifies, at the end of the day, ways of working for everyone, while at the same time providing better safety for the industry.

Marie-Claude: How will V8 impact the industry and CPOs?

LeAnn: With this new version, GFSI is focused on strengthening the Integrity Programme and the oversight that GFSI has. It’s about how the CPOs apply these Benchmarking Requirements to our standards, but more importantly it also looks at strengthening auditor competence specifically. The oversight through GFSI is playing a significant role in the update of Version 8.

Marie-Claude: Does credibility also play a role?

LeAnn: Correct. Credibility and how we bring credibility along the supply chain. Honestly, it’s about food safety along the supply chain. That’s what we’re focused on. The more we strengthen the Integrity Programme and auditor competence, the more credibility we bring to the certificates that each of the CPOs issue.

After a public consultation, the documents will be finalised and only a short time away from final release! Be sure to subscribe to GFSI News for updates and ways your company can prepare for the benchmarking process.

To learn more about the technical expertise that GFSI brings to our Benchmarking Requirements and other documents, see our previous episodes with the Technical Working Groups on Chemicals in Food Hygiene and Hygienic Design. Follow #GFSIexperts on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn to make sure you do not miss an episode!

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