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Editor’s note: The Global Food Safety Initiative is monitoring the evolving Covid-19 situation on a daily basis and is committed to publishing timely updates and announcements in this space. Please check back here regularly and ensure you are subscribed to receive GFSI News.


Food operations everywhere are feeling the effects caused by COVID-19. Around the globe, we are seeing examples of how the entire food industry is resilient and stepping up to the challenge of keeping the world safely fed. Messages of support and gratitude for their efforts have been multiplying from all corners and we all have a role to play in supporting the food and drink supply chain, which is operating under increased pressure and facing extraordinary circumstances.


Since the start of this crisis, the GFSI community has come together to lend support as we have worked to establish an industry-wide position that best serves the food and beverage industry and the consumers counting on them.


We continue to listen to stakeholders and answer specific questions as they are posed via our contact page. In that vein, we believe it would be helpful to clarify some specific points from the GFSI position in more detail.


The first point concerns certificate extension and when operations should plan their next audit. GFSI mandated a certificate extension of six months providing that:

  • the Certification Programme Owner (CPO) has confirmed that certification extension is an acceptable option for their programme’s users. One of the GFSI-recognised CPOs has chosen not to offer certificate extension, which is allowed for in the GFSI position.
  • a risk assessment has confirmed that extending the certificate is advisable. This risk assessment must be carried out by the Certification Body (CB) under guidelines from the Certification Programme Owner and the IAF ID3. Based on background information and the current context, the goal of the risk assessment is to confirm that the certified organisation is equipped to maintain the practices and processes guaranteed by their certificate.


This risk assessment may draw on the organisation’s historical data that sits with the Certification Body; it may also entail current information on the impact of the pandemic on the organisation’s operations. Certified organisations may be asked to provide such information to the Certification Bodies to support this risk assessment.


This decision was made in order to relieve pressure from the food industry in this period of need and uncertainty. The GFSI position also states that the audit should occur wherever it is feasible to do so, and we ask that the CBs and the certified organisations continuously review the situation to assess the feasibility of scheduling the overdue audit as soon as reasonably possible.


We will also take this opportunity to answer questions we have received around remote audits. GFSI has made the decision to not support emergency implementation of non-standard audits, specifically remote methods, to replace standard audits for certification purposes. At the heart of this decision is a concern that food operations and auditors may not be equipped to ensure that new audit methods could be applied without compromising the quality of the certificate, thus putting less equipped companies at a disadvantage at an already difficult time.


We remain committed to our role in providing a consistent and harmonised approach to food safety. With a global view spanning widely varying capacities and geographies, GFSI has a responsibility to consider those sites or auditors who may have limited access to technologies or a continued reliance on paper records.


Nevertheless, GFSI is supportive of the use of Information and Communication Technologies as part of a food safety audit, provided it occurs within a robust framework defined by the Accreditation Requirements and the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.


As we have already announced, our Stakeholder Advisory Forum (SAF) are expediting their work on these topics and are preparing their recommendation to the GFSI Board on amendments and an addition to version 2020 of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. Once this recommendation is defined, we will agree with our Board how this may be used to help manage the high number of delayed audits.


Once again, we invite all stakeholders to check back here regularly and subscribe to GFSI News as we monitor the evolving situation and publish updates.




The GFSI Technical Committee and the GFSI Board, comprising food safety representatives of some of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers and retailers, have worked tirelessly with us to ensure that the GFSI Covid-19 position puts the safety of consumers at the heart of our decision making. Our priority is to ensure that trust and confidence in the food and drink supply chain remains high during these uncertain times.


Over the last weeks, we have released statements in regard to audits for GFSI-recognised certification programmes during the current Covid-19 crisis. We have also committed to keeping the GFSI position under continual review as we monitor the evolving situation.


This week’s update brings one amendment to the initial statement. It reflects what should be done in the event that the requirements stipulated by national regulation differ from those prescribed by GFSI. We invite all stakeholders to consult the amended position.


We have also highlighted the importance of consistent and collective action. We are now able to confirm that all twelve certification programme owners (CPOs) that have GFSI-recognised programmes have fully aligned to the GFSI position as of 27th March 2020, amending any outstanding differences with the GFSI position. We trust that this has been widely communicated to their respective stakeholder groups, including certification bodies and sites that are in receipt of GFSI certificates.


GFSI wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the food industry. We recognise that this temporary misalignment between GFSI and its CPO stakeholders may have caused undue pressure, uncertainty and stress at a time when the focus should be on ensuring safe food continues to be produced and delivered safely. Thank you for bearing with us and for everything you do.


Going forward, we will reflect on how to better deliver full alignment from the start in critical situations like the current one. It is our firm believe that all stakeholders working together collaboratively and coherently is the only way to achieving food safety outcomes.


We remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the food industry is supported through this time of unprecedented demand and we commit to keeping our position under continual review.


Our Stakeholder Advisory Forum, a multi-stakeholder group, has convened to urgently explore the potential development of GFSI requirements to recognise the use of non-standard audit methods. We recognise this is an emerging topic and wish to ensure they are duly addressed in the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.


GFSI’s parent organisation, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), has launched a series of webinars on Covid-19 to support our members through this crisis. We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn more about the CGF’s Coalitions of Action and how you can get involved.


Access the full position paper here.

For further information, please contact gfsinfo@theconsumergoodsforum.com.




Last week, GFSI announced a suite of measures designed to safeguard consumer trust while mitigating risk for those working on the frontlines of food safety in the face of unprecedented challenges.


While we continue to monitor the evolving situation, GFSI maintains that the position published last week offers the best solution to deliver consistent and risk-based approaches to food safety certificate extension in a situation where standard audits cannot take place.


We have noted that some certification programme owners (CPOs) are currently not aligned to the GFSI position, and we are moving to address this. Collective and consistent action is critical now more than ever and we call on the full community of stakeholders to implement this industry-wide position that puts safety at its heart.


Certificates may now be extended once only for up to six months following a risk assessment. The approach to risk assessment taken must be approved by GFSI in advance of any certificate extensions taking place.


Any certificates which have been re-issued following anything other than a standard audit (i.e. virtual or remote audit), will not be recognised by GFSI. Any site which believes it may have been re-certified since the start of the COVID-19 crisis virtually or remotely should contact their certification body in the first instance for clarity.


No new site certifications can take place unless a standard in-person audit can be undertaken in its entirety.


We would urge any business or certification body to contact us directly if they are in any way unsure of what is being asked of them or should they require clarification as to whether their certificates will be recognised by GFSI.


We appreciate that we are operating in challenging times. It is essential that we move collectively and coherently to ensure that safe food can continue to be supplied at a time of unprecedented demand and we would ask our community of stakeholders to work with us to deliver GFSI’s guidance for the best interests of consumers everywhere.


We are committed to keeping the position under continual review and ask that stakeholders check back here regularly as the situation evolves.


For further information, please contact gfsinfo@theconsumergoodsforum.com.




The GFSI team and Board are monitoring the Covid-19 situation on a daily basis. As the situation continues to develop, we must move to ensure consumers can continue to trust food safety standards globally whilst also mitigating impact on the supply chain. We would also like to highlight that the safety of auditors who travel to locations to conduct audits is a primary concern.


As the outbreak continues to expand, audit restrictions will continue to increase, which will inevitably have an impact on the certification status of certain sites. Under circumstances where an auditor is unable to travel, the GFSI calls on Certification Bodies (CBs) to review if there is the possibility of sending, to audit sites, auditors from regions that have no travel restrictions.


For those sites which cannot be audited traditionally, the GFSI Technical Committee has agreed in conjunction with the GFSI Board a suite of measures for the immediate term, designed to support those Certificate Programme Owners (CPOs) with expiring certificates to continue to fulfill their vital role of overseeing and monitoring the delivery of safe food to consumers everywhere at this time of crisis. We commit to keeping this position under continual review.


GFSI is also advising that during this period CPOs follow the recommendations listed in IAF ID3:2011, “Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting ABs, CABs and Certified Organizations”, or those of the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) in the case of sites located in China.


The complete suite of measures has been sent to all impacted stakeholders, but you should contact GFSI if you are CPO, AB or CB and have not received the document.


GFSI would like to thank everyone in our community who has supported us with information, valuable insights and counsel during this time to enable us to establish a collective, industry-wide position that puts safe food for consumers everywhere at its heart.


For further information, please contact gfsinfo@theconsumergoodsforum.com.

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