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5 Best and Worst Things To Do When Preparing for GFSI Certification

Denis Storey
June 23, 2020

Checklist: GFSI Compliance: Getting Started With FSSC 22000

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Checklist: GFSI Compliance

FSSC 22000 is the world's leading, independently managed, nonprofit food certification scheme for ISO 22000-based certification of food safety management systems. Our checklist helps guide companies through the first steps.

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Although the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is considered the gold standard among companies in the food industry, it’s always evolving. On Feb. 26, 2020, GFSI rolled out the latest update of its benchmarking requirements.

“To highlight the significance of the changes made in this latest version, GFSI has broken with its traditional naming nomenclature and will align the name of each updated set of standards with the year of release,” the organization explained while announcing the new version. “Rather than ‘Version 8’, the latest version of the Benchmarking Requirements will be known as ‘Version 2020’.”

Fundamental changes, according to the GFSI, include:

  • Language: Simpler language to eliminate confusion and enable a transparent and consistent assessment of certification programs.

  •  Structure: A scope configuration aligned on ISO22000 and a sequential numbering of critical elements across all the scopes.

  •  Alignment: An alignment to the latest Codex Alimentarius guidelines on food hygiene.

  •  New Elements: New requirements, such as food safety culture, and new scopes, expanding GFSI’s inclusive farm-to-fork approach to hygienic design.

  •  Strengthened Elements: Improved existing elements to increase transparency and objectivity, such as changing unannounced audits from “preferred” to “mandatory” and establishing a minimum audit duration.

Do you know what you should do (and what you shouldn’t) when preparing for GFSI certification?

5 Best Things to Do

  1. Commitment: Own it across the board. Have senior management not focus simply on quality, but each department should own their part of the certification process.

  2. Plan: Gauge how far to go before deciding when to start. Get at least up to that gap assessment, choose your scheme, understand what’s missing as far as what the scheme requirements are, what you have, and then you can figure out a date based on the resources that management is willing to commit. Treat it like a project, not just an event.

  3. Buy-In: Train everyone. Understand not only what the requirements are, but what the expectations of the site are your expectations, and the processes you’re going to go through. Get people involved. Embed that into the internal audit program.

  4. Improve: Get good at internal auditing (improve).

  5. Look Outside: Steal, borrow, and beg. There are not a lot of new things in food safety. You’ll be doing things others have already done, so if you can work with other companies that have already become certified. You can also talk with your customers or suppliers, who might give you a hand. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel; start with a solid foundation and build on it.

5 Worst Things to Do

  1. Adopt the attitude that it’s a Quality Control responsibility. 

  2. Rush implementation: On average – in the United States – it’s about an eight-month cycle to get ready, plan, and successfully earn your certification. Keep this in mind when planning, and don’t try to rush it or cut any corners.

  3. Bad attitudes can hinder the success of certification, such as “We’ve been audited before. This is just another audit:” It’s not. The schemes are significantly different from what companies are familiar within North America, so it shouldn’t be treated lightly and something your company should be prepared for.

  4. “We need to leave something for the auditor: The auditor will always find something; you don’t need to leave anything additional for them to see. It will just count as one more item for you to address.

  5. Dropping the ball after certification: Celebrate your certification’s success, but make sure your company – and employees – continually strive for improvements and operational excellence.

Need help getting your certification process off the ground? Download our checklist, “GFSI Compliance: Getting Started With FSSC 22000” here.