GFSI Programs: More Companies are Becoming Certified—Here's Why!

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Jennifer Kinion
Contributing Writer

Today, more and more food and beverage companies are certified – or becoming certified – in a recognized Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) scheme. Why?

Food safety compliance standards are demanding, layered, and resource-intensive. Companies may undergo 5 to 50 audits per year, significantly diverting staff from their regular duties to prepare for these inspections. Compliance is compounded by the need to manage documentation, schedule training, execute corrective actions, and assist auditors—all of which are costly in terms of time and operational focus. 

However, one of the smartest and most efficient paths to continued compliance is to become certified in a GFSI scheme (and chances are, your existing FSMA preparedness is already pretty well aligned with scheme requirements). 

While GFSI certification requires significant resources, there are effective solutions to manage a comprehensive program without draining your already over-burdened FSQA resources. Let’s first consider the benefits of a GFSI scheme.

GFSI: Gateway to Expanding Market Opportunities

GFSI certification, though not mandated by regulatory frameworks like FSMA, is pivotal for businesses engaging with leading retailers and manufacturers. These stakeholders view GFSI as the benchmark for food safety excellence, often making it a prerequisite for suppliers. Adopting the GFSI motto, "once certified, recognized everywhere," manufacturers showcase their commitment to stringent, well-defined food safety practices through their certification. This acknowledgment is crucial for partnerships with major market players such as Kroger, Amazon, Costco, Tesco, Target, and Walmart, all of whom prioritize suppliers with GFSI-approved statuses.

Selecting an appropriate GFSI scheme involves evaluating factors like the scale of operations, the risk profile of the products manufactured, and the number of HACCP plans in place across different facilities. The choice of a GFSI-recognized certification should align with these operational specifics to ensure compliance and market compatibility.

  • SQF (Safe Quality Food): Integrates quality management with food safety, following a structured three-tier process to establish comprehensive management systems.

  • FSSC 22000: Focuses on continuous improvement and interactive communication, based on four ISO-standard pillars to achieve certification.

  • BRC (British Retail Consortium) Global Standards: A wide-ranging scheme that covers seven key elements, from senior management commitment to employee responsibilities.

  • PrimusGFS: Targets the entire produce supply chain in the Western Hemisphere, ensuring safety from farm to fork.

  • IFS (International Featured Standards): Specializes in auditing food manufacturers for safety and quality, structured around six main categories.

  • Global GAP: Promotes safe and sustainable agriculture practices across crops, livestock, and aquaculture sectors.

GFSI: Enhancing Food Safety Through Strategic Risk Management

GFSI certification offers more than just expanded market access; it serves as a proactive component of food safety management. By streamlining the auditing process, GFSI certification minimizes the frequency of redundant audits across various purchasing entities, reducing audit fatigue and the potential for oversight or compliance issues. The framework provided by GFSI schemes helps focus organizational efforts on essential safety measures, freeing up resources for strategic growth rather than routine compliance activities.

Furthermore, GFSI schemes are regularly updated to keep pace with the latest food safety standards, ensuring that food safety systems are protected from any risks associated with outdated methods. Maintaining GFSI certification puts your facility in the best position to meet future requirements and regulatory updates.

Overcome Challenges of Managing A Robust GFSI Program

Of course, for all the benefits of any food safety program, there are also challenges, and GFSI certification is no exception. Many FSQA professionals understand that the management of a robust program and remaining audit-ready falls on the shoulders of their team. 

Challenge #1 – Mountains of Paper

Managing a GFSI scheme often means dealing with extensive paperwork, from spreadsheets and binders to ensuring the use of the most up-to-date forms for activities, like direct observation inspections. These paper records are prone to errors and can result in missing or incomplete records, leading to potential audit deductions.


Technology solutions that help eliminate paper by providing ease of access to current standards and archiving older standards under secure authorization. This system prevents the use of outdated scheme requirements, programs, and forms by:

  • Automatically managing an unlimited number of documents and forms across all locations with automated version control.

  • Electronically organizing and cross-referencing all scheme requirements.

  • Supporting advanced document management for 21 CFR Part 11 compliance with electronic signatures and unalterable time/date stamps.

Challenge #2 – Scheduling and Monitoring of Required Activities

Every component of a GFSI program, including HACCP plans, PRPs, GAPs, and SOPs, must be meticulously documented and monitored. Ensuring these are scheduled and completed to specifications is critical, as is timely reporting of non-conformances for necessary corrective/preventive actions (CAPAs).


Digital food safety and quality management solutions automate and streamline these processes, offering:

  • Automated task schedules and workflows with electronic notifications and real-time specification comparisons.

  • Real-time alerts to notify key stakeholders when non-compliance is detected, facilitating immediate and documented CAPAs.

  • Electronic verifications of SOPs, PRPs, CCPs, and hold-and-release programs, with alerts for deviations.

Challenge #3 – Continuous Improvement

GFSI standards necessitate performance trending for continuous improvement, which is cumbersome and inefficient without a centralized repository of up-to-date FSQA data. Not only is this true for paper-based systems, but for some electronic systems as well. Even when records are kept electronically, most companies have multiple systems that do not integrate or “speak” to each other. Remember, just because something is electronic doesn’t mean it is automated for effective trending and performance analyses.


With a solution that can act as a single source of truth, food safety, and quality data, including supplier documents, test results, and CAPAs, are centralized in one repository. This enables:

  • Data analysis for risk assessment and non-conformance trends to enhance programs.

  • Creation and maintenance of electronic reports for KPI trending.

  • Conducting real-time assessments with automated reports and live data monitoring for 24/7 improvement.

Challenge #4 – Audit Readiness

Being audit-ready involves more than just document preparation; it requires ensuring that all program requirements are met. This task is often time-consuming and disrupts daily operations, especially when unannounced audits focus on information that facility personnel aren’t sure exists or isn’t easily accessible.


Many auditors prefer electronic record access through auditor and partner portals, where companies can choose which FSQA data they share with certification bodies or customers. Technology that automatically aggregates and organizes FSQA data can:

  • Provide digital, discrete, and secure access to all necessary information for audits from any device, anywhere, anytime.

  • Increase Audit efficacy with records that feature unalterable time/date stamps.

The Value of "True" GFSI Audit Readiness

For a technology solution to support true GFSI audit readiness, it must do more than simply produce documents and records. It must help you with audit success. A comprehensive food safety and quality management system does this by ensuring that all your GFSI and FSQA program requirements are defined, scheduled, and carried out. By allowing non-conformances to be detected at the earliest point possible. By generating CAPAs and following them to completion. And by providing the tools to conduct real-time, in-depth analysis of FSQA data for continuous improvement.

Challenge #5 – Approved Vendor Programs

Managing suppliers is a resource-intensive task, exacerbated by the need to monitor them according to GFSI standards.


A robust supplier compliance solution should include capabilities that:

  • Auto-manage vendor documents in a centralized, digital repository.

  • Track document expiration dates with auto-notifications to suppliers for updates.

  • Automate supplier performance trending and score-carding to improve goods quality.

  • Collect and analyze supplier test results in real-time to prevent non-compliant supplies from entering production.

How technology can automate GFSI Program Management

In the FSQA world, managers hear the word “more” a lot. More regulatory and customer requirements to meet. More third-party audits to prepare for. The only time FSQA professionals hear “less” is when staffing levels remain the same and the company asks to “do more with less.” 

The journey to GFSI certification, while demanding, is significantly streamlined by embracing advanced technology solutions. SafetyChain Software, a leader in cloud-based food quality management solutions, helps over 2000 facilities avoid a piecemeal approach to compliance. 

From the initial input of raw materials to the final stages of product distribution, real-time data collection and analysis ensure compliance with GFSI standards and help prevent the introduction of non-compliant materials into your processes. Automatic alerts for deviations facilitate quick corrective actions, maintaining the integrity of your food safety efforts.

Comprehensive Digital and Automation Benefits:

1. Systematic Compliance: The essence of effective food safety and quality assurance lies in a simple mantra: "Say what you do, and do what you say." SafetyChain’s platform makes this possible by automating the setup and enforcement of all FSQA requirements—from GFSI codes to customer compliance demands. This setup includes critical aspects such as HACCP/HARPC plans, SOPs, and PRPs, ensuring they are not only documented but also actively managed and adhered to.

By implementing electronic documentation, Sokol Custom Foods was able to reduce its volume of paperwork by 30-50% in a plant that produces over 150 unique products.

2. Dynamic Task Management: Through an intuitive workflow engine, SafetyChain ensures that all scheduled tasks, from monitoring to audits, are executed on time. This automation extends to notifying relevant personnel when tasks are due, ensuring no step in the safety and quality processes is overlooked.

When assessing food safety management solutions, Grupo Navis gave SafetyChain top marks for its GFSI, FDA, and Foreign Supplier Compliance management capabilities. Just one month after implementing the platform, they successfully navigated an unannounced GFSI audit.

3. Verification and Documentation: Verification processes run continuously, assessing compliance against established criteria and issuing alerts for any discrepancies. Each piece of data, whether a test result or a corrective action, is securely logged with an unalterable timestamp, providing a reliable audit trail accessible from anywhere, at any time.

After going digital, flour manufacturer Lehi Mills had next to no necessary prep for their preliminary desk audit and actual GFSI audit - a process that would otherwise have taken at least three weeks. They were able to achieve an impressively high score of 94.

4. Strategic Decision Making: The centralized data repository not only supports ongoing compliance and audit readiness but also empowers food companies with the insights needed for strategic decision-making. This ability to analyze and trend FSQA data facilitates continuous improvement, enhancing both safety outcomes and operational efficiencies.

Death Wish Coffee has saved over $5.4 million in annual product giveaway after initially implementing SafetyChain to help with audit preparation. 

Manage Quality and Compliance with SafetyChain

SafetyChain's technology provides not just the tools for compliance but a strategic advantage, ensuring that your food safety and quality programs are robust, compliant, and capable of adapting to new challenges. Manage what comes in, what you do with it, and where it goes next all within a single solution

The peace of mind that comes from knowing your systems are up to date, your products are of high quality, and your customers are safe is invaluable. Discover why SafetyChain can help you streamline GFSI compliance and elevate food safety standards.

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