Getting Started with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)


What is GFSI?

GFSI stands for The Global Food Safety Initiative. It is a business-driven initiative for the development of food safety management systems to ensure food facilities are processing safe food for consumers.

The GFSI is a private organization that oversees and approves different auditing platforms as meeting their criteria. This criterion provides a universal gold-standard of recognition to specific food safety audits.

In practice, this means that a food processor or manufacturer who can point to their GFSI certification can effectively and immediately show their customers and potential customers that their plant is operating with a structured, comprehensive, and effective food safety program.

In dollars and cents, this means that if you want to reach new customers and keep existing customers, a GFSI audit and GFSI Certification will help them to know that they aren’t likely to face food safety problems with your product.

Think of GFSI as a Parent...

Their job is to make sure that all of the children or schemes/platforms follow the rules of safe food. If they do, they maintain their GFSI certification.

As the parent, GFSI has created a benchmarking process where they compare procedures of food safety-related schemes or platforms to the GFSI Guidance Document. The Guidance Document first drafted with input from food safety experts continues to help define the process in which food safety schemes can be benchmarked by GFSI and be recognized across the globe.

What does GFSI do?

Every GFSI standard effectively reviews three things:

  • Does the supplier say what they do? (Reviewing policies and procedures)
  • Does the supplier do what they say? (Observing processes while they run, interviewing employees, inspecting the facility)
  • Does the supplier track that they do what they say? (Reviewing records)

Putting all of these elements together, a GFSI audit ensures that a supplier is producing safe food year round.

While it can be stressful for a supplier to learn that an important contract hinges on obtaining a certification they’ve never heard of before, suppliers who successfully pursue GFSI certification generally find that the effort invested leads to significant rewards.

Where do I get started? How do I know which certification is right for me?

GFSI’s motto is "Once certified, accepted everywhere." Consumer products companies and retailers are expected to accept any GFSI-benchmarked scheme your facility selects. All GFSI-benchmarked audits meet the same minimum requirements; however, each scheme-owner adds their own nuances to make their standards unique.




The audit format, score, rating, frequency, and corrective action timeline differ for each certification scheme. For example, all certification schemes cover food safety and legality in the scope, but some also include requirements for product quality.


BRCGS tends to be very descriptive in their expectations, which can be a good fit for companies who are new to certifications audits because they provide clear direction.

FSSC may be a better fit for companies that want more flexibility in the contents of their Food Safety Management System. This flexibility works when an organization has the skills to document the scientific and legal justification for their approach.

SQF offers flexibility to start with food safety and legality and then add the quality level at a later time.

IFS is a risk-based standard that provides documented justification, which allows for custom requirements by site.

Check out this helpful comparison table to see how each of the certification audits that AIBI-CS provides differs from the others.

So, what are GFSI Schemes?

A food safety scheme is recognized by GFSI when it meets the food safety requirements defined in the GFSI Guidance Documents. Remember that GFSI is an organization that benchmarks and approves different auditing standards. There isn't technically any single audit called "The GFSI Audit," but there are several standards that are GFSI-benchmarked.

GFSI benchmarked schemes:

    Primus GFS

    Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood

    Global Gap

     FSSC 22000

    Global Red Meat Standard



    BRCGS Global Standard

    IFS International Featured Standards

    Japan Food Safety Management Association

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