Global Food Safety Standards

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a private organization, established by the international trade association, the Consumer Goods Forum (CIES – The Food Business Forum at the time) in May 2000. GFSI does not undertake any certification or accreditation activities.

The GFSI specify the requirements for the recognition of food safety schemes in its GFSI Guidance Document and determines the equivalence of existing food safety standards for through an objective comparison with GFSI defined requirements. The perceived benefit to this process is that any of the GFSI recognised food safety certification schemes would be accepted by food organizations across the world, the vision: “Once certified, accepted everywhere.”

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is a global industry network of CEOs and senior management of over 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries. Forum member companies have combined sales of EUR 3.5 trillion, the retailer and manufacturer members directly employ nearly 10 million people with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain*.

* Source:

The launch of the Global Food Safety Initiative in 2000 was a business-driven initiative for the continuous improvement of food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide. GFSI was established following a number of food safety crises including issues with BSE, Listeria and Dioxin leading to consumer confidence in food safety being at an all-time low. At the time the food industry was suffering from “audit exhaustion”, as retailers and manufacturers performed inspections or audits themselves or asked a third party to do this on their behalf. In addition, there was no cohesion within the food industry with regards to a single accepted food safety standard.

GFSI defines the food safety requirements for food safety schemes through its benchmarking requirements. Food safety certification schemes are recognised by GFSI when they have been through a procedure where the food safety certification scheme is compared to the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. By recognizing food safety certification schemes the GFSI aims to extend the acceptance and implementation of third party certification along the entire food supply chain. Despite the BRC Food Technical Standard and Protocol for food suppliers being available, it was not likely to be globally accepted so GFSI chose to go down the route of benchmarking, developing a model that determines equivalency between existing food safety schemes, whilst leaving flexibility and choice in the marketplace.

Through its benchmarking process, GFSI allows food businesses to select a food safety management system certification scheme that is recognised by leading retailers and manufacturers internationally. GFSI Guidance Documents are drafted with input from food safety experts from all over the world and define the process by which food safety schemes may gain recognition by GFSI.

GFSI’s aim is to cover all scopes of the food supply chain “from farm to fork”. GFSI Scopes of Recognition include:

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GFSI Recognised Certification Programmes

The following schemes are currently recognised by GFSI:

  • PrimusGFS Standard (v2.1 – December 2011)
  • IFS PACsecure, Version 1
  • Global Aquaculture Alliance Seafood BAP Seafood Processing Standard
  • GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance Scheme version 5, Produce Safety Standard version 4 and Harmonized Produce Safety Standard
  • FSSC 22000 – October 2011 Issue
  • Global Red Meat Standard (GRMS) 4th Edition Version 4.1
  • CanadaGAP Scheme Version 6 Options B, C and D and Program Management Manual Version 6
  • SQF Code 7th Edition Level 2
  • BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7
  • IFS Food Standard Version 6
  • BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials Issue 5
  • IFS Logistics Version 2.1
  • BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution V3
  • Portfolio Item
  • BRC Global Standard for Agents and Brokers

The British Retail Consortium

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), a UK trade organization that represents UK retailers, developed the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. The British Retail Consortium was formed in January 1992 when the British Retailers’ Association and the Retail Consortium merged. In 1998 BRC produced the first edition of the BRC Food Technical Standard and Protocol for food suppliers. This standard has been widely adopted not just throughout the UK but around the world.


History of BRC Global Standards:

  • 1998 BRC Global Standard for Food Safety first published.
  • 2000 BRC Global Standard for Food Safety the first GFSI recognised standard.
  • 2001 BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials first published.
  • 2003 BRC Global Standard for Consumer Products first published.
  • 2006 BRC Global Standard for Storage & Distribution first published.
  • 2014 BRC Global Standard for Agents and Brokers first published.
  • 2016 BRC Global Standard for Retail first published.
In 2016 BRC Global Standards were acquired by LGC Group so they are no longer controlled and managed by the British Retail Consortium.

The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety is one of the most popular certification standards and has been adopted by food manufacturers all around the world, especially by those organizations supplying British retailers. Third party certification to the standard helps manufacturers demonstrate compliance with customer, regulatory and statutory requirements and hence assists in providing a due diligence defence.

The latest version of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 was published on the 1st August 2018. The standard is prescriptive and specifies safety, quality and operational criteria expected of compliant food manufacturing organisations.

The principal requirements of the standard are the implementation of a HACCP system, a documented food safety quality management system and a control of factory environmental standards, products, processes and personnel. Implementing an effective food safety and quality management system requires commitment of senior management to develop policies, objectives and systems that collectively assure food quality and safety. The standard places a high priority on clear evidence of senior management commitment including the need to have management review, with the involvement of senior management, to identify opportunities and take the appropriate actions in order to continually improve.

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8

The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 was published on 1st August 2018 and is effective for audits from the 1st February 2019. The standard is still based on the following core elements:

  • Senior Management Commitment
  • HACCP/Food Safety Plans
  • Food Safety Quality Management System
  • Prerequisite programmes – general control of hazards covering good manufacturing and good hygienic practice as detailed sections 4 to 8.
The sections in the standard are as follows:

  • 1 Senior management commitment
  • 2 The food safety plan – HACCP
  • 3 Food safety and quality management system
  • 4 Site standards
  • 5 Product control
  • 6 Process control
  • 7 Personnel
  • 8 High Risk, High Care and Ambient High Care Production Risk Zones
  • 9 Requirements of the traded goods

The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety requirements are described in great detail in 9 sections throughout the standard. Some of the requirements may not be appropriate to all organisations, however, the standard does stipulate 12 fundamental requirements without which certification cannot be achieved.

The 12 Fundamental requirements of BRC:

Senior management commitment and continual improvement (1.1)

Senior management need to demonstrate commitment to meeting the requirements of the BRC standard by provision of sufficient resources, communication, review and taking actions to improve.

The food safety plan – HACCP (2)

A multi-disciplinary team need to develop a Food Safety Plan incorporating CODEX HACCP principles that is comprehensive, implemented and maintained. The plan should reference legislation, codes of practice and relevant industry guidelines.

Internal audits (3.4)

There needs to be an effective audit system to verify that the food safety quality management system and relevant procedures cover the requirements of the standard, are effective and complied with.

Management of suppliers of raw materials and packaging (3.5.1)

An effective supplier approval and monitoring system must be put in place to ensure that any potential risks from raw materials (including primary packaging) to the safety, authenticity, legality and quality of the final product are understood and managed.

Corrective and preventive actions (3.7)

It is necessary to uses the information from identified failures in the food safety and quality management system, conduct root cause analysis and to make necessary corrections and prevent recurrence.

Traceability (3.9)

A system needs to be in place to trace finished products by lot number from raw materials throughout the process to end products and their distribution to the customer. The system should be such that this information can be retrieved within a reasonable timescale.

Layout, product flow and segregation (4.3)

Facilities, product flow and equipment need to be designed, constructed and maintained to prevent contamination of the product and comply with relevant legislation.

Housekeeping and hygiene (4.11)

Housekeeping and cleaning standards need to be maintained to achieve the appropriate hygiene standards and prevent the contamination of product.

Management of allergens (5.3)

System need to be put in place for the management of allergenic materials to minimise the risk of allergen contamination of products and meet legal requirements for labelling.

Control of operations (6.1)

Procedures need to be in place to verify the effective operation of equipment and processes, in compliance with the food safety plan, so that product legality, quality and safety is assured.

Labelling and pack control (6.2)

Controls of product labelling activities must ensure that products are correctly labelled and coded – this requirement is specifically introduced to tackle the main cause of product recalls/withdrawals, the labelling and packing of products.

Training: raw material handling, preparation, processing, packing and storage areas (7.1)

A system needs to be in place to demonstrate that personnel who can affect product legality, quality and/or safety are competent based on qualifications, training or work experience.