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Which Food-Safety Certification Is Right for You?

By AICC Staff

July 9, 2021

width=338The demand for new packaging materials and technologies from food manufacturing companies has been unprecedented in the 21st century. This has presented manufacturers of packaging and packaging materials with the burden of not only ensuring the safety of their materials but also demonstrating consistency in the quality of their products. It has also resulted in several standards and certification requirements appearing for most industries—none more so than food packaging.

The Role of GFSI Certification

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is an initiative to ensure the safe processing of food for consumers through the establishment of food-safety management systems. A GFSI certification provides evidence that a plant has a structured, effective, and comprehensive food-safety program in place.

Certification is becoming ever more important as companies look to mitigate the risk of food-safety problems and reduce recalls. On average, food recalls continue to cost companies $10 million per incident.

Which Food-Safety Schemes Fall Under GFSI?

The GFSI recognizes certain food-safety schemes when they meet specific requirements outlined in the GFSI Guidance Documents. This means that the GFSI certification is not for a single GFSI audit; however, it can be applied to several different schemes, the most applicable ones being:

  • BRCGS Global Standard
  • FSSC 22000
  • Safe Quality Food (SQF)
  • IFS International Featured Standards
  • Picking the standard that is right for your company depends on your products, region, and existing quality systems.

A Breakdown of the Different Standards for GFSI Certification

BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials: This standard provides a framework to assist packaging manufacturers in the production of safe packaging materials and to manage product quality to meet customers’ requirements. Certification against the standard is recognized by many brand owners, retailers, food-service companies, and manufacturers around the world when assessing the capabilities of their suppliers. The standard has been developed to specify the product safety, quality, and operational criteria that must be in place within a packaging manufacturing organization to fulfill its obligations about legal compliance and protection of the consumer. The standard is popular in Europe and is required for exports to Europe. It must be renewed annually.

Food-Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC 22000) Standard, Ver. 5.1: The FSSC 22000 Certification Ver. 5.1 is based on the universally accepted ISO 9001 framework and, therefore, much easier to implement and integrate with other ISO standards. The FSSC 22000 standard consists of three important standards, namely, ISO 22000:2018, ISO 22002-4 (prerequisite program specific to the packaging manufacturing industry), and FSSC 22000-specific requirements. Certification must be renewed every three years.

Safe Quality Food (SQF) Code for Packaging, Ed. 9: The SQF Code is a site-specific process and product certification standard with an emphasis on the systematic application of principles and guidelines for control of food-safety and food-quality hazards. The SQF Code for Packaging outlines a separate set of requirements to achieve safety of a variety of packaging materials. It is a more stringent standard with respect to buildings, surroundings, and storage. It requires a trained SQF practitioner in addition to a food-safety team. Code certification must be renewed annually.

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International Featured Standard (IFS) PAC Secure Standard Ver. 7: The PAC secure standard was created to provide packaging manufacturers and converters the ability to certify primary and secondary packaging materials for the food industry. However, the IFS PAC secure standard is applicable to all kinds of packaging materials. In addition to stringent conditions, it requires attention to anti-microbial resistance. This certification is mandatory for exports to Europe and other nations, and it must be renewed annually.

How Do I Get Certified?

Once you have identified the GFSI scheme that best fits your company, your next step would be to contact a GFSI-recognized certification body associated with your scheme. After connecting with a certification body, the next step is to conduct training on the requirements for your company to understand the system that needs to be developed.

Following training, your company would implement a food-safety management system and document your processes in preparation for an audit. Once ready, you will be audited by a certification body and receive your certification if you pass.

If you are unsure about which program is best for you or need help navigating the process, enlisting the help of a GFSI consultant can simplify the process and increase the likelihood of your achieving certification on your first attempt.


width=101Baskar Kotte is a consultant who has performed more than 100 audits toward GFSI-approved food-safety management system schemes in connection with the Food Safety Modernization Act. To learn more about Baskar and his company, Quality Systems Enhancement, visit www.enhancequality.com.