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Frequently Asked Question

What is GFSI?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) organization is a body consisting of food experts who approve or ‘benchmark’ certification schemes used to certify food processing and manufacturing systems. GFSI certification is a broad term used by retailers and food service companies and refers to certification under any “GFSI Approved schemes”. Schemes currently approved by GFSI include

  • British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7,
  • Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000, Global Red Meat Standard,
  • Canada GAP (Primarily for produce farming and packing),
  • SQF Level 2 and IFS Food Version 6

For more information visit the GFSI website at

How long does the certification process take?

The time frame to achieve certification is dependent on the certification scheme. The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety requires that the final report and certificate (provided that the client meets certification requirements) be issued to the customer within 42 calendar days of the audit. SQF code 7th edition requires the certification decision be made within 45 calendar days of the audit. BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution requires that the final report for INITIAL audit be issued within 104 calendar days of the audit. For more information please contact FSNS C&A.

How often do I have to be audited?

The audit frequency depends on the overall score of the facility and the scheme owner requirements. Re-certification audits are required for BRC and SQF every 12 months as long as a satisfactory grade is maintained (A and B for BRC or E and G for SQF). Surveillance activity is required for both BRC and SQF when a C grade is obtained. BRC Storage and Distribution requires a re-certification audit within 12 months after the initial audit or when the number and type of non-conformities requires a surveillance audit. After the 12 month re-certification audit the audit frequency is 18 months provided that the audits yield satisfactory results.

Is there an advantage of having a GFSI audit over a regular GMP audit? What’s the difference?

When determining the type of audit needed at your facility it is important to consider your customer’s requirements. If your customers require certification against a GFSI scheme a third party audit will not meet their requirements.

GFSI audits are recognized globally and results in being certified by an accredited certification body. A third party audit is not a recognized standard and no certification is issued.

What’s the difference between a BRC Enrolment Audit and a Certification Audit?

An Enrolment audit under the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety issue 6 is a scored ‘practice audit’. The intent of the enrolment audit is to expose the client to the BRC requirements and audit process without issuing the client a failed audit report. Because the audit is scored the client has an audit report that can be shared with their customer to demonstrate their commitment to gaining BRC certification in the future. Also, if the client is participating in an enrolment audit and meets the minimum requirements to gain certification the audit type can be changed from an enrolment audit to a certification audit. Please note that a certification audit CAN NOT be changed from a certification audit to an enrolment audit. Enrolment audits are only available to sites that have not been previously certified under the BRC scheme.

What’s the difference between SQF Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3?

SQF Level 1 is a very basic audit standard that only covers general Good Manufacturing Practices and basic food safety elements. Please note that level 1 certification is not recognized by GFSI and does not result in being certified against a GFSI approved scheme.

SQF Level 2 is the GFSI ‘benchmarked’ scheme meaning that level 2 certification does meet the GFSI requirements and does meet requirements for being certified under a GFSI approved scheme. This scheme focus solely on food safety requirements. Level 3 includes all requirements for level 2 certification but also includes quality parameters.

Can you change certification bodies? Does changing require additional audits?

It is possible to change certification bodies as long as you are in good standing with the current certification body. If, for whatever reason, the current certification body has suspended or withdrawn your certification or if you achieved a C grade in your last audit you must stay with the current certification body until the certificate has been re-issued and you are in good standing with the certification body. Changing certification bodies does not require additional audits.

How do we know we are ready for a GFSI-type audit?

There are many ways to assess your preparedness foe a GFSI certification audit. We encourage everyone to perform one or multiple internal audits to determine how well they meet the standard requirements. The client could also choose to participate in the Enrolment program offered by BRC or request a SQF Pre-assessment.

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