GLOBAL – The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a coalition of The Consumer Goods Forum, (CGF) has launched the first-ever set of benchmarking requirements for food safety auditor professional recognition bodies.
The coalition aims to attract and retain food safety auditors by raising the profile of the profession and focusing entry requirements on competence.
According to a statement from GFSI, the industry has over the years faced mounting difficulties in recruiting and retaining auditors, with more people leaving the profession than new recruits joining it.
This is putting a strain on the certification bodies’ ability to cater to the increasing demand in food safety audits — and presents a severe threat to the whole food safety ecosystem.
GFSI officials say the situation has worsened because of increasingly complex and duplicated requirements applying to new and existing auditors, including the increasing GFSI benchmarking requirements for certification program owners on auditors.
To combat this, GFSI has now developed a new recognition program for professional recognition bodies in the sector, setting them up as responsible for validating common competencies in a food safety auditor for all GFSI-recognized certification program owners.
This work forms part of the larger GFSI Race To The Top (RTTT) framework which works to enhance trust, transparency and confidence in GFSI-recognised certification and audit outcomes.
The move which was informed by an open consultation to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, signifies that the food industry can rely on this registration and validation to verify the competency of the auditor.
By harmonizing standards across the industry, GFSI hopes to safeguard a vital role within the industry — elevating the accessibility and perception of food safety auditing to be comparable with other well-respected auditing industries such as finance.
“We’re confident that the launch of these benchmarking requirements will help to protect the vital role of food auditors and to increase the take-up of this profession. The current qualifications and industry experience required for a food safety auditing career are stringent and specific – which narrows the field of potential recruits dramatically,” said GFSI Director Erica Sheward.
She added that by harmonizing training and professional development across the industry, the coalition can make food safety auditing an accessible, attainable, and desirable profession for many more people – helping to safeguard the future of an essential component of the food safety ecosystem.
Commenting on the new requirements, Andrew Baines, President, and CEO of auditor certification company, Exemplar Global, informed that Exemplar Global has been certifying auditors for over 30 years including many food safety auditors around the world who audit GFSI benchmarked schemes.
“Exemplar Global is pleased to confirm that it is our intention to seek GFSI approval as a (Professional Recognition Body (PRB) and to assist GFSI as they work through public consultations, a pilot program, and transition arrangements,” he said.
GFSI Benchmarking Requirements
To be certified as a Professional Recognition Body, the organization needs to demonstrate impartiality from any food safety certification, conformity assessment, training and / or Certification Programme Owner activities. It also requires an endorsement from a minimum of three organizations committing to the Professional Recognition Body, hence demonstrating the market need for their Professional Recognition Programme.
According to the new requirements, the Professional Recognition Body should be accredited against ISO/ IEC 17024 by an Accreditation Body member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and signatory to the Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA).
The Professional Recognition Body should also be in a position to demonstrate experience in establishing and running a successful Professional Recognition Programme for at least 100 registrants, but not necessarily dedicated to auditors or food safety. Further, the organization must have completed the GFSI self-assessment form to demonstrate that it is in alignment with the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements.
In order to maintain their recognition status, GFSI-recognized Professional Recognition Programmes shall apply for re-benchmarking within 12 months of the date of publication of the new version of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. The GFSI Steering Committee has the authority to extend this period under special circumstances