GLOBAL – The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has launched the first live pilot of its Benchmarking Requirements for Food Safety Auditors’ Professional Recognition Bodies (PRBs), subsequent to a fruitful consultation period.

The new Benchmarking Requirements will be tested through a pilot with Exemplar Global, an industry leader in competency-based personnel certifications, who applied to become a GFSI-recognized PRB, and volunteering CPOs who will test the new model including FSSC 22000, BRC Global and SQFI.

Erica Sheward, Director of GFSI, expressed that the launch of the pilot marks a pivotal moment in the implementation of GFSI’s new Benchmarking Requirements for professional recognition bodies.

“We’re confident that it will help to recognize the vital role of food safety auditors and safeguard ongoing take-up of the profession for years to come.

“By mutualizing qualification efforts for auditors across the industry, we can make food safety auditing an accessible, attainable and desirable profession for many more people – helping to protect the professional future of an essential component of the food safety ecosystem,” she said.

Food Safety Auditors are a vital part of ensuring safe food is available for people around the world. However, the industry is facing mounting recruitment difficulties, with more auditors exiting the profession than new recruits joining it.

As such, Certification Bodies have faced a strain in their ability to cater for the increasing demand in food safety audits – and presents a severe threat to the whole food safety ecosystem

The situation has worsened due to increasingly complex and duplicated requirements applying to new and existing auditors.

It was in this regard that the GFSI developed a new approach for the qualification of food safety auditors for GFSI-recognized Certification Programmes which offer to establish Professional Recognition Bodies in the sector responsible for validating common competencies in a food safety auditor.

The move, informed by an open consultation to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, means that CPOs and CBs can rely on this registration to a GFSI-recognized PRB as evidence of the competency of the auditor – eliminating the need for repeated auditor checks.

The launch of the pilot will be marked in a plenary session at the GFSI Conference taking place in Barcelona from 29th to 31st March. The pilot will be followed by a review of key learnings before a full transition of the entire GFSI ecosystem to the new model in 2023 and 2024.

This work forms part of the larger GFSI Race to the Top (RTTT) Framework which works to improve trust, transparency and confidence in GFSI-recognized certification and audit outcomes.

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.

“The world relies on a safe and secure food supply chain and GFSI has established a key role in delivering this. Auditors of GFSI-recognized certification programmes are on the front line in the protection of the supply chain. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate at the GFSI Conference in Barcelona to ensure that auditors are the competent, well-skilled professionals that we need them to be,” said Andrew Baines, President & CEO of Exemplar Global.

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

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