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Tips for a Successful Transition from GMP to GFSI Certification

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Training certification from a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized CPO (Certified Program Owner) is a significant accomplishment for any food manufacturer. It demonstrates that they have implemented robust food safety systems that meet internationally recognized standards. However, for those transitioning from a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification to a GFSI certification, there are several common pitfalls that they should be aware of to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

Underestimating the Complexity of GFSI Certification Requirements:

While Food Safety Systems GMP non-certification audits cover the basic requirements for food safety, GFSI standards, such as the Safe Quality Food (SQF), Brand Reputation through Compliance Global Standard (BRCGS), and International Featured Standards (IFS), are more comprehensive and rigorous. The transition to GFSI certification requires an in-depth understanding of these standard requirements, which are often more complex and require more resources.  

Inadequate Preparation Time:

To transition from Food Safety Systems GMP non-certification audits to GFSI certification, a food manufacturer must demonstrate that they have implemented and maintained a comprehensive food safety management system (FSMS) for a certain period. This time frame varies from one GFSI standard to another, but it is usually at least six months to a year. Insufficient preparation time can result in insufficient evidence demonstrating compliance with the GFSI standard’s requirements. 

Failure To Engage and Train Employees:

GFSI certification requires all employees' active participation and commitment to the food manufacturing process. However, many manufacturers fail to engage and train their employees on the GFSI standard’s requirements, resulting in a lack of understanding and poor implementation of the FSMS.  The auditor will speak with numerous employees throughout the facility to determine the depth of training and understanding of the facility’s commitment to Food Safety.

Limited Resources for Implementation:

Implementing a GFSI-compliant FSMS requires time, money, and personnel resources. However, many manufacturers underestimate this resulting in inadequate implementation, non-compliance, and failure to achieve GFSI certification.  The auditor will speak to various departments, including customer service, inventory, maintenance, security, operations, and leadership.  QA and Food Safety are part of these conversations and can help guide the facility during the audit, but GFSI standards require the involvement of all departments, not just QA/Food Safety.

Insufficient Documentation:

GFSI standards require comprehensive documentation to demonstrate compliance with their requirements. However, many manufacturers fail to adequately document their FSMS, resulting in non-compliance and failure to achieve certification.  Documentation control, version and revision tracking, and genuine documentation of all recorded observations, testing, inspections, and task completions are part of the audit assessment.

In conclusion, transitioning from Food Safety Systems GMP non-certification audits to a Certification Standard involves all areas of the facility and employees, from the online worker to the leadership team.  This commitment must be demonstrated throughout the audit process.

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