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Understanding New GFSI-Approved Distribution Standards

June 11, 2015 - Kestrel Food Safety

For Sealed and Unsealed Food Grade Product, including Food, Chemicals, Process Aids, and Contact Materials

Food grade distribution standards are designed to ensure the delivery of safe food to consumers. Many retailers require that suppliers be certified to a GFSI-approved standard, and that includes food distributors.

The recent issuance of new GFSI-approved food grade distribution certification standards has altered some of the original interpretations for certification of food grade product distribution, presenting food storage and distribution companies with broader certification options.

Background: Starting with ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000

Prior to August 14, 2014, the ISO 22000 scheme was the only certifiable option for food grade distribution. ISO 22000 is approved under ISO global certification for broad distribution applications, but it is not approved under GFSI.

Today, with certain addendums, ISO 22000 is now re-classified as FSSC 22000 for some applications. FSSC 22000 is GFSI-approved for limited food sectors—but with specific scopes for distribution. For example, FSSC 22000 applies to distribution for cases of additional processing or exposure of product, while packaged and sealed distribution has been determined to not apply.

As these were considered the only certified options prior to 2015, ISO 22000 was more commonly accepted internationally for broad distribution and related handling. Since the same ISO 22000 food industry prerequisites comprise FSSC 22000 for distribution, many of the certification organizations consider these standards acceptable for distribution of food grade product. Note that a key issue, however, is the distribution of packaged and sealed product, which is not covered under FSSC 22000 (versus processing or exposure that may occur during distribution).

Prior to August 2014 (when IFS and BRC Logistics were first approved by GFSI), ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000 were the only recommended and approved schemes for food and food grade distribution. ISO 22000 served as a non-GFSI option, while FSSC 22000 was the only food grade distribution option under GFSI with some element of processing or product exposure.

Broader Options for Certification

Recent approval of specific distribution standards under GFSI has provided several new food distribution certification options beyond ISO and FSSC 22000. These are available based on approvals in 2014 and 2015, and alter distribution requirements under GFSI. The new logistics or storage and distribution schemes under GFSI have raised awareness. Requirements have not otherwise been fully communicated in the marketplace, resulting in confusion among the certification community (including designated technical experts).

With the approval of IFS and BRC and SQF for logistics (storage and distribution) in 2015, there are now a number of new GFSI-approved distribution schemes:

  • IFS: general food and food grade products (general food grade commodities, including chemicals, process aids, etc.)
  • SQF: general food storage and distribution (juices, dairy, etc.)
  • BRC: broader food risk products, including higher risk (meat, poultry, etc.)

Recommended Options

As a result of these changes, the recommended GFSI scheme for food grade chemical and process aids (distribution of packaged and sealed product) is the IFS logistics scheme or the SQF scheme. BRC is an accepted option, as well, but is more focused on high-risk product versus chemical or process aids. FSSC 22000 is also still fully accepted under GFSI and a leading choice for distribution with processing and product exposure for food grade product.

Under global ISO certification, ISO 22000 remains a broad-level distribution option for all types of food distribution involving processing, exposure, or sealed product, but is more readily accepted internationally, especially in Asia. It still is not accepted for GFSI even though the standard used for FSSC 22000 is exactly the same with specific industry addendums.

Submitted by: Bill Bremer

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