Food processors and their customers have a broad array of audit and inspection protocols at their disposal. The type of audit or inspection they select is usually market driven.

BRC, GFSI, IFS, FSSC 22000 and SQF are internationally recognized food safety audit schemes by GFSI. ISO 22000 is a global food safety standard introduced in 2005 by the International Organization for Standardization. National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), AIB International, Eurofins, Silliker Laboratories and others have developed their own private standards. These groups will also conduct one or more of the GFSI audit schemes.

“The audit companies have changed to offer more choices of audit standards,” Richard Stier, a consulting food scientist who advises food facilities worldwide about food safety.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards is a safety and quality certification program used in 123 countries. Its certifications are issued through a worldwide network of accredited certification bodies. BRC noted that its standards are often cited by leading food retailers as a fundamental requirement in their supply chain relationships.

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) launched in May 2000 and takes a collaborative approach. “Food safety problems were making a lot of headlines in Europe,” noted Karil Kochenderfer, GFSI’s North American representative. “Retailers were particularly concerned about managing food safety for foods that traveled across borders. Every retailer was asking its suppliers for a different audit. The supply chain needed to harmonize around good food safety practices.”

Today, most large companies follow standards that comply with GFSI, and outreach is now being made to intermediate and smaller players. The group developed GFSI Global Market, a one-to-three year program that helps such companies without extensive food safety expertise or staff to acquire that knowledge and prepare for certification.

“The first year of the GFSI Global Markets program applies the basic checklist,” said Kim Jennings-Knoll, business development manager, US Food Division, Eurofins. “The second year, the facility graduates to the intermediate level with a checklist of increasing rigor, and the final step is to go for full GFSI certification. By participating in this program, the facility demonstrates to its customers that it is committed to GFSI and that it’s on its way to achieving this.”

Standards written by International Featured Standards (IFS) ensure that companies produce foods, other products or services that comply with customer specifications while continually working on process improvements. Its goal is to ensure comparability and transparency for the consumer throughout the entire supply chain. It was founded in 2003 under the name of International Food Standard and has branched out into other fields since then. Its technical committee sets the standards.

ISO (the group’s name is derived from the Greek word isos, meaning equal) is another independent, non-governmental international organization. Through its members, a network of national standards bodies in 162 countries, ISO brings experts together to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based standards. These voluntary standards encompass more than just food processing, spanning environmental management, social responsibility, information security, medical devices and anti-bribery systems.

An independent, accredited organization, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) develops standards, performs audits and makes certifications. It was founded in 1944 with a mission to protect and improve global human health. It also provides education and risk management.

Safe Quality Food’s (SQF) standards include a quality certification component as well as an ethical sourcing standard. Its standing Technical Advisory Council constantly reviews the independent group’s voluntary standards and proposes changes. The group licenses certification bodies to conduct SQF audits for Level 1 (fundamental controls), 2 (HACCP- and ISO-based programs) and 3 (comprehensive mastery) certification.