Wal-Mart has experienced a 31 percent reduction in recalls since the retail giant’s Wal-Mart brand supplier base became Global Food Safety Initiative certified, according to Rick Roop, senior vice president, food safety and quality assurance, Tyson Foods. Roop, who also serves on the Global Food Safety Initiative board, said that Cargill attributes an annual savings of $15 million to the initiative because it has allowed the company to eliminate a number of redundant supplier-mandated audits. Roop, who spoke at the Meat and Poultry Processing Conference at the 2013 International Production and Processing Expo, said that Tyson Foods has saved $2 million by reducing redundant audits.

Driving for continuous improvement

The Global Food Safety Initiative is a business-driven initiative for the continuous improvement of food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers around the world. The initiative was launched in 2000, following a number of food safety crises, particularly in Europe. Its collaborative approach to food safety brings together international food safety experts from the entire food supply chain to share knowledge and promote a collaborative approach to managing food safety.

Roop said that the drive for continuous improvement in the Global Food Safety Initiative will lead to safer food, which will reduce food recalls and the incidence and severity of food borne illness. He said that the food industry has made great strides and that technological improvements have led to food that is safer than it was in the 1950s, but that there is still room for improvement. “We produce safe food because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

How it works

Because of some very high profile recalls and food safety scares in Europe, consumer confidence was eroding. Retailers started their own auditing of suppliers or required third party audits. This created a situation where major food companies were being audited multiple times to several different audit criteria

The Global Food Safety Initiative is part of the Consumer Goods Forum, which is an association of retailers. The initiative brings together food safety experts from retailers, foodservice, food processors and academia to set one agreed upon standard. Having one standard eliminates the need for redundant audits and allows food to be shipped and sold anywhere in the world. Roop described the concept as, "Once certified, accepted everywhere."


In addition to Roop, two other Global Food Safety Initiative board members are from meat and poultry supplier companies, Mike Robach, vice president, corporate food safety and regulatory affairs, Cargill Inc., and Bryan Farnsworth, vice president, quality management, Hormel Foods. Retail and foodservice companies such as McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Royal Ahold, Kroger and Metro Cash & Carry are also represented on the board.

Recognized schemes

A scheme is a commercial food safety program that includes an auditable and certifiable management system behind it. Global Food Safety Initiative benchmarks schemes and recognizes those that meet all of the initiative’s requirements. If a food manufacturer has passed a certified audit versus a recognized scheme, then this manufacturer can sell to all retailer or foodservice outlets that require suppliers that meet Global Food Safety Initiative standards.

Currently the Global Red Meat Standard, CanadaGAP, SQF code 7th edition level 2, BRC global standard for food safety issue 6, and IFS food version 6 are Global Food Safety Initiative recognized schemes. There are other schemes that either had been recognized under other versions of the Global Food Safety Initiative or are in the process of being evaluated for recognition now.

Food Safety Modernization Act

In the U.S., passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act is resulting in a flurry of proposed new rules and regulations that will impact meat, poultry and egg suppliers. In some cases these new regulations will impact aspects of the supply chain like feed mills and farms that have not been subject to HACCP-like food safety rules in the past. In many cases, U.S. poultry operations that are operating under Global Food Safety Initiative recognized schemes like SQF are already in compliance with the proposed regulations. The Global Food Safety Initiative might also help food companies in other countries with Food Safety Modernization Act compliance if they wish to export to the U.S. market.

Roop said that auditor competence across the world is critical to the success of the initiative’s mission. He said that we need competent, well-trained auditors, and consistency is critical. He suggested that help will be needed from universities to develop a curriculum to train people to be food safety auditors. One of the keys to success for the Global Food Safety Initiative will be building consumer confidence in third-party certification.