The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has announced that a Retail/Wholesale Technical Working Group has been formed to review the role of retailers and wholesalers in the food supply chain. The group will subsequently draft key requirements for inclusion in the GFSI Guidance Document, so that existing food safety management schemes that cover this scope can be benchmarked against them.

The Retail/Wholesale Technical Working Group will have a broad mandate to:

  • Review current best food safety practice in relation to retail/wholesale.
  • Define and develop the scope(s) of recognition in relation to retail/wholesale and the benchmarking criteria that shall be in place for the recognition of food safety requirements for retail/wholesale by GFSI in the GFSI Guidance Document.
  • Review and define the competence of auditors required to be in place for schemes applying to the GFSI for recognition within the scope(s) of retail/wholesale.
  • Review and define the duration of audits in relation to the Retail/Wholesale scope(s) of recognition.

• Determine if multi-site based sampling in accordance with risk is applicable to the retail/wholesale sector, and if so, within which sub-sectors (or all) this will be applicable. If multi-site based sampling in accordance with risk is applicable, define the requirements that must be in place for the recognition of schemes.

• Provide technical recommendations and advice to the GFSI Board on issues relating to Retail/Wholesale in the food supply chain.

The ultimate objective of this Working Group is to define the requirements that a retail/wholesale food safety management scheme should have in place to ensure confidence in sourcing of product and in the systems that are in place to supply safe food to the consumer.

Working Group co-chairs Robert Frappier, vice president quality assurance for Ahold USA, and Adam Johnson, senior director of food safety and pest management for Walmart, welcomed the GFSI Board’s decision to convene this Working Group. They said, “As retail and wholesale outlets are the last link in the supply chain as far as responsibility of safe food handling is concerned, we are committed to ensuring that the food reaching our customers’ tables is safe. We look forward to working with the other experts in this Working Group to make this happen.”

The Working Group held its first face-to-face meeting on July 18 and 19 and will report on its progress to the GFSI Board of Directors, who is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the Global Food Safety Initiative. A global stakeholder consultation on the benchmarking criteria developed by the Working Group is currently planned for the end of 2013 to ensure transparency in the development process.

Payton Pruett, vice president of corporate food technology at The Kroger Co. and GFSI board liaison to the Working Group, commented, “The current retail landscape is fragmented. GFSI’s collaborative work in this area can help unite the industry and be a platform for retailers and wholesalers wanting to pursue harmonization in the management of their outlets. For many years, it has been the buying companies mandating certification against GFSI-recognized schemes. Through certification, retailers and wholesalers will now be able to demonstrate a commitment to continuously improving food safety management systems in their own operations.”