The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has released the first edition of its Food Safety Auditor Competencies on the GFSI website, which are freely available for download by any interested stakeholders. This framework is the culmination of three years of work by the multi?disciplinary GFSI Auditor Competence Working Group, which was mandated by the GFSI Board to define generic food safety auditor competencies underpinning GFSI-benchmarked schemes, and the mechanisms by which they can be assessed and verified.

The competency framework is comprised of a list of agreed generic knowledge and skill components that can be applied across all post-farm-gate GFSI-benchmarked schemes. The framework will be re?released in early 2014 to include competencies for the pre-farm-gate sector, and further competencies will be added as other sector?specific GFSI Technical Working groups (e.g., Food Broker/Agents Working Group, Retail/Wholesale Working Group) draft the requirements for their particular industry scopes.

The competencies were validated using a professional testing organization, and revised based on the outcomes of that study in early 2013. They have also been compared for alignment with the competencies outlined in ISO/DTS 22003 (as of July 2013), and those being developed by other international organizations for use by regulatory and commercial food safety auditors.

This competency framework is being published on the GFSI website so that all GFSI stakeholders can freely access the frameork. GFSI encourages its use and review by all sectors of the food industry, public and private, and welcomes feedback on the adequacy and effectiveness of the framework.

The GFSI Auditor Competence Scheme Committee (formerly the Auditor Competence Working Group) is now working to develop examination and assessment methodologies, and eventually a credentialing model for auditors of GFSI-benchmarked schemes.

Bill McBride, chair of the GFSI Auditor Competence Scheme Committee and managing director of Foodlink Management Services, commented, "As GFSI-benchmarked schemes have increased in number and international coverage, the integrity of the audit process and the competence of those conducting the audits has become increasingly important. GFSI is working towards a model that can be applied across all food industry sectors that provides a rigor to the auditor qualification process, and a professional pathway for aspiring auditors. This is the first part of that process."

Yves Rey, chair of the GFSI Board and corporate quality general manager at Danone added, "The GFSI Board is delighted with the culmination of this piece of work. Year upon year at our annual GFSI Stakeholder meeting, we [have] asked for the three key areas that GFSI should focus on during the coming year. And every year the answer was the same: auditor competence. There has long been a need for clearer competence definition, application, and assessment and the publication of this competency framework is the first step to achieving this mandate."

Questions on the publication of the Food Safety Auditor Competencies may be addressed to