The Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI’s) Technical Equivalence (TE) program is a category of the GFSI benchmarking process that is dedicated to government-owned standards. Since TE’s launch in 2014, GFSI stakeholders have raised concerns over TE’s impact on GFSI’s purpose of “safe food for people everywhere.” To address stakeholder concerns, in 2020, GFSI decided to conduct a strategic review of TE’s place within GFSI’s activities, as well as the TE process. The strategic review consisted of a formal stakeholder survey and a series of structured interviews with organizations that have been acknowledged by GFSI under the TE program. The review closed in December 2021, and GFSI recently published a summary of the review.
A total of 40 stakeholders from the TE process responded to GFSI’s survey on TE. Respondents were in agreement that TE improves overall safety due to its foundation in Codex Alimentarius and ISO guidelines, as well as its “robustness and rigor.” Acknowledged benefits of TE included improved stakeholder status and market access due to GFSI affiliation. However, stakeholders also reported a limit to their increased market access because the TE process did not include a review of standard owners’ governances.
The review also identified a number of challenges with the TE process. The most significant challenge reported by respondents was a misunderstanding of the TE process by suppliers and purchasers, which caused confusion between GFSI-recognized certification programs and GFSI-acknowledged standards. Stakeholders suggested that either more should be done to communicate the differences between the two programs and promote the benefits of TE, or that only one GFSI benchmarking process for certification programs should exist.