Of the 127 recalls related to labeling of allergens and/or sulfites, 35 (27.5%) were associated with GFSI-certified facilities. When all pathogens reported were combined, there were 143 food recalls (41.8%) associated with the presence of specific pathogens; of that number, 37 pathogen-related recalls (26.2%) were associated with GFSI-certified facilities.
SQF was the dominant GFSI certification scheme among U.S. suppliers during the period evaluated. The SQF supplier database listed approximately 2,500 certified sites in the U.S.; the BRC database listed approximately 1,200 certified sites in the U.S.; the FSSC database listed approximately 300 sites in the U.S.; and the IFS listed 73 sites in North America (Canada included). We were unable to determine the number of certified site for PrimusGFS because that certification scheme’s public database lists sites by crop, which means that one site may have more than one certified crop and more than one entry in the database.
The number of certified sites associated with food recalls that had SQF as their scheme was higher than the number for sites using other schemes, because many more U.S. sites use the SQF certification than other schemes. However, the proportion of certified sites involved in recalls was relatively constant among the GFSI certification schemes where data was available. Approximately 2% of the estimated certified base was associated with recalls for SQF, BRC, and FSSC.
In this evaluation, about a quarter of the pathogen- and allergen-related food recalls in the United States during the period studied were associated with a facility that was certified in one or more of the GFSI-benchmarked schemes. At present, it is difficult to evaluate with certainty and precision just how the GFSI has impacted the number or extent of food recalls. Public data sources provide limited visibility of relevant data, and a true comparison would have to be done on a company-by-company basis, with evaluation of number and type of pre- and post-GFSI certification periods within each individual organization. The data presented here offer an early look, providing a baseline for future analysis of trends. If GFSI prevalence increases and the rigor of certification audits is sustained, we expect to see a decreasing trend: more GFSI certifications and fewer recalls overall in the facilities that adhere to GFSI-benchmarked schemes.
Susan Moyers, PhD, is a consultant and trainer in food quality and safety. Her experience spans more than 20 years in industry and academia. Dr. Moyers provides training, consulting and troubleshooting services to facilities large and small, including processing plants, supermarkets, restaurant chains, dietary supplement manufacturers, and health care institutions. She can be reached at email@example.com.