The influence of FSMA and GFSI on food safety awareness

Gary Kestenbaum

July 9, 2014

3 Min Read
The influence of FSMA and GFSI on food safety awareness

…. and urgency on the part of consumers, legislators, regulators and the food and packaging industries in general.

 News travels fast these days. Nothing stays hidden, what with technology making it easy for everyone to find information on any subject in mere seconds.  That old sarcastic saying “what, did you grow up in a cave?” is no longer valid, as that referenced cave is either Wi-Fi capable or soon will be.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was promulgated partly in response to high pressure by consumers and advocates alarmed at the increasing number of food safety and contamination events driven primarily by microbiological, suitability and regulatory issues. Federal lawmakers understood the necessity to update archaic food safety regulations by enacting FSMA, which is supported by web-based guidance, processes, etc., so that anyone worldwide, from mammoth corporations down to small farmers, can access food safety best practices and expectations with a mouse-click.

However, even if FSMA had not been promulgated, end users would have been made aware of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), its objectives and missions.  Through word of mouth, third party audits, repositioning of Subject Matter Experts into new positions, the media and more, industry professionals have come to understand that GFSI, managed by the Consumer Goods Forum, is a benchmark global organization composed of members from within industry with a mandate to improve, control and impact food safety for the ultimate benefit of consumers worldwide. GFSI has combined expertise, resources, and knowledge of processes, which has justifiably led to it becoming the universally accepted organization for interpreting, creating and unifying food safety methods and programs.

No one in the supply chain is immune

In plain terms, if you have a hand in any part of the supply chain process for getting edible goods to consumers, you are subject to understanding, applying and verifying best practices, which are now very transparent regardless of what part of the food industry with which you are connected. No one involved in the process can claim immunity from having to understand, apply, and verify best practices in order to prove that their part of the process is verified as safe, secure, and monitored.

What does this mean to the packaging industry and those who support it?  Fundamentally, it means that top management of packaging-related companies must get past the “why me, why now?” mantra and be enlightened to the fact that they must hire or train an individual to own the food quality and safety function with the ultimate objective of implementing a food safety scheme based on GFSI principles, guidance and requirements. 

Presently, more than a few companies state they cannot totally meet GFSI standards. In our experience, those companies deflect the necessity of formal GFSI certification, contending that it is not “really” necessary to meet “all” of GFSI standards, just the select, “core” principles, which are (for them) attainable. Be advised, the concept of “almost GFSI” or “GFSI lite” is not likely to be embraced or accepted by customers and end users.

In conclusion, the law holds each entity involved in the process of creating marketable foods responsible for knowing the law and responding accordingly in process, protection and documentation.  Excuses will not be tolerated.

Kestenbaum’s previous column was  Food safety and packaging considerations in a post-FSMA world.

Next month: Beginning the process for understanding and implementing best practices

Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, six as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer. In his current position as senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at [email protected] or 410-484-9133. The website is

About the Author(s)

Gary Kestenbaum

Gary Kestenbaum is an independent food packaging consultant with 45 years of experience in the food industry as a food ingredient technician with National Starch, a food product developer with General and Kraft Foods, a senior package developer with Kraft Foods and a senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group.

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