Food Certifications and What They Mean

Access to a global food market broadens our palates and provides additional nutritional resources. However, not all regions have established food safety practices. People in first world nations are used to buying food that is wholesome and safe, trusting the government to prohibit harmful food products. Still, some people avoid foods produced in other countries due to concerns about its safety. Food certifications are a means of allaying common concerns about the safety of food.

What’s in a Certification?

A food supply chain that stretches around the globe requires a system for compliance with standards that keep the products safe for everyone, no matter where the food comes from.

The Global Food Safety Initiative, or GFSI, has standards monitoring several parts of the food supply chain:

  • Food, e.g. produce or meat
  • Food packaging and its materials
  • Storage practices
  • Distribution practices

GFSI programs aim to improve food safety, and thereby consumer confidence in food products via its four main objectives:

  • Reducing food safety risks
  • Managing food costs by improving efficiency
  • Creating consistent and effective global food systems
  • Providing an international collaborative platform

There are many certifying groups in the world, each with its own objective.


PrimusGFS certification encompasses:

  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
  • Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS)

Primus monitors practices from the field, throughout the storage and distribution stages and to the point at which the food reaches the consumer. Using food technologists and computer programmers, the group offers services in both English and Spanish.

Global G.A.P.

GlobalG.A.P., or the Global Partnership for Good Agricultural Practices, a private sector food safety agency, certifies food products across the globe through voluntary standards. It addresses three main areas of food production:

  • Crops
  • Livestock
  • Aquaculture

The GlobalG.A.P. process utilizes over 1,500 trained inspectors and auditors who perform third-party audits. They issue certification in over 110 countries.

Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria

SENASICA, which translates in English to the National Service of Agro-Alimentary Health, Safety, and Quality, is part of Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture. SENASICA’s mission is to protect Mexico’s agriculture, aquaculture, and livestock resources through sanitary measures. The service promotes certification of systems that work at reducing food contaminants and increasing food quality while facilitating trade of those goods both domestically and internationally.

Another certification organization, based in Mexico, is a nonprofit called México Calidad Suprema, or, in English, Mexico Supreme Quality. The food producers and packagers who make up this group joined together to produce food products that meet the highest quality and safety standards. It promotes premier safety and quality practices.

While México Calidad Suprema works with the Mexican government in its mission, its goal is both national and international in scope. Recognized worldwide, its vision is emphasizing the “quality, safety, hygiene, and good practices of the Mexican agricultural sector,” according to their website.

Most think of food safety in terms of the rare E. coli outbreak, or packaged food containing an allergen not listed on the packaging. However, the safety of the food supply chain is vital in the fight against terrorism. The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT, is attached to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is a partnership of certified members, and sets forth supply chain security criteria. Members of the partnership who meet the qualifications receive, in return, incentives such as expedited shipping processing.

Having the C-TPAT certification means a company has agreed to work with the United States Customs and Border Protection to:

  • Protect the supply chain
  • Identify security gaps
  • Implement security measures and best practices
  • Provide an outline of its existing security measures
  • Deal with many aspects of security topics
  • Provide plans for specific security measures at all points of the supply chain

The C‐TPAT designation is granted to companies considered to be “low risk” based on their past compliance history, security profile, and the validation of a sample international supply chain.

There are several fair trade certification groups, such as Fair Trade USA, which certifies producers and suppliers of food products and ingredients.

A Fair Trade certification indicates that those involved in producing the product receive fair payment. Fair trade practices aim to improve the quality of life for those people, many of whom live in economically disadvantaged countries. The items sometimes cost more, but more money goes back to the growers or producers of the products.

Several other common claims appear on many food labels, but many are not true certifications. “All natural” and “organic” are two commonly sought-after label items. However, they do not always mean what consumers think they do.

  • “Natural” has no real meaning. The FDA has no issue with the use of this term on labels as long as the product contains no artificial ingredients.
  • “Organic” has various levels of labeling. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic seal requires that the products have been produced without genetic engineering or other methods and overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent.
Food safety is a big deal in the United States. In 2011, the U.S. enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act with the aim to keep food supplies safe by shifting from reacting to food contamination situations to prevention. The FSMA requires that importers have a verification system demonstrating the food they import is safe due to compliance with reasonable risk prevention controls.

Using verifiable food certification labels makes consumers feel safer about their food choices.

Visit our website for a more in-depth description of Food Certifications.

Gilberto Salazar Escoboza is extremely family orientated and has been married for 24 years. He was born and raised in Hermosillo, Mexico. Gilberto has been the General Director of Videxport ever since he took over the family business in 1987. He enjoys reading and writing about the latest trends in the produce industry.

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