The GFSI was originally launched in May 2000, following a meeting of a group of international retailer CEOs who recognised the need to boost food safety. But the building blocks of the programme go back further, right to the launch of the British Retail Consortium's technical standards for food safety in 1998. John Morris, the BRC's food and drink executive, says it was created by amalgamating all the best elements from other existing safety standards. "Originally, it was introduced to set the standards in food factories for retailer branded food products, but it has gone beyond that now. Companies such as Northern Foods are using it to ensure their suppliers are safe, hospitals are using it and prisons, and some of the big breweries like Bass and Whitbread are too." The standard effectively covers every element of food safety, from processing protocol to simple personnel issues. Its aim is also to promote good standards and includes the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles, an industry standard for assessing and controlling areas of risk. This introduction had a big impact on the UK in terms of standardising food safety systems, says Morris. "In the past, retailers would each send in people to check their standards were in place, and each one would have a different standard. "The fact that some of these producers would be supplying several different retailers meant they were all using a range of different systems." The BRC's standard meant all retailers could use the same system and guarantee a high level of food safety. Morris adds that the fact that food safety is a non-competitive issue means retailers are more willing to get together on the subject. The BRC's standard quickly proved extremely successful across the UK and Morris says it began attracting attention from abroad: "We suddenly found ourselves under pressure to make it more global, so rather than attempt to do it all ourselves, we approached the CIES, which has a more global scope." The CIES then brought the matter up with its retailer members and the GFSI was born. A task force was created to get the idea off the ground, and it now includes 42 retailer quality managers, representing 65% of food retail revenue worldwide. {{COVER FEATURE }}