3rd party certification is buyer (either retailer or wholesaler) requested. Many 3rd party food safety certification schemes (commercial food safety programs with certifiable food safety standards) are available for third party certification in Washington State. Buyers may request certification by a certain scheme, or may request certification by a scheme that includes certain criteria. Third party certification schemes may differ in breadth of aspects covered, record keeping requirements, and cost of audit.
In 2000, a group of international retailers identified the need for private food safety schemes to be backed up by recognition by an international standard. They formed the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a non-profit foundation which sets the requirements for food safety schemes recognized by this organization. This was done in order to develop credibility for the individual standards that currently exist. A set of benchmarks have been determined which must be met by food safety certification schemes; these are a common foundation of requirements, but schemes can differ in the way the standards are carried out. Third party schemes are tested against the set of benchmarks and will become recognized if they are found to be in compliance with those benchmarks.
A list of GFSI recognized schemes
Available Produce Food Safety 3rd Party Certification Schemes
WSDA GAP and GHP Audit Program
United Fresh Produce GAP Harmonized Initiative
Available Food Processing 3rd Party Certification Schemes
Food Safety System Certification 22000
Assistance Guides for writing Food Safety Plans for 3rd Party Certification
Several universities and other organizations have developed guidance documents for developing food safety plans for farms to become 3rd party certified. Materials have primarily been developed following the USDA GAP standards and the Harmonized Standards; some forms and procedures may apply to multiple schemes.
Penn State: “How do I write a Food Safety Plan”. This follows the Harmonized Standards
Michigan State University Extension: Assistance Guide for following the USDA GAP Standards (pdf)
University of Maine: Grower Manual for Documentation for a USDA GAP audit (pdf)
Cornell University: National GAPs Educational Materials
University of Minnesota: Sample Log Sheets for On-Farm GAPs