Standard GDO

Large scale distribution (G.D.O.) is the main target market for food processing companies.

The G.D.O., before the numerous certifications, abbreviations and trademarks of reference has introduced its own quality standards which farms or processing companies can adhere to, subjecting to strict and rigorous controls.

The quality standards are as follows:

  • G.A.P Protocol;
  • B.R.C. Standard;
  • I.F.S. Standard.


The G.A.P. Protocol is a real "decalogue" defined by the Euro Retailer Produce Working Group (EUREP), the association of major European distributors.

It defines the requirements that the agricultural producer must meet to ensure production with quality standards, considered valid and accepted by large commercial chains.

The requirements refer to the various phases that characterize the work and activities carried out by the farmer: choice and rotation of land, use of fertilizers and pesticides, irrigation systems, harvesting systems, handling and storage of the product, safety of operators, etc.., thus identifying, for certain sectors of the agricultural sector, common rules in order to ensure a single quality standard for different productions.

As of today, the most widespread G.A.P. Protocol is for the fruit and vegetable sector, although there is also one for the livestock sector (cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, poultry), aquaculture, cut flowers and ornamental plants, as well as for stable activities (milking and milk storage).

The G.A.P. protocol is valid across the board for all productions in a specific sector (vegetables and fresh fruit, aquaculture, meat, etc.), regardless of the specificity linked to the production method (e.g. organic) or to the origin of the raw material (D.O.P., I.G.P., S.T.G.). The G.A.P. Protocol was therefore established with the purpose of establishing a common " operating method " for the cultivation of agricultural products, more in line with the modern requirements of sustainable agriculture.

The protocol scheme provides first of all for the certification of the farm by an independent body, accredited according to the ISO 17065 standard (it establishes the international requirements that must be respected by the product certification bodies). In addition to compliance with the above standard, the inspection body must be authorised by a committee within EUREP.

The main principles on which the G.A.P. Protocol is based are as follows:

  • use of recognized integrated control techniques;
  • adoption of environment-friendly agronomic specifications;
  • care of hygiene aspects in the handling of food products;
  • compliance with the general requirements for the health and safety of agricultural workers.

The G.A.P. Protocol requires the verification, directly at the farm, of specific obligations regarding:

  • traceability of products;
  • recording of company operations;
  • compliance with the regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs);
  • farm locations and crop rotations;
  • choice and use of fertilizers;
  • integrated phytosanitary protection of crops;
  • methods of collection and storage of production;
  • post-harvest treatments;
  • management of company waste;
  • training and safety of operators;
  • management of reports and complaints;
  • Management of internal audits (audits).

The G.A.P. Protocol is based on two certification procedures: for a single farm and for groups of associated farms.

In this case, the inspection body is required to have a specific technical specification which must contain the elements of the quality system through which the reference entity (cooperative, consortium or other form of association) manages and coordinates all the member farms.



The G.A.P. Protocol is not the only reference standard recognised by the G.D.O. for individual or associated farms. In fact, if these companies sell processed food products on the UK market and more generally on European markets, they must meet the requirements of the B.R.C. and I.F.S. Standards.

Developed by the main associations of English, B.R.C. (British Retail Consortium) and German distributors, I.F.S. (International Food Standard), define the quality requirements to which suppliers of food products (processing companies) must conform in order to access their respective markets in the case of the sale of "branded products", i.e. in cases where it is directly the distributor who, under his own responsibility, affixes his own brand on the product.

The logic of the B.R.C. Standard and the I.F.S. Standard, unlike the parties to whom it is addressed, is the same as that of the G.A.P. Protocol, namely: to establish common quality requirements among as many producers/processors as possible in order to guarantee, with reasonable certainty, consistency and uniformity of quality of the product grown, processed and sold.

The B.R.C. Standard provides, for the supplier processing company to bear:

  • the implementation of a self-control hygienic system h.a.c.c.p.;
  • the implementation of a quality management system;
  • compliance with environmental regulations
  • the implementation of a product/process control plan;
  • regular training and education of staff.

The B.R.C. Standard is based on two types of certificate: Foundation level (basic level) or Higher level (higher level), issued according to the needs of the organization and the ability of the organization to effectively implement the B.R.C. Technical Standard.

The verification reports issued by the certification body accurately describe the company's performance, highlighting the critical processes of the verified organisation, so that the operator in the supply chain can assess the reliability of potential suppliers.

The I.F.S. Standard provides, for the supplier processing company to bear:

  • quality management (includes h.a.c.c.p.)
  • resource management (human and technology);
  • the management of production processes through specific procedures;
  • the definition of a system for monitoring and controlling processes.

The I.F.S. Standard also has two types of certification: the basic level and the advanced level.

Differently from the B.R.C. certification, the level of certification is not a free choice of the company, but is the result of the activities of verification of the degree of compliance with the requirements of the reference standard.

The final result is obtained through a system of scores and the outcome is determined according to the percentage achieved by the verified company (75% of the basic requirements for the basic level; 90% of the basic requirements and 70% of the advanced requirements for the advanced level).

The achievement of these certifications enhances the activity undertaken by producers and distributors, in an effort to bring added value, both to the consumer (in terms of greater guarantees regarding the specific quality of the product), and to the producer (in terms of higher remuneration of the product sold or conferred, or in terms of "competitive advantage" to access specific markets).

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