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Handler Certification Process

STEP 1: Read Criteria and Procedures

For a clear understanding of the Food Alliance Certification program for processors, packers, and distributors, read the Food Alliance Handling Operations Standards and Procedures Manual (PDF).

Step 2: Application

Download the Food Alliance Certified Handling Operation Application (Microsoft DOC) to print and mail. To ensure your application is complete:

  • Answer all of the questions
  • Sign the application documents where required
  • Provide any necessary supporting documentation
  • Include payment for the application fee.

Handling operations should also submit the Food Alliance Unique Product Application (Microsoft DOC) for processed products to be certified.


STEP 3: Site Inspection

Once your application is received, Food Alliance's third-party auditor, International Certification Services, will contact you to schedule a site inspection.  During the site inspection, the inspector will tour the operation and facilities, interview managers and key staff,  and review relevant records to evaluate performance against the certification standards, using the handler evaluation criteria.


STEP 4: Inspection Report

After the site visit, the auditor will submit a inspection report.

STEP 5: Certification Decision

Once the inspection report is received, it will be reviewed and the certification decision will be made. You will receive a letter specifying the decision and a copy of the site report.

  • Grievance Policy If you feel that the inspector’s findings are unfair or inaccurate, you may submit a request for re-evaluation to Food Alliance. A request must be made in writing within 30 days of receiving the official site report, detailing the perceived inaccuracies of the site inspection. Applicants should also state whether or not they would like to be inspected by a different site inspector. Re-inspections of this nature will be provided to you at no cost. No further appeals will be accepted.  However, you may reapply after you have made changes to your operation as suggested in the site report.


STEP 6: Maintaining Certification

  • Term of the Certification
    The term of certification for processors and distributors is one year. The official start date will be specified in the certification letter along with the products that may be labeled as Food Alliance certified.
  • Ongoing Compliance and Verification
    This certification is designed to provide a basis for marketplace claims of environmental and social responsibility.  In order to ensure the certification criteria are being met at all times, Food Alliance reserves the right, at its own cost,  to conduct unscheduled audits of participating handlers. Operations are either selected at random or  based on specific concerns  identified in the initial inspection.
  • Suspension and Revocation
    If doubts are raised that an operation is not adhering to the certification standards, Food Alliance staff will investigate. If that investigation confirms the certification standards are not being met, that operation's certification will be suspended. Food Alliance will provide the operation's managers the reason(s) for  suspension, specific steps for restoring certification, and a timeline for making the necessary changes. If the violation is remedied within the timeframe,  certification will be restored. Otherwise, the certification will be revoked.
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