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
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
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.