History of the IFS

Supplier audits have been a permanent feature of retailer’s systems and procedures for many years. Until 2003 they were performed by the quality assurance departments of the individual retailers and wholesalers. The ever-rising demands of consumers, the increasing liabilities of retailers and wholesalers, the increasing of legal requirements and the globalisation of product supply, all made it essential to develop a uniform quality assurance and food safety Standard. Also, a solution had to be found to reduce the time associated with a multitude of audits, for both retailers and suppliers.

The associated members of the German retail federation – Hauptverband des Deutschen Einzelhandels (HDE) – and of its French counterpart – Fédération des Entreprises du Commerce et de la Distribution (FCD) – drew up a quality and food safety standard for retailer branded food products, named the IFS Food, which is intended to allow the assessment of suppliers’ food safety and quality systems, in accordance with a uniform approach. This Standard applies to all the post-farm gate stages of food processing.

A version 3 of the IFS Food was developed by the HDE and launched in 2003. In January 2004, an updated version, version 4, was designed and introduced in collaboration with the FCD. Within 2005/2006, the Italian retail associations also showed interest in the IFS. The development of the new version of IFS Food, version 5, is now a collaboration of three retail federations from Germany, France and Italy.

The basic objectives of the International Features Standard are:

  • to establish a common standard with a uniform evaluation system,
  • to work with accredited certification bodies and qualified auditors,
  • to ensure comparability and transparency throughout the entire supply chain,
  • to reduce costs and time for both suppliers and retailers.

IFS started with the publication of IFS Food and then developed further standards, such as IFS Logistic, IFS Household and Personal care.



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