Equitable Food Initiative
Responsibly Grown. Farmworker Assured™
What is Equitable Food Initiative?
The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) cultivates a healthier, safer and more sustainable produce supply chain by combining food safety, pesticide management, and the fair treatment of workers under one certification. EFI’s coalition of growers, retailers, unions, NGOs, and consumer rights groups developed the EFI Standards, which include indicators for responsible labor and environmental practices, and increased worker involvement in food safety management. EFI certification requires the training of farmworkers, an annual third-party audit, and ongoing worker-led verification of compliance with EFI Standards.
Why Choose SCS?
SCS worked with EFI to write, pilot and launch their standard in agricultural production based on our decades of experience in food safety and sustainable agriculture assessment. Thus, SCS became the first certification body auditing to the EFI Standards.
SCS is proud to be a member of APSCA, a professional international association promoting the use of reputable independent social audits as a tool to advance workplace conditions globally. We work with APSCA certified auditors who this association identifies as highly experienced social auditing experts with an in depth knowledge in management systems, health and safety, and labor inspections.
- Program Details
- APSCA Member
- Program Documents
EFI Standards apply to all fresh fruit and vegetable crops, focusing on three core components: labor practices, pesticide application, and food safety.
EFI Labor Standards: Labor indicators ensure that a safe, dignified and professional workplace is provided that promotes collaboration between management and farmworkers. The indicators include worker health and safety, freedom of association, fair wages, benefits and conditions of employment, freedom from discrimination and retaliation, dispute settlement, employer-provided housing, and protections for H2A and guest worker programs applicable to farmworkers.
EFI Pesticide Standards: Pesticide indicators promote an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, emphasizing the use of biological and cultural tools for crop and pest management rather than the use of highly hazardous pesticides, therefore minimizing the impact of pesticides on workers and the environment. The indicators include the management of pests, soil, water, and habitat, and promote IPM.
EFI Food Safety Standards: Food Safety indicators, including farmworker hygiene alongside water use, soil amendments, land use, animals, harvest, and post-harvest activities, are linked to worker training that creates a culture of food safety on the farm.
EFI Processing & Packing Standards: Processing & Packing indicators that must be met to receive and maintain EFI certification for farms that have their processing and packing operations in scope.
EFI Ethical Charter Addendum: The Addendum is based on the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices where most of its principles are already covered by the EFI Social Standards, however, the ECA covers additional items that were not included. This is audited in conjunction with the EFI Social Standards upon request by the grower.
Contact EFI to discuss your operations in more detail. This allows EFI to get a better understanding of what will be required for your farm to achieve certification, before issuing a quote for service.
EFI works with the farm to develop a Leadership Team that represents all parts of the workforce. The Leadership Team receives advanced training to help bring the farm into compliance with the EFI Standards.
Auditing and Certification
SCS audits the farm and its workforce to assess compliance with the EFI Standards. A corrective action plan, which addresses any non-compliances, must be completed before a certification can be issued.
Once certified, products can be labeled with the “Responsibly Grown. Farmworker Assured.TM” certification mark, after a Licensing Agreement has been signed.
The Leadership Team monitors the operations throughout the year to assure the certification is being maintained.
EFI requires follow-up engagements and on-going training in order to achieve re-certification on a yearly basis.
How does EFI differ from other standards that address similar issues?
Ongoing worker involvement in monitoring and verification sets EFI apart from existing certification processes. The produce industry takes food safety concerns very seriously and has developed measures to address them. Under EFI standards, farm workers are directly involved in the design and implementation of protocols, and are trained to work together with management to reduce pesticide and pathogen risks. Most farms are already required to comply with a range of generic and retailer-specific standards, for which they are audited. But even the most comprehensive third-party audits can only provide a snapshot of compliance levels on a given day. EFI approach creates both an on-farm mechanism (the Leadership Team) and an incentive (improved working conditions assured by the Standard) through which farm workers can work with management to identify and address threats to food safety and social accountability on a continuous basis.
How can I prepare for EFI Certification?
- Familiarize yourself with the EFI Standard, Scheme Summary, and Certification Requirements to better understand the certification requirements.
- Contact EFI to schedule a Grower Mapping visit, where a pathway for certification is developed, along with a customized training plan.
Does EFI recognize any other standards for equivalency?
EFI significantly reduces the length of the audit for operations holding qualified GlobalGAP and SQF certifications. Additional certifications are currently being benchmarked in order to continue reducing the audit burden on growers.
What types of companies and products are eligible for EFI certification?
The EFI audit applies generally to all fruit and vegetable crops.
How will EFI certification benefit our company in the global marketplace?
EFI is recognized in the North American market by a large number of retailers including Walmart, Costco, and Whole Foods.
How long does an EFI audit take to complete?
The audit duration depends on the number of sites (farms and facilities) to be included in the audit scope however a typical audit will be 3 days with two auditors onsite.
How often does a company have to go through EFI audits to remain certified?
The EFI certificate is valid for three years but does require successful completion of annual verification audits in order to maintain a good certification standing.
Would EFI fulfill my requirement to meet the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices?
Yes. The EFI Ethical Charter Addendum assesses compliance with the principles in the Ethical Charter that are not addressed by the EFI Social Standards and can be included in the audit scope upon request.
Where can consumers find EFI-certified products?
For a complete list of companies in the EFI program, please refer to the official EFI website here.
EFI works collaboratively to deliver:
- Integrated approach for food safety, working conditions, and pesticide management
- Stronger relationships among growers, customers and farm workers
- Ongoing verification of compliance to Standards, assuring a safer, more sustainable product for retailers and consumers
- Trained, more engaged farm workforce, providing added product assurance for growers, retailers and consumers
- Collaborative, inclusive approach to creating industry relevant solutions that address retail and consumer needs
SCS is proud to be a member of APSCA, a professional association promoting the use of reputable independent social compliance audits as a tool to advance workplace conditions globally.
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