How to Prepare for a Costco Audit (GFSI Based)

  The Costco Audit is “basically” GFSI Wouldn’t it be great to get your food products into Costco? Costco has close to 800 stores and over 200 locations outside the United States. Costco is the third largest retailer in the ...

How to Prepare for a Costco Audit (GFSI Based)


The Costco Audit is “basically” GFSI

Wouldn’t it be great to get your food products into Costco? Costco has close to 800 stores and over 200 locations outside the United States. Costco is the third largest retailer in the United States and is still growing! Just think of the income, yikes!

But getting your product into Costco can be difficult. After Costco has decided they are interested in your product, you must pass Costco’s food safety audit . Costco has its own proprietary audit for food manufacturing, packing, warehousing, and food distribution which is based on GFSI benchmarked standards with Costco’s own customization.

How do you prepare for and pass a Costco food safety audit? An easy way would be to use FoodReady certified experienced GFSI consultants from industry backgrounds to do an on-site Costco mock-audit of your facility and have FoodReady develop and write your entire Costco program and all the documentation. Use the FoodReady software platform to establish, implement, and maintain your whole Costco food safety program.  FoodReady software and our food safety consultants also can help you with SQF, HACCP, GFSI, GMP, gap analysis, mock audits, etc. 

Here’s a brief (very, very, brief, because Costco is very, very, thorough, and it would take very, very, long, to explain their process in its entirety) overview of some of the Costco audit requirements on their checklist.

Costco Has its own Audit Process

Having a GMP and an SQF is great, but to get your product into Costco, you need to follow their proprietary audit for food safety.

The Twelve Categories of a Costco Audit

1.     Product Changes – whether the product has changed from the facility registration information

2.     Facility Information – facility details, facility allergens

3.     Management Systems – management policies, organization, written procedures (pertaining to food safety), regulatory requirements, recalls/complaints/crisis management

4.     Food Safety Systems – HACCP, product contamination, allergens, food safety training

5.     Quality Systems – QA/QC (quality control) program, supplier certification, equipment calibration, good laboratory practices (if there is an on-site laboratory)

6.     Grounds, Buildings, Equipment (maintenance, cleanliness), – grounds plant facility, equipment, facility maintenance

7.     Pest Control

8.     Employee Practices

9.     Receiving, Storage and Shipping

10. Processing – raw materials, process controls

11. Sanitation – cleaning and sanitizing systems, cleaning equipment, chemicals, cleaning sanitation, and housekeeping procedures.

12. Food Defense – food defense program, food defense observations

All in all, there are 24 pages of this checklist, each of the twelve categories has numerous sub-categories, and all need to be within Costco’s parameters for your product to get onto their shelves. WOW! How is anyone supposed to pass this? Well, we do have a free 14-day trial of our software, and we do offer consulting services for our enterprise clients. GFS


Critical documentation for passing a Costco audit includes comprehensive records of your food safety management system, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plans, SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification documents (if applicable), employee food safety training records, product testing and monitoring records, supplier certification and verification documents, equipment maintenance and calibration logs, pest control records, and food defense plans. Detailed and organized documentation is crucial as it demonstrates your ability to monitor and control food safety risks consistently.
Costco evaluates a supplier’s food defense program by examining the measures in place to protect food products from intentional adulteration and contamination. This includes assessing physical security of the facility, employee access controls, supplier and ingredient verification processes, and procedures for handling security breaches or threats. Costco looks for comprehensive, proactive measures that ensure the integrity and safety of food products throughout the supply chain.
Mock audits are a critical component of preparing for the actual Costco audit. They help identify gaps in food safety practices and documentation, providing a “trial run” that allows companies to address issues before the official audit. Conducting mock audits with the assistance of experienced GFSI consultants, as offered by FoodReady, can simulate the rigor of Costco’s audit process, offering valuable insights and opportunities for improvement, thereby increasing the likelihood of passing the actual audit.

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Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks is the Director of Content and a Food Safety Advisor for FoodReady. Saro is certified in HACCP and a trained SQF Practitioner. When Saro is not editing, writing, or advising new customers on what food safety goals they should pursue, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking gluten-free sourdough bread, and playing Mahjong.
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