Guidance on implementation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

IFIF provides guidance on implementation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

GHS is an internationally agreed-upon system and it addresses the classification of chemicals by type of hazard and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets.

Currently GHS is under implementation worldwide but in some countries or regions, the implementation of GHS has resulted in questions concerning its scope for feed and has led to some uncertainty on the application of the GHS rules for feed ingredients and their mixtures. This can create inconsistencies among feed industry operators understanding on whether GHS needs to be implemented and how.

IFIF has developed the below guidance and tools to help operators and countries to implement GHS requirements worldwide to support a harmonized approach.

Getting started

GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. You may be hearing about GHS if your country or company has considered/adopted the system. It has undergone many changes and version updates since the idea was first introduced at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. At its core, the program was developed to organize the classification, labelling and communication of chemicals around the world in a harmonized way thus enhancing safety and facilitating trade.

The primary audience for GHS are governments, regional institutions and international organizations. The GHS is not a regulation; rather it is a voluntary framework or guidance for classifying and labeling hazardous chemicals. Typically, the GHS standard is incorporated into existing country regulations. Country-specific GHS requirements can usually be found as separate regulations from those that govern animal feed and may not be familiar to those new to GHS. Terms often associated with the scope of GHS include: worker/workplace safety, health and safety, classification and labelling of substances and hazard communication.

IFIF GHS Working Group

GHS has in its scope all chemicals in all industries. The feed industry utilizes numerous chemicals and substances which may pose health or environmental hazards with applications different than traditional “chemicals”. In some countries or regions, the incorporation of GHS into regulations has resulted in questions concerning its scope for feed and has led to some uncertainty on the applicability of the GHS rules for feed ingredients and their mixtures.

A working group was created in the spring of 2017 to harmonize the implementation of GHS in feed where possible and to provide additional sector-specific guidance that may not be available with the GHS standard or national regulations. The working group consisted of IFIF association and industry members from Europe, United States, Canada and Brazil.

Download the IFIF GHS Working Group – Position Paper on the Implementation of GHS.

Tools Available

The following tools and references specific to GHS implementation in feed have been developed by the IFIF GHS Working Group.

GHS overview
This two-page document provides a brief background and intent of the “Purple Book”, the 1000+ page guidance document published by the United Nation on GHS. The summary includes information on what is GHS and how it applies, as well as describes the building block approach of the standard.

GHS Progress Report / Metric
This file summarizes the general implementation status of GHS by country (based on UNECE website). Feed-specific information is also summarized from the IFIF GHS Working Group survey (see below), including: whether the regulatory scope for the feed sector is known, if the feed association was involved in the implementation and/or has developed tools or guidance, and the main issues identified during implementation. Links to country-specific tools and guidance are provided when they exist. Information is organized to help in making decisions on GHS by country.

IFIF GHS Recommendations
This document should be viewed as a foundation upon which individual companies can build their own tailored plans specific to their nation, facility, operations, personnel, and other conditions.

Disclaimer: These recommendations do not constitute a legal advice and should not be relied upon in making or refraining from making, any decision. Their mere purpose is to share good practices of the industry and offer ideas to consider. Please also note that laws vary significantly in different countries, so make sure to consult with applicable legislation while considering any of these recommendations.

For more information on getting started with GHS implementation in feed, contact

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2018 Survey on GHS in Feed
A survey was conducted in Q1’2018 to better understand the state of play of GHS in feed worldwide to better inform the work of the IFIF GHS WG and ensure a harmonized approach.

The survey was sent to all IFIF feed association members in countries where GHS had been identified as having been implemented or in the process of being implemented. The identification of the countries was done using information in the GHS progress report. Questions were asked to better identify the possible implications of GHS for feed ingredients and their mixtures in the country, the issues and specific requirements and if the association is involved in the implementation.

The results of the survey are summarized in a comprehensive worksheet (below), including information on GHS implementation and the implications for feed ingredients and their mixtures. Contact details for each feed association are also provided and can be used for additional country-specific questions.

Introduction to GHS (Webinar, 3E / IFIF 2018)
The webinar provided a background on GHS prior to a survey conducted by the IFIF GHS Working Group of its members in early 2018. During the webinar, an external expert introduces GHS, the regulatory landscape and state of play in the world, specifically Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. IFIF association members from Canada, European Union and United States also provide their experience on how GHS has impacted their members and how they are dealing with new regulatory requirements.