The SQF food safety certification program is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized scheme applicable to supply chain sectors from primary production through retail. The program is maintained and owned by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a trade association of food retailers. Farming operations, food and packaging manufacturers, storage and distribution operations, and retailers are eligible for certification.
Supply chain operations are certified against a set of food safety management system requirements, which are published in the SQF Code. The Code is now in its 8th edition.
In edition 8, the Code is broken out into seven different standards. This includes five separate Food Safety Codes aimed at improving the applicability of food safety requirements for each supply chain sector. It also includes a Food Safety Fundamentals standard (formerly SQF Level 1) to align with GFSI’s Global Markets Program and Quality Code (formerly SQF Level 3) for businesses seeking certification of both their food safety and quality systems.
- SQF Food Safety Fundamentals (not GFSI benchmarked)
- SQF Food Safety Code for Primary Production
- SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacturing
- SQF Food Safety Code for Storage and Distribution
- SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacture of Food Packaging
- SQF Food Safety Code for Food Retail
- SQF Quality Code (not GFSI benchmarked)
Click here to download each standard and guidance document from the Safe Quality Food Institute’s (SQFI) website.
In increasing numbers, major North American retailers are requiring GFSI-recognized certification from their suppliers. SQF certification meets this requirement and provides assurance that a site’s food safety plan and management system are implemented in accordance with Codex Alimentarius HACCP principles and food regulations such as those set forth in European Food Law and the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). SQF certification shows buyers that the company is committed to the production, distribution, and sale of safe, quality food for consumers.
FoodChain ID Certification in America is accredited to certify sites to the SQF Code through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). We have extensive experience in third party certification for the food and beverage industry, which is matched by our commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. At FoodChain ID Certification, our customers are our top priority and we demonstrate this through close communication throughout the certification process.
Is your company considering SQF certification? If so, FoodChain ID Certification’s team of certification experts can help explain the process and get you started.
Download the applicable SQF Food Safety Code (edition 8) from www.sqfi.com and review certification process and standard requirements. Decide whether the SQF program is right for your business.
Assign one or more SQF practitioners for the site and complete training in Implementing SQF Systems available online through Alchemy (SQFI’s training partner) or in-person through a SQF licensed training center. Learn more about SQF training by visiting SQF Training and Examination FAQs.
Independent SQF consultants (optional) may be used to help develop the system, but the Code requires a designated SQF practitioner for each site who is a full-time employee of the company, trained in HACCP and competent to implement a food safety plan and all requirements of the SQF system.
Contact FoodChain ID Certification in the USA for an SQF application. Complete the application in full and return to FoodChain ID Certification staff for a proposal. FoodChain ID Certification will confirm the scope of audit, which includes relevant food sector categories (FSCs) for your company’s products or processes, applicable standard and audit duration, and assign a SQF registered auditor qualified to audit in your sector category. The scope of audit and certification fees will be detailed in the Certification Proposal and Agreement for your approval.
We recommend contacting us at least 3 months in advance of your desired audit time frame.
- Register the site in ReposiTrak and select FoodChain ID Certification as your certification body
- Implement your SQF system with a recommended minimum of 2 months of records
- Conduct a gap analysis against Code requirements using the applicable SQF self-assessment checklist or contact FoodChain ID Certification to schedule a pre-assessment audit (optional)
Pre-assessment audits do not result in certification but are a way for the site to determine their level of preparedness by a qualified auditor. (Note that the same auditor cannot conduct both the pre-assessment audit and certification audit).
Initial SQF audits are conducted in two stages: desk audit and facility audit. The desk audit is conducted first and is an assessment of SQF system documentation. Non-conformities resulting from the desk audit must be corrected before the site can advance to the facility audit.
Prior to the facility audit, FoodChain ID Certification will provide a Visit Plan to the site, which describes audit format and scope, section requirements and an approximate timeline to ensure processes and relevant staff are available for assessment. Eighty percent of the facility audit is conducted through direct observation, personnel interviews, and records review.
During the closing meeting of the facility audit, the auditor reviews any identified non-conformities with site personnel and provides a non-conformity report. Within 10 days of the audit, FoodChain ID Certification reviews the auditor’s initial report and makes it available to the site in ReposiTrak (SQF Assessment Database). The site is responsible for correcting audit non-conformities within 30 days of the audit and uploading correction action evidence to the database. Site corrective actions are reviewed, verified and approved by the auditor and FoodChain ID Certification, upon which an independent certification decision is made within 45 days of the audit. Where certification is granted, a final audit report (including approved corrective actions) and certificate are provided to the site via ReposiTrak.
Certified sites are publically searchable through ReposiTrak, but audit reports cannot be shared without site permission.
To learn more about SQF certification, click here to download your complimentary white paper “Preparing for SQF Certification”.
The minimum duration for an on site audit under Food Safety Codes of edition 8 is 2 days with the exception of Primary Production and Food Retail.
Consider the following key changes to the Food Safety Codes when updating your SQF system.
- Some FSC’s have changed such as the inclusion of nuts to FSC 14 and expansion of FSC 26 to include both perishable and ambient storage/ distribution of food products
- Contact FoodChain ID Certification to confirm FSC’s applicable to your company’s products and processes under the new edition
System Elements (formerly Module 2) highlights
- SQF practitioners must report matters impacting the SQF system to management on a monthly basis
- SQF practitioners are responsible for ensuring staff are trained in the site’s food safety practices. This includes proficiency testing for those performing on site environmental monitoring and product testing
- Risk-based supplier audits performed by knowledgeable individuals trained in auditing techniques
- Environmental monitoring for all risk levels
- Product changeover inspections and practices to ensure correct packaging and labels
- Documented food fraud vulnerability assessment and mitigation plan
- Annual review and verification of the food fraud and food defense plans, which includes controls to protect incoming goods from fraud and acts of sabotage as a part of the supplier approval program
- Mitigation measures for unintended allergens and gluten (where applicable)