New SQF 9th Edition Changes: What Does This Mean For You
SQF has released the changes they are making from the 8.1 edition to the 9th Edition. The new additions are focused on creating and maintaining a food safety culture at your plant, updated training requirements, recall testing, and supplier and formulation documentation. The SQF auditors have been auditing against Issue 9 since May of 2021. The changes that will be discussed impact the documentation needed to maintain or gain compliance with the new Edition. Be aware that there are additional updated requirements not outlined in the article.
Changes To Food Safety Culture
The most significant change in the 9th Edition is the new mandated Food Safety culture section (126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52).¹ This new section includes the company's policy and plan for your company's food safety culture. To comply with this section, you will need to have a written policy on what you are currently doing and what you are planning to do to improve the food safety culture in the future. Promoting a food safety culture from top to bottom will encourage confidence within the company and consumers.
The accountability of food safety falls on all employees, from the plant manager to the sanitation crew. The primary incentive to include a food safety culture plan will help to keep your plant audit-ready 24/7. Furthermore, you want to make the safest food possible and not just prepare for the next audit.
Changes to Training Requirements
Under the same 2.1 section¹, another aspect of food safety culture that has been added in this section is that there needs to be adequate staff to meet food safety objectives. This includes having an appropriately trained and staffed facility in all departments. Remember, everyone is responsible for food safety.
Speaking of training, section 2.9.1¹ has added the following training requirements; Sampling and tests methods, environmental monitoring for relevant staff, and allergen management, food defense, and food fraud for all appropriate staff.
Changes to Mock Recall Section
In the recall section (2.6.2), a new requirement has been added that when testing the recall system, it must include different shifts and include materials across a range of products and customers. This should be added to your policy on how you perform mock recalls. This points out an important consideration when looking at the safety of the products you produce. Often the newest employees are hired for evening/night shifts, and your most experienced employees are on day shifts. If your current recall plan only does mock recalls on dayshift products, you miss an essential cross-section of employees.
Supplier and Formulation Documentation
The Specifications, Formulations Realization, and Supplier Approval (Section 2.3) had several additions and changes that affect how you document information from your suppliers.
The first added requirements to this section include developing a written plan to review the documents for a product when changes are made to the ingredients, process, or handling.
The second is making sure that your suppliers notify you of any changes to the product composition that could affect product formulation on your end. An automated electronic vendor verification system could manage this by utilizing a system that allows the vendors to upload directly to a system where those in quality can review documents in real-time and notice any changes. An example would be the employees that would have to reformulate a make sheet if changes were made.
Lastly, the SQF 9th Edition requires a program that provides a detailed plan on how your facility notified the appropriate staff of any change in ingredient that impacts food safety (2.3.2). This could be an internal notification to the relevant product managers and supervisors to notify the appropriate line workers of changes. An appropriate employee could be a person that works on standardizing batches, running a piece of equipment that would need to be adjusted if changes were made to the product.
Food Safety Plan Addition
Finally, the newest requirement is that as part of the food safety plan (or HACCP), there needs to be a written plan on recording, correcting, and maintaining corrective actions. This could be registered as a company-wide policy or just a facility-specific one. Ensure clear instructions on what type of document you record and report the corrective action with, where that document is located, and the policies around how to maintain the corrective action. The policy could contain the types of corrective actions needed to fulfill the requirements. So the policy could dictate that you need short-term and long-term corrective action.
For example, during a customer audit, they found that employees were not changing gloves between touching a hose and then touching a food contact surface. There would be a form that you can record this in and then record what you will do immediately to fix the problem and then what you will do long term to make sure that it does not occur. The short-term could be posting notices posted at glove stations about proper glove usages and supervisors talking about it as shift meetings. A long-term action could be to provide glove-specific training in employee annual food safety training.
How to Stay SQF Audit Ready
The SQF's 9th Edition new requirements are pushing the food industry into a new era of food safety. The updates prioritize establishing a food safety culture, emphasizing that the facility needs to be staffed with appropriately trained and numbered employees, and adding numerous supplier and formulation documentation processes. These changes aim to strengthen the foundation of food safety culture within a production company and be proactive about food safety.
Document Compliance Network can help your company meet these changes in the SQF 9th Edition. Our program can help track when employees need internal training (i.e., annual food safety training) or external training (i.e., PCQI re-certification).
In addition, Document Compliance Network will help keep track of documentation required for food culture development. You could also put in your internal audits that have to be regularly performed to get a notification as the due date is approaching so you don't have to run around the day of completing it. Next, it can show which supplier documentation has been submitted and reviewed. You can have it in your policy that they need to leave a note for you when they upload the document if the ingredient has been changed. This way, whenever someone reviews them in our system, they can catch these changes and notify the appropriate employees.
By utilizing automation and a secure cloud-based food safety documentation management system, you can stay SQF audit-ready all year round.
👉 Next Recommended Reading: SQF Certification - All of your SQF Questions Answered
About The Author:
Daria Van De Grift is the Client Success Manager at Document Compliance Network. Daria handles customer service inquiries, software program set up, and creates relevant scientific content for the team.
Daria has received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Food Science and Technology from Oregon State University.