What is SQF?
Safe Quality Foods (SQF) was first developed in Australia in 1994 and recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative in 2004.¹ The standard was purchased by Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in 2003 and now benefits from direct input from food retailers, manufacturers, and production companies. The SQF codes Edition 9 was published in October 2020 and was established as the auditing standard effective May 24, 2021. SQF program is recognized by food retailers, foodservice providers, and buyers around the world.
Why do companies choose SQF?
SQF benefits both suppliers and buyers! The SQF is the only GFSI program that covers the entire supply chain (farm to fork) for suppliers. Additional resources like checklists and guidance documents and a full-time customer service team are available to all companies registered with SQF. After the implementation of the program, suppliers have also observed improved traceability and reduction of recalls.
Having an SQF certification helps when approaching a new buyer for many reasons. They know that your facility complies with a rigorous, accredited, global program and meets most regulatory requirements on the buyer's side. In addition, having an SQF certified facility conveys that as a supplier, the facility is focused on hazard analysis, risk assessment, and proactive prevention to reduce the frequency of recalls.²
As the rigor of food safety increases, the SQF certification has become a prerequisite for many suppliers. Buyers can also use this certification as a basic standard when seeking out additional suppliers.
How To Get A SQF Certification?
The first step is to decide which of SQF’s four programs your facility will need. You can click here to access a quiz to see which program is right for you.
1. SQF Fundamentals Program³
Preferred for small and medium-sized food companies
Helps to establish a food safety management program or replace the current one with a better robust system.
Help the suppliers take steps to getting a GFSI certification
2. SQF Food Safety Program³
Provides the facility with HACCP based approach to meeting regulation
The Business need a GFSI audit to be approved by retailer’s and buyer’s
3. SQF Food Safety and Quality Program
This is for a facility that already has an established SQF food safety program
This focuses on the continuation of monitoring and control of food safety risks
4. SQF Ethical Sourcing Program⁴
A supplementary program that focuses on ensuring socially and environmentally responsible practice in sourcing products.
How To Get SQF Certified
There are eight steps to get SQF certified.⁵
1. Learn about the SQF code
There are several options to learn the SQF code, including attending an SQF sponsored information event (online or in-person) or reading the code yourself to become familiar.
2. Register Your Company in the SQF Assessment Database
There are different classifications based on how big your company is.
3. Designate an Employee as the SQF Practitioner
This person will need to meet the requirements outlined in section 220.127.116.11 of the SQF Code.
The designated employee will need to know about the code and be able to implement it. Taking or attending an SQF class is a good way to make sure your practitioner is competent You can find online resources here.
As per the updated 9th edition, there needs to be a backup or replacement SQF practitioner. They need to be as informed about the code as the assigned practitioner.
4. Choose your type of certification
Select from the first three options in the list above.
5. Obtain Proposals from SQF Licensed Certification Bodies
Click here to search for the nearest licensed body.
6. Conduct a Pre-Assessment (Optional)
This can be done by your onsite practitioner and identifies the “gaps” in your current program.
7. Choose a Certification Body and Schedule an Audit
The certification body will give you options and then pick which one will suit your facility the best
8. Certification Body Conducts Initial Certification Audits
The audit will consist of a Document Review (Desk Audit) and a Facility Assessment (Facility Audit)
What does an SQF Certification cost?
The central part of the audit will vary depending on the size and additional programs you add to the audit. Furthermore, there is the expense of any corrective actions that may be needed.
A typical initial certification for SQF includes two parts (Desk and Facility Audit) and lasts approximately two days. The cost could range between $7,300 and $9,000. Then the re-certification, which is typically two days will cost between $4,500 and $6,000.
How To Stay SQF Audit Ready at All Times
The SQF Fundamentals, Food Safety, and Food Safety and Quality Program require a traceability program and a documentation management program. For many companies, this falls on the quality assurance department.
Quality has a lot of other items on their list to do other than constantly updating paperwork. One way to take the documentation off of the Quality Department's plate is to automate documentation collection. Not only are internal documents important, but keeping on top of the documents required of your supplier leads to your traceability program.
Document Compliance Network automates all required food safety documentation and tracks internal documentation that needs to be reviewed annually, so you never have to scramble to meet the review deadline. Using an automated food safety documentation system means never fearing a food safety documentation audit again - request a demo of Document Compliance Network.
For example, SQF mandates that the HACCP plan be reviewed quarterly, so you can have it set up in DCN to send you an email 30 days before the HACCP plan review deadline. An electronic food safety documentation management system will also help during an audit when all your documents are now in a central searchable format.
👉👉 Next Recommended Reading: SQF Edition 9 - Latest Changes
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.