What is SQF?

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SQF stands for Safe Quality Food and is a food safety certification scheme. The two main things it can do for your organization are:

  • Provide a rigorous system to manage food safety risks and provide safe products for use by companies in the food industry.
  • Provide a recognized food safety certification. This allows your customers to have confidence in your food safety program and know that you have a rigorous food safety system in place.
  • Read more about the benefits of SQF

SQF, by the SQF Insititute, is recognized by GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative). This gives you the recognition you need to supply products to leading manufacturers and retails worldwide. More and more retailers and manufacturers are asking for GFSI recognized certification. Both food processors and food packaging manufacturers are becoming certified to meet customer demands and to stay competitive in the marketplace.

SQF Highlights:

  • Managed by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI)
  • GFSI Recognized to satisfy requirements from leading food and retail customers worldwide
  • SQF is available in 2 levels: SQF Level 2 (Food Safety) and SQF Level 3 (Food Safety and Quality). Your organization can select the one that is right for you. Read more about Levels
  • You can select the GMP/PRP requirements specific to your industry sector. For example, food processing or food packaging manufacturer.
  • Over 5000 companies have been registered worldwide
  • Gain visibility once you are certified—certified companies are listed in a supplier database for potential customers to search.

SQF Requirements: The Basics

Modules—Industry Segments (GMPs/Food Safety Fundamentals)

The SQF Code has different requirements specific to different industry segments, meaning that many different types of food companies can use the SQF Code to build a system that is right for them. This is achieved by presenting requirements in different Modules of the code. Each organization must identify the modules that apply, and meet those requirements.

More information on modules.

Food Safety Management System (Module 2)

The Code contains requirements for a Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

  • It contains requirements for integrated processes that work together to control and minimize food safety hazards.
  • SQF has two levels of certification to choose from that are GFSI recognized:
    Level 2: This level is focused on food safety, and does not include quality requirements.
    Level 3: This level includes both food safety and quality management requirements.
    Your organization can choose which level you will pursue certification for. The code outlines both levels of requirements. It is also possible to start at Level 2 and move to Level 3 in the future.
  • The system includes requirements to build management commitment and involvement, a documented system and document and records control, specifications and product development processes, food safety practices, verification of the processes and system, product identification, traceability and recall processes, site security and food defense processes, allergen management and a training program.
  • The company must designate an SQF Practitioner. This person will be responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the system, as well as the maintenance of the SQF Program. They must be an employee of the company and be trained on SQF and HACCP. For training options see our Complete Training Package, recommended for the SQF Practitioner.
  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) must be used to control hazards, and the people assigned responsibility for the HACCP Plan must be trained in HACCP. For more detail on what HACCP requires, visit our "What is HACCP" page.

To implement the SQF System you will need to:

  • Download the Code and Guidance documents free at www.SQFI.com
  • Learn what is required for the food safety management system
  • Select the applicable modules for your industry segment and activities
  • Register in the SQF database (Reliance database at www.SQFI.com)
  • Designate your SQF Practitioner
  • Design, document and implement the required processes and food safety fundamentals
  • Train your internal audit team
  • Run your system, collect records, perform internal audits, management review and HACCP team meetings.
  • Make corrections and improvements to your system.
  • Select a certification body
  • Schedule and complete your audits

Learn more! Register for our online training:

Learn more about our online training packages

How to build your SQF System

One of the most frequently asked questions about SQF is simply "How?" How do I get Certified?

Subscribe and download your SQF Quickstart Kit. Start learning today.

You will achieve SQF Certification by committing the time and resources to build an effective food safety management system and implementing food safety fundamentals to ensure your facility and environment are capable of producing safe product.

How long does it take, and how much does it cost? This will depend on your organization and what practices and procedures you have in place to start with. Do you have:

  • Good manufacturing practices,
  • A HACCP Plan,
  • Documented procedures, and/or
  • Management commitment to safe food and to building a food safety management system?

The more of those that you can say "Yes" to, the farther along the timeline you are already. These four things provide you with a foundation to build your SQF system upon. If there are some (or all) of these items that are not yet in place, your project will be more demanding.

A good place to start is with a Gap Analysis. This is an audit of your current system to compare it to the requirements of SQF. The results give you a Task List of what must be put into place for compliance to SQF. You can then use this task list to assign responsibilities and a timeline for addressing the items on the list.

How we help you Achieve Certification:

Cynthia Weber, our president, is an FSSC 22000 Lead Auditor for the Food Processing and Food Packaging Manufacturer Industries. Her experience and expertise implementing Food Safety Management Systems is available to you through the tools and training we offer, and through the customer support we provide to customers throughout your implementation project. Customers may email or call Ms. Weber with questions throughout their project.

22000-Tools provides you with the knowledge and tools that you need for a successful certification project. Our online training programs walk you through each step of designing, documenting and implementing your system so you are ready for your certification audit. Versions are available for Food Processors, Pet Food Processors and Food Packaging Manufacturers. Our SQF course series includes:

A. Introduction to System Elements

B. Food Safety Fundamentals

C. The Gap Analysis Checklists and Tutorial

D. Templates and Training

E. Internal Auditing

You may register for the courses one by one, or order the complete series in our "Complete Training Package". For a facility-wide training solution, order our "Premium Package". This package provides your project leader with the complete training and multiple log-ins to allow you to train others in your management team, food safety team and internal audit team. For multi-site organizations we can provide a Corporate Solution. Contact us for a custom quote for Premium Packages for each site, 800-746-3174.