What is SQF?
Safe Quality Food (SQF) is a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) designed to provide organizations with a rigorous system to manage food safety risks, provide safe product and provide customers with a recognized food safety certification.
SQF is GFSI Recognized and benchmarked to provide you with the recognition you need to supply products to leading manufacturers and retailers worldwide.
- Managed by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI)
- GFSI Recognized to give you access to leading food and retail customers worldwide
- Ability to choose from Level 2 (Food Safety) or Level 3 ( Food Safety and Quality)
- Ability to choose GMP/PRP requirements specifically for your industry sector. For example, food processing or food packaging manufacture.
- Over 5000 companies registered worldwide
- Certified companies are listed in a supplier database for potential customers to search
The SQF System is 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 SQF code outlines both levels of requirements. It is also possible to start at Level 2 and move to Level 3 in the future. Level 2 is GFSI recognized; in most cases when a customer asks for certification, the Level 2 will satisfy them.
- 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 system. 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:
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
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
- Download the SQF Code and Guidance documents free at www.SQFI.com
The SQF Code requires management to designate an SQF Practitioner to lead the development and implementation of the SQF System.
- The SQF Practitioner will have the responsibility and authority to lead the development and implementation of the Food Safety Fundamentals and the Food Safety Plan.
- The SQF Practitioner will also lead the implementation project and be responsible for the maintenance of the SQF system and ensuring its integrity through validation and verification.
- The SQF Practitioner will play a key role in the communication of information related to the implementation and maintenance of the SQF system.
The SQF Code defines the required qualifications for this role in Section 126.96.36.199 "SQF Practitioner":
188.8.131.52 The SQF practitioner shall:
i. Be employed by the supplier as a company employee on a full-time basis;
ii. Hold a position of responsibility in relation to the management of the supplier's SQF
iii. Have completed a HACCP training course;
iv. Be competent to implement and maintain HACCP based food safety plans; and
v. Have an understanding of the SQF Code and the requirements to implement and maintain SQF System relevant to the supplier scope of certification.
Any size organization in the food industry can become certified. 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.
Certification applies to organizations, not to individuals. An individual may be come a Certified Lead Auditor or SQF Registered consultant.
First and foremost, building and SQF System will provide your company with effective management of food safety hazards by creating an environment capable of producing safe product and a management system to continually manage, monitor, validate and improve the system.
Certification to SQF will also help your company in the marketplace. Many large retail stores and large food companies are asking their suppliers to become Certified. They are looking for certification to a GFSI Recognized certification scheme. SQF is one of those recognized schemes.
Becoming certified to SQF can increase your market opportunities, increase your customer's confidence in your food safety practices and improve your internal processes to ensure safe product.
An update to the SQF Code Edition 7 has been released; the new changes will be effective July 1st of this year. For those companies that have implemented a system that meets the requirements of edition 7, the changes will not involve major changes to the system, but will require a review of specific requirements that have been expanded or clarified in the new edition.
The biggest changes are for Animal Feed, Pet Food and Farming of Plant Products. New modules have been added to address the GMP Requirements for these organizations.
Your organization will choose a level for the Module 2 - System Elements (Level 2, Food Safety or Level 3 Food Safety and Quality) and choose the appropriate GMP module (from Modules 3-15 of the code). Your organization will build its food safety management system based on the requirements in Module 2, using the level you chose, and the GMP Module that applies to your organization.
For example a food processor will use Module 2 and Module 11 and a packaging manufacturer will use Module 2 and Module 13.
Getting ready for registration involves building your Food Safety Management System, documenting that system, and implementing it throughout your organization.
- Do you have a Food Safety Management System or parts of a system in place?
- How much time can personnel devote to working on the Food Safety Management System development each week?
- What tools or assistance will you use?
As you plan your project you will need to think about those questions. You can measure your current Food Safety Management System against the SQF requirements by performing a Gap Analysis.
A Gap Analysis is an audit you perform to see what parts of the SQF Code you already are complying with. It is useful information for planning a timeline for your project.
You will also want to determine how much time will be spent on the project by internal people. Will they be able to spend 5 hours a week on the project? One hour a week? Answer this question so you know what internal resources are available.
Look for tools or assistance to help make your project efficient and effective. A professionally designed and documented SQF Food Safety Management System will save you a tremendous amount of time spent designing your system by trial and error and documenting the system.
By using a professional system you will have a system of procedures that are designed to give you running head start at a well designed, time tested Food Safety Management System. Our systems have been used in thousands of companies from a variety of industries, all over the globe.
There are a series of basic steps to implementing your SQF system. We have tools and training to help you each step of the way.View a list of the 6 Steps
A company will select one of 3 SQF Levels for their certification. A company could build an SQF Level 2 system, achieve registration and then progress to the SQF Level 3 system to move to an integrated food safety and quality management system.
- SQF Level 1 - Focused on food safety fundamentals, this is the most basic level with the fewest requirements. It is most appropriate for low risk operations and does not include a HACCP approach. This level is not recognized by GFSI.
- SQF Level 2 - This level includes food safety fundamentals and a HACCP approach to managing risks and hazards. This level is comparable to the ISO 22000, FSSC 22000 and BRC standards and registration schemes. This level is recognized by GFSI.
- SQF Level 3 - The level 3 requirements include quality requirements in addition to the food safety requirements and is appropriate for the organization that wants to have an integrated system for food safety and food quality. This would be similar to having an ISO 22000 system integrated with an ISO 9001 system.
The Edition 7 has only one standard, but will include different modules for the food safety fundamentals that apply to different segments of the food industry.
Every company will use Module 2, System Elements and add the module that applies to their industry. Food manufacturers and processors will use Module 11. (View more details about each SQF module)The modules are as follows:
- Module 1: Scope, References and Definition
- Module 2: System Elements (Used by all food industries)
- Module 3: Food Safety Fundamentals - Good Agricultural Practices for Single Feed Production
- Module 4: GAP for Compound Feed Production
- Module 5: GAP for Farming of Animal Products
- Module 6: GAP for Farming of Fish
- Module 7: GAP for Farming of Plant Products
- Module 8: GAP for Farming of Grains and pulses
- Module 9: GMP for Pre-processing of Animal Products
- Module 10: GMP for Pre-processing of Plant Products
- Module 11: GMP for Processing of Food Products
- Module 12: GMP for Transport and Distribution of Food Products
- Module 13: GMP for Production of Food Packaging
- Module 14: GMP for Brokers or Agents
- Module 15: GMP for Food Catering, Wholesale and Retail
- Module 16: Requirements for SQF Multi-site Programs Managed by a Central Site
How to build your SQF System
One of the most frequently asked questions about SQF is simply "How?" How do I get SQF Certified?
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 much time, and how much resources? 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.
Resource options and cost estimates for building your system
Do it yourself options:
- SQF Procedures, Food Safety Fundamentals, Forms and Manual Templates
These templates provide you with a foundation to build your system. Instead of starting from a blank page, customize these proven procedures for your system. ($497)
- Premium All-in-One Implementation package
This package provides your SQF Practitioner with all the templates, checklist, tutorials, implementation plans and online training sessions required to get your organization trained and to design, document and implement the SQF System ($1497)
Hands on consulting projects
- Consultants assist with your implementation project. (Consulting quotes from various consultants for an implementation project can be $30,000-60,000 or more).
If your organization wants to build your system without a consultant, make it user friendly and effective, and achieve certification in the most convenient way available, you can get started today with our Complete Training Package.
If your organization wants to build your system without a consultant, make it user friendly and effective, and achieve certification in the most convenient way available, you can get started today with our Premium Training & Templates Package.