What is SQF?

Safe Quality Food (SQF) is a food safety certification scheme.

The SQF Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is 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.

SQF Highlights:

  • 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

SQF Basics

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.

The SQF 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 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:

  • Download the SQF 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
  • 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

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:

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).


sqf templates SQF Complete Training and Templates Package ($897)

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.

sqf templates and trainingSQF Premium Online Training and Templates Package ($1497)

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.