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Safe Quality Food (SQF) Certification

Meet regulatory, food safety, and quality requirements

About the SQF Program

The Safe Quality Food or SQF program is designed to help manufacturers demonstrate to food buyers and suppliers worldwide that the certified company meets certain regulatory, food safety, and quality requirements.

SQF offers a seamless approach to a "Field to Fork" supply chain certification philosophy, providing for primary production, food manufacture and distribution.

The SQF Code meets the needs of all suppliers in the food industry through an internationally recognized certification system, featuring an emphasis on the systematic application of HACCP for control of food safety hazards. The implementation of an SQF management system addresses a buyer’s food safety requirements and provides an option for adding a quality component. By adding the quality component, companies can use the SQF Quality Shield on their products.

Benefits of SQF Certification

  • Competency in producing, processing, packaging and distributing safe food
  • Customer and consumer confidence
  • Business development
  • Continuous improvement of your food safety and quality systems
  • Proven business risk reduction strategy
  • Improved performance during regulatory inspections and/or other stakeholder assessments
  • Reduced assessment inconsistencies and costs of multiple assessment standards

SQF Certification Process

Achieving SQF certification in accordance with the requirements of SQF Code, Edition 9, involves the following steps:

  1. Learn about the SQF Code: Copies of each of the codes used for SQF certification are available for download at www.sqfi.com. In addition, licensed training centers – including TÜV SÜD America – offer training on Code requirements, and how they apply to specific food operations.
  2. Register your company on the SQF Assessment Database: Producers, suppliers and retailers seeking SQF certification are required to register on the SQF Assessment Database. Registration is required prior to scheduling an SQF audit and obtaining certification.
  3. Designate an employee as the SQF practitioner: The Code requires that parties seeking certification have a qualified SQF practitioner on site to validate and verify compliance with fundamental food safety requirements. Practitioner qualifications include the completion of a HACCP-based training course, and a thorough understanding of the Code requirements.
  4. Choose the specific type of certification: The next step in the certification process is to select the type/level of certification to pursue. These are Fundamentals, Food Safety, or Food Safety and Quality, as described previously.
  5. Obtain proposals from SQFI-licensed certification bodies: Only testing organizations that have been qualified and licensed by the SQFI may conduct certification audits in accordance with the requirements of SQF Code, Edition 9. Therefore, obtaining proposals from licensed certification bodies can help ensure the timely scheduling and completion of the required certification audit. TÜV SÜD America is an SQFI licensed certification body.
  6. Conduct a certification pre-assessment (optional): Conducted either by an SQF practitioner or an auditor from a certification body, a certification pre assessment can be an invaluable exercise in identifying gaps between SQF Code requirements and current practices. It provides a roadmap for achieving compliance with Code requirements ahead of a certification audit.
  7. Choose a certification body and schedule an audit: Having completed all of the previous steps, it’s time to select the certification body that best meets the facility-specific requirements, and schedule the certification audit. Limitations to keep in mind are the size and location of the facilities to be audited, as well as the number of auditors available, and the geographic proximity of auditors to do the certification.
  8. Certification body conducts certification audit: The initial certification audit consists of both a document review (also known as a desk audit) and a facility assessment (the facility audit). Once issued, certifications are effective for a period of three years. Keep in mind, certified facilities are subject to a minimum of one unannounced audit during the certification period.

The length of time required to complete the entire certification process can vary widely from facility to facility. Considerations such as the current state of a facility’s food safety management system, the number of products or process lines to be covered by the scope of the certification, and the complexity of the processes to be evaluated can lengthen (or shorten) the process. However, an average of one year from the beginning of the certification process to achieving certification is a reasonable estimate for most facilities.

SQF Certification Process

Our SQF Certification Services

TÜV SÜD is accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) under the SQF certification scheme and was one of the first certification bodies in the United States to offer SQF auditing and certification services. We can also evaluate and verify HACCP plans for compliance with regulations of the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Click here to access SQFI website.

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