Safe Quality Food (SQF) is one of the world’s leading food safety and quality management systems, designed to meet the needs of retailers and suppliers worldwide. The SQF Program provides independent certification that a supplier’s food safety and quality management system complies with international and domestic food safety regulations. This enables suppliers to assure their customers that food has been produced, processed, prepared, and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain.
Although SQF is designed as a food safety program, it also covers product quality, assuring consistent quality, and meeting buyer specifications. The SQF Program is administered by the SQF Institute (SQFI), a division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and is the result of more than 15 years of development.
SQF certification is supported, and in many cases mandated, by an increasing number of international retailers and foodservice providers, and the SQF Program is part of a landmark agreement among seven global retailers on mutual acceptance of global food safety systems.
The SQF certification program is endorsed by the GFSI. It includes three levels of certification, SQF 2000 Code and Guidance documents for general food processing and specific food industry sectors, as well as optional modules for responsible environmental, social and food defense practices.
Suppliers seeking SQF certification must appoint an SQF Practitioner to maintain and manage their system. The certification program also entails:
- A third-party audit and annual certification that verifies the supplier is adhering to SQF’s rigorous requirements
- A rigorous registration process for auditors
- Additional tools such as guidance documents, self-assessments, audit checklists, and voluntary modules to promote continual improvement of a supplier’s SQF system
Levels of SQF
Level 1: Food Safety Fundamentals
Suppliers must establish pre-requisite programs incorporating fundamental food safety controls. These controls are essential to providing a sound foundation for the production and manufacturing of safe food.
Level 2: Certified HACCP Based Food Safety Plans
In addition to Level 1 requirements, suppliers must complete and document a food safety risk assessment of the product and process using the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) method, as well as an action plan to eliminate, prevent or reduce food safety hazards.
Level 3: Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management System
In additional to Level 1 and Level 2 requirements, suppliers must complete and document a food quality assessment of the product and its associated process, to identify the controls needed to ensure a consistent level of quality.
Why is SQF certification good for my business?
SQF certification is a statement that a supplier’s food safety plans have been implemented in accordance to the HACCP method, and that the validation and verification of the food safety plan has been evaluated and determined effective to manage food safety. Being compliant with SQF demonstrates a supplier’s commitment to:
- Produce safe and quality food
- Comply with the requirements of the SQF code
- Comply with applicable food legislation
It is every company’s obligation to their customers to provide safe and quality food. Currently, many food producers have to undergo multiple audits based on different standards, due to the fact that there is no universally recognized standard for food. Because SQF is accepted by a large number of retailers globally, participating in the SQF certification program will help eliminate much of this redundancy. In addition, a growing number of retailers and wholesalers are requiring their producers and suppliers to implement the SQF program.