No food business/company wants to be on the recall list and public health hazard list on the US Department of Agriculture. The expenses related to the recalls and the reputational damage can reach millions of dollars. Furthermore, there are possible expenses related to the legal fees and PR campaigns. Measures can be taken to prevent such situations by establishing safety practices at facilities and working with manufacturers. Considering an SQF certification can be a game-changer. Therefore, companies must know what is SQF, and how meeting the highest global food safety standards can be beneficial for the business.
What is SQF certification?
It is a GFSI or Global Food Safety Initiative that was developed in 2000 to address the rise of food safety issues. Having an SQF certification helps to build trust and reliability among customers in the food they purchase. The global food safety management practices and standards are a benchmark in the food and associated businesses. SQF stands for safety, quality food that sets businesses in the food-service industry. The motive behind developing SQF is to render safe and protected food production and preparation procedures.
Manufacturers who have an SQF certification ensure the customers the processes of their food and the ingredients cater to the highest standards of global safety. The certification covers regulations for customers, industries, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the supply chain operation. Businesses need to understand what is SQF so that they are aware of the ways and strategies to manage food safety risks aptly.
SQF certification incorporates six divisions of codes:
- Food retail
- Food packaging
- Storage distribution
- Quality control
Levels of SQF
Overall, there are three levels of Safety Quality Food certification.
- Level 1 is the most fundamental and it applies in cases where the risks are low.
- Level 2 applies to rigorous standards and the food safety plans in this level are certified with HACCP.
- Level 3 applies stricter standards. It has GFSI-backed standards like level 2 but is stricter with international standard laws and regulations.
The importance of SQF certification
The following points clarify the importance of SQF certification.
- Handles business risks better
For any kind of negligence in food production, businesses are held accountable. SQF certification ensures that the business is effectively handling the risks related to food.
- Helps business expansion
When an organization in the food industry is planning to have a license, and expand the market, it is necessary to have compliant regulations. Having a certification is key when working with reputed and prominent brands. Thus, it is important to have a clear understanding of what is SQF and how it can help in expanding a business.
- Edge over other competitors
Almost every company out there expects its suppliers to have SQF and other global food safety and quality certifications. Hence, the business must have one so that they can compete in the marketplace, and with safety standard certifications having an edge over rivals is possible.
- Meet the requirements easily
A time will come when it will be mandatory for every small, mid-sized, and large-scale organization in the food industry to have global food safety and quality certifications to do business. Furthermore, having the certificate is helping in catering to the new requirements of the governmental regulations.
Steps to SQF certification
The motive behind an SQF certification is to protect the safety and health of the public worldwide. The process of acquiring the certificate is quite rigorous and challenging. It covers auditing, implementing, educating, and maintaining the standards in every aspect of a food business. The steps to acquire the certification are mentioned below:
- The representatives from the food packaging manufacturer must learn about what is SQF code by seeking courses or self-training.
- The second step includes a manufacturer registering for an audit.
- This is followed by the manufacturer employing a full-time employee as an SQF practitioner.
- Completion of the HACCP-based training course is vital and one must understand the SQF codes.
- The manufacturer chooses the desired certification on foo, safety, quality, fundamentals, etc.
- Finally, the manufacturer acquires SQF-licensed proposals from globally accredited bodies
Moreover, it is found that manufacturers often carry out pre-evaluations, which are led by an SQF auditor. After checking the loopholes and gaps in the processes, the time comes to opt for a proposal and thereby schedule an audit and wait for the certification. Primarily two audits are conducted, a document assessment, and facility review. The procedure is all about establishing the best practices of global food safety standards. Food manufacturers have to go through the audits yearly so that they can maintain the standards for food safety and quality.
Time required to get SQF certification
Incorporating SQF varies widely from one business to others, ranging from 6 months and 2 years, and sometimes even more. Several factors come into consideration for the time required to get hold of SQF certification.
- If a business already has a HACCP program, the time and work required for SQF implementation are lesser and not excessively tiresome.
- It is vital to have a basic understanding of the SQF requirements. It is simple errors that often delay the whole procedure.
- The business mustn’t make the mistake of deploying all the responsibility to a single member. If the situation is so, mistakes and errors are bound to happen. Henceforth, it is recommended to consider a dedicated team effort.
- There is no harm in seeking assistance and help from an SQF consulting company, which can help the process of SQF certification faster and more efficiently.
For food manufacturers and food retailers, SQF certification can significantly reduce the risks and challenges associated with supply chain operations in the food industry. Issues in the supply chain operations can result in recalls by the Food Department and thereby cause financial impact. Thus, it becomes necessary for food businesses to understand what is SQF, how to acquire the certification, and how the certification can help the business expand, reduce risks, and have an edge over rivals in the marketplace.