Consumers rely on food manufacturers to guarantee the quality and safety of the products they purchase and consume. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program is designed to meet those expectations, delivering a certification recognized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers globally. Wondering how to best prepare for the SQF audits for a successful certification? Read on to find tips, best practices and self-assessment checklists to help align your organisation’s systems and processes to SQF standards.
What is SQFI – The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute?
The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program is a globally recognized certification, benchmarked on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) that guarantees safe food standards. SQFI is a leading global provider of food safety and quality assurance certification programs, and one of a handful of GFSI – approved certification schemes. The certifications are offered based on their comprehensive SQF Code, which includes food safety and quality requirements from farm to fork.
The SQF program was launched in 1994, with the latest SQF Code Edition 9 in effect for audits since May 2021. The updated code provides more detailed coverage of each aspect of the food supply chain. As a result, you can select from an array of certifiable criteria that best suits your company’s needs.
How does the SQF program differ from other GFSI-approved certification schemes? Each program focuses on a different scope/area of the supply chain, the 2 most popular ones being SQF and BRC standards. The BRC standard emphasizes quality, food safety, and legality, whereas the SQF standard may be better suited to larger organizations. Also, in contrast to BRC audits, which are sometimes unannounced, SQF audits must be announced in advance.
Read more about the BRC standards and the advantages of digitized BRC self-assessments with GoAudits auditing app: How to Optimize Your BRC Audits.
4 Advantage of Certifying to SQF Standards
Depending on your company’s current level of certification and on several factors, it takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years or more in order to become certified, but there are many advantages to obtaining a SQF certification, including the following:
1. Compliance with regulatory requirements
SQF certification helps companies comply with food safety regulations, including the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the United States and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) requirements.
2. Enhanced reputation
SQF certification is recognized globally as a mark of excellence in food safety and quality. By being SQF certified, companies can demonstrate their commitment to food safety, enhance their reputation, and differentiate themselves from competitors.
3. Increased customer confidence
SQF certification provides assurance to customers that the products are safe, of high quality, and meet regulatory requirements. This can help to build trust and loyalty among customers and increase sales.
4. Cost savings
SQF certification can help to reduce costs associated with product recalls, rework, and waste. By implementing robust food safety controls, companies can avoid costly mistakes and improve operational efficiency.
Adapting SQF Audits to the Digital Era
Ahead of the SQF audit by a third party, organizations need to conduct a series of SQF self-assessments and internal audits. During this process, they assess the company’s food safety and quality management systems, documentation, and operational practices against the requirements set out in the relevant SQF Code, typically resulting in a gap analysis and a corrective action plan. For larger organizations and processes, this can quickly become a complex project.
Traditionally, this process involved a lot of manual paperwork and admin, which could be time-consuming and prone to errors. However, you can now use digital auditing software to automate many of the processes involved in the SQF auditing process. This will help you work more efficiently and increase the buy-in from all the stakeholders within your organization.
Use digital SQF audit checklists on the GoAudits app to ensure the highest standards in every area and every day, without the paperwork and extra admin workload.
Our comprehensive auditing software helps you automate many of the manual tasks involved in the inspection process, such as data collection and analysis. In the smart dashboards, with the help of the real-time data collection and the instant reporting feature your company and the external auditors can access up-to-date information about the performance of your inspections at any time.
Measure your SQF certification readiness with audit scores
Obtaining a successful SQF certification requires you to have a score of at least 70%. Using GoAudits, you’ll have access to automated scoring and reliable insights ahead of the external SQF audit.
The reports will pinpoint every non-conformance or critical non-conformance in the facility. The task owner is made aware of the issue and they can create tasks with further corrective actions assigned to specific team members, internally or externally. The best part?
This whole process can be automated. With this approach, you can rest assured that your certification audit will go through without a hitch and that you’ll receive the certificate in no time.
Free SQF Audit Checklists
You can start your SQF self-assessments immediately, simply check out the FREE SQF Audit Checklists from the GoAudits checklist library:
- SQFI Quality Checklist
- SQFI Food Packaging Checklist
- SQFI Food Manufacturing Audit Checklist
- SQFI Storage And Distribution Checklist
- SQFI Primary Plant Production Checklist
- SQFI Primary Animal Production Checklist
- SQFI Aquaculture Checklist
- SQFI Pet Food Manufacturing Checklist
- SQFI Animal Product Manufacturing Checklist
- SQFI Manufacturing of Food Packaging Checklist
Find more Food Safety Checklists in our checklist library