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The Basics: SQF Certification

Updated: Apr 30

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Many copackers opt for higher standards, standards that are outlined, verified, and upheld by third-party companies. SQF, or Safe Quality Food, is one of the more well-known and accepted programs. Let's take a look at what SQF is, what companies change to implement it, and the benefits of using a copacker who is SQF compliant and certified. Here are the basics:


SQF is a rigorous food safety and quality management system designed to ensure the safety and quality of food products throughout the supply chain. The SQF Program is recognized globally and is administered by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), which is a division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).


The SQF Program provides a framework for food manufacturers, processors, distributors, and other food-related businesses to implement food safety and quality management systems. It includes requirements for food safety fundamentals (such as HACCP principles), good manufacturing practices (GMPs), and quality management practices.

SQF certification involves a thorough audit of a company's food safety and quality management systems by third-party auditors. The certification process verifies that a company's operations comply with the SQF Program's stringent standards and that they have effective processes in place to ensure the safety and quality of their products.


Achieving SQF certification demonstrates a company's commitment to producing safe and high-quality food products and provides assurance to customers, retailers, and regulatory agencies that the company's products meet the highest standards of food safety and quality.


To achieve SQF certification, a company typically needs to implement a series of changes and improvements to its operations to meet the requirements of the SQF Program. Here are some common types of changes a company may need to make:


1. Documentation and Record-Keeping: Implementing comprehensive documentation and record-keeping systems to track all aspects of food safety and quality management, including procedures, policies, training records, corrective actions, and product traceability.


2. HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) System: Developing and implementing a HACCP plan based on the seven principles of HACCP to identify, prevent, and control food safety hazards at critical points in the production process.


3. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs): Ensuring compliance with GMPs, which are the basic operational and environmental conditions necessary for the production of safe and quality food products. This includes practices related to facility cleanliness, personnel hygiene, equipment maintenance, and pest control.


4. Supplier Management: Establishing procedures for evaluating and monitoring suppliers to ensure that raw materials and ingredients meet safety and quality standards.


5. Training and Education: Providing training and education to employees on food safety and quality management practices, including proper sanitation procedures, hygiene practices, and HACCP principles.


6. Facility and Equipment Upgrades: Making necessary upgrades to facilities and equipment to meet food safety and quality standards, such as installing proper sanitation systems, improving ventilation, and implementing equipment maintenance schedules.


7. Product Testing and Monitoring: Implementing procedures for product testing and monitoring to verify the effectiveness of food safety and quality controls and to identify and address any issues that may arise.


8. Continuous Improvement: Establishing a culture of continuous improvement to regularly review and update food safety and quality management systems based on feedback, audits, and changes in regulations or best practices.


These are just some examples of the types of changes a company may need to make to achieve SQF certification. The specific changes required will depend on the company's current practices, the nature of its operations, and the requirements of the SQF Program.


Using a copacker who has SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification offers several benefits:


1. Enhanced Food Safety: SQF-certified copackers adhere to strict food safety standards and practices, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses and product contamination. This helps protect consumers and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements.


2. Quality Assurance: SQF certification signifies a commitment to maintaining high-quality food products. Copackers with SQF certification follow standardized processes and procedures to ensure consistency and quality throughout the production process.


3. Market Access: Many retailers and foodservice providers require suppliers to have SQF certification as a condition of doing business. Working with an SQF-certified copacker can open doors to new markets and opportunities for distribution.


4. Customer Confidence: SQF certification provides reassurance to customers and consumers that the products manufactured by the copacker meet stringent food safety and quality standards. This can enhance brand reputation and loyalty.


5. Reduced Risk: By partnering with an SQF-certified copacker, companies can mitigate the risk of recalls, product defects, and food safety incidents. This helps protect the brand and financial interests of both the company and its customers.


6. Streamlined Audits: SQF certification involves regular audits by third-party certification bodies to verify compliance with food safety and quality standards. Using an SQF-certified copacker can streamline the audit process for companies, as they can leverage the copacker's certification status.


7. Continuous Improvement: SQF-certified copackers are committed to continuous improvement and innovation in food safety and quality management. Partnering with such copackers allows companies to benefit from ongoing enhancements to processes and systems.


8. Cost Savings: While initial implementation of SQF certification may involve investment in training, equipment, and systems, in the long run, it can lead to cost savings through improved efficiency, reduced waste, and fewer incidents of product non-conformance.


Overall, using an SQF-certified copacker demonstrates a commitment to producing safe, high-quality food products and can provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.


Do you have a copacker who does not have SQF or other similar certifications? We can help you evaluate the Copacker's practices and outline what you should watch out for, ask to verify, or ask to implement to help your product's chances of a successful plant run!

Give us a call!


As Always, Happy hunting!


The CVL Team

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