Safe Quality Food Contributing Columnist

 


What is SQF — And Why Do I Want It?

Brandis Wasvick
SQF Consultant & Implementation Project Manager
Blue Compass Compliance LLC
BlueCompassCompliance@gmail.com

February 28, 2020


 

Simply put, SQF stands for Safe Quality Food, which is what we all strive to produce for our customers. But more than that, SQF is a globally recognized food safety and quality management system that is being implemented by many food and packaging manufacturers, warehouses, brokers and distributors, just like yourselves, for a variety of reasons.

SQF is one of the certification schemes being recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) along with BRC, IFS, and FSC 22000. So why am I trumpeting SQF specifically? One reason is because, based on my experience and observations made over the past six years, it seems to be the more popular choice in the industries that I have served (which has been cheeses, lactose, low acid/acidified foods, honey, ingredient brokers, and cold storage/warehouse distribution). I also have witnessed firsthand how the SQF Code has greatly benefited those who have chosen to undergo the implementation of it.

First let’s examine why a facility would want to achieve SQF Certification. As our supply chains get more and more complicated, it becomes increasingly important to be able to show customers and regulatory agencies that you have a robust Food Safety Program that goes beyond just HACCP.

Many facilities are being asked to implement SQF, or one of the other Global Food Safety Initiatives such as BRC, IFS, or FSC 22000, in order to retain certain customers. Some are being asked or even required to be certified in order to gain certain customer accounts. Some simply wish to take their current food safety programs to the next level of excellence so as to remain competitive within their market(s). Whatever the reason, there are many benefits to implementing the SQF program (or any of the GFSI schemes for that matter).

Buyers want to feel confident in your final product. This is especially true when their brand name is being placed on it. They want to know that your systems are well managed, well documented, and that your products are less likely to cause illness or to be involved in a recall or market withdrawal. And, heaven forbid, if you ever are involved in a recall or withdrawal, they want to know that you have the ability to execute it effectively and without delay, which SQF requires you to role play each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 48 million people in the United States alone get sick each year from food borne illnesses. 128,000 of those illnesses result in hospitalization and approximately 3,000 people die each year from various foodborne illnesses.

When you implement and properly manage a program such as SQF, you ultimately reduce your company’s risk to food safety-related issues because it forces you to either implement or improve your current HACCP, Preventive Controls, Crisis Management, Training, Foreign Material Control, Preventive Maintenance, Sanitation, Food Fraud and Food Security programs through various Risk Assessments, Validations and Verifications. By implementing SQF, you not only establish the required written procedures for food safety and quality, but you also better your records, increase management involvement, effectively validate all of your systems, and achieve the annual certification that your buyers want you to have.

Sound Overwhelming? Don’t let it intimidate you. Based on what I have witnessed, the average company takes anywhere from six to 15 months to implement the entire SQF Code. The time that it takes can vary based on how many programs a company already has in place and how much time their delegated employees have to dedicate to the implementation efforts. The SQF Program can guide you through the process with various resources such as on-line training, in-person training, guidance documents, and checklists. And if it still seems to be too much to swallow on your own, there are multiple SQF Certified Consultants available to help you as much or as little as you want.

You can learn more about SQF by visiting SQFI.com. There you will find a plethora of information and you can also access a list of sites that are already SQF Certified and a list of Certified SQF Consultants.

 

 

Brandis Wasvick

Brandis Wasvick is an SQF Implementation Consultant and Project Manager for Blue Compass Compliance LLC. Blue Compass Compliance LLC offers personalized advice, assistance, templates, training and guidance to help clients through the SQF Implementation Process.

For more information, visit BlueCompassCompliance.com, call (651) 271-0822 or email BlueCompassCompliance@gmail.com


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