Safe Quality Food Contributing Columnist


How To Achieve
SQF Certification

Brandis Wasvick
SQF Consultant & Implementation Project Manager
Blue Compass Compliance LLC

March 13, 2020


So, you have decided to achieve SQF Certification. Now what? Where do you start? What does the process look like?

First, remember that SQF stands for Safe Quality Food, which is what you already strive to produce each day. Now it is up to you to show an auditor that it is, indeed, what you produce and that you have the necessary documentation to support and/or prove the success of your food safety systems.

Let’s take a glance at the process of how one goes about implementing and achieving Certification:
1. Learn about the SQF Code. This can be accomplished by attending an in-person training, an online course, attending an SQF Information Day, hiring an SQF Consultant, or by training yourself by studying the code(s) that apply.

2. Designate an internal SQF Practitioner. One of the most important steps in moving toward a successful implementation is to choose an appropriate internal employee to be your SQF Practitioner. A great SQF Practitioner is someone who is very well organized, can talk to all types of employees, has computer skills, is approachable, and can think critically about food safety, especially in the event of a crisis or a recall.

3. Register your company on the SQF Assessment Database. This is also where the audit report will be posted and where you will submit any corrective actions.

4. Choose the type of certification that you wish to achieve. In the past you may have heard the terms Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, but those designations have been replaced. Now it is “Fundamentals” (formerly Level 1), “Food Safety” (formerly Level 2), and “Food Safety and Quality” (formerly Level 3). Also changed recently, is better compartmentalizing of the different types of certifications based on what a company does (storage vs. manufacturing vs retail, etc.).

5. Choose a Certification Body (the company that will conduct the SQF Audit). has a list of all approved Certification Bodies from which you can choose.

6. Perform a GAP Assessment. After getting to know the SQF Code, you will be able to assess your already existing programs, records, and facility to determine if anything is “missing” or “non-conforming”. You may also choose to utilize an SQF Consultant for this step. I have witnessed first-hand that many companies already have a documented HACCP plan, multiple Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and at least some records that they keep on a regular basis (such as temperature logs, shipping/receiving logs, cleaning logs, Critical Control Point (CCP) records, a customer complaint file, etc.); however, there are a good set of SOPs, some larger programs, and various records that many facilities do not yet have.

7. Fill in the GAPs. This is the lengthiest step because this is when management and the SQF Practitioner work together to create or update all of the required documents, registers, records/logs, validations and verifications, internal inspections, documented training, recall and crisis management drills, preventive maintenance tasks, etc., to ensure compliance. You may choose to elicit the help of an SQF Consultant for this step.

8. The Desktop Audit. This only happens during your first SQF Audit! All subsequent audits will not have this “desktop” portion. The Desktop audit simply examines your written programs. It is not scored, but all non-conformances must be corrected before your “facility” audit.

9. The Facility Audit. Your auditor will come to your facility and witness production, observe employee activities, assess facility condition, and inspect actual records to ensure that you meet the SQF Code. All non-conformances shall be closed out within 30 days.

10. Get SQF Certification! Congratulations!

By implementing SQF, you will be able to show your auditor, your customers, and regulatory agencies that you have a robust Food Safety Program that meets globally recognized safety and quality standards.

You can do it! There are guides, materials, professionals, and other resources to assist you if you need. Learn more by visiting



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, call (651) 271-0822 or email

Recent Blue Compass Compliance LLC columns:

What is SQF - And Why Do I Want It?
February 28, 2020



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