Small Business Brief

Food Business

What Your Company Needs to Know About Safe Quality Food Certification

Ever had a customer come into your business asking where the food certification copy is kept? This may be an extreme case, but it’s not an isolated one.

In recent years consumers have shown more interest in learning about the food they eat. They also want proof that ensures the quality of what they’re putting into their bodies. 

In fact, to keep a high-quality standard of customer satisfaction, obtaining A Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification should be your top priority.

A certification isn’t just evidence of excellent food management. It demonstrates rigor to high standards of food-safety controls in your business. This is something that producers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers will be satisfied with. 

This type of certification will also help your business to:

  • Improve process management 
  • Prepare for new food safety and regulatory requirements 
  • Track product safety and quality 
  • Gain a higher level of compliance for all programs 
  • Increase profits 
  • Reduce customer complaints 
  • Reduce recalls and withdrawals  
  • Protects brand integrity 

In order to understand the process of certification, you need to identify the top of the chain players in the food-safety platform first. So let’s get started. 

The Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) 

This institute operates under the motto of “One World. One Standard.” This institute handles the SQF mentioned above, and it’s the only one of its kind recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

In addition, the SQF program is recognized by the GFSI as a gateway that can offer ‘field to fork’ food safety solutions. The Safe Quality Food codes are designed to meet industry, customer, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the supply chain. It’s also the only program with a food-quality component added to its food-safety platform. 

What Types of Certifications are Available? 

Level 1 Food Safety Fundamental is the introduction level of food safety. This certification is designed for producers of low-risk food products. It requires producers to install fundamental food-safety controls. Level 1 is the first step towards SQF Certification for new or developing business. It covers the essential practices which include: 

-Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

-Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) 

-Good Distribution Practices (GDPs) 

Level 2 Certified HACCP-based Food Safety Plans incorporates all the Level 1 requirements and add Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) risk assessment and implementation.

This management system addresses food safety through the analysis and control of the biological, chemical, and physical hazards from handling to the distribution and consumption of the finished product. It basically takes care of preventing and reducing the occurrences of safety hazards in a detailed way. 

The management system includes four categories: Dairy Grade A, Juice, Retail and Food Services, and Seafood. If you get a Level 2 certification your business is considered to have a food-safety plan. You can read more about each category by visiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration webpage

Level 3 Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management System includes all of the elements from Level 1 and Level 2 but taking the procedure one step further. This level raises the bar by ensuring that action has been taken to correct or poor quality or contamination of food products through the HACCP process. Not only does the level monitor safety, but considers the final food quality. 

Are There New Versions of the Safe Quality Food Code? 

The answer is yes. The newest version, which became effective in 2018 now refers to the levels above as six separate codes. Although each code includes the same requirements it’s worth understanding the updates. And don’t worry. You won’t need any specific training for upgrading to latest version. 

The Six Separate Codes Are the Following: 

1. Primary Production now referred to as Food Safety Fundamentals 

2. Manufacturing which includes Pet Food and Animal Feed

3. Storage and Distribution 

4. Manufacture of Packaging Materials 

5. Retail 

6. SQF Quality Code: At this point, the company will implement the quality code (formerly level 3) after achieving certification. 

In order to decide whether the SQF certification fits your business, you should ask yourself key questions: 

1. Do I have a customer mandate for one specific scheme? (The themes include other food manufacturing operations with different certifications. Read more about them here.) 

2. Does my primary market support one specific scheme? 

3. Where is my starting point in implementing an audit scheme? 


To select an audit scheme that meets your company’s needs, it’s advisable to have a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis done on the business site. 

Also, talk to people who have experience in implementing different audit schemes. And remember that even if you do receive a certificate, it shouldn’t be ignored once the auditors close out the audit report.

If you decided that the safe quality food certification fits your business check out this useful article about SQF software. It’s used by food and beverage companies to help them organize and manage program requirements. 

Costs and Registration 

The certification costs will depend on: 

  • Level and scope of certification 
  • Low-risk or high-risk product 
  • Training requirements 
  • Use of external consultants 
  • Operation size 

If you’ve already undergone food safety auditing, you’ll only need to have your current practices validated by an SQF consultant. In order for you to register your company, you will need to pay an annual fee. The amount will depend on your gross sales and previous financial year. In addition, make sure to register and pay your fees prior to setting up your audit. 

Here’s a bonus tip in case you’re just starting your business. And you’re a bit worried about those costs. They’re very affordable, so it’s up to you to decide if the benefits are worth the annual fee. 

Good Food is Good Business 

Here’s the bottom line. Safe Quality Food can enhance the food safety commitment that your business has promised to its customers.

The more certified you are the less you’ll have to worry about food hazards. And no one likes going through an immediate closure of their food establishment. Ever. 

So get informed, get motivated and be a responsible business owner. Your customers will thank you! 

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