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What is SQF? Basics for Hygienic Facility Design

A Crash Course in the Safe Quality Food program

Running your food safety program without using an umbrella? Maybe you should look at an SQF program.

Chances are you have heard about SQF, but maybe you've been wondering what all the fuss is about. Or, maybe you haven't and are looking for a quick explanation.

You probably use an umbrella before you go out in the rain. It helps protect both you and what you are carrying from getting wet. The same can be said for an SQF program: it provides an umbrella over your current food safety and quality programs, bringing them under a single cover. Without a program that encompasses both food safety and quality, you may find some customers wondering why you are taking a chance of getting soaked!

This is where the Safe Quality Food program (SQF) steps in. It was designed as a third-party global food safety certification program and management system.

SQF helps customers feel safe about your product

A third party certification system can benefit companies by providing a greater degree of credibility by acting as an independent program. The observations stemming from an audit often provide useful advice for improving a system. SQF provides independent certification that food safety and quality comply with international and domestic food safety regulations.

The uniqueness of this SQF program lies in its combination of product safety and product quality. Not only should your consumers feel safer buying products; they also know that their purchases meet consistent quality standards.

Now, your next question may be this: How does the SQF Institute go about this certification? Basically, there are three Levels of Certification. These levels dictate the steps necessary to become certified:

The Steps for SQF Certification

Level 1: Food Safety Fundamentals

This level is designed for low risk products. Suppliers are responsible for establishing prerequisite programs incorporating fundamental food safety controls. These are essential to providing the groundwork for the production and manufacture of safe food products.

Level 2: Certified HACCP Food Safety Plans

This level is the minimum level for high risk products. These "high risk" foods support the growth of food poisoning bacteria. Suppliers are required to record a food safety risk assessment of the product and process using the HACCP method. In addition, action plans to eliminate, prevent, or reduce food safety hazards must be established.

Level 3: Comprehensive Quality Management Systems Development

Suppliers must complete and document a food quality assessment of the product and its related process to explain the controls necessary for a consistent quality level. A Level 3 SQF certificate can be achieved by completing Levels 1 and 2 first. After achieving this level, an SQF-certified supplier is authorized to the use the SQF 1000 or 2000 certification trademark.

Wait a minute. What is the difference between SQF Codes 1000 and 2000? Well, this is another good question.

Code 1000 is designed for primary producers. Code 2000 is designed for manufacturing and distribution sectors. Here, we will be focusing on the 2000 Code. Now that you feel very confident in understanding the basics, we will explain how to implement an SQF 2000 System. Not ready? Well, you've gotten this far without falling asleep, so you might as well read on!

  • Step 1: Understanding the Code
    You can't implement the SQF 2000 code unless you know the details. Visit to obtain your copy.
  • Step 2: Self Assessment
    Do you ever walk into a business meeting without wearing pants? Of course not, and without conducting a self assessment (Gap Analysis), you are walking into the system pant-less. Determine what needs to be done.
  • Step 3: Designate Staff

    Assign the role of SQF Practitioner to a competent staff person, or hire an official consultant. Someone always needs to be in charge.

  • Step 4: Complete SQF System Training
    If required, this step is critical. SQF System Training involves learning the basics of the system and discovering when and where to make use of it.
  • Step 5: Document System
    This is the "Say What You Do" step. It's critical to keep accurate records of your activities. If you don't "say," then there will be no "do." This is quite an intuitive concept.
  • Step 6: Implement and Validate System
    Ah, there has to be a reciprocal for everything. This is the "Do What You Say" step. In other words, do what mommy told you and don't be a hypocrite. Make sure that your system goes according to plans.
  • Step 7: Change
    Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone makes more mistakes. If necessary, review and amend your system.
  • Step 8: Pre-Assessment Audit
    Get ready for the dress rehearsal. Make sure that everything is ready and in place, because otherwise you'll find yourself entertaining a few tomato throwers at the theater.
  • Step 9: The Audit

    It's your big day! This is the "Prove It" step. Visit to select a Certification Body to perform the audit.

So, now you understand how to go about implementing the SQF system. Some components of this system deal with the layout and construction of your facility. If you need expert advice with this, we can help!