How to Become an SQF Practitioner?

Saro Loucks
Saro Loucks

Last updated: January 24, 2024

In the complex and ever-evolving landscape of food safety, the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program stands out as a stringent and respected certification system.

Central to this system is the role of an SQF Practitioner, a professional whose responsibilities and skills are pivotal in maintaining and enhancing food safety standards within an organization. In this blog, we’ll talk about becoming an SQF practitioner, their role, and their influence.

What is SQF?

Before delving into the role of an SQF Practitioner, it is essential to understand what SQF entails. The Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) administers the SQF program, a globally recognized certification system that focuses on food safety and quality management. It is designed to meet industry, customer, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the food supply chain, from farming to food packaging.

Who is an SQF Practitioner?

SQF practitioners and substitute practitioners are specialists responsible for developing, implementing, reviewing, and maintaining the SQF system. They are also responsible for ensuring the integrity of the SQF system.

What Does An SQF Practitioner Do?

An SQF Practitioner is essentially the architect and guardian of an organization’s SQF system. Their role involves several critical functions:

  1. Implementing SQF Systems: The practitioner is responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the SQF System within their facility. This involves understanding and interpreting SQF standards, developing food safety and quality plans, and ensuring these plans are integrated into the business’s daily operations.
  2. Training and Leadership: A crucial part of their role is to train staff and lead teams to ensure everyone understands and complies with SQF standards and procedures. This includes ongoing education and updates in response to any changes in SQF requirements or relevant food safety legislation.
  3. Maintaining Compliance: Regular audits are a staple in the SQF system, and the practitioner prepares for and leads these audits. They must ensure that all practices, records, and procedures comply with SQF standards. After audits, they are responsible for addressing any non-conformities and implementing corrective actions.
  4. Continuous Improvement: An SQF Practitioner doesn’t just maintain standards; they are also tasked with continually improving the system. This involves analyzing data, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes that enhance food safety and quality.
  5. Crisis Management: In the event of a food safety incident, the practitioner is a key player in managing the crisis. They must have a solid emergency plan and be able to respond quickly and effectively to minimize risks and impacts on consumers and the business.
  6. Liaison with External Parties: They also act as a point of contact between the organization and external entities, such as auditors, regulatory bodies, and customers, regarding the SQF System.

Requirements to become an SQF Practitioner

Becoming an SQF Practitioner requires specific qualifications and skills. A combination of education in food safety or a related field, along with practical experience in managing food safety systems, is typically necessary.

Be a full-time employee at a company

You may become an SQF practitioner if you are a full-time worker and your management has appointed you to this position. Apart from that, you must oversee the role related to SQF system management at your company.

Complete a HACCP Training Course

Candidates must complete a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) training successfully. As long as the SQF code is based on the HACCP principles, an SQF practitioner must fully comprehend them and know how to implement and maintain HACCP-based food safety plans.

Know the SQF Code

SQF practitioners do not need any official certification or license to work. However, they must demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the latest SQF Code (9th edition) and your facility’s SQF system.

You can take a training course to gain more expertise in SQF and its requirements. It is not mandatory, but any additional education related to SQF or other food and beverage industry topics can benefit new practitioners.

Understand GMP and GAP

The SQF practitioner will oversee GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). It can include record-keeping, sanitation, and other processes. So, an SQF practitioner must understand GMP and/or GAP to ensure minimum risks at production.

The Impact of an SQF Practitioner

The work of an SQF Practitioner is vital in ensuring the safety and quality of food products. By maintaining rigorous standards, they not only protect consumers but also uphold the reputation and integrity of the organization they represent. In an industry where safety and quality are paramount, the SQF Practitioner is a key player in fostering trust and confidence in the food supply chain.

Conclusion

In summary, an SQF Practitioner plays a multifaceted and essential role in the food industry. Through their expertise in the SQF program, they ensure that food products are produced, handled, and distributed according to the highest standards of safety and quality. Their contribution is a cornerstone in the ongoing effort to maintain public health and safety in the global food market.

To cope with these responsibilities, you must comprehensively understand the SQF system, GMPs, and GAPs and successfully complete HACCP training. Now, you know that you have an established strategy to follow to become an SQF practitioner at your work.

Preparing for an SQF audit? FoodReady has SQF consultants to get your process and facility ready to pass the SQF audit.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the SQF practitioner’s responsibilities?

SQF practitioners develop, implement, and maintain the SQF system. They are team leaders who ensure workers’ education. Also, they are responsible for maintaining compliance, crisis management, continuous improvement and building relationships with external parties.

What challenges can SQF practitioners face?

SQF practitioners must keep up with evolving food safety regulations and crisis management and prepare for audits and certifications. An obstacle can arise at any moment, but the SQF practitioner’s task is to handle them using soft and hard skills.

Can SQF practitioners work in sectors other than food manufacturing?

Yes. As SQF is designed to regulate the whole food supply chain, SQF practitioners can work in food manufacturing, packaging, or distribution.

How does an SQF practitioner differ from a quality control manager?

The quality control manager is responsible for product quality assurance. At the same time, SQF practitioners oversee the entire SQF system and different processes related to that.

In this article

Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks

HACCP Certified, food safety enthusiast.

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