How to Prepare for an SQF Audit

Have you been wondering why you should have your food processing facility SQF certified and how to go about it? How important is record keeping and how will a digital food safety software system help you stay compliant with SQF? ...

How to Prepare for an SQF Audit

Have you been wondering why you should have your food processing facility SQF certified and how to go about it? How important is record keeping and how will a digital food safety software system help you stay compliant with SQF?

SQF certification can be a requirement for many food retailers. SQF is considered a higher level certification than GMP and “covers more bases” than many other food safety audits so you save time and money going for SQF certification than several other “lesser” certifications. 

SQF certification protects your brand’s integrity by making sure your product is safe for the consumer and that you as a manufacturer are continually maintaining product quality. 

A SQF Audit is a comprehensive review of the food safety management system at your facility. It includes an assessment of how your facility implements the requirements of the SQF Code, as well as how it complies with related regulations and standards. 

Steps Needed for SQF

      1. Learn about SQF

      1. Get your company listed on the SQF assessment database.

      1. Have a designated SQF practitioner at your facility. You can find SQF practitioner training online or in your area via google. 

      1. Decide what level of certification you want to obtain.

        • Fundamentals-most basic level that only covers Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and/or Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and/or Good Distribution Practices (GDP)

        • Food Safety- This is a HACCP based food safety system along with the Fundamentals

        • Food Safety and Quality- incorporates all the Fundamentals, Food Safety HACCP based system, and actions have been completed to prevent any poor quality and safety issues will occur. 

          1. Gap analysis (mock audit)- this is an optional step but many find it crucial to find any issues pre- audit and have them corrected. FoodReady software and consulting is ideal for this step. We have helped many companies become SQF certified as well as BRC, GMP, and GFSI.

          1. Schedule your audit with your selected auditing body.

          1. Audit is performed.

        What Happens During an SQF Audit?

        The auditor will review your HACCP plan and food safety software, as well as any other documents that relate to food safety. The auditor also reviews your procedures for handling food safely, including record keeping, corrective actions and more.

        Finally, the auditor looks at how you’re using this information to run a safe operation.

        If you have a good food safety software tool, it will help you with the documents required for an SQF audit.

        The following documents are required for an SQF audit:

            • A HACCP plan. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Guide is a system designed to prevent food safety issues from arising in your business. It’s based on identifying hazards and taking appropriate actions to control them. Your HACCP plan should be updated at least every three years, so keep it up-to-date as new information comes out or changes occur in your facility or industry.

            • A documented food safety policy that includes:

            • Food safety goals and objectives;

            • The roles of management, employees, company representatives who work onsite during production and transportation activities;

            • Company commitments to food safety standards;

            • Procedures for all employees working with the product (i.e., sanitation requirements), ensuring that they understand how they can contribute to maintaining high standards while performing their job duties.

          So, if you are looking to have a SQF audit and need to prepare for it, these tips should help. The most important thing is to make sure that all your documents are in order so that you can demonstrate that you comply with the standard. If you have a good food safety software tool like foodready.ai , it will also help with this process by helping keep track of all your records and saving time when it comes time for an audit!

          Foodready is a food safety software and consulting company. Our software has a HACCP builder, food traceability, you can create your own checklists to manage your HACCP plan or track other items, ingredients, tasks, or events. With our Enterprise program you will have access to food safety quality assurance consultants who can help you with GFSI, SQF, GMP, SOP, BRC, CGMP, HACCP, FSMA 204, gap analysis, or prepare for audits like the Costco audit, the Whole Foods audit, Publix audit, Kroger audit, Safeway audit, Meier audit, HEB audit and more.

          FAQs

          Common pitfalls include inadequate preparation and documentation, lack of employee training, failure to update the HACCP plan and other food safety documents regularly, and not conducting internal audits or gap analyses to identify and address potential non-compliances before the official audit. Ensuring thorough preparation, continuous improvement, and engagement of all staff in food safety practices are key to avoiding these pitfalls.
          Maintaining SQF certification requires ongoing commitment to the SQF Code’s principles, including regular training of staff, continuous improvement of food safety and quality systems, timely updates to documentation, and addressing any non-compliances identified during internal or external audits. Companies should also stay informed about changes in SQF standards and related food safety regulations to ensure continuous compliance.
          Preparing staff for an SQF audit involves comprehensive training on the SQF Code and relevant food safety practices, ensuring they understand their roles and responsibilities within the food safety management system. Regular training sessions, mock audits, and encouraging a culture of food safety can help ensure staff are well-prepared and confident during the audit process. It’s also important to ensure that all employees are aware of and can access the company’s food safety policies and procedures.

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