What’s the Difference Between SQF And GFSI?

Has a retailer asked that your product have a food safety certification like SQF or GFSI, and you don’t understand the difference? You might have noticed that they are almost always mentioned together, and we will explain why. In this ...

Has a retailer asked that your product have a food safety certification like SQF or GFSI, and you don’t understand the difference? You might have noticed that they are almost always mentioned together, and we will explain why. 

In this post, we’ll determine the difference between GFSI and SQF. Let’s compare their meanings and characteristics and come up with an answer.

What is GFSI?

Global Food Safety Initiative is an organization that works to ensure food safety worldwide. GFSI provides a list of benchmarked standards it recognizes, so once you receive a GFSI-approved certificate, you guarantee your food is safe and quality to your buyers.

What is SQF?

SQF is a GFSI benchmarked standard.

It stands for Safe Quality Food and is managed by the SQF Institute. SQF is a HACCP-based program recognized worldwide by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers. 

SQF manages risks that can appear at various stages of food processing, packaging, or storage. An SQF audit assesses how the company implements the rules of the SQF code and how it complies with existing standards and regulations.

Overall, it is a rigorous process that requires thorough preparation but is definitely worth trying. You can read our article and discover how to prepare for an SQF audit.

SQF and GFSI Differences

To better understand how SQF and GFSI are different, it is crucial to see their main characteristics and come up with a conclusion.

Global Food Safety Initiative:

  1. Framework and Oversight Body: GFSI is not a certification program but an organization that sets the benchmarking standards for food safety management schemes. It was established to ensure confidence in the delivery of safer food to consumers while improving cost efficiency throughout the food supply chain.
  2. Benchmarking Model: GFSI benchmarks various food safety standards against its set criteria. Once a food safety certification program is recognized by GFSI, it means that the program meets its internationally recognized standards. GFSI does not provide certification; it provides recognition to those certification programs that meet its criteria.
  3. Global Scope: GFSI has a broad, international focus, aiming to harmonize food safety standards across the globe. This initiative brings together stakeholders from the entire food industry to collaborate on improving food safety.
  4. Key Contributions: GFSI’s contributions include promoting food safety through private schemes, which can be more flexible and innovative than government regulations. It helps reduce the need for multiple audits by ensuring that all GFSI-recognized certification programs meet a set, consistent standard.

Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program

  1. Certification Program: SQF is a specific food safety and quality program recognized by GFSI. It provides a certification to food producers, manufacturers, and distributors who meet its standards. The SQF program is managed by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI).
  2. Standards and Certification: SQF outlines a comprehensive set of guidelines and requirements that food suppliers must adhere to in order to receive certification. The program includes various levels of certification, focusing on different aspects of food safety and quality management.
  3. Role of SQF Practitioner: A key aspect of the SQF program is the role of the SQF Practitioner within a food production or distribution organization, who is responsible for implementing and maintaining the SQF system.
  4. Focus on Food Safety and Quality: While SQF is recognized globally, its primary focus is on ensuring that certified organizations have robust food safety and quality management systems in place.

Key Differences between SQF & GFSI

  • Purpose and Function: GFSI is an overarching body that sets benchmarks and recognizes food safety standards, but it does not provide certification itself. SQF, on the other hand, is a specific certification program that companies can be audited against and certified in accordance with GFSI benchmarks.
  • Scope: GFSI has a broad, global scope in terms of standard-setting and recognition, while SQF is one of the specific certification programs that meet GFSI’s benchmarks.
  • Certification vs. Recognition: SQF provides certification to companies that meet its standards, whereas GFSI recognizes various certification programs, including SQF, as meeting its benchmarked criteria for food safety.

Why choose SQF?

Becoming SQF certified is a huge recognition, and one of the best food safety certifications a company can have.

Once you pass the SQF audit, you will prove that your product is made according to the highest food manufacturing standards. SQF certification is accepted by the largest and most prestigious companies and retailers worldwide. An obvious advantage is that passing the SQF audit means that your facility and process can qualify for a GFSI certification.

Finally, it protects and improves your brand integrity.

We have another reading if your want to learn the details about SQF certification.

SQF vs GFSI: related but different terms

In conclusion, while GFSI and SQF are both integral to global food safety, GFSI serves as a benchmarking body for food safety standards, and SQF is a specific certification program that aligns with GFSI’s benchmarks.

Understanding this distinction is crucial for businesses in the food industry seeking to enhance their food safety practices and credibility.

How can FoodReady help with SQF and GFSI?

FoodReady Food Safety Consultants can help you prepare for a certification like SQF or GFSI.

Also, you can use our software to manage all the processes related to food safety.

We will review your existing documentation and food safety program, conduct a gap analysis, write the SQF program and HACCP plan, and work on required documentation.

We will support you until you pass your audit. Just schedule a meeting or start the 14-day free trial, no credit card required!


There are three levels of SQF, and companies can choose any of them depending on the requirements. Keep in mind that GFSI does not recognize 1st level. Level 3 is the most comprehensive level.
GFSI fosters continuous improvement by reviewing and updating its benchmarking criteria regularly. This ensures that SQF and other GFSI-recognized standards are developed to implement the latest and the best industry practices in food safety management.
  • GFSI is not a certification while SQF is GFSI-approved one
  • GFSI is a benchmarking body and SQF aligns with it
  • GFSI is broader in scope than SQF, which is more specific

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Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks is the Director of Content and a Food Safety Advisor for FoodReady. Saro is certified in HACCP and a trained SQF Practitioner. When Saro is not editing, writing, or advising new customers on what food safety goals they should pursue, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking gluten-free sourdough bread, and playing Mahjong.
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