5 Reasons Food Manufacturers & Packagers Should Be SQF Certified
SQF, or Safe Quality Food, is a rigorous certification program in the safe handling of foods for manufacturers and distributors that is recognized all over the world. It’s not new - it’s been around for over 20 years, and is designed to be used in all sectors of the food industry including farming, manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and even food for our pets. This certification minimizes the incidence of unsafe food reaching the market place and involves training a SQF practitioner, possibly contracting a consultant, getting a program written, passing a desk audit and then, at last, passing the on-site certification audit. It takes a good amount of perseverance to get this certificate, but fear not! There are some great benefits to this effort.
Here are 5 compelling reasons to implementing an SQF program:
As a co-packer, it is easy to understand why retailers like this, want this, and many even require the businesses they work with to be SQF-Certified. No one wants their brand associated with a recall or product withdrawal. What they do want is confidence in their suppliers, so any business involved in food manufacturing and packaging must roll up their sleeves and make it happen.
1. It Makes You Stronger
Examine your policies and document all your procedures. They need to be comprehensive, proven to be effective and annually reviewed. Hazard analysis must be done and critical points carefully monitored. Records need to be verified and organized. Conduct a self-audit of your facility. Put on a “food safety lens”, says David Rideout, Audit Team Leader at NSF International (The National Sanitation Foundation). Look at your operation with a safe food perspective. Ask yourself, “who is responsible for food safety?”. Well, actually it’s everyone. Each employee needs to understand how they can impact safe practices.
2. Walk The Walk
This is not a one and done snap shot inspection, so buckle up. Each year you will be doing it again. A vertical dive into your documents will quickly prove if your records and programs are in order. You must stay the course and continually follow your procedures. Training and refresher training will keep everyone calibrated to the written procedures. Do what you say, and say what you do.
There are different levels of Safe Quality Foods certification, and each one is based on the size of your business and the risk-level of the food products you are handling. Each is rigorous to achieve, and rightly so. Being a certified business means that you strongly believe in providing quality products for consumers, and that you are compliant with the food safety requirements set forth by government and your industry.
3. Customer Assurance
Holding this certification yourself or outsourcing with a business that holds a certification in safe handling of foods recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, also known as GFSI, provides a certain level of security for your brand both internally and externally. You can be confident that your food products are going to market with certified safety measures in place that reduce the risk of unsafe foods reaching the consumer.
This certification will gives your customers confidence, too. They will likely recognize this certification, especially if they are in the retail or foodservice industries, and have some understanding of what is required to achieve it. Upper management must lead the crusade and everyone in the plant needs to be on board. It is a team effort. Knowing that everyone is focused on handling your foods safely gives your customer peace of mind.
4. Recognized Worldwide
True! The Safe Quality Foods certification is recognized by retailers and food service providers around the world. It was launched in Australia in 1994. Since 2004 it has been administered by the SQF Institute, a division of the Food Marketing Institute which is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Thousands of companies in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and in Asia have received the certification. – It’s a big deal.
5. More Business
Once Safe Quality Food certification has been achieved, it opens doors for new opportunities. Many companies consider this certification a prerequisite to engaging in business discussions. Raise the banner! Update your website! Your marketing department will be delighted, and you should be too.
Is it a mountain of work? Well, in the beginning, yes. But once it’s done and you receive that beautiful certificate in the mail, take a look at how far you have come. Every challenging policy, detailed procedure, employee training session and mock drill was worth this accomplishment, and your company is stronger for it. Connect with Industrial Packaging today to discuss your options for working with our certified team!