SQF Compliance Checklist

What’s Changed in SQF Version 9?

Helen Timothy
September 14, 2020

Checklist: GFSI Standards - Getting Started with the SQF Code

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Checklist: GFSI Standards - Getting Started with the SQF Code

The SQF Codes are based on the international standard ISO/IEC 17065 and benchmarked to the Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI) Guidance Document version 6.4 for use by all food industry sectors from primary production to transport and distribution. Download our checklist to get started.

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Today’s consumers are more demanding than ever. They want detailed information about the food they consume and are savvy enough to find alternatives if they don’t meet their standards. The pressure to provide information trickles from the customer to the manufacturer to their suppliers. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) program can help companies prove that their products are safe and trustworthy.

What is SQF?

The SQF certification program helps reduce assessment inconsistencies and the costs of multiple assessment standards. What’s more, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognizes the SQF Program and links primary production certification to food manufacturing, distribution, and agent/broker management certification. It’s divided into modules that address each GFSI Industry Scope, providing a farm-to-fork solution and offering a certificate for each GFSI scope.

Each year the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) issues summary data on the year’s audits. The report details the auditees, certification bodies, industry recalls, and other insights. In addition, the list of top non-conformities is of note because it can serve as a guide to improve performance in the future.

Version 9

In October 2019, the SQFI rolled out the latest edition of its food safety program, version 9, with audits that began May 24, 2021.

SQFI’s Edition 9 introduces both structural and technical changes. Structural changes include the debut of separate rules for segments that used to be part of the food manufacturing code. In addition, the new edition includes new regulations for animal feed, aquaculture, dietary supplements, livestock, and pet food.

SQFI also scaled back how many elements make up Version 9. Fewer regulations don’t mean there’s less content within Edition 9. Instead, the organization streamlined the existing content to promote efficiency, organization, and accessibility. Streamlined technical elements in the SQF Edition 9 code include site location and operations, food safety culture, chemical storage, personal hygiene, specifications, and training.

Other changes include: 

  • Audit Scoring: SQFI modified audit scoring by cutting the 10-point deduction for major non-conformances in half to five points.
  • Surprise audits are standard for all GFSI systems and must occur every three years. 
  • Audit Protocol Tweaks: SQF Edition 9 eliminates the need for stage one desk audits through initial certification. With earlier iterations, operations had to undergo separate desk and plant audits to obtain initial certification. Edition 9 merges the two.
  • Remote Audits: The new edition allows partially remote audits as part of GFSI. Edition 9 discusses these remote activities and covers information communication technology allowances, like zoom and drones.
  • Food Safety Culture: Finally, SQFI added food safety culture to the Management Review and Responsibility sections.

Check out our on-demand webinar featuring 2019 BRCGS Auditor of the Year, Nadia Narine, who shares insider tips on identifying and solving non-conformances to improve future GFSI audit scores and minimize risk.

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