Food Safety Credentials Throughout the Food Chain

Food safety has been an issue for humans since the dawn of time. Many basic food preparation techniques like cooking, salting, canning, and fermentation happened through the need to reduce foodborne illness. Today, the primary responsibility for food safety begins and ends with the food industry. That’s why all food plants and manufacturing facilities must maintain several types of food safety credentials spanning federal to local levels. Food plant audits also play a vital role in consumer and product safety. Some food plant audits are conducted by government agencies and officials, while others are driven by third-party companies such as ASI. 

The role of the FDA is to establish robust and risk-based food safety standards and oversee the industry to help ensure that it is meeting these standards. In 2011, the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) established a new framework for providing multiple layers of protection for consumers from unsafe food. These include regular health and safety inspections and food plant audits. The FSMA also requires certain entities in the food industry to verify that their suppliers are meeting FDA food safety standards. As a result, certification is the gold standard for food industry entities of all sizes.

The FSMA continues to evolve with new regulations regularly arising from technology and scientific advances to improve the safety and quality of food. For instance, in March 2021, the FDA issued guidance for compliance with its Unique Facility Identifier rule. And in 2020, fees and guidance were released for the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program and Third-Party Certification.

Critical Regulations for Different Parts of the Food Industry

These are just a few of the complex regulations that food facilities must comply with to operate:

  1. OSHA requires all food processing plants to meet or exceed their guidelines for employee safety. Employee exposure to hazardous chemicals, bacteria, dust, and allergens must be kept at a minimum. 
  2. All prospective and existing employees of food facilities must complete basic food safety training to receive their food and safety certificates to work within the industry.
  3. The USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) rule help reduce potential pathogens within the meat and poultry industry through a range of Food Safety Assessment Tools. The HACCP regulation covers sanitation, promoting cleanliness and hygiene to prevent foodborne illness, and is an essential prerequisite program for food safety.
  4. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) laboratory testing programs help ensure the safety of the meat, poultry, and egg products supply.
  5. Food facilities must also establish or have a food defense program to comply with the FDA Intentional Adulteration (IA) rule.

Why SQF Certification is Different From an Audit 

While food plant audits, employee food safety credentials, and food and safety certificates provide protection for consumers and the food facility, the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program takes food safety one step further. SQF is a portion of the HACCP-based food safety and quality management standard created for every food industry sector from primary production to transport and distribution. SQF certification for food facilities is a voluntary process that goes well beyond industry regulations and compliance and requires annual audits for quality assurance.

“The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program is a rigorous and credible food safety and quality program that is recognized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers worldwide. Recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the SQF family of food safety and quality codes are designed to meet industry, customer, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the food supply chain – from the farm all the way to the retail store.”  About the SQF Program

Not all food facilities are Safe Quality Food (SQF) certified. However, there has been an increase in demand for SQF certification as retailers, processors, distributors, and producers have learned how certification can significantly improve their food safety systems. 

Becoming SQF certified offers a variety of benefits:

  • Minimizes food safety risks 
  • Provides global consistency 
  • Increases positive brand perception
  • Achieves recognition for meeting robust certification requirements 
  • Outstanding reputation

At ASI, our mission is to provide innovative, reliable, and trusted food safety and quality solutions, food audits, and SQF certifications. We help our customers minimize risk, reduce recalls, eliminate foodborne illness, and protect their brand and the health and well-being of their customers.

Reach out to ASI today to learn about how SQF Certification can improve your food safety management system.

Learn more about the history of food safety from the Institute of Food Technologists’ Brain Food.

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