ASI performs thousands of cGMP, “current Good Manufacturing Practices”, audits annually. Many of our clients are being asked, continuously, to upgrade from cGMP audits to SQF. The pressure is real from the retailers and food service companies to have their whole supply chain GFSI certified, and SQF is one of those GFSI Certifications. In fact, so many companies are asking their suppliers for GFSI audits that most companies gain business after becoming SQF Certified.
Okay, so you and your team have made the smart decision to go from cGMP to SQF, now what?
There are 2 routes most of our clients take for preparing for SQF:
- Hire a consultant to get you set up
- Get trained on the SQF Code and build the program in-house
Hiring a consultant
Hiring a consultant, or even a SQF practitioner, to help you build your SQF program is the fastest way to get your program set up. Time equals money so if you have the resources to hire a consultant this is actually the least expensive route. They will help you in getting your manual built, processes in place, and teach your team how to maintain the program moving forward.
Consultants will also perform a series of internal audits to make sure you are prepared for the official SQF certification audit. Many consultants have relationships with the certification bodies, or auditing companies, and can assist in navigating the certification process.
If you are interested in hiring a consultant our team at ASI can assist with providing a list of consultants we know have helped many of our clients in the past. Here is a link to the consulting website: https://asifood.com/consulting/
Building the SQF program in-house
Training is vital to the success of all food safety programs and especially when building your SQF program. SQF certification is different then cGMPs; SQF is a certification program so there are nuances that make it seem more complicated than it actually is. By taking live or online SQF training this will make the process much easier.
- ASI trainings: https://asifood.com/training/
- Trainings on SQF website: https://www.sqfi.com/events-training/#categories=&tribe_events_cat=
After taking the training you are ready to do your first internal/self audit. Download the SQF code that best matches your facility and the SQF audit checklist of the SQF modules: https://www.sqfi.com/sqf-code-downloads/. Now take that code and audit your facility. BE BRUTAL! If you don’t have what is being asked in the question mark it is as 0. If you have partially what is asked in the question mark as 0. No one outside of your company will see this internal audit. This will now become your list of tasks. Everything that was marked non-compliant or zero is now your list of things to do.
Every day do at least one thing on that list. Some tasks may take an hour, others 4 hours, but this is the beginning of your “continuous improvement”. If you get in the habit of doing something new for bettering your food safety program now, that habit will stay long after your facility is certified.
Now you have everything done for your SQF program. Call your CB, hopefully it is ASI, and schedule your audit. ASI will send you an application, you will register on the SQF database, and you will receive a date for your audit. Between now and the audit date I would perform at least one, but preferably two more internal audits to the SQF code.
First you will have a desk audit, which will be online. The auditor will review all your paperwork and make sure you have everything correct prior to showing up on site.
Now the date has arrived, your auditor performs an SQF audit onsite. Reviewing any corrective actions needed from the desk audit and walking your facility inside and out. Hopefully, you have performed so many internal/self audits that you know all your issues before the auditor finds them.
After the audit is done the auditor will provide you with a set of corrective actions that will match any non-conformities. Once you have fixed all the issues you will receive your certificate. Congratulations, you are now SQF certified. Keep up the habit of continuous improvement and your facility will maintain certification forever.