SQF Certification Audits

Initial Certification to SQF

To become certified you will need to choose an accredited certification body for your organization, as well as the SQF Level for certification and the scope of the certification. Certification companies are listed on the www.sqfi.com website.

Once you have implemented the system your certification body will perform a document review or "desk audit" to determine readiness for your next step, the On-site Audit. If the audit identifies areas of the system that do not comply with the SQF Code, you will need to correct nonconformance before you will be recommended for certification. Once those are corrected and verified your company will be recommended for certification. The system will then be monitored by your auditor through surveillance audits.

The SQF Certification Audit:

The certification audit is a two stage process. It consists of a desk audit (offsite) where the auditor reviews your organization's SQF Documentation, including the food safety plan, to see if it meets requirements, and determines readiness for the onsite audit. The auditor may issue nonconformance at this stage. If nonconformances are issued during the desk audit, they must be addressed before the onsite audit.

The onsite certification audit is then conducted. The amount of time the auditor will spend at your facility is determined by the "Audit Duration Guide" four and in Part A of the SQF Code (available for free download from www.sqfi.com/documents/ ) During the certification audit the SQF Auditor will examine your SQF System to determine:

  • If the system has been implemented effectively
  • If there is evidence of Management Commitment to the maintenance and improvement of the system
  • If activities comply with regulatory, customer and SQF requirements

Findings are categorized as:

Minor Nonconformity, must be corrected within 30 days and will be verified at the next audit
This is a nonconformance to the documented system or to the SQF Code that does not cause an immediate food safety risk or indicate ineffective implementation of a system element.

Major Nonconformity, must be corrected and verified within 14 days of the finding. A Major nonconformance is a nonconformance to the documented system or to the SQF Code that could cause an immediate food safety risk or indicate ineffective implementation of a system element.

Critical Nonconformity, results in a suspension of certification or failure of the certification audit. A critical nonconformance consists of a loss of control at a critical control point, prerequisite program or other process step that could cause a significant risk and product safety is compromised or any falsification of records.

Audit Scoring

SQF audits are scored. Depending on the number and types of nonconformances identified during the onsite audit, the facility is given a score of E- Excellent, G- Good, C- complies or F- fails to comply. The score issued affects what type of follow-up audit you will have (re-certification after 12 months, or surveillance after 6 months)

The SQF Surveillance and Re-certification Audit

Once certified, your certification body will audit to ensure that your organization continues to comply with requirements, conducting surveillance audits at a frequency determined by your performance in the certification audit.