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What Is SQF Certification & What Does It Mean for Food Packaging Suppliers?

Packaging suppliers earn SQF certification by establishing and maintaining effective food safety practices as judged by a third-party audit. This enables them to deliver packaging solutions that come in direct contact with food products.

    3 minute read

No food company wants to see its name on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of recalls and public health alerts. The direct cost of a recall can reach millions of dollars, and that doesn’t factor in reputational damages caused by the viral nature of the headlines. Then there are potential legal fees and possible PR campaigns. 

Luckily, you can take measures to help prevent the chances of a recall. These include establishing safety practices at your own facilities and working with manufacturers who do the same. 

For instance, you should strongly consider working with an SQF-certified packaging manufacturer. SQF certifications ensure that your packaging partner’s processes meet the highest global food safety standards. 

It’s an important step to take to protect your brand and your customers. Here’s what you need to know about SQF certifications and food packaging manufacturers.


About SQF Certification

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was created in 2000 to help address the rise of food safety issues at the end of the 20th century. The GFSI “aims to build consumers’ trust in the food they buy—no matter where their food has come from, nor where in the world they live—by improving food safety management practices.”

Rather than develop its own safety certifications, GFSI recognizes ‘certification programme owners’ (CPOs), independent agencies that meet its proposed benchmarks. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) is one such CPO. 

Manufacturers who earn an SQF certification assure customers that their food processes meet the highest global safety standards. The certification covers industry, customer, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the supply chain, from farm to fork. 

The SQF Food Safety Program consists of six categories of codes: primary production, food retail, manufacturing, food packaging, storage and distribution, and quality. 


Steps to Earning SQF Certification

Because the results of certification ultimately protect the global public, the process of earning it is necessarily rigorous. It covers education, implementation, auditing, and maintaining standards in all aspects of a facility, the written procedures and manufacturing floor. 

  1. Representatives from the food packaging manufacturer learn about the SQF code by attending an SQF information day, taking courses (online or instructor-led), or training themselves. 
  2. The manufacturer registers for an audit. 
  3. The manufacturer designates a full-time employee as an SQF Practitioner. The practitioner will have completed an HACCP-based training course and possess a working understanding of SQF code.
  4. The manufacturer chooses their desired certification: Fundamentals, Food Safety, or Food Safety and Quality. 
  5. The manufacturer obtains proposals from SQF-licensed certification bodies.

From there, manufacturers often conduct pre-assessments, led by an auditor of the SQF practitioner to find any gaps in the processes before the real thing. Then it’s time to choose a proposal, schedule an audit, and await the results from the certification body. They’ll conduct two audits: a document review, as well as a facility assessment. 

The process is less about earning the initial certification and more about establishing best practices to give vendors and customers peace of mind. Manufacturers go through these audits annually to ensure they maintain the standards for food safety. 


How SQF Certification Benefits Food Brands

Seeing an SQF certification when considering a packaging partner is a good sign. It lets you know immediately that the manufacturer is qualified to safely handle your food products, and its packaging is qualified for direct food contact. Perhaps more importantly, it highlights their commitment to quality because the process to earn certification is comprehensive, meticulous, and ongoing. 

If you visited the plant floor, you’d observe evidence of safety standards almost immediately, from hair (including facial hair) nets to handwashing stations at entrances. The facility must be virtually spotless to prevent contamination. 

You should make SQF certification a primary part of your search for food packaging, but it’s hardly the only consideration. Look for a manufacturer who can deliver a solution that’s innovative, sustainable, and promotes branding without jeopardizing safety

You’ll find those qualities in Oliver Inc., an SQF-certified manufacturer with an expert food packaging design and printing team, trusted by some of the most recognizable brands in the industry. We will provide guidance on everything from maximizing shelf presence to protecting package contents—with suggested materials, proper window barriers, and more—to effective finishing. 

Contact Oliver to learn more about their food packaging services today. 

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