SQF Certification:
Levels and Food Sector Categories

SQFThe SQF Code is based on the food safety principles and methods of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) and is designed for use by all sectors of the food industry from primary production and manufacturing to distribution and retail. Suppliers may seek certification at one of three levels, all of which incorporate continuous improvement:

  • Level 1: Food Safety Fundamentals
    Designed primarily as an entry level certification for new and developing businesses, this level incorporates GAP/GMP/GDP requirements and fundamental food safety controls.
  • Level 2: Certified HACCP Food Safety Plans
    Designed as the minimum level for suppliers of high risk products, Level 2 incorporates all Level 1 requirements and also requires a comprehensive HACCP-based food safety risk assessment of products and associated processes. Along with the documented risk assessment, the supplier must also complete an action plan to eliminate, prevent, or reduce food safety hazards.
  • Level 3: Comprehensive Quality Management Systems Development
    In addition to Level 1 and 2 requirements, suppliers must document a food quality risk assessment of products and associated processes and identify the controls and actions required for ensuring consistent product quality. Level 3 certified suppliers may use the SQF certification trade mark symbol to promote their certification.

If a supplier is seeking SQF certification because of a customer mandate, the customer will typically specify which level is required. Those forward-thinking suppliers who don’t currently have a customer mandate but want to be prepared for any “writing on the wall” or simply want to have a competitive edge typically choose at least Level 2 which is the minimum level recognized by GFSI.

Food Sector Categories: SQF has divided the food supply chain into a series of Food Sector Category (FSC) Codes in order to provide a uniform approach to managing the program. All SQF auditors have been qualified by the SQF Institute for each FSC in which they audit. In particular, qualification for high risk categories requires auditors to demonstrate even more extensive training and work experience than is required for low or general risk categories.

Scope of Certification: SQF certification is site and product specific. This means that each site requires its own certificate and you, as the supplier, must identify all products produced at a particular site which need to be covered by the certification. A site could include different premises in close proximity to each other as long as all activities are overseen by the same senior management. (See SQF Guidance for multi-sites which are defined differently and uniquely by SQF).

The scope of certification for a particular site, then, includes the applicable certification level (Level 1, 2, or 3), as well as a complete list of product lines with their corresponding Food Sector Category Codes. Please note, however, that although specific product lines are included in the scope of certification, only the SQF Food Safety and Quality Management System is actually being certified.