SQF Edition 9 is Now in Effect: What You Need to Know

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager

22 June 2021

The Safe Quality Food Institute released the latest version of the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program, now in effect for certification. Manufacturers seeking SQF certification must understand the key changes in SQF Edition 9, which will also help their business meet stringent safety and quality standards and help them attract more customers.

It’s go time: food and beverage manufacturers seeking to be certified to the Safe Quality Food (SQF) program must adhere to the latest requirements, fully implemented in May 2021.

While change always and understandably causes some concern, the good news is that the updates in SQF Edition 9 were actually made to make things easier for companies that produce consumable foods and beverages.

Here are a few ways that the updates in the latest edition help manufacturers align with other regulations and standards, and put their business in a good position in an ever-competitive marketplace.

Better alignment with GFSI: The inclusion of a mandatory shared culture of food safety is in line with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) requirements released in 2018. SQF is a GFSI-recognized scheme. Manufacturers who want to stay compliant with both can emphasize the importance of food safety culture from top executives to employees at all levels of an organization and also deploy tools that demonstrate that commitment to safety and quality, such as inline inspection systems installed at critical control points.

Clear infrastructures: SQF Edition 9, as updated by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), has been revised with clear and relevant delineations. There is a separate code written for quality, which makes SQF unique compared to other industry standards. In addition, the new version divides food safety codes by various industry sectors, including food manufacturing, pet food manufacturing, animal feed manufacturing, animal product manufacturing, dietary supplement manufacturing, storage and distribution and the manufacture of food packaging, as well as primary plant production, animal production and aquaculture. X-ray systems that perform both safety and quality checks are particularly useful in meeting SQF mandates.

Streamlined language and content: The updated SQF is supposed to read easier, as the writers eliminated redundancies and rearranged clauses that made better sense in other sections. For example, validation and verification have been split into different areas to differentiate between validation for raw materials or products and verification of supplier programs to ensure both meet strict quality standards. Whereby corrective and preventative technologies, such as advanced x-ray inspection, can be leveraged to control and remove foreign matter contamination as mandated in 11.7.3 of the new code.

Updates on contract manufacturer requirements: Recognizing some of the industry shifts in recent history, the section 2.3.3 of the new version reinforces food safety requirements of contract manufacturers and suppliers and requires documentation of compliance. The mandatory Approved Supplier Program stresses the need for suppliers to demonstrate compliance in part by assuring that their ingredients and products have been inspected for physical contaminants and quality issues.

Pandemic-era updates: Edition 9 also takes into account the impact of the global health crisis on manufacturers, with the inclusion of circumstances for remote audits and other updates that reflect changing/changed supply chains. Advances in technology, including better communication tools like video conferencing, have enabled more accommodations for remote audits when in-person visits are not possible.

A shared food safety culture is a cornerstone of the BRCGS, GFSI, and now SQF, standards. This top-down emphasis on quality and safety across the food chain will continue to permeate the industry and ultimately provide safer, better products to consumers. Download this detailed white paper on the changes and implications of SQF Code Edition 9 to get started.