The score everyone wants to achieve for any “test” we have taken (from grade school through post-secondary education) is 100%. One Hundred is also the score that any company involved with the Safe Quality Food (SQF) standard wants to achieve.
But…What does 100% mean in SQF?
Does it mean that your company is doing everything right? What is involved in getting that score? What does it take to maintain it?
First, congratulations on becoming SQF certified. Learning the SQF code and preparing your facility takes time. On average it’s about 6 months from the time a company opts into the program until the time they earn the certification. Much of this time is spent preparing for the audit through paperwork trails and training programs. The audit itself is a very short process in and of itself. The average audit is only 2-3 days; which means a company is preparing for the audit the other 362 days of the year.
Click here to learn more about getting started with SQF.
What Does An Auditor Look For?
Anyone that has been through an SQF audit knows that it is a “snapshot in time.” Your auditor will even tell you this in your opening meeting. The auditor certainly cannot see everything a company is doing in just 2-3 days. SQF auditors, however, are well trained. The certification process to become an auditor is lengthy and there is annual continuing education involved. These auditors are also well versed in the SQF code. Many are crossed-trained and can audit multiple codes and categories within the SQF umbrella. When a company is undergoing an audit, they must provide documentation pertaining to Module 2 of the code (whether your scope is in manufacturing, retail or distribution, module 2 is the same.) In Module 2 the auditor is looking at a company’s management responsibilities as well as programs involving food safety (HACCP), manufacturing practices (GMP), verifications of these programs, trending, internal inspections and allergen management in addition to a number of others.
Sitting through the desk audit can be painstaking. Hours of auditor questions and offerings of company program documents to show that a company is doing what they say they are doing. An auditor will then take knowledge of the company’s programs and make their way to the warehouse or processing site to make comparisons. Again, asking themselves, “Is the company doing what they say they are doing?”
The auditor will review prerequisite programs. These programs may involve cleaning, maintenance, pest control, and temperature controls to name only a few. Documentation of these activities must be impeccable. An auditor will look for inaccuracies, missing information and lack of detail. They will also be looking for trends in program management. The auditor will make comparisons from month to month through the documentation provided. An auditor may then interview personnel, with questions pertaining to their job functions and programs such as allergen management or temperature control.
Your Auditor Is Your Friend
The auditor is not in a facility to fail them or “find” something wrong. The auditor is there to observe and research the processes. Remember, the audit itself is merely a snapshot of what is likely getting done throughout the remainder of the year. Findings by auditors can be very minor and cause the loss of only a point or two on an audit or they may find a complete breakdown in a process which will lead to a follow-up audit 6 months later.
When an auditor is satisfied with the information they have received, both visually, verbally and in type they will review findings if any were observed and create a report. No findings means that the auditor found nothing in the paperwork or processes that was of concern, as it applies to the SQF code. With that, a company earns a score of 100%.
Achieving A High Score Is A Team Effort
Yes 100% is attainable and sustainable. It does not come without hard work and dedication. Not only must the SQF Practitioner and upper management continue to work on the program, all personnel involved in the company’s processes must be diligent in making certain that they are carrying out the functions of the company’s Food Safety Plan, every single day.
Nelson-Jameson and its employees are dedicated to Food Safety. 100% has been achieved in our SQF certified facilities 8 times consecutively. Will this happen every year? Possibly not. However, we will continue to strive for that score. Achieving a score that is not easily given out is a great morale booster for employees, as well as an assurance to partners and customers that the safety and integrity of products that come through our distribution center is our top priority.
Find out more about the SQF code at: https://www.sqfi.com/