Packagers Meet Food Safety Challenges with SQF Certification

In the wake of growing demand by retailers and major food brands, food packaging companies are stepping up their efforts to satisfy customers by seeking Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification. Speaking Tuesday at Pack Expo 2013, Chip Wood, director of food and agriculture business development for SCS Global Services (SCS), described multiple factors driving food packagers toward this globally-recognized level of food safety certification, then walked the audience step-by-step through the process.

“As the packaging industry gears itself up for SQF, the world’s most widely recognized Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) level certification, industry members should be well acquainted with the rigors of the program as well as the opportunities it represents,” said Wood.

Citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Wood identified the top four food problems –deficient employee training; contamination of raw materials; poor plant and equipment sanitation; and poor plant design and construction. He then explained key components of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), sweeping food safety legislation signed into law in 2011 and described how each of these components are addressed under the SQF program.

“The FSMA’s formula of audits, prevention, compliance and response is comprehensively addressed within SQF,” he said. “It provides a systematic approach to employee training, inspections, mandatory recalls, record access and administrative detention, product traceability, and laboratory testing.”

In addition to new regulations and buyer specifications, he listed additional factors driving a growing number of food packaging companies to get SQF-trained and certified. These factors include growing awareness of the risks posed by food-borne illness, knowledge of the increased virulence of some pathogens, better detection capabilities, global supply chain issues, protection of reputation and reduced quality assurance costs.

According to Wood, SCS offers a full suite of SQF food safety services. These services include: fully-accredited SQF training; pre-certification exercises which enable companies to undergo mock audits and determine their readiness levels; an extensive SQF consultant network to help companies navigate the terrain; and top-level SQF auditing and certification covering all food categories. HACCP training classes specifically geared to the packaging industry are already being scheduled for early 2014.

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