The SQF Institute has implemented the new and completely restructured SQF Code Edition 8 on January 2, 2018. All audits against the SQF Code are now conducted to edition 8, including surveillance and re-certification audits. To get you started, this article provides you with a comprehensive summary of all the major changes.

SQF Code Edition 8 Is Fully Implemented

With edition 8, the SQF Institute (SQFI) has introduced several major changes to the SQF Code. The Food Safety and Quality Code now shines in an all new design, which was tailored for the use by all sectors of the food industry—from primary production to storage and distribution—and now also includes a food safety code for retailers.

When redesigning the code, the SQFI revised and extended all system elements and fitted them into a new structure, which reflects different scopes and needs within the food industry. Of course, the code now also covers the latest regulatory requirements (FSMA) and food safety issues as well as the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements v. 7.

Since January 2, 2018, edition 8 of the SQF Code is fully implemented and applies to all certification and surveillance audits. Those sites with an existing SQF certification (or an incomplete initial certification audit that started with the desk audit still under SQF Code Edition 7.2) are required to upgrade their systems to meet the edition 8 requirements by that date, too.

SQF Code Edition 8 Timeline
SQF Code Edition 8 was published on March 31, 2017 and implemented on January 2, 2018.

New Structure with 7 Industry-Specific Codes

The biggest change in SQF Code Edition 8 is the code’s structure. Up to edition 7.2, there was only one SQF Code with 3 levels of certification (Level 1–3). Now, the code is split up into 7 distinct codes:

  • SQF Food Safety Fundamentals (Formerly Level 1)
  • SQF Food Safety Code (Formerly Level 2) for
    • Primary Production
    • Manufacturing
    • Manufacture of Food Packaging
    • Storage and Distribution
    • Food Retail (New)
  • SQF Quality Code (Formerly Level 3)

By dividing the code into these 7 codes, the SQFI recognizes that food safety practices differ depending on the specific circumstances and requirements of each industry sector. All SQF Codes can be downloaded for free at the SQFI website and are easily distinguishable by their color coded covers.

SQF Food Safety Fundamentals

The SQF Food Safety Fundamentals code is the basic entry level designed for small or developing food and pet food manufacturers. It covers only Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and Good Distribution Practices(GDP) requirements as well as basic food safety fundamentals. Certifications against this code are not GFSI benchmarked.

SQF Food Safety Code

The SQF Food Safety Code is HACCP-based and split up into 5 distinct codes (which are listed above) in order to meet the specific requirements of all industry sectors. This means that for each code not only the system elements are tailored to the respective industry scope, but also the language and the audit duration. All SQF Food Safety certifications are submitted for GFSI benchmarking.

SQF Quality Code

Once an SQF Food Safety certification is achieved, the certified business has the option to step up its game and also get certified against the SQF Quality Code in order to achieve the highest level of food safety and quality within the SQF Code universe. The SQF Quality Code covers additional system elements specific to quality, with none of them being mandatory but considered “as applicable”.

Although an SQF Food Safety certification is required in order to do a quality audit, the quality audit itself is independent from the food safety audits and does not affect the achieved food safety score. The quality audit’s result is not scored or rated.

SQF Code Edition 8 Levels
The 3 pillars of the SQF Code with increasing food safety & quality level. (Source: SQF Code)

Changes in the Details

Apart from the all new structure of the SQF Code, the SQFI also completely overhauled the code’s details including system elements, good practices, terminology, etc. The list of changes features:

  • New mandatory system elements (e.g. complaint management, allergen management)
  • A new section on compliance
  • Re-designed food sector categories for clearer identification of industry scopes
  • Harmonized close-out times for corrective actions (30 days for both major and minor CA)
  • Public posting of withdrawn sites on the SQFI website for 12 months

If you want to learn more about the changes that came with SQF Code Edition 8 in detail, I would like to suggest that you watch the SQFI’s introduction webinar below. It provides you with a detailed overview of all key changes.


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