How to Get SQF Certified 

Ten easy steps to become SQF certified

After becoming familiar with the SQF materials associated with your Food Sector Category or industry, Step 1 is to Register on the SQF Assessment Database.

To gain familiarity, the best place to start is Part A of the SQF Code. You can download the code for free on the SQF Codes page or on our SQF Guidance, Tip Sheets, and Checklists page. 

There are multiple options for learning about the SQF Code:

Step 1: Register Your Company on

To register your facility, please fill out the form at the link above. 

Step 2: Designate an Employee as the SQF Practitioner

The SQF Practitioner must satisfy the below requirements as outlined in section of the SQF Code:

  • Be employed by the site as a company employee on a full-time basis
  • Have completed a HACCP-based training course
  • Be competent to implement and maintain Good Agricultural/Aquaculture/Manufacturing Practices
  • Have an understanding of the SQF Code and the requirements to implement and maintain the SQF System relevant to the site’s scope of certification.

Step 3: Determine the Scope of Certification

  • Fundamentals (Formerly Level 1)
  • Food Safety (Formerly Level 2)
  • Food Safety and Quality (Formerly Level 3)

Step 4: Document Your SQF System

To achieve SQF food safety certification, you need to document and establish the system elements (module 2)  in the relevant GMP requirements (module 11)  of the SQF code you are being audited against. This is a two-stage process: First, you need to prepare the policies, procedures, work instructions, and specifications that meet the system elements and GMP modules of your SQF Code. Please take a look at Part A: Section 4.1 of the SQF Code for the applicable elements, 4.2 for mandatory clauses.

Step 5: Implement Your SQF System

Once you are satisfied that the policies, procedures, work instructions, and specifications are in place to meet the SQF requirements, you need to make sure that all documents are being followed and records are being kept demonstrating compliance with the relevant modules of the SQF Food Safety Code: Food Manufacturing. In other words, “Do what you say.” SQFI recommends that a minimum of ninety (90) days of records are available before a site audit is conducted.

Step 6: Conduct an optional Pre-Assessment.

Either an SQF auditor or your SQF practitioner can identify the “gaps” between your program and the desired type of SQF certification.

Step 7: Select a Certification Body and Schedule an Audit.

You can select the proposal from the Certification Body that best suits your facility and its needs, then schedule an audit with this Certification Body.

SQFI licenses certification bodies to conduct SQF audits and issue SQF certificates. SQFI-licensed certification bodies are accredited to the international standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012 (or subsequent versions as applicable) and are subject to annual assessments of their certification activities by SQFI-licensed accreditation bodies.

There is a directory of SQF Certified Bodies on Certification bodies are also listed in the SQF Assessment Database, and you can request a quote or select a certification body online once you have registered (refer to SQF Code Part A, step 1.)

 SQF Code Part A, 7.1 details the auditor selection process.

To find a Certification Body, click here

Step 8 The Initial Certification Audit 

An SQF audit of the SQF Food Safety Code: Food Manufacturing is an assessment by a qualified and registered SQF food safety auditor (or audit team) to ensure that your documentation (refer to step 4) complies with the SQF Code and that your food safety, hygiene, and management activities are carried out according to your documented policies, procedures, and specifications.

  • A full definition of the SQF audit is in SQF Code Appendix 2: Glossary.
  • Once the audit scope (refer to step 3) is agreed upon with your certification body, it cannot be changed after the audit has started.
  • Please refer to SQF Code section 8.1 for Audit Duration, 8.2 for Corporate Audits, and 8.2 for Seasonal Production guidance.

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Step 9: Auditing Reporting and Close Out

The SQF food safety auditor(s) reviews your documentation and the effective implementation of your documented policies, procedures, and specifications. The auditor(s) collects evidence of compliance or non-compliance against all mandatory and applicable elements of the SQF code by reviewing documentation and records, interviews with key staff, and observation of operational and cleaning activities.

Once your audit has been completed, the audit report must be reviewed before it can be closed out. If your audit reveals non-conformances, you will need to address the non-conformances and upload proof of corrective actions taken. After the audit has been closed out, you are ready for the final step in the certification process. See SQF Code Part A: Section 9.1 for more on Non-conformances and 9.2 for Audit Score details, 9.3 for Reviewed Audit Reports, and 9.4 for Corrective Actions.

Step 10: Granting Certification

After the audit has been closed out, you are ready for the final step in the certification process, granting certification. Once your audit has been completed, the audit report will be reviewed and finalized before appearing on the SQF Public Database. If your audit reveals non-conformances, you will need to address them and upload proof of corrective actions taken.

Once your initial audit has been completed, and your certification body has issued your certificate, within ten (10) calendar days of granting certification, the certification body provides you with an electronic and/or hard copy of your site’s certificate.

The certificate is valid for seventy-five (75) days beyond the anniversary of the initial certification audit date.

  • Please take a look at SQF Code: Part A: Section 10 for more details on failure to comply, appeals, and complaints.
  • SQF-certified sites can leverage their certifications to prove their commitment to safe food practices to customers and clients.
  • To ensure you remain SQF certified, please remember to re-register annually 

Please visit for more information.

SQFI is here to help. If you have any additional questions, please contact us at or 202-220-0635.

Last Updated 04/19/2023