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Proposed Unannounced SQF Audits Raise Concerns Among Members

Mar 05, 2014

The Safe Quality Food Institute, which offers third-party certification to the food industry, has proposed a final protocol for unannounced facility audits that would be required for companies to retain their certification. In comments submitted last week to SQFI, IDFA shared a summary of member concerns, questions and suggestions regarding the proposed protocol, which is scheduled to become effective July 3, 2014.

Many dairy companies have earned and maintain the SQF certification to assure customers that they have met rigorous food safety standards overseen by an independent third-party. While IDFA members agree that plants must operate daily in accordance with regulatory requirements, safety plans and proper protocols, several said numerous government inspections and customer audits take valuable time away from their critical production and quality assurance activities.

Given that current SQF requirements are stringent and would be “difficult to skirt,” they questioned whether the unannounced audits would add to food safety efforts or provide added value to certified companies and their customers. Most members already operate under the strict Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which requires four state regulatory inspections a year.

Some members suggested alternatives to SQFI’s proposal, including adding an abbreviated, unannounced audit with a primary focus on observation of plant conditions and employee practices. This focus would greatly limit the burden of extensive documentation review. 

The comments included several questions from members as well. Read the comments and full list of questions here. Read the “Proposed Audit Protocol for Public Comment” and FAQs here.

The final protocol will be included in the latest edition of the SQF Code, which is scheduled to be published at on March 10.

For more information, members may contact John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, at

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