What is SQF?
The SQF (Safe Quality Food) program is designed to assure the quality and safety of food using the HACCP food safety system. The SQF certification is an established and recognized food industry standard that is conducted annually. The SQF standard is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
Every year thousands of people succumb to foodborne illnesses either from improperly prepared food or because restaurant staff didn’t maintain good personal hygiene practices. The purpose of a SQF Audit then is the competent assessment of food safety maintenance processes. It helps you to ensure suppliers, as well as other businesses in the food supply chain, comply with SQF standards.
What is a Food Safety Checklist?
A SQF form makes sure parties responsible for handling food—whether that be farmers, restaurant staff, or distributors, etc.—are complying with food safety regulations. Lawsuits can be filed against businesses whose mishandling of food results in the spread of disease. That’s why businesses in the food industry opt to use a checklist that standardizes sanitization procedures to ensure no step in the food safety process is forgotten.
In this article, we’ll review the steps, preparation, and benefits of a food quality safety certification as well as how to ensure SQF in kitchens, restaurants, and every step along the way to its destination.
This article contains:
1. SQF: 3 levels of Certification
2. 4 steps to prepare for the SQF Certification
3. 6 benefits of the SQF Certification
4. Ensuring food quality safety
5. Food safety and sanitation in the kitchen
6. The benefits of Lumiform software for SQF certification
SQF: 3 levels of certification
There are three levels of certification recognised for food safety. These are suitable for primary producers and farmers, as well as food manufacturers and distribution networks.
- Level 1 - Food safety basics
- Level 2 - A HACCP concept
- Level 3 - A Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Assurance System
4 steps to prepare for SQF certification
- Ask a trained SQF-inspector to check the latest SQF code that is appropriate for your segment in the food supply chain and log into the SQF database.
- Create a HACCP food safety plan tailored to your segment and the needs of your business.
- Control food safety regularly through audits and document them comprehensively.
- Define your organisation's competencies and determine what risks are identified and actions taken to meet the requirements for SQF certification. You can also hire an external inspector for the SQF-audits.
6 Benefits of SQF Certification
With SQF certification, you not only constantly improve your processes, but you also identify risks more easily and in a more structured way. Other benefits of an SQF management system are:
- Continuous monitoring of the safety and quality of the products
- Fulfilment of the duty of care
- Increased confidence in food safety and quality
- Continuous alignment with food safety regulations and legislation
- Maximising profits through flawless food
- No food recalls due to poor quality
How to Ensure Food Qaulity Safety?
Ensuring food quality safety takes time and effort on the part of restaurant owners and staff. It’s not a one-and-done deal, but an ongoing process to protect the health of your customers and business. Fortunately, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already done the research and compiled a list of techniques to apply before, during, and after standard kitchen tasks:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and hot water
In a restaurant setting, make sure employees wash their hands in the designated sink. The everyday wear and tear of washing pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils can cause minuscule scuffs and scrapes sink’s bowl. Bacteria from hands or raw meat can hide out in these crevices even after a thorough cleaning. That’s why it’s important for employees to wash their hands in a sink separate from what they use to prepare and wash food. To ensure proper hand hygiene in the food industry, follow a simple, yet comprehensive handwashing checklist before preparing food.
- Use separate sinks
As already mentioned above, it’s important to designate separate areas for handwashing and food preparation. However, this rule also extends to using separate sinks for washing pots and other cooking equipment that’s been used for raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Most restaurants have three sets of sinks—one for raw meat, one for handwashing, and another for everything else.
- Use separate cutting boards and knives
Do you see a common theme emerging? It’s of utmost importance to not cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood as they are responsible for common food-related diseases such as Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus, among other bacterial and viral infections. This not only includes separating preparation areas, sinks, and knives, and cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, but also storing them independently from one another. Designate different shelves in the refrigerator so no food is cross-contaminated by leaky packaging.
- Clean cutting boards and knives after each use
Not only is it crucial to use separate cutting boards and knives to prevent cross-contamination, but so is the cleaning process. Clean each item after each use with no exception. It’s also important to mention that even after cleaning with hot water and soap, the raw meat cutting board and knife should only be used for raw meat.
- Store food at the right temperature
Most food-related diseases spread from undercooked or improperly stored food, so it’s important to frequently check the holding temperatures of the refrigerators, freezers, and standing food. Refrigerators should be set between 40 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A freezer’s maximum temperature is no higher than zero degrees Fahrenheit. If perishable foods have not been refrigerated at these assigned temperatures for up to two hours, then it’s best practice to throw them out rather than get someone sick.
- Use a thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the right temperature
Each type of meat group has a minimum set temperature it needs to reach before consumption is safe. That’s because poultry (165°F), ground beef (160°F), lamb (160°F), pork (160°F), veal (160°F), beef (145°F), veal chops (145°F), steaks (145°F), roasts (145°F), and fish (145°F) could contain harmful bacteria, parasites, or viruses that could cause severe illness or even death if consumed live.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before peeling
A common mistake in fruit and vegetable preparation is peeling then washing. However, this is not good practice because bacteria sitting on the surface of the vegetable or fruit’s skin can be transferred to the inside when being sliced or peeled. Washing after the peeling process will not be sufficient to remove the bacteria, so it must be done prior to preparation.
- Do not wash raw meat
It may sound counterintuitive to not wash raw meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood, but there’s no need to if they are going to be cooked to the appropriate temperature. Actually, doing so can do more harm than good because the spray from the water can transfer germs to the sink and other surfaces which could ultimately cause cross-contamination.
Following the CDS’ guidelines to proper preparation, storage, and disposal of all food items will prevent the spread of germs and disease, and will ultimately help you get certified and retain any certifications during the life of your business.
What are Key Sanitation Activities in the Kitchen?
Kitchen sanitation is a game of prevention. It may seem like a no-brainer but when you take into account that there are 6 to 81 million food-related infections causing up to 9,000 deaths a year, it puts the importance of good kitchen health and hygiene practices in perspective.
Let’s take countermeasures to prevent another 9,000 deaths from occurring this year by following by performing these simple health and safety checks:
- Use the right cleaning solutions
Be sure to disinfect high trafficked areas and surfaces with a safe cleaning solution. Hot soap and water with clean towels are the preferred weapons of choice against any lingering bacteria. Using bleach and other harsh chemicals is not safe for kitchen use as whatever touches the surfaces cleaned by these solutions such as foods can unintentionally end up in the mouths of unsuspecting customers.
- Wipe up spills as soon as they occur
Floors are breeding grounds for bacteria. For this reason, restaurant floors need to be cleaned at the end of each shift, and spills should be taken care of immediately. Not only do spills provide fuel for bacteria to grow and reproduce, but they also present a slipping hazard to all who are within its vicinity.
- Sanitize hard-to-reach areas
Not only should frequently touched surfaces such as shelves, door handles, countertops, knobs, etc. be cleaned regularly, but also the areas that are often ignored because they are hard to clean. Out of sight, out of mind does not mean out of reach. Bacteria and viruses are so small they can travel on the air and contaminate surfaces and food nowhere near the source. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean behind the fridge every once and a while.
Kitchen sanitization is the name of the game in the hospitality industry. However, human error plays a huge role in the transfer of germs—like forgetting to wash hands before a shift or between handling raw meat and vegetables—but a digital hygiene checklist can provide employees with a list of step-by-step procedures so no routine is forgotten or sidestepped.
The benefits of Lumiform software for SQF certification
With Lumiform's mobile app, you can easily perform any type of quality and safety inspection via tablet or smartphone - online or offline. You report problems and vulnerabilities in no time and quickly assign corrective actions to responsible colleagues. Easy communication with third-party providers enables you to improve internal processes and solve incidents and food quality weaknesses more efficiently.
Using the desktop software, you create checklists and evaluate the data collected in the field. In addition, clean, transparent documentation helps you to always meet the legal requirements.
Digitize checklists and internal procedures with Lumiform: