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SQF audit checklist – primary production

Use this template to assess compliance with the SQF standard and identify gaps in the HACCP-based food safety system.

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2.1.1 Management Responsibility
Senior site management shall prepare and implement a policy statement that outlines as a minimum the:
i. The site's commitment to supply safe food;
ii. Methods used to comply with its customer and regulatory requirements, and
iii. The site's commitment to establish and review food safety objectives.
The senior site management shall ensure adequate resources are available to achieve food safety objectives and support the development, implementation, maintenance and ongoing improvement of the SQF System.
Senior site management shall designate a person who shall be employed or contracted and:
i. Be responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of the food safety system; and
ii. Have an understanding of the SQF Fundamental Code for Primary Production and the requirements to implement and maintain the SQF System relevant to the site's scope of certification.
2.2.1 Document Control and Records
Documents shall be controlled in a manner that ensures employees use up to date and current policies, procedures, and forms when documenting food safety related activities.
All records shall be legible, suitably authorized and/or signed by those undertaking activities to demonstrate that inspections, analyses and other essential activities have been completed.
Records shall be readily accessible, retrievable, and securely stored to prevent damage and deterioration. Records shall be retained in accordance for periods specified by a customer or regulations.
2.3.1 Specification and Supplier/Input Approval
Specifications for agricultural inputs and packaging materials including, but not limited to agricultural chemicals, hazardous chemicals, propagation products, soil amendments and intermediate or final products from suppliers, that impact on finished product safety shall be documented, comply with relevant legislation, and kept current.
Finished product specifications shall be documented, current, approved by the site and their customer (if applicable), accessible to relevant staff
and may include:
i. Microbiological and chemical limits; and
ii. Labeling and packaging requirements.
Agricultural inputs, packaging materials, and services that impact on finished product safety shall meet the agreed specifications and be supplied by an approved supplier (see also 7.7.3 Purchasing Chemicals).
2.4.1 Food Safety Plan
A description of the products, processes, packaging and conditions of storage and handling shall be documented for the scope of operations at the farm location.
A risk assessment (hazard analysis) shall be completed for the operation that identifies all food safety hazards that can reasonably occur during the production of agricultural products. Hazards that pose a significant risk to products shall have control measures applied that eliminates or reduces the hazards to acceptable levels. The risk assessment (HACCP-based Food Safety Plan or specific Good Agricultural Practices) shall be completed by a multidisciplinary team, documented and reviewed on an annual basis or when significant changes occur.
2.5.1 Corrective and Preventative Action
The responsibility and methods for corrective actions resulting from food safety non-conformities and complaints, generated either internally or from customers, shall be documented and implemented. Records shall be maintained to include the issue or complaint, the cause of food safety incident and resulting corrective action.
2.5.2 Non-conforming Product or Equipment
Non-conforming product, inputs, work-in-progress, packaging or equipment shall be quarantined, handled, re-worked or disposed of in a manner that minimizes the risk of inadvertent use, improper use or risk to the integrity of finished product. Records of the handling and disposal of non-conforming product shall be maintained.
2.5.3 Product Sampling, Inspection and Analysis
The sampling, inspecting and/or analyzing and release of finished product shall be documented and implemented.
The procedures applied shall ensure:
i. Inspections and analyses are completed at regular intervals as required and to agreed specification (e.g. MRL’s as per 2.3.2) and regulatory and labeling requirements;
ii. All analyses are conducted to nationally recognized methods or alternative methods which are validated as equivalent to the nationally recognized methods;
iii. Release of products to customers is approved by authorized personnel;
iv. On-site personnel that conduct product testing shall participate in an applicable proficiency testing program at least annually to ensure accuracy of results; and
v. Where external laboratories are utilized to conduct input or product analysis, the laboratories shall be accredited to ISO 17025 or an equivalent national standard.
2.5.4 Internal Audits
The methods and responsibility for scheduling and conducting self-assessment and/or internal audits to verify the effectiveness of Good Agricultural Practices shall be documented and implemented. Internal audits or self-assessment shall be conducted at least annually.
The methods applied shall ensure:
i. Self-assessment is conducted during production periods and includes harvesting practices, buildings, storage and equipment; and
ii. Records of self-assessment and any corrections and corrective action taken shall be maintained.
2.6.1 Product Identification
A product identification system shall be implemented to ensure:
i. Product is clearly identified during all stages of receipt, production/harvesting, storage and dispatch;
ii. Finished product is labeled to the customer specification and/or regulatory requirements; and
iii. Product identification records are maintained.
2.6.2 Product Trace
A documented and implemented product trace system shall ensure:
i. Finished product is traceable to the customer (one up) and provides traceability throughout the process starting from the date of receipt of inputs and food contact packaging and materials (one back);
ii. The effectiveness of the product trace system is reviewed and tested at least annually; and
iii. Records of inputs and packaging material receipt and use, and finished product dispatch and destination shall be maintained.
2.6.3 Product Withdrawal and Recall
The site (farm) shall outline the methods (plan & contact lists) and responsibility for notifying their customers and other essential bodies where circumstances arise that require product to be withdrawn or recalled from distribution. This could include failures in food safety system or a crisis caused by unplanned events, such as floods, water advisory, fire etc.
SQFI and the certification body shall be notified in writing within 24 hours upon identification of a food safety event that requires public notification. SQFI shall be notified at
Records of all product withdrawals, recalls and mock recalls shall be maintained.
2.7.1 Food Defense Plan
The methods, responsibility and criteria for preventing food adulteration caused by a deliberate act of sabotage or terrorist-like incident shall be documented, implemented and maintained.
A food defense plan shall include:
i. The name of the senior site management person responsible for food defense;
ii. The methods implemented to ensure only authorized personnel have access to equipment, vehicles, operations and storage areas through designated access points;
iii. The methods implemented to protect sensitive operational points from intentional adulteration;
iv. The measures taken to ensure the secure receipt and storage of Agricultural/aquaculture inputs, packaging, equipment and hazardous chemicals;
v. The measures implemented to ensure agricultural/aquaculture inputs, packaging materials, work-in progress and finished products are held under secure storage and transportation conditions; and
vi. The methods implemented to record and control access to the premises by employees, contractors, and visitors.
The food defense plan shall be reviewed and challenged at least annually and appropriately documented.
2.8 Allergen Management
Not applicable for SQF Fundamentals for Primary Production - Intermediate
2.9.1 Training Requirements
An employee training program shall be documented and implemented. It shall outline the necessary competencies for specific duties and the training methods to be applied for those staff carrying out tasks associated with:
i. Developing and applying Good Agricultural Practices;
ii. Personal hygiene; and
iii. Applying food regulatory requirements.
Instructions and training materials shall be available in the languages relevant to the staff that explains how all tasks critical to meeting regulatory compliance, the maintenance of food safety and hygiene practices are met.
The training program shall include provision for identifying the refresher training needs of the organization which shall include all temporary, seasonal and full time employees/contractors Refresher training shall minimally include personal hygiene, allergen awareness, and site security. Records of attendance must be completed for all training conducted.
7.1.1 Property Location
The farm and facilities shall be such that adjacent and adjoining buildings, operations and land use do not interfere with the safe and hygienic operations on the property. Where risks are identified, control measures shall be implemented to reduce the identified hazards to an acceptable level and risk analysis shall be re-evaluated in the event of any circumstance or change that may impact on the production of safe product.
Production and growing sites shall have a risk assessment conducted to evaluate and document the risk to crops due to prior land use, adjacent land use, and other environmental factors including structures and equipment.
Consideration shall be given to the following:
i. History of land use;
ii. Topography;
iii. Adjacent land use; and
iv. Other factors that may impact on the ability to supply safe product.
Records shall be maintained for each production site that indicates what crops have been planted and harvested.
7.2.1 Field and Storage Buildings
All buildings used to store equipment, field chemicals, field packaging materials or field product shall be designed and constructed so as to permit compliance to good hygiene practices and avoid product contamination.
Buildings designated to store field product or field product packaging materials shall be of durable construction. Internal surfaces shall be smooth and impervious with a light colored finish and shall be kept clean.
Storage rooms shall be designed and constructed to allow for the separate, hygienic storage of harvesting and packing utensils, harvesting rigs, equipment, conveyors, totes, trays containers and utensils away from farm machinery and hazardous chemicals and toxic substances.
7.2.2 Greenhouses, Hydroponics and Mushrooms
Sites that grow produce indoors shall be designed so that there is no food safety risk to the product, including control of glass and other foreign objects.
7.2.3 Controlled Temperature and Atmosphere Storage
Chilling, cold storage and controlled atmosphere facilities shall be of suitable size, construction and design and is capable of effective operational and temperature control performance. This shall ensure that sufficient refrigeration and controlled atmosphere capacity shall be available to chill or store the maximum anticipated throughput of product with allowance for periodic cleaning of storage rooms.
Floors shall be constructed of smooth, dense impact resistant material that is impervious to liquid and easily cleaned. Floors shall be effectively graded, to allow the effective removal of all overflow or waste water under normal conditions.
Wall, ceilings, doors, frames and hatches shall be of a solid construction. Internal surfaces shall be smooth and impervious with a light colored finish.
Lighting shall be shatter-proof or provided with protective covers.
Discharge from defrost and condensate lines shall be controlled and discharged to the drainage system.
Chilling, cold storage and controlled atmosphere facilities shall be fitted with temperature monitoring equipment or suitable temperature monitoring device that is located so as to monitor the warmest part of the room and is fitted with a temperature gauge that is easily readable and accessible.
Chill, cold storage and controlled atmosphere loading dock areas shall be appropriately sealed, drained and graded.
7.2.4 Storage of Hazardous Chemicals, Toxic Substances, and Petroleum Products
Hazardous chemicals, toxic substances, and petroleum products shall be stored so as not to present a hazard to employees, product, product handling equipment or areas in which product is handled, stored or transported.
Product contact chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides; rodenticides, fumigants and insecticides; sanitizers and detergents shall be stored separately and in their original containers.
The storage of hazardous chemicals, toxic substances and petroleum products in areas (separate lockable or otherwise contained) shall not occur inside food handling areas, product and packaging storage rooms.
7.2.5 Vehicles, Product Handling Equipment and Utensils
Equipment, vehicles, tools, utensils and other items or materials used in farming operations that may contact produce are identified and are in good repair, kept clean and sanitized, and stored in such a way as to avoid contamination.
The use of harvest containers for non-harvest purposes will be clearly identified and not returned to use for harvest.
Vehicles used for the transport of produce shall be adequate for its purpose and shall not be used to carry waste materials, manure, chemicals or other hazardous substances that could cause produce contamination without thorough cleaning and inspection.
Tractors, harvesters, field packing equipment and machinery driven over ground crops shall be fitted with drip trays to prevent contamination of the crop by lubricants and oils.
7.2.6 Maintenance and Calibration
The maintenance of equipment and buildings shall be planned, scheduled and carried out in a manner that prevents any risk of contamination of product or equipment and to ensure good working condition.
The calibration and re-calibration of chemical application, measuring, test and inspection equipment used in the growing and harvesting process shall be completed at least annually.
7.2.7 Animal Control
Measures shall be implemented and monitored that control domestic and wild animals in the growing fields and does not allow the presence of domestic or wild animals in greenhouses and all storage and product handling areas.
7.2.8 Pest Prevention
The property adjacent to buildings, storage facilities, machinery and equipment shall be kept free of waste or accumulated debris so as not to attract pests and vermin.
Buildings and storage facilities used in product handling, product storage or food packaging storage shall be equipped with pest prevention devices such as traps and bait stations.
Harvested products and food contact packaging materials shall be free of evidence of pest and vermin infestation.
7.2.9 Cleaning and Sanitation
The cleaning and sanitizing (if necessary) of product contact surfaces, field harvesting equipment and sanitary facilities shall be completed at a frequency sufficient to minimize occurrences of product contamination.
The documented and implemented sanitation procedure shall include:
i. What is to be cleaned;
ii. How it is to be cleaned;
iii. When it is to be cleaned;
iv. Who is responsible for the cleaning (see 2.9.1 for training and qualification), and
v. Who is responsible for the evaluation of cleaning activities.
A record of cleaning and sanitation activities shall be maintained.
Cleaning chemicals shall be approved for use on food equipment and contact surfaces and must be stored separately to prevent contamination of products. (see also 7.2.4)
A schedule shall be prepared indicating the frequency of verifying the effectiveness of the cleaning of product contact surfaces, field harvesting equipment and sanitary facilities and indicating who is responsible for completing verification activities.
7.3.1 Personnel Practices
A documented and implemented personal hygiene procedure shall ensure that personnel engaged in the handling of product observe appropriate personal practices.
The procedure shall include:
i.          Jewelry and other loose objects that pose a threat to the safety of the product shall not be worn or taken onto any growing, product handling or storage operations.
ii.          Fingernail polish, artificial nails, and long nails, shall not be permitted where product is handled with bare hands;
iii.          False eyelashes and eyelash extensions shall not be permitted; and
iv.          Smoking, chewing, eating, drinking (except for water) or spitting is not permitted in any growing areas including on field harvesting rigs and during harvesting and packing operations.
Personnel and visitor practices shall be routinely monitored for compliance and any resulting corrective actions shall be implemented and recorded for personnel who violate food safety practices.
Personnel suffering from, or are carriers of, an infectious disease, which can be carried with food as a vehicle, shall not engage in growing, product handling or field harvesting operations.
A medical screening procedure shall be in place for all employees who handle product or food contact materials.
Personnel with exposed cuts, sores or lesions shall not be engaged in handling product or food contact materials. Minor cuts or abrasions on exposed parts of the body shall be covered with a suitable waterproof dressing and dispensed from readily accessible and stocked first aid kit.
Procedures shall be in place for the handling of product or product contact surfaces that have been in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.
7.3.2 Sanitary Facilities and Hand Washing
Toilet facilities shall be provided and designed, constructed and located in a manner that minimizes the potential risk for product contamination.
i.        Toilets shall cater for the maximum number of employees and be constructed so that they can be easily cleaned and maintained;
ii.        Hand wash basins with clean, potable water, hand soap, disposable towels or effective hand drying device, waste bins and a tank that captures used hand wash water for disposal (if not connect to drains) shall be provided inside or adjacent to toilet facilities;
iii.        Signage in appropriate languages shall be provided adjacent to hand wash basins instructing people to wash their hands after each toilet visit;
iv.        Racks for protective clothing used by farm employees shall be provided;
v.        Toilets shall be located so as to provide easy access for farm workers; and
vi.        Toilet and wash stations shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition.
Personnel shall have clean hands and hands shall be washed by all personnel:
i. Before handling product;
ii.       Before putting on gloves;
iii.      After each visit to a toilet;
iv.       After using a handkerchief, handling dirty or contaminated material; and
v.       After smoking, eating or drinking.
7.3.3 Protective Clothing
Protective clothing shall be effectively maintained, stored, laundered and worn so as to protect product from risk of contamination.
Where applicable, clothing (any outer garment), including footwear, shall be effectively maintained, cleaned and sanitized, and worn so as to protect product from risk of contamination.
If rubber or disposable gloves are used, the operation shall have a glove use policy and personnel shall adhere to the hand washing practices outlined above.
7.3.4 Visitors
All visitors shall be required to remove jewelry and other loose objects and wear suitable protective clothing when entering product growing, harvesting, or storage areas.
Visitors exhibiting visible signs of illness shall be prevented from entering any growing or product handling or field harvesting operation.
Visitors must follow all personnel practices as designated by the site for employees within various areas of fields, sheds, packing facilities or storage locations.
Unsupervised children shall not be permitted to enter any harvesting, packing, or food storage areas.
7.3.5 Amenities
Provision shall be made to store employee personal belongings away from crops, harvesting, field and packing operations, and harvesting equipment.
Areas for meal breaks shall be designated and located away from a food contact/handling zones and harvesting equipment.
Drinking water that is available to field employees shall not pose a risk to the product.
7.4.1 Harvesting and Field Packing Personal Practices
Appropriate personnel practices shall be employed by field packing employees, which include:
i.        Aprons and gloves shall be kept clean;
ii.        Aprons and gloves shall not be left on product, work surfaces, equipment or packaging material but hung on apron and glove racks provided;
iii.        All product and packaging material shall be kept off the ground and the floor of the transport vehicle; and
iv.        Waste shall be contained in the bins identified for this purpose. Waste shall not come in contact with produce and be removed on a regular basis and not left to accumulate.
Commodity specific handling and field packaging of produce shall assure that:
i.        Damaged or decayed produce is not harvested or culled;
ii.        Product that contacts the ground shall not be harvested (unless that product typically contacts the ground or is specially designated for further processing and is approved for use by the customer);
iii.        Measures to inspect for physical hazards and procedures to remove physical hazards are in place;
iv.        Cloths, towels, or other cleaning materials that pose a risk of cross-contamination shall not be used to wipe produce;
v.        The use and storage of harvesting containers minimizes food safety hazards; and
vi.        Knives and cutting instruments used in harvesting operations shall be controlled, and kept clean and well maintained.
Packaging materials shall be appropriate for their intended used and stored in a manner that prevents contamination. A written policy shall be in place that identifies how packing materials are permitted in direct contact with soil.
Materials that come in contact with the produce shall be clean and in good repair. Food contact harvest containers and pallets shall be inspected prior to and during harvesting to ensure they do not pose a risk to food safety.
7.4.2 Transport
The loading, transport and unloading of crops shall ensure that product integrity is maintained.
Practices include:
i.       Verification of cleanliness and functionality of shipping units;
ii.       Appropriate storage conditions during transportation to final destination;
iii.       Prevention of cross contamination with other hazards and spoilage; and
iv.       Appropriate stock rotation and traceability practices.
7.4.3 Product Handling Areas
Lighting in product handling areas shall be covered or be of shatter-proof materials and be of adequate intensity to allow for inspection, handling and sanitation activities. Glass breakage procedures shall be documented and implemented that describes the prevention of glass contamination.
7.5.1 Water Systems
The sources of all water used on site and at various production blocks and distribution systems used to convey water to its end use or storage shall be maintained and/or treated to prevent contamination and ensure appropriateness for its purpose.
An annual risk assessment shall be performed and documented that takes into consideration the historical testing results of the water source, water system control and protection, the characteristics of the crop, the stage of the crop, and the method of application. Where risks have been identified, corrective actions to reduce the risks have been documented and implemented.
Agricultural water shall be sourced from a location and in a manner that is compliant with prevailing regulations.
Water system intended to convey untreated human or animal waste shall be separated from conveyances utilized to deliver agricultural water.
7.5.2 Irrigation Water
Agricultural water shall be drawn from a known clean source or treated to make it suitable for use.
In circumstances where irrigation water is treated to render it acceptable, the water, after treatment shall conform to the microbiological standards as outlined in element 7.5.3.
Water used for hydroponics culture shall be frequently changed to minimize microbial or chemical contamination. Delivery systems shall be designed so they can be maintained and cleaned.
7.5.3 Water Management
Water used for washing and treating product, producing ice that directly contacts product, cleaning food contact surfaces, mixing sanitizer solutions and washing hands shall comply with potable water microbiological and chemical standards in the country of production and destination.
Water testing shall comply with current industry standards or regulations for the commodity being grown.
Water quality testing shall:
i.        Be monitored, at least annually, to verify it complies with the established water microbiological and chemical standard or criteria established and includes production (making) of ice;
ii.        Have a verification schedule prepared indicating the location and frequency of monitoring, which shall be decided by the risk assessment, best practices within country of production, or applicable legislation;
iii.        Be analyzed by an approved laboratory accredited to ISO 17025 or equivalent; and
iv.        Have a corrective action plan developed when monitoring shows that water does not meet established criteria or standards. The plan can include additional treatment for water, additional sources for water, product identification and disposition or other alternative actions to adequately control the identified hazards.
7.6.1 Fertilizer Management
Inorganic (chemical) and organic (manure) soil amendments shall be identified, assessed for risk, isolated and stored separately so as not to pose a food safety risk or cross contamination with agricultural chemicals. Storage locations shall consider:
i.          Provisions for the storage of concentrated and diluted liquid soil amendments in tanks designed to retain at least 110% of total volume or as per local regulations; and
ii.          Storage separate from crop, field or irrigation water sources such that contamination from run off is avoided either by locating of the soil amendment a suitable distance from the crop or by the utilization of other physical barriers.
Organic and inorganic soil amendment applications shall be shall be recorded and include:
i.        Date of application;
ii.        Type of amendment;
iii.        Operator or applicator details;
iv.        Method of treatment and application (see 7.7.2) (see 7.2.8 for equipment calibration); and
v.        Field, orchard or greenhouse where application took place.
7.6.2 Soil Amendment Treatment and Application
A soil amendment procedure shall be documented, implemented and designed to prevent contamination of product.
The treatment of manure and other untreated organic fertilizers shall ensure:
Treatment methods applied inactivate pathogens in organic soil amendments and are verified as being in compliance with approved or recommended methods; and
No raw untreated manure or human sewage is used unless local regulations allow its use and it does not pose a food safety risk.
Organic soil amendment applications are timed to pose minimum risk to product safety and human health including:
i.        All applications of soil amendments are in accordance with national or local guidelines best practices and codes of Good Agricultural Practice;
ii.        Signage complies with national and local codes of practice; and
iii.        Recording of soil amendment applications as per
7.6.3 Purchasing Chemicals
Only chemicals approved for use in the country of production and the country of destination shall be purchased. Purchased chemicals shall be labeled with the active ingredient(s), applicable dosage rates, and application instructions. Where no regulations or partial regulations govern the use of chemicals, the site shall have a documented risk assessment on the justification for use of non-regulated chemicals.
Chemicals that are specifically banned for use in the country of production or the country of destination shall not be purchased or stored.
A current inventory of all chemicals purchased and used shall be maintained.
7.6.4 Agricultural Chemicals
A spray or crop protection program indicating the applications used for a target pest or disease and the threshold levels that initiate application shall be documented and implemented.
The person making decisions on chemical application of agricultural chemicals shall:
i.        Demonstrate knowledge of, and access to, information regarding chemical applications and the maximum residue limits allowable in destination markets;
ii.        Use only chemicals approved for cultivation of the specified products, and approved for use in the intended market;
iii.        Demonstrate competence and knowledge of chemical application (minimally as per label instruction) and crop withholding periods; and
iv.        Ensure application equipment is calibrated and accurate (see 7.2.6) and that surplus application mix and/or tank washing is disposed of as per 7.8.1.
Records of all chemical applications shall be maintained and include:
i.        The specific chemical used;
ii.        The crop sprayed;
iii.        The concentration;
iv.        The date, method and frequency of application; and
v.        Evidence that the timing between chemical application and harvest complies with the approved harvest interval for the chemical application.
Biological controls that are approved for the cultivation of the specified products shall be used in accordance with instructions or as per expert recommendations.
7.7.1 Dry, Liquid and Unsanitary Waste Disposal
Waste shall be regularly removed from the farm, field, packing facility and the surrounds so as not to pose a food safety risk to finished product or growing, harvesting and packing operations.
A written procedure shall be documented and implemented that describes the effective and efficient disposal of all solid waste, including inedible material, unusable packaging, including trademarked material, and liquid and unsanitary waste.
Inedible waste designated for animal feed shall be stored and handled so as to not cause a risk to the animal or further processing for human consumption.
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Please note that this checklist template is a hypothetical appuses-hero example and provides only standard information. The template does not aim to replace, among other things, workplace, health and safety advice, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or any other applicable law. You should seek your professional advice to determine whether the use of such a checklist is appropriate in your workplace or jurisdiction.
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