If you have been asked to get "GFSI Certification" what you actually are looking for is a "GFSI Recognized Certification". GFSI is an organization (the Global Food Safety Initiative) that benchmarks the various food safety certifications to determine which ones meet their requirements for acceptance. Three popular choices are: SQF, FSSC 22000 and BRC. There are also others. You can see a complete list at the GFSI website.
Yes, food packaging manufacturers can be certified to SQF. These companies will use Module 2 and Module 13 of the SQF Code. Module 2 is required for all types of companies, and Module 13 is specifically for food packaging manufacturers. "Module 13: Food Safety Fundamentals - GMPs for Production of Food Packaging"
Review the available schemes. Identify the schemes that include your industry segment in their scope. The scope of SQF, FSSC 22000 and BRC include most types of food processing as well as food packaging manufacturers, and these three schemes are popular and well recognized.
The requirements of the different schemes are similar, but there are some variations in emphasis, detail, and prescriptiveness of the requirements and in the organization of the standard or code itself. One consideration when you are choosing a standard is what the customer uses, is used to, or prefers. If you have one client in particular requesting certification, you may want to see what scheme they are certified to; chances are they will be most comfortable with the scheme that they use in their facility.
Overall, the goal of GFSI is to make sure that the recognized schemes are robust and address all critical food safety elements. Any GFSI recognized standard will be a good choice.
The practitioner is the person that has responsibility for making sure that the system is implemented and maintained. They are typically the project manager during the implementation phase, and the person responsible for overseeing the system once certification has been achieved. The SQF Code spells out specific responsibilities for the practitioner during implementation and after certification.
Management must designate a practitioner, and they must be an employee of the company. If you run multiple shifts or facilities it may be appropriate to have more that one practitioner. Make sure that the practitioner is available for the responsibilities assigned to them by the code. (Consider the hours available, the location etc.)
There is no requirement for the online test. The requirement for the practitioner is to be trained and understand the requirements of the code, and to be trained in HACCP. Specific courses are not designated or required. The auditor will be evaluating the competence of the practitioner during the certification audit; they will be looking to make sure the practitioner understands the code.
If you are considering being a Certification Auditor and working for a Certification Body, download the requirements "Criteria for SQF Auditors" from the Professionals page on the SQFI site. You will need to take a five day "Lead Auditor Training Course" and a Certified HACCP Course. Lead Auditors must have completed 160 hours of food safety auditing, and have 5 years of food safety work experience. The "Criteria for SQF Auditors" gives the detail of these requirements and can be downloaded free at the SQFI website.
As long as your facility meets the requirements in the Food Safety Fundamentals Module that applies to your industry, the facility should not stand in the way of achieving certification. For specifics, review the applicable Food Safety Fundamentals requirements by downloading the SQF Code free at the SQFI website. Look under the documents tab, and download SQF Code, Ed. 7. You will find sections for Site requirements and Construction and Control of Product Handling and Storage Areas. These sections are good points to start with to evaluate your facility against the requirements.