- SQF Level 1 - Focused on food safety fundamentals, this is the most basic level with the fewest requirements. It is most appropriate for low risk operations and does not include a HACCP approach. This level is not recognized by GFSI.
- SQF Level 2- This level includes food safety fundamentals and a HACCP approach to managing risks and hazards. This level is comparable to the ISO 22000, FSSC 22000 and BRC standards and registration schemes. This level is recognized by GFSI.
- SQF Level 3- The level 3 requirements include quality requirements in addition to the food safety requirements and is appropriate for the organization that wants to have an integrated system for food safety and food quality. This would be similar to having an ISO 22000 system integrated with an ISO 9001 system.
Choosing between Level 2 and Level 3
Unless a client has requested Level 3 certification (remember, Level 2 is GFSI recognized) it is really up to your company to determine which level is most appropriate for you. As you evaluate the choice consider:
- The current status of your management system: Do you have a management system in place that includes documented procedures, monitoring and measuring, corrective actions, internal audits and related processes? If not, many of the concepts in the standard may be new to your organization. You may want to start with Level 2 to ensure that you are not taking on too much at once and jeopardizing your success. You can always progress to Level 3 later, by adding quality management to your food safety management system.
- The time and resources you have available for the project: Level 3 will require more development time and more changes to your current practices, unless you have a Quality Management System in place already. (if you have ISO 9001 in place, or a similar system you will have many of the requirements addressed already.)
- The goals of certification. If you have been asked to become certified to a GFSI recognized standard, Level 2 will meet this requirement. If your company has additional internal goals for continual improvement Level 3 may be appropriate.