A dried spice manufacturer in the western U.S. needed to achieve an SQF certification within an aggressive timeline in order to attain a new customer and increase market presence.
- The processing plant had an aggressive timeline of less than six months to achieve SQF certification in order to attain the new customer.
- The audit was scheduled for immediately following the compliance date for the new SQF Edition 9 Code, making the client one of the first food manufacturers in the country to be audited against the new standard.
- Due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire project needed to be completed virtually – including site inspections to assure the facility’s preparedness for the audit.
Successful implementation of the SQF Program and passing of the audit on the first try to achieve the certification required by the new customer.
Intake Process and Food Safety Gap Assessment
- The client had some existing process documentation that was written to comply with local regulatory standards yet were concerned with their ability to meet SQF requirements. The client had high product quality standards and had established a strong brand identity, but GMP standards and facility practices were inconsistently implemented and casual in organization.
- The client expressed concerns over the facility’s cleanliness and organization. Kellerman Consulting performed a virtual site inspection early in the project, providing suggestions on organization and segregation which were quickly acted on by the client.
- The primary contact of the business was the site owner/operator, who had the ability to quickly change the facility’s operational practices and culture to ensure compliance with the SQF standards.
- The client’s prospective customer requested preliminary documentation be provided for review prior to completion of the SQF audit. Kellerman Consulting completed key food safety programs (Preventive Controls Food Safety Plan and Supplier Approval Program) designed to comply with both FDA and SQF requirements within two weeks of request in order to meet the client’s urgent need. These programs were submitted to the prospective customer for review and acceptance and found to exceed the customer’s internal standards.
- The remaining project documentation, which met the requirements of both FDA and SQF Edition 9 for Food Manufacturing, were presented to the client within the agreed upon timeframe. The documentation consisted of 12 individual electronic folders, and at the client’s request, were organized to support a fully electronic implementation and usage.
- Specific areas of improvement addressed during the documentation presentation included contractor and vendor programs, sanitation validation and verification activities, allergen control practices, and security assessments.
- Though the Kellerman Consulting implementation process includes an organized, in-depth implementation schedule with accompanying action items, the client elected to conduct implementation according to their preferences. Kellerman Consulting conducted weekly calls with the owner/operator to answer questions and address concerns that arose during the client’s preferred implementation process.
- The implementation process included regular communication and requests for documentation updates outside of the weekly calls. The implementation process was completed within ten weeks and ensured that the project stayed on track with the client’s schedule.
- Kellerman Consulting conducted a virtual, multi-day internal audit, including a virtual site inspection, approximately one month prior to the scheduled SQF audit. This internal audit activity serves many purposes, including assurance of documentation implementation, verification that the SQF system is functioning as intended, and helping the client understand the process and expectations for participating in an SQF audit.
- During the virtual internal audit, observations were made that resulted in program updates and risk assessment adjustments. Although the client expressed nervousness about the approaching audit, they felt confident in their understanding of the SQF program and that they had been appropriately prepared to meet their goals.
- The client passed their SQF certification audit with only a few minor non-conformances. No deficiencies were noted during the audit for policies, procedures, and monitoring activities created by Kellerman Consulting.
- Kellerman Consulting assisted the client in the root cause analysis and determination of corrective actions and preventive measures for the minor non-conformances related to facility and operational practices that were identified during the audit. These corrective actions were submitted to and accepted by SQF within the allotted time frame, resulting in the client’s achievement of an SQF certification.
The client successfully completed their SQF certification audit within their target timeframe and achieved a very high score under the SQF Edition 9 standard.
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