Now that Flavorseal has received SQF Level 3 certification, we thought it would be a good time to take a moment with A. Gus Eskamani, PhD, CFS, Flavorseal’s Director of Quality, Safety and Regulatory, and talk about the SQF certification process and what it means to our company and our customers.
What is SQF Level 3 certification?
Dr. Eskamani: "SQF stands for Safe Quality Food, which is a comprehensive standard that encompasses food safety and food quality management. There are several levels of this standard that companies can work toward. Level 3 is the highest."
In 2013, Flavorseal received a Level 2 certification. What is the difference between SQF Level 2 and Level 3?
Dr. Eskamani: "Both Level 2 and Level 3 are GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) approved standards. The Level 2 is food safety standard based on a HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Point) and ISO-based food safety program. To achieve a Level 3, a company must demonstrate a comprehensive mastery of food safety and quality management systems - basically, all of the standards of Level 2 certification plus a quality component."
How difficult was it for Flavorseal to receive certification?
Dr. Eskamani: "It's not an easy process for any facility, although some food sector categories are more difficult than others. If a facility already has another type of third party certification, it can provide a good foundation to prepare for SQF Level 2. Flavorseal had been AIB certified for several years when we began the process, so we were able to get ready for the SQF level 2 audit in just a few months."
Why is an SQF certification important to Flavorseal customers?
Dr. Eskamani: "Meeting the SQF standard demonstrates to our customers that we have a robust food safety and quality system in place, and that the finished goods they use were produced under globally accepted food safety and quality conditions. Our quality procedures help protect not only their customers but their business, credibility and reputation."
How long does the certification last?
Dr. Eskamani: "Each certified facility is required to undergo an annual re-certification program and demonstrate that they meet all of the SQF requirements. The upcoming version of the SQF requirements (Edition 7.2) will also include an unannounced on-site audit once within a 3 year period. These surprise audits are intended to make sure that facilities adhere to the rigorous standard of SQF on a daily basis, not just when there is an inspection scheduled."
Is Flavorseal ready for this change?
Dr. Eskamani: "Compliance must be an ongoing process, and I am confident in the measures that Flavorseal has in place. Not only do we continually monitor our adherence to the SQF rules and our own internal quality protocols, but we review them frequently to make sure any new products comply with these rules. Our team of internal facility inspectors know what to look for, and report back on anything that might be out of compliance so any potential issues are addresses quickly and resolved."
About A. Gus Eskamani, PhD, CFS
Dr. Eskamani joined Flavorseal in 2012 to oversee Flavoreal’s quality team. In addition to being a faculty member at the University of Akron, he is also a Certified Lead Auditor for ISO22000, and SQF 2000 Level 3 Practitioner. In 2013, Dr. Eskamani became one of the first to receive the designation of Certified Food Scientist.