Industry and global retailing consensus has made the Safe Quality Foods (SQF) Initiative to be the U.S. standard plants must follow. Launched in 1994 by the Food Marketing Institute, the initiative and its attendant SQF Institute (www.sqfi.com) is the only such program outside of Europe recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), itself administered by CIES - The Food Business Forum (CIES stood for Comité International d’Entreprises à Succursales, or roughly International Committee of Food Retail Chains (www.ciesnet.com).
Since it comes from FMI, SQF does have origins with the retail side of the food business. But it is a fully integrated food safety and quality management protocol also covering growers, producers and processors. “The program provides independent certification that a supplier’s food safety and quality management system complies with international and domestic food safety regulations,” SQF documents state. “This enables suppliers to assure their customers that food has been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain.”
Walmart announced in early 2008 it was the first nationwide U.S. grocery chain to require its food suppliers to become certified against SQF or one of the international food safety programs recognized by European-based CIES. At the time, Walmart said it required suppliers to complete initial certifications by December 2008 and be fully certified to third-party audits by July 2009. Although there are reports the industry is behind schedule, at some point this standard will be a fait accompli.