How long does an SQF certification audit take?

how long does an SQF certification audit take

How long does an SQF certification audit take?

When you start an evaluation process to obtain your SQF certification, there is one thing that will probably worry you: how long does an SQF certification audit take?

You may have to meet a deadline with your client, but that business relationship will only flourish if you are SQF certified. The urgency of getting evaluated can be overwhelming. Still, you have to bear in mind something: the duration of the audit is one thing, but the preparation for it is another entirely different. But this article is about the length of an SQF audit, so we’ll leave the preparation for it for another time.

The duration of an SQF evaluation will vary depending on the complexity and size of the operations, but other factors can impact it. Below you can find approximately how long does an SQF certification audit take


How many documents are involved in the evaluation? How much time will it take to review them all? The audit scope refers to how deeply the third-party will immerse itself in its client’s system.

An SQF evaluation will look for any non-compliance to the code to ensure that your food products have the required quality. We’re talking about the safety of the customers, so everything has to be in order.

By identifying the scope of the audit, the process will be more structured and have more clarity. You will now know when it will start and finish and precisely how long will it take. This info will also let you know who has to present what during the evaluation.

Size of the site

The duration of the audit depends on how big the plant site and personnel are. Below is a chart with the approximate length; nonetheless, the certification body will be the one to decide based on the scope, risks associated, and complexity of the processes.

how long does an SQF certification audit take

Risks associated

Identifying potential hazards its a fundamental step to prevent an incident from occurring. If a recall has happened with a particular ingredient in the recent past, an external entity may conduct an investigation. Allergens are another issue because at least eight of them need to be under control to make a product in the United States. Additionally, keeping track of the supplier’s history is very important.

What about the water supply and the use of pesticides and fertilizers? All of these are risks associated with the manufacturing of food products. The risk areas found will impact the length of the evaluation.

See also: SQFI Certificate Extension Policy and risk assessments – what you need to know

Number of the product lines and complexity of the process

Drafting the scope of the evaluation will let you cover various aspects of the product lines as:

  • Capacity utilization.
  • Quality of production.
  • Production bottlenecks.
  • Production costs.
  • Wastages and rejections.
  • Benchmarking with other units in the same company.
  • Overall equipment efficiency.
  • Regulatory requirements.

Furthermore, by understanding your expectations, the auditor will find a way to add value to the processes during the product lines evaluation.

how long does an SQF certification audit take

The complexity of system design and documentation

The system in your company lets you work efficiently and make the same product all over again. As the product changes, the system also has to. This transformation can become very intricate over time, so keeping track of it with the appropriate documents is very important. These will be the soul of your product in the years to come.

The third-party is in charge of reviewing the design and documentation during an audit. If too many processes are involved, the evaluation could take a little longer.

Cooperation of the personnel

The certification body wants one thing: that you obtain the certification. The latter will only be possible if cooperation comes from all levels of the company. Suppose management is working very hard to achieve this, but some department heads are no that interested or have their minds in other things. The evaluation affects your business as a whole, so it’s essential that everyone, no matter their job positions, understands it. In the end, everyone will benefit from the coveted certification.

how long does an SQF certification audit take

As you can see, the duration of an audit can be affected by many factors. Understanding them all will give you a hint of how long does an SQF certification audit take and how you can prepare your team for this effort.