SQFI’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)-benchmarked certification program is a gold standard of food safety assurance for established retail food product suppliers. However, for upstart entrepreneurs manufacturing their own product, the financial outlay for SQF food safety certification or good manufacturing practices (GMP) audits is often not a possibility and becomes a roadblock to approval with retailers. Moreover, investing in food safety is a legal obligation and a strategic move that can protect a small food manufacturer's reputation, enhance consumer trust, and mitigate potential risks associated with foodborne illnesses and contamination incidents.

SQFI has created an affordable, remote assessment option, built on the SQF Food Safety Fundamentals criteria, which allows retailers to manage food safety risks related to local and specialty products their customers demand. The SQF Fundamentals Verification Assessment (FVA) is an innovative approach tailored to small businesses, offering an affordable and efficient means of demonstrating their commitment to food safety.

The SQF FVA is half-day remote assessment designed to provide early-stage small businesses with a cost-effective alternative to traditional onsite GMP or certification audits, allowing them to showcase their readiness to supply safe food products and ingredients.  

FVA offers a significantly lower cost of adoption making it an attractive option for budget-conscious businesses. To ensure supplier food safety capabilities, the supplier must develop a food safety plan that identifies the product and process related hazards, adopt control measures, and check their operation against the SQF Fundamentals criteria through an internal audit. An expert third party evaluates the plans and the internal audit to verify accuracy and effectiveness, providing assurance to trading partners and the business itself that risks are well understood and managed.

The SQF FVA is for very small suppliers who manufacture their own products. That is, operators meeting the definition of a Qualified Facility under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FDA’s FSMA)—very small business exempted from certain FSMA requirements based on sales volume. Foreign suppliers may also qualify if they meet the market equivalent of an FDA FSMA Qualified Facility.

The SQF FVA is not a SQF Certification, but a verification. SQF FVA verifies an operation's capacity to identify, correct, and control food safety risks where successful participants receive a Verification Declaration Letter that can be presented to customers as a basis for initial supplier approval.  

The SQF Fundamentals Verification Assessment offers small businesses a streamlined and cost-effective approach to demonstrate their commitment to food safety. By conducting internal audits and remote assessments, businesses can ensure their readiness to supply safe food products while enjoying the benefits of reduced costs and increased recognition.