SQF – FAQs: What do I need to know?

The information in quotes can be found in the current SQF Code or on the SQF website at Safe Quality Food Institute.

SQF Guidance

  1. “Food processing facilities need to operate from a fundamental assumption that compressed air can be a source of chemical and microbiological contamination.”
  2. “The site must verify and validate that the compressed air used in the facility is appropriate for use and not a source of contamination.”
  3. “Where external laboratories are utilized to conduct input or product analysis, the laboratories shall be accredited to ISO 17025 or an equivalent national standard.”

Q & A

  • What is the definition of “Air Purity”?

    1. “Purity is defined in the SQF Code (Appendix 2: Glossary) and means the absence of contaminants that could cause a food safety hazard. Pure air means the air is free of risk of cross-contamination to the products. Essentially, the air must not contribute any contamination to the product.”
    2. Use the AirCheck✓ Kit™ K8573NB to test for particles, water and oil contamination and the KPSII Microbial Impaction Sampler to test for microbiological contaminants including colony forming units (CFUs) as low as zero, and yeast, mold, and bacteria identification for any CFUs found.
  • What exactly does the SQF Code say?

    1. “3.5.6 Air Quality
      • 3.5.6.1 Compressed air that comes into contact with animal feed shall be clean and present no risk to feed safety.
      • 3.5.6.2 Compressed air that comes into contact with animal feed shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    2. “4.5.6 Air Quality
      • 4.5.6.1 Compressed air used in the manufacturing process shall be clean and present no risk to pet food safety;
      • 4.5.6.2 Compressed air used in the manufacturing process shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    3. “9.5.7 Air Quality
      • 9.5.7.1 Compressed air used in the production process shall be clean and present no risk to food safety;
      • 9.5.7.2 Compressed air used in the production process shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    4. “10.5.7 Air Quality
      • 10.5.7.1 Compressed air used in the production process shall be clean and present no risk to food safety.
      • 10.5.7.2 Compressed air used in the production process shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    5. “11.5.7 Air Quality
      • 11.5.7.1 Compressed air used in the manufacturing process shall be clean and present no risk to food safety;
      • 11.5.7.2 Compressed air used in the manufacturing process shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    6. “12.5.6 Air Quality
      • 12.5.6.1 Air, including compressed air used in the distribution facility shall be clean and present no risk to product safety.
      • 12.5.6.2 Air used in the facility shall be regularly monitored for environmental contaminants.”
    7. “13.5.4 Air Quality
      • 13.5.4.1 Compressed air that contacts packaging products shall be clean and present no risk to food safety.
      • 13.5.4.2 Compressed air used in the manufacturing process shall be regularly monitored for purity.”
    8. Trace Analytics can set you up on a regular testing program per your frequency and testing requirements.
  • How do I test the compressed air?

    1. “Testing can be done in-house or by a contracted party. Test requirements and number of samples will be based on the risk to the product and process. Microbiological testing can include testing for aerobic plate count and/or indicator organisms as appropriate to the operation. Testing for moisture should be considered if moisture is a potential risk to the product (e.g., dry operations). Aseptic sample collection should be used. There are a wide variety of measures available including the use of air sampling equipment, use of sterile sponges, membrane filtration, and others.”
    2. Trace has the AirCheck✓ Kit™ K8573NB that your personnel can use to sample for the major contaminants in compressed air: particles, water, and oil. We also rent the KPSII Microbial Impaction Sampler for obtaining microbial samples. Trace also has a growing network of trained AirCheck✓ Service Distributors™ available to take samples for you.
  • How often should I test?

    1. “Testing is to be conducted to validate the air-filtration control system for the compressed air is effective based on the risk to the product, but at a minimum of once a year. “
    2. There are many factors to consider when determining your testing frequency. Talk to one of our Team of Experts for more information.

I have a maintenance program and filtration, isn’t that enough?

  1. “Preventive maintenance programs need to ensure that an appropriate filtration program is in place at the point of use and the filters are cleaned/changed at a frequency appropriate to the product and process or following any maintenance to air supply source or equipment. Maintenance must be done in a hygienic manner. Air should be filtered at the point of use for most operations (recommended filter size at point of use is 0.1µ, or as determined as appropriate by a risk analysis). Nozzles and air hoses are to be in good condition, properly repaired, and maintained in a hygienic state (e.g., cleaned and sanitized). Hoses and nozzles are to be kept off the ground.”
  2. An excellent air monitoring plan, to address your filtration and maintenance program’s effectiveness, includes taking a sample immediately prior to and after changing your filters. This method provides you with air quality data to review and perform a trend analysis. This sampling plan gives you real data to determine if you are maintaining a safe compressed air supply. Sampling points should be after point-of-use filters and/or as close to where compressed air contacts the product.

What is the equivalent of ISO 17025?

  1. “ISO 17025 is the international standard for laboratory accreditation. It is a GFSI requirement that external analysis of inputs is performed by laboratories that are accredited to this international standard. However, some countries do not recognize ISO 17025, and have national laboratory accreditation standards in place. Equivalence therefore applies to national standards that are used in-country, instead of ISO 17025.”
  2. Trace Analytics is accredited to ISO 17025 by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation.

Do I need to use food-grade oil?

  1. “Where compressed air comes in contact with exposed product, direct product contact surfaces and interior surface packaging, the air compressor should use food grade oil.”
  2. If needed, where available, Trace Analytics will be happy to refer you to an AirCheck✓ Service Distributor™ in your area for all your compressor needs.