A Safe Quality Food Institute program meets or exceeds most proposed produce safety rule requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act, an analysis by The Acheson Group LLC found.

Given the institute’s level 2, module 7 satisfaction of Global Food Safety Initiative certification requirements, questions arose about compatibility with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposals. Safe Quality Food Institute, a division of the Food Marketing Institute, contracted Glenelg, Md.-based food safety consulting firm The Acheson Group to help answer them.

“Being SQF level 2 certified to today’s SQF code will elevate facilities to meet the proposed produce safety rule requirements,” David Acheson, president and chief executive officer, said in his analysis. “For the few elements that are different, it will not take (the institute) long to gain full alignment with the proposed rule.”

Acheson found the program exceeds the rule by addressing areas not covered in it, while on some topics it’s less prescriptive than the rule.

“This is not unexpected since SQF is a global program that is not intended to be U.S.- or FDA-centric,” he said.

On irrigation water, for example, the produce safety rule is more specific about testing requirements such as levels of detection for microbes and provisions for sprouts. The SQF code requires that agricultural water be drawn from a known clean source or treated — a broader approach.

The institute plans to continue to improve its alignment with the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“(The Acheson Group’s) science-based approach offers the food supply chain assurances in adopting SQF programs…and sites options for SQF’s technical team to continue to improve our code,” Robert Garfield, senior vice president of the institute, said in a news release.

Besides the produce safety rule, the analysis assessed the program against good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices.