U.S – Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO), a business unit of farmer-owned cooperative has received Safe Quality Food Level 3 (SQF3) certification for the fourth year in a row.

HGO has earned the top-ranking food safety award every year since it opened its 120,000-square-foot hazelnut processing facility, and the specific score it received this year was its highest ever.

With more than 200 growers who collectively own more than 20,000 acres of prime hazelnut orchards, HGO is the second largest processor of American hazelnuts.

SQF Level 3, with criteria influenced by the Food Safety Modernization Act and the recent increase in global food contamination events, is the highest rating of Food Safety a Food Manufacturer can receive.

According to Mark Clute, plant Technical Services Manager, the increased stringency of the SQF has made achieving a Level 3 rating extremely difficult.

The HGO team makes a commitment every day to protect the Oregon Orchard brand as well as all of the customers’ brands and this commitment is evidenced through the continued achievement of SQF3 certification.

The SQF Program is a rigorous and credible food safety and quality program that is utilized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers world-wide.

HGO President Gerry Watts noted he was impressed with how, year after year, the HGO team continues to meet the SQF3 standards, saying that it speaks volumes about their team.

“They are very knowledgeable about the modern quality control protocols and processes required for operating a food manufacturing operation such as this.

“We are changing the dynamics of the Hazelnut Industry with our focus on quality and competing in our US national market as a supplier of Specialty Retail, Foodservice, and Ingredient products,” he said.

Following strict SQF3 guidelines, the processing plant segregates pasteurized and unpasteurized products.

It uses color codes to clearly identify each station, ensures rules are followed depending on where and who you are in the warehouse; down to the color of smock worn by visitors, features a clean-room design and marked walk paths, and uses dry cleaning and positive air pressure systems in order to offer the highest level of sanitation.

SQF Certification

The SQF Program is a rigorous and credible food safety and quality program that is utilized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers world-wide.

Recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the SQF family of food safety and quality codes are designed to meet industry, customer, and regulatory requirements for all sectors of the food supply chain, from the farm to retail stores.

Level 1 SQF Certification is the “introduction” level to food safety. It requires the producer to be cognizant of and to implement fundamental food-safety controls.

Level 2 SQF Certification is also known as the “Certified HACCP-Based Food Safety Plan.” It incorporates the Level 1 requirements and adds Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) risk assessment and implementation. Level 2 is considered a food-safety plan.

Contrary to the two levels, Level 3 SQF Certification is a “Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management System.” This level of certification includes the elements from Level 1 and Level 2, taking the process one step further, ensuring that action has been taken to correct or prevent poor quality or contamination through the HACCP process.

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