COHOES, N.Y. – Bilinski’s Sausage Manufacturing Company, an award-winning New York producer of chicken sausage, ready-to-eat chicken entrées and other gourmet meats and sausages, received a Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 certification for its operation. SQF certification is a benchmarked standard for the Global Food Safety Institute (GFSI) for safe and high quality of food.

GFSI is a collaborative effort of the world's leading food-safety experts including retailer, manufacturer and foodservice companies, as well as service providers associated with the food-supply chain. The program is coordinated by The Consumer Goods Forum, the only independent global network for consumer goods retailers and manufacturers worldwide that has 400 members in more than 150 countries.

Bilinski’s has always taken food safety very seriously, said Stacie Waters, Bilinski’s president. “Bilinski’s undergoes regular federal inspection by the US Department of Agriculture,” she added. “Also, when we earned our Certified Organic designation, our processes, the factory and our team came under additional intense scrutiny. The SQF audit process holds companies to a more rigorous level of food safety and is the common standard of comparison for companies around the world.”

During the GFSI audit process, companies invest human and fiscal resources to meet the GFSI standards. Application for certification is rigorous and a failing grade has significant implications.

Bilinski’s earned high marks for both the on-site visits and the administrative reviews and qualified for Level 2, which means that Bilinski’s has an effective food-safety plan in process in place that demonstrates “a sound foundation for the production and manufacture of safe foods” and the completion and documentation of “a food safety risk assessment of the product and process using the HACCP method, and an action plan to eliminate, prevent or reduce food safety hazards.”

“We’re very proud that as a small family business, we earned our certificate on our first attempt,” Waters said. “Because we are a smaller manufacturer within the field of industrial meat producers, we don’t have the luxury of a dedicated compliance officer to usher the company through the process. We entered into the year-long audit process while maintaining regular manufacturing and food safety operations to meet our customers’ needs.”

Once certified, a manufacturer can use this distinction to inform consumers that its products have been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain. Because of the high marks Bilinski’s earned during the audit process, they will seek renewal at the one-year mark, during the summer 2011. For companies that don’t score as well or fail, additional audits may be conducted throughout the year based on the level of risk and audit results.

“We took on the challenge of an additional annual audit because we stand by the need for transparency for all food producers,” said Steve Schonwetter, Bilinski’s CEO. “We made capital improvements to the factory, tweaked some of our procedures and invested in additional training for the entire Bilinski’s team.” Bilinski’s products are distributed across the country.