FAQ: What Is a PCQI Certification? (And How To Earn One)

Defined by the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation 117.3, a PCQI is a qualified individual who has completed training in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls at least equivalent to that received under a …

A preventive controls qualified individual certificate is essential for managing and creating the food safety plan, validating preventive controls, and other roles within a food processing facility. By successfully completing this specialized training under a standardized curriculum that is acknowledged by the FDA, you can qualify for preventive controls.

PCQI 101: How to Become a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual and Why

What does PCQI training involve?

There are several components to PCQI training:

Online learning

Several businesses offer FDA-approved training programs to help people comprehend the rules and procedures surrounding food safety. The majority of these contain roughly 16 chapters or modules that cover subjects like creating safety plans and preventative controls, as well as risks to food safety. The online portion of training, where you can finish each chapter at your own pace and take proficiency tests, typically takes about six months to complete.

Instructor-led instruction

In most programs, instructor-led classes must be taken within six months of the online modules being finished. These lectures go over the information covered in the online modules and talk about real-world applications that can help you put what you’ve learned into practice. You could, for instance, use the details your instructor has provided to create fictitious safety plans for businesses. Some organizations might combine instructor-led classes with online learning. The FSPCA will award you a PCQI certification when you finish the course.

What does PCQI mean?

A PCQI, or a qualified individual in preventative controls, is someone who ensures the safety of food preparation. To prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses, this entails checking food preparation areas and food for safe practices. Food processors must hire people with this certification in order to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food handlers may complete a training course with the Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance (FSPCA) to obtain this certification.

How do you become PCQI certified?

You can take the following steps to become PCQI certified:

1. Get experience

Even though it might not be necessary, experience can give you the fundamental knowledge, such as terminology and procedures, that can help you comprehend difficult materials. You could work for a food manufacturer as a food handler, cook, or quality assurance associate. This can also assist you in learning about the norms that these businesses adhere to. Your knowledge can assist you in understanding the FDA’s policies by enabling you to observe how businesses implement the rules.

2. Explore HACCP training

You might look into the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) training before enrolling in PCQI courses. Numerous businesses provide FDA-approved training programs that cover the fundamentals of food safety, hazard analysis, and critical control points. Before becoming certified as a PCQI, some individuals may complete this training and work as HACCP professionals as quality assurance testers or food safety managers.

3. Complete the PCQI training

Completing the training could take up to a year. Examine courses offered by reputable institutions or universities that have received FDA and FSPCA approval. Numerous businesses provide these online, allowing you to complete the training while working. Consider programs with preventative controls lead instructors, as these professionals are certified trainers through the FSCPA, even though some may not include instructor-led classes.

4. Develop a food safety plan

Sometimes, the FSPCA and FDA wait until you have the certification before expecting a food safety plan to be approved. This could entail developing a plan for your business that outlines the steps your business takes to validate food safety procedures, the validation controls that ensure they are effective, and reports that demonstrate your food safety monitoring. If you haven’t already, you might be certified once the FDA approves your safety plan.

Who needs PCQI certification?

The FDA mandates that organizations that produce and handle food have a minimum of one PCQI-certified employee on staff. According to the FSMA, this person makes sure they have a food safety plan. They are also aware of the requirements and practices a business must adhere to for food safety. Although a PCQI certification may not be necessary for all food safety support associates, food handlers, and quality assurance managers to perform their jobs, it can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge in the field.

What does a PCQI do?

There are several key responsibilities of a PCQI:

Creating and maintaining a safety plan

A company’s leadership and the PCQI collaborate to create a food safety plan. This includes the procedures used to produce and package food in a secure manner before giving it to retailers and other clients. The majority of food safety plans recognize potential risks, such as food allergens and sanitation, and the actions the business takes to avoid and address these.

Overseeing safety validations

PCQIs often include validations in the safety plan. Team members can now confirm that food processors and other facility personnel adhere to their specific preventive and response procedures as a result. They might schedule routine inspections to verify these activities. Additionally, these workers might educate staff members about their part in halting the spread of food-borne illnesses.

Reviewing records

One of the main duties of the PCQI can be to keep thorough records of safety procedures, inspection outcomes, and incident reports. These FDA inspections provide details on their adherence to the FSMA law, similar to any FDA inspections. Records typically contain information about how preventative controls were used, how the safety plan was put into action, and evidence of hazard control.

What are the benefits of earning a PCQI certification?

There are several benefits to earning this certification:

Please be aware that Indeed is not connected to any of the businesses or certifications mentioned in this article.


Who should be PCQI certified?

All facilities that are required to register under Section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) must have a PCQI, unless they are exempt under certain conditions. Having said that, the FDA does permit a single PCQI to provide services at multiple locations.

How long does PCQI last?

The completion certificate you receive after passing the test offered by PCQI Online is perpetual. However, it is advised to receive refresher training every one to two years.

Is a PCQI required?

Although it is not required, anyone may voluntarily choose to participate in the PCQI training offered by the FSPCA. FDA will typically evaluate the effectiveness of a facility’s food safety plan rather than a person’s documented qualifications.

Why is PCQI important?

An individual who has completed the necessary training and is qualified to create and implement a food safety plan is known as a PCQI. A PCQI oversees crucial elements of the food safety program, ensures that preventive controls are successful, and makes sure that the right records are kept.

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