In the realm of food safety, the journey towards excellence and compliance is marked by the acquisition of vital qualifications, among which the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) stands prominent. Becoming a PCQI is essential for professionals dedicated to upholding the highest standards in food safety management. In this document, we cover many of the frequently asked questions regarding PCQI training. From understanding the qualification process to exploring its validity, authorized issuers, and recommended courses, this guide serves as a pivotal resource for those seeking to master the nuances of food safety and regulatory compliance. The job of PCQI involves team work and specific competencies to master the food safety game. 

What is PCQI certification?

Actually the term “certification” is somewhat of a misnomer – for the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule under FSMA, training compliance is met through a certificate of completion for the standard curriculum recognized by the FDA. This wording is the cause of some confusion in the food industry. 

To comply with FSMA, an FDA registered facility’s food plan must document a PCQI by name, with proficiency in implementing and managing food safety plans in accordance with the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule (PCHF Rule). Thus, companies engaged in food processing or manufacturing that are registered under the FDA must have a qualified individual on staff or a consultant who serves in this role who can oversee the development and implementation of each facility’s preventive control programs.

Recognition as a PCQI may be through self attesting one’s experience or obtaining  the role of PCQI through the route of training. Most PCQIs place a course certificate of completion in the food safety plan to show compliance with FSMA and their professional qualified status. 

The PCQI status through training shows that they showed a comprehensive understanding of hazard analysis, risk assessment techniques, and the use of appropriate preventive control strategies. The management and documentation of preventive controls are also covered in the standard curriculum approved by the FDA. 

PCQI course participants learn about identifying potential hazards in ingredients along the supply chain and in food processing environments. They are introduced to establishing proper monitoring procedures, implementing corrective actions when deviations occur, and maintaining comprehensive records to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements. Furthermore, PCQIs are trained on how to conduct verification procedures for allergen, sanitation and supply chain controls as well as validating preventive control measures through scientific testing or other means.

By equipping individuals with this specialized knowledge base, PCQI training aims to enhance food safety practices across diverse sectors of the food industry while fostering regulatory compliance and ensuring public health protection. Holding a PCQI course certificate of completion serves as a testament to an individual’s ability to design robust preventive controls that mitigate potential hazards within their organization’s food safety system.

This professional qualification not only signifies expertise but also demonstrates dedication towards ensuring safe practices in food processing and manufacturing. By adhering to the requirements set forth by FSMA, PCQIs play a vital role in safeguarding public health, fostering food safety culture and protecting their company brand.  

Does PCQI certification expire?

As stated, the issue is the PCQI certificate of completion for the professional named as PCQI in the facility food safety plan. Currently, the FDA recognizes all PCQI certificates of completion that have been issued after successful completion of the standard curriculum. There is no stated timeframe of expiration in the PCHF Rule. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that industry standards and best practices evolve over time, necessitating ongoing education and training. While the PCQI qualification itself may not expire, the FDA requires that individuals responsible for developing and overseeing a food safety plan under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) remain current on their knowledge and skills related to preventive controls.

This means that professionals with PCQI certifications must engage in continuous learning to stay updated on new developments within the field of food safety. To maintain competency as a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual, it is crucial for certified individuals to participate regularly in professional development opportunities such as workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, or other forms of training. 

Ultimately, the proof of qualification of a PCQI is in the strength of the food safety plan(s) of your facility. Continuous learning activities provide opportunities for PCQIs to enhance their knowledge of regulatory changes, learn about emerging risks within the industry, and stay informed about advancements in technology or methodologies used for preventive controls. While PCQI qualification does not have a specific expiration date stamped on it like some credentials do, staying up-to-date with evolving industry standards is essential for maintaining this role’s value and relevance.

Continuing education allows certified professionals to adapt their practices according to new regulations or emerging risks within the food industry. By participating in ongoing learning opportunities related to preventive controls and food safety management systems, PCQIs can ensure they remain competent and valuable assets in maintaining the safety and quality of our food supply chain.

Thus, some PCQIs elect to retrain in the standard curriculum every three years, especially if they are moving from different food industry sectors. For example, a PCQI moving from dry to wet processing or from dairy to ready-to-eat foods may wish to retrain in product scenarios of the new sector.  This retraining ensures that certified individuals are equipped with the most current information and are continuously improving their skills in preventive controls.

This periodic renewal helps maintain high standards of food safety across various industries. PCQIs have several options for retaking PCQI  training.They can participate in a traditional classroom-based training program, hybrid selections,  or choose online courses that provide flexibility in completing the required curriculum at their time and own pace. Regardless of the delivery method chosen, it is vital for PCQIs to ensure that they select a course provided by an organization that uses the FDA approved curriculum.

The FDA may not legislate a monopoly on this training. Thus there are several well-known providers, such as FSPCA and ImEPIK, that sponsor and/or provide PCQI training. This anti-monopoly protection means that learners have more choices in many areas. A lack of competition would mean fewer choices of training format, higher prices for training, and add on fees without adding value. Fortunately there is a competitive market for PCQI training so learners can choose their preferred learning style, price point and timeframe for taking the PCQI course. 

How to get PCQI certification?

To obtain a PCQI certificate of completion, individuals must successfully complete a PCQI course in the FDA-approved standard curriculum. The first step in obtaining PCQI certification is to identify an FDA approved curriculum course with a format that suits your needs. These courses are typically offered by reputable organizations, like ImEPIK, who use PCQI Lead Instructors to create interactive food safety training software.

It is important to choose a course that is taught by experienced instructors who possess in-depth knowledge of FSMA regulations and have practical industry experience. Once you have selected a suitable training course, you will need to attend all the required sessions and actively participate in the learning activities.

The approved curriculum covers topics such as hazard identification for all ingredients in the food, risk-based preventive controls development and implementation, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification techniques, recordkeeping requirements, and regulatory expectations. During the training course, participants are guided through real-life scenarios and case studies that help them understand how to apply preventive controls effectively.

They learn about common challenges that may arise during implementation and gain insights into best practices for ensuring compliance with FSMA regulations. Additionally, they acquire tools and resources necessary for developing robust food safety plans that can be implemented in their respective organizations.

Just as valuable, a robust PCQI course allows for the prospective PCQI  and their team members to identify gaps in their food safety plans. 

Upon successful completion of the training course’s assessment criteria set forth by the trainer or organization, participants will receive a PCQI completion certificate from ImEPIK or FSPCA’s authorized agents. This certificate validates their status as a qualified individual capable of overseeing preventive controls within their organization’s food safety system. A valid certificate will have the learner’s name, date of completion and a unique identifying number. 

It is worth noting that PCQI certification does not confer legal authority, but it is recognized and highly regarded by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An FDA inspector may ask for the completion certificate when making a facility visit and evaluating adherence to a food safety plan. 

From the company’s risk reduction standpoint, the PCQI certification demonstrates an individual’s commitment to food safety and compliance with FSMA regulations, making them an asset to their organization in maintaining a safe and secure food supply chain.

How do I get PCQI certified?

When you are ready to register for a PCQI course, these steps are involved: 

  1. Identify training providers that specifically state that they use the FDA approved standard curriculum for their PCQI course. Make sure the course modules they use in the PCQI course cover the minimum 20 hour curriculum. Courses with case studies and diverse scenarios allow you to practice real-life decision-making and accelerate your expertise. Practice activities and characters with real-world dilemmas help you retain knowledge. 
  2. Decide on the format that works best for you. Do you want to travel and take a 3-day course? Would you prefer to take seat time with some online instruction where you must be at your computer at a predetermined and set time to participate? Do you need the flexibility of taking the course online at your own time and pace with interactive software? Will others at your facility be taking the course during the same timeframe? 
  3. Register and pay the enrollment fee for the appropriate course. FSPCA courses require additional fees to obtain a completion certificate. Other providers, such as ImEPIK do not have additional fees. 
  4. Successful completion of the course: To attain the PCQI certificate of completion, , participants must successfully complete all the required modules of the training program. This typically involves attending all sessions or completing online modules and passing any necessary exams or assessments administered at the end of each section.

Becoming PCQI certified demonstrates commitment to maintaining high standards of food safety management within an organization. It equips individuals with valuable knowledge and skills that are essential for complying with FDA regulations and ensuring the safety of the food supply chain.

Who should attend PCQI courses?

PCQI certification courses are designed for professionals working in the food industry who are responsible for implementing and overseeing preventive controls in accordance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Such individuals often hold positions such as quality assurance managers, food safety professionals, plant managers, production supervisors, sanitation and supply chain managers as well as regulatory affairs personnel. Many companies train their entire food safety team as PCQIs. These courses are highly recommended for anyone involved in the development, implementation, maintenance, and auditing of a company’s food safety plan.

In addition, risk management and food defense plan personnel take PCQI training to enhance their understanding of prevention and response to economically adulterated and other intentional adulteration of their food products. . 

Preventing potential hazards from contaminating the products is the job of everyone in a food facility. The PCQI learns how to describe hazards, risks and the intention of regulatory language in these courses, thereby supporting a culture of food safety.  Food safety professionals who work directly with product testing and analysis can greatly benefit from PCQI certification courses. These professionals are responsible for monitoring ingredient sources, conducting microbial testing, verifying supplier qualifications, and maintaining accurate records.

Through these training programs, they gain expertise in identifying potential hazards within their supply chain and establishing preventive control measures to mitigate risks effectively. Additionally, they learn how to perform thorough risk assessments and implement corrective actions when necessary.

Furthermore, plant managers and production supervisors have a critical role in overseeing daily operations within food processing facilities. Attending PCQI certification courses equips them with an understanding of preventive control principles that can be applied throughout various stages of production processes.

They learn how to identify potential hazards during manufacturing operations such as cross-contamination or improper temperature control. With this knowledge at hand, plant managers can establish robust systems that prioritize employee training on hygienic practices while ensuring compliance with FSMA regulations.

PCQI certification courses are essential for professionals in the food industry who hold positions responsible for implementing, maintaining, and overseeing preventive controls. These courses benefit quality assurance managers, food safety professionals, plant managers, production supervisors, and regulatory affairs personnel alike.

By attending such training programs, these individuals acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to develop effective food safety plans, mitigate risks associated with potential hazards, and ensure compliance with FSMA regulations. Ultimately, by investing in PCQI certification courses, companies can demonstrate their commitment to providing safe and high-quality food products to consumers while meeting regulatory requirements.

What course should I take to become a PCQI?

To become a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), there are specific courses that provide the necessary training and certification. These courses are designed to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills required to effectively implement the preventive controls systems outlined in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Here are some of the recommended courses for aspiring PCQIs:

  1. Preventive Controls for Human Food: This course is ideal for individuals who work in facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold human food. It covers topics such as developing a food safety plan, hazard analysis, preventive controls implementation, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification activities, and recordkeeping requirements.

The curriculum is comprehensive and aligns with the standardized curriculum recognized by the FDA. 

  1. Preventive Controls for Animal Food: This course is specifically tailored for professionals involved in animal feed manufacturing or handling.

It aims to provide an understanding of key concepts related to preventing hazards in animal food production facilities. Participants will learn about developing an animal food safety plan, hazard analysis techniques specific to animal food production, preventive controls implementation strategies, supplier control measures, and recall procedures.

  1. Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP): This course targets importers responsible for ensuring that their foreign suppliers meet FSMA’s standards for preventive controls and produce safe foods. It covers various aspects such as determining appropriate verification activities based on risk assessment, evaluating foreign supplier performance and compliance history records, conducting on-site audits when necessary, implementing corrective actions if violations occur, maintaining required documentation records, as well as understanding FDA’s role in FSVP implementation.


Obtaining PCQI certification is crucial for individuals working in the food industry, as it ensures that they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to develop and implement effective food safety plans. This certificate of completion not only enhances one’s professional credentials but also demonstrates a commitment to upholding the highest standards of food safety and quality. When it comes to acquiring PCQI certification, individuals have various options.

There are several training providers that offer the FDA recognized curriculum in their PCQI courses, such as ImEPIK and FSPCA, which cover the required aspects of preventive controls for human food in FSMA’s Human Food Rule.  These courses provide comprehensive training on topics such as hazard analysis, risk-based preventive controls development and implementation, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification activities, and recordkeeping requirements.

Achieving PCQI certification demonstrates an individual’s dedication to ensuring food safety and quality in the industry. By undergoing rigorous training and obtaining this credential, professionals can contribute significantly to preventing foodborne illnesses and protecting public health. Teams that train as PCQIs offer strong brand protection as well. 

Investing in PCQI certification not only advances one’s career prospects but also instills confidence in stakeholders regarding your commitment to maintaining highest standards of food safety throughout the supply chain. Overall, while obtaining a PCQI certificate of completion requires effort and commitment from individuals pursuing careers in the food industry, it is a worthwhile endeavor that offers numerous professional benefits while safeguarding public health through enhanced knowledge and skills in preventive controls for human food regulations.

Start your path to PCQI certification today with ImEPIK. Train at your own pace, from anywhere. No classroom time required.