Understanding the role of the HACCP Team Leader and PCQI

The first step in the HACCP process is to assemble a HACCP Team. For that team to be successful, the team should have a leader. This concept is reflected in various (and sometimes confusing) forms – not only in food regulation but in customer food safety certification standards. In this post, find out the differences is between a HACCP Team Leader and the US food regulated PCQI. Also learn what they are, what they do and what qualifications are needed.

What is a HACCP Team leader?

In a nutshell, the HACCP Team leader is the person who ‘leads’ or manages the HACCP Team. If your food business maintains a GFSI recognised standard this position may also be called an SQF Practitioner, a Food Safety Team Leader, Internal Team Leader or HACCP Coordinator. Regardless of the title, the HACCP Team leader is responsible for the implementation of the HACCP and/or Food Safety Management System. They are also charged with coordinating changes and updates to the HACCP Program.

What is a PCQI?

PCQI is short for Preventive Controls Qualified Individual. The FDA Regulation on cGMP, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Human Food defines a PCQI as being “a qualified individual who has successfully completed training in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls at least equivalent to that received under a standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by FDA or is otherwise qualified through job experience to develop and apply a food safety system.”

If your food business manufactures food within the USA or imports food into the USA (and are required to comply with the previously mentioned FDA regulation) you need a PCQI in your food business.

Comparing the roles and responsibilities

There is no overarching standard that defines the role and responsibilities of a HACCP Team leader. It really depends on what is required by any one of the myriad of the GFSI standards or customer requirements that exist world-wide.  To provide a bit of direction, SQF identifies responsibility and authority requirements for the SQF practitioner in 2.1.1 – Management Responsibility (The SQF Food Safety Code: Food Manufacturing – System Elements (Edition 9).

The role and responsibility of the PCQI however, is more prescriptive, thanks to its regulatory foundation in §117.180 – Requirements applicable to a preventive controls qualified individual and a qualified auditor. To find out what a PCQI must do or oversee, click here.

Gaining your qualifications

HACCP Team Leader

There are various levels of HACCP training available from foundation and intermediate through to advanced and refresher. It is recommended that the HACCP Team leader have an initial qualification in the intermediate to advanced range. You can click here to complete International HACCP Alliance accredited training. This would support that the HACCP team leader has an in-depth knowledge of HACCP and be able to demonstrate competence and experience. HACCP Refresher training is recommended every 2 – 3 years. I also suggest that you check any certification standards that your food business maintains for more prescriptive requirements.


At the time of writing this post, there is one clear qualification pathway in being recognized as a PCQI. That pathway is by undertaking the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) course on Preventive Controls for Human Food. This course is taught by lead instructors trained by the FSPCA, who have been instructed in how to teach the FDA-recognized standardized curriculum. Find out about the blended training option here.

Multiple Representatives

There is generally only one HACCP Team leader but it is recommended that a deputy position is in place. This has also become a mandatory requirement in the latest versions of many GFSI recognised standards.

Your business can have multiple people in the organization identified as a PCQI. The PCQI may not necessarily take on formal leadership responsibilities.

Are you a HACCP Team Leader?

An effective HACCP team leader has a variety of abilities, qualities and characteristics, not just formal qualifications. I have previously written about some of the traits that help to make a successful team leader which you can read about here.

You can also share your leadership and wisdom with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.

14 thoughts on “Understanding the role of the HACCP Team Leader and PCQI”

  1. What is difference between Food Safety Team Leader and Management Representative ? Can a Food safety Team Leader be Management Team Leader ?

    1. A management team leader acts as a management representative. The Food Safety Team Leader may not have any managerial responsibilities.

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