11 Food Quality Control Procedures That Every Company Should Know

QWerks
blog.getqwerks
Published in
7 min readJan 28, 2019

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There’s a lot that a company can and should do to keep their products up to consistent standards, and keep them safe and reliable for consumers. There are even basic ones that every company should know and implement with all of their products. While this list does not cover everything a company should do to keep their products safe, it does lay a basic groundwork.

1. Ingredient Specifications

A final product can only be as good as the raw materials and ingredients put into it. Therefore, the best starting point is developing ingredient specifications. Make sure to review all information and modify the specifications as needs change. It’s also important to discuss and settle these specifications with the supplier. The ingredient specifications should be documented to maintain consistency. Ingredient specifications documentation should include at minimum: names of ingredients, vital product attributes, and important dates, but may require more information. This is all to assure that the supplier has not changed the materials or standards.

2. Approved Supplier List

For each ingredient, it’s a good idea to have an approved supplier list that is available to individuals responsible for purchasing and quality control. The approved supplier list should contain at least the following information: ingredient name and internal code; supplier name, address, phone number and other key contact info; trade name of ingredient; and supplier code number.

3. Product Formulation/Recipe

Every food product should have a written documentation of the formula or recipe and be available for use as a means to assure consistency between batches, lots, and even days of production. For highly confidential formulas, the production worker does not need all the details and a simplified recipe can be put in place to assure that the product information stays secret.

4. Product Standards

One of the most important tools to assure quality in a finished product is the product standard document. Product standards are defined by the physical, chemical and microbiological characteristics of the final product. Physical characteristics including size, shape, dimensions, weight, and volume are important, as are count per package or container, presence of fines, or any other special features which define the particular product.

Microbiological standards will depend on the specific food item. Food safety is the responsibility of the processor, so consider pathogens and foreign materials when developing product standards. Make sure rejection criteria for each product and acceptable methodology for determining these are established. Your base minimum rejection standards are based on regulatory requirements and practical production experience.

5. Manufacturing Procedures

There should be a documented method of the processing procedures to ease duplication from lot to lot, shift to shift and day to day. There are several key points to consider when identifying the important processing operations such as time, temperature, equipment required, order of addition for ingredients, and weight. After the product is prepared, make manufacturing procedures or portions of the procedures available to production employees.

6. In-Process Records

Another area that QWerks specializes in is in-process record keeping. It is important to know what is happening with the product during the manufacturing process. Both the quality control and production personnel should participate in daily maintenance logs.

Things such as product weight, temperature, size and shape, ingredient usage, product yield, scrap or waste, material balance and rework are examples of things that need to be measured during the manufacturing process. The basin-process measurements used in each operation are called Critical Control Points.

Keeping track of critical control points is important because small differences, changes or mistakes can cause the finished product to be a health hazard, unsafe, and costly to the business. Critical control points may be self-imposed or defined by regulation when public health or product identity are of concern. In-process record keeping can be done manually or by an automatic operation, and in some cases both. It is also important to make adjustments to the in-process records.

7. Packaging and Labeling

All quality control programs should include packaging and labeling, after all the first items that influence the consumer are the package and the label. There are two basic packages necessary for food products: The primary package and the secondary package. The primary package encloses the food and has direct contact with the product; typically, a film, jar, bottle, carton or box. The secondary package is used to hold together multiple packaged food items for shipment and is meant to provides protection.

Packaging is selected and designed based upon the needs of that particular food item. Regardless of the design of the packaging, the law requires product name, ingredient statement, and manufacturing or distribution location to be on the package. Other government regulations include the size of type or printing and for the overall graphs to represent the contents of the container.

8. Good Manufacturing Practices and Sanitation

There are federal regulations called Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMPs) that define specific procedures meant to minimize the contamination of food products by those in manufacturing, processing, packaging, and warehousing facilities. GMPs are an integral part of quality control- this is where QWerks could do the most good for your company.

It is the responsibility of food business management and ownership to ensure that GMPs are carried out by employees. Along with GMPs, a regular cleaning and sanitizing program is essential to preventing contamination.

9. Warehousing

Warehousing involves three activities: receiving, storage and shipping.

Receiving

Some basic guidelines for incoming shipments are:

  1. The storage space should clean and consistent with the first-in-first-out (FIFO) or first-expiring-first-out (FEFO) rotation principle.
  2. Before unloading materials, inspect the condition of the trailer. If it doesn’t meet standards, reject the load.
  3. Collect random samples from the shipment to analyze or evaluate the samples to make sure they meet specifications.
  4. After unloading, inspect the condition of the trailer and materials.
  5. If the shipment does not meet specifications, be prepared to reject all or part of the load.

Storage

If the product isn’t stored properly, it can impact the quality of the product. The product should be stored in an orderly manner under the proper conditions necessary to maintain quality.

Shipping

Shipping is the last step in which food businesses have direct control over product quality. Ship items on a FIFO/FEFO basis and use the same guidelines in shipping that were set up in receiving.

10. Laboratory Analysis

Laboratory analysis is the part of the quality control program that is implemented after the product is produced. The samples that will be tested in this phase should be random and pulled out regularly for every batch. For some analyses, very simple methods are used in the laboratory, while other methods are more complicated and require specialized equipment.

All laboratory analyses should be performed in a room away from the processing area. If there is not space for a separate area, there are other ways to obtain laboratory analysis results from outside, independent labs or from a combination of in-house and independent testing.

A qualified individual should conduct all analyses and report the results to ensure they are in line with quality control standards. All test results should be recorded and compared to the product specifications and standards. Failure to meet these standards should be communicated so that additional action can be taken if necessary.

11. Recall Plan

Even the best-laid plans often go awry, and it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. A product recall is when a company has to bring back product from the distribution system. Whether the product recall was the result of voluntary action by a business firm or involuntary action due to Food and Drug Administrative (FDA) action, an unorganized recall process could ruin a business’ public image.

There are three classification as best described by the FDA for a recall:

  1. A Class I product recall is the most urgent type of recall that the FDA will issue. In a FDA Class I Recall, there is significant and immediate danger of death or other serious injury from the use of the product being recalled.
  2. A Class II product recall is an intermediate threat level recall. A Class II recall is issued where there is no immediate danger of death or other serious injury linked to the product, but the risk of death or a serious injury is still present.
  3. A Class III product recall is the least serious type of recall. A Class II recall is typically issued when there is no immediate or perceived danger of any health issues, but items have been released that are in violation of FDA regulations.
  4. All recall plans should be developed and communicated to appropriate individuals within the firm before any crises arise. All plans should at minimum include:
  5. A product coding system that is simple, yet broad enough to minimize financial loss.
  6. A record keeping system to identify and associate specific products, product codes, carriers, destinations, personnel and their assigned responsibilities for a recall.
  7. A strong communication system within the company.
  8. Established procedures for evaluating and correcting the situation.

Remember, a recall program is an insurance policy and will not prevent the adverse situation from occurring. Food quality is an expectation from consumers.

All the food quality control procedures discussed in this article are designed to keep the quality of products consistent, reliable, and safe for consumers. And while there is a lot to organize, keep track of, and report, there is a tool out there that can make it all a little easier. This is where QWerks comes to the rescue to not only help in the day-to-day operations, but help simplify the process. Find out how QWerks can help your business today.

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QWerks
blog.getqwerks

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