Understanding Quality Control in the Food Industry: A Guide

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food quality control employee working on food conveyor

Businesses worldwide must prioritize quality control to ensure their goods are suitable for consumers. This is especially critical for those in the food packaging industry. Without effective quality control in the food industry, countless consumers may end up in harm’s way by eating spoiled or contaminated foods.

But how do manufacturers and packaging companies ensure their products are safe and of the highest quality? This informative guide outlines the common practices businesses use and explains ways to improve these methods. Discover the ins and outs of these industry standards and how food manufacturers can take them to the next level.

Methods and Tools

What are some common ways manufacturers achieve quality control in the food industry? Every plant will have its own standard procedures depending on the product, but in general, suppliers follow these practices:

  • Sourcing ingredients
  • Receiving ingredients from an approved list of suppliers
  • Documenting food recipes and ingredient storage procedures
  • Recording real-time data during the production process

Keeping track of the ingredients that go into a given product is important. However, experts note that tracking real-time data is key to quality control in the food industry. Employees should be recording vital product information, as well as how often they clean the equipment and any issues with the machinery.

Quality control software is available to make the process easier for food industry workers. With digital solutions, businesses can meticulously track their day-to-day operations and keep their customers safe, ensuring that no anomalies in the production chain go undetected.

Supply Chain Visibility

group of farmers working on a field

How does a jar of pickles make it to grocery store shelves? The process begins with farmers who grow cucumbers, followed by processors who take those cucumbers and add brine to turn them into pickles. From there, the product may go to a separate processor to be packaged into jars, and then passed off to a distributor to be delivered to stores.

This example includes four key suppliers in the supply chain, though some food products may involve several more parties. Maintaining visibility throughout the supply chain will enhance quality standards and make products safer for consumers. Every party should keep detailed records and documentation of their work, and make it accessible to the other suppliers they partner with.

Employee Training

Every business operation must have employees who understand their duties and carry them out successfully. Quality control in the food industry is no different. Manufacturers can only achieve success in this field if they take the time to train their employees.

Human error is a driving force behind cross-contamination within the food industry and can lead to major problems when the product reaches store shelves. Suppliers must train their employees on safe food-handling techniques to minimize risk. The work environment should also enforce safety by having employees wear protective equipment like gloves and hair coverings.

Proactive Measures

factory worker inspecting production line on beverage factory

Think of all the ways a food supplier can prevent issues with their product. They may put every new product through thorough safety testing before deciding to mass produce it. Another option is to schedule regular maintenance on any equipment they use.

These preventative or proactive measures help manufacturers avoid large-scale issues with their products. The Food and Drug Administration mandates that suppliers follow a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system. By evaluating potential hazards at the job site and identifying areas of concern, companies can plan ahead and prevent product contamination.

The goal of quality control in the food industry is to protect as many consumers as possible from contamination or worse. Taking proactive measures is essential to finding flaws within the production line and minimizing any problems to a small sampling.

Reactive Measures

Once a supplier has their preventative steps in place, they can’t assume everything will be fine. Defective products may find their way through the supply chain and cause serious issues for the supplier. Manufacturers must plan reactive measures to address any issue that pops up quickly.

Proper reactive measures should minimize the number of low-quality products that go through the plant. They are critical for quality control and help companies improve their practices. Experts can analyze the data from a product defect incident and use it to revise the company’s proactive and reactive measures. Both protocols require employees to adapt to changes and respond to problems efficiently.

Labeling and Packaging

canned food packaging per serving nutrition label

Manufacturers can better maintain quality control in the food industry by prioritizing accuracy when it comes to labeling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in six Americans suffers from foodborne illnesses every year. Some get sick through improper cooking, such as eating meat not cooked to a safe temperature. Others become ill because of mistakes on the food label.

Say a manufacturing plant distributes pantry items such as cereal, peanut butter, and granola. Someone with a peanut allergy may buy a box of cereal and experience a severe allergic reaction. The cereal recipe doesn’t include peanuts, but a mishap during production cross-contaminates the cereal. This emphasizes the importance of labeling all allergens that may be present at the packaging plant.

Accurate food labeling keeps consumers safe and healthy while protecting the manufacturer. According to ESHA Research, businesses within the food industry lose an average of $10 million from food recalls. This financial setback accounts for the loss of products, investigation fees, legal costs, and customer loyalty.

Suppliers must be in compliance with the FDA’s requirements for food labeling and packaging for optimum quality control in the food industry. These requirements include the following best practices:

  • Providing the name and address of the manufacturer
  • Explaining the suggested serving size and servings per package
  • Listing nutritional information such as total calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber
  • Naming common allergens that are also handled at the product’s manufacturing facility

In addition, products like raw meat or fish should include instructions for cooking to prevent consumers from getting sick from eating foods that are not properly cooked.

Technology Integration

As technology continues to evolve, the food industry can become safer. Implementing new technologies like food x-ray machines and IoT (Internet of Things) sensors enhances quality control in the food industry. Let’s look at how each of these components increases food safety.

X-ray inspection systems easily identify a wide variety of foreign objects in food products. They use a process called radiographing to evaluate the density of products that pass through the machine. A contaminant like a piece of metal or shard of glass will have a different density than the rest of the product, allowing the machine operators to remove the product from the line.

Food x-ray machines are great for detecting foreign objects in products but not harmful traces of bacteria. IoT sensors and smart warehouse technology can help keep consumers safe by flagging any products that may contain E. coli, Listeria, and/or other types of bacteria. They achieve this by monitoring the temperature of perishable food items and alerting warehouse employees when readings come back abnormal.

TDI Packsys is leading the way for manufacturers to sustain superior quality control in the food industry. Our food inspection products, including food x-ray machines, and metal detectors, identify potential contaminants within food packaging.

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