What Food Quality Assurance Really Means
What if every time you opened a brand new container of milk to pour over your morning cereal, you had no idea if it would be fresh or spoiled? Or if you opened up a brand new moldy of potato chips and found them covered in mold? Even worse, what if you had no indicators that your fresh food was contaminated with potentially harmful microorganisms and it made you extremely ill?
Luckily, cases of mislabeled spoiled milk and moldy potato chips are rare. Foodborne illness is unfortunately more common, but all of these issues are preventable through proper quality assurance.
Why Food Needs Quality Assurance
While there may be plenty of people who are nostalgic for the days that all the food we ate was grown outside our front door, that is not a realistic goal for the vast majority of Americans in 2016. The food we stock in our refrigerators and cabinets come from a huge range of source, including different countries. Further, prepackaged foods are made up of components that come from different plants, manufacturers, farms, and other sources. Because the journey that food takes from its origins to the grocery store and ultimately to your home is much longer than it once was. The variety of ingredients and processes involved in even the simplest foods require checking and rechecking a food’s safety. Quality assurance in the food industry is critical to keep consumers safe.
What is Food Quality Assurance?
Food quality assurance is the process of ensuring that food is safe at every stage of production. Safe food is food that is fresh, free from harmful bacteria, and meets all governmental standards for sale. Quality assurance in the food industry depends on a team of trained professionals that are well-versed in the laws governing food safety and know how to test for and identify possible issues in the food supply chain before their products ever reach consumers.
Responsibilities of a Food Quality Assurance Team
While no two food facilities will face exactly the same challenges, the overall responsibilities of a food quality assurance team will frequently include:
Ensuring legal compliance: There are complex laws governing food safety, with more coming into play thanks to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Food safety teams must stay abreast of any legal obligations that apply to their facility and ensure that their standards are aligned with, or that they exceed, legal thresholds for safety.
Enact food testing: Quality assurance in the food industry means testing. Many tests in a food facility will involve microbiology products, which can be used to test both raw materials and the finished food products before they go out to consumers.
Maintaining records: One of the most important tasks that falls to food quality assurance teams is maintaining proper records of testing and other processes. Because food safety is critical to the success of any food facility, the procedures in place should be clearly recorded so that any new person stepping into a quality assurance role will be able to keep processes running.
This is only a small sampling of what a food quality assurance manager could expect to do on a daily basis. Quality assurance is an essential part of the food production and distribution process so it is important that all facilities make it a priority.