Quality: Hooray for the Quality System
R. F. Stier. Consulting Food Scientists, Sonoma, CA. Cereal Foods World 53(2):111.
One of the most important changes that the processing industry has undergone in the last 25 years has to do with quality. In the old days, the focus was on finished product testing to ensure that the products met established specifications. If a lot was found to be out of spec, it would be retested and retested and, perhaps, even tested again until results came out as desired. Using finished product testing to evaluate quality is not a great idea. Once the product is manufactured, it can’t be changed. If it is out of spec, it can be reworked, sold at a lower grade, or reprocessed, but it cannot be made good. Today, thanks in large part to the adoption of the hazard analysis, critical control point (HACCP) system for ensuring food safety, the industry now builds quality into the process. The use of a combination of critical control points to ensure that the food is safe and control points or quality control points to ensure that quality parameters are met has improved efficiencies, reduced waste, and enhanced overall quality throughout the food industry. This is called process control. Operators, usually production people, monitor points in the process where control can be exerted to maintain overall product quality. If the system begins to drift, they make adjustments to bring the operation and, hence, product quality back into established control limits. This is another sea change for the food industry: production personnel monitoring quality. When production buys off on and helps maintain quality, it is a sign that the plant has established a systematic approach to quality. This attitude has helped to eliminate the age old battle between quality and production; the latter interested only in getting their “number” and the quality group being the bad guy who stops the line and puts product on hold.