Quality & Hygiene Control of Food in Japan
Many food factories assign some of their staff members to a role of quality & hygiene control. Their job is focused not so much on quality control but on hygiene control of their facilities. In small and mid-sized factories, these staff members are engaged almost exclusively in bacteria tests of the foods produced on the day (testing frequency varies in different factories) and smear tests of their manufacturing environment once a month (also varies in different factories). Strangely enough, I see these procedures all too often in various food factories.
How are these test results fed back to the manufacturing sites? I suppose, in reality, that most of the results are just accumulated as they are, and the accumulation ends up merely being signed by the factory manager. This would wrongly define “data creation” as “hygiene control”, and goes no further than “test for the sake of test”.
In a food-processing factory, test results with extremely high salmonella-positive rate left unsolved and the data just continued to be accumulated. Finally, the factory manager requested me to investigate the cause of the high salmonella incidence.
The factory was relatively small with about 100 employees. I interviewed a college-educated QC staff to obtain a full picture of their quality & hygiene control.
Some bewildering facts from her story made me think how superficial and futile the hygiene control in this country may be.
First of all, she used DHL agar to detect salmonella, and she regarded all the black colonies emerged as expression of salmonella. She said she learned to do so at the college laboratory work. I keenly felt the necessity of education in the form of qualification acquisition for QC personnel like her.
Some inspection institutes do provide trainings for such personnel, but few of them take these trainings that do not lead to any public qualifications.
Neglectfulness of the factory manager, who left the salmonella detection unsolved for the long time, should also be blamed.
I have observed many food factories for the last few decades and found that many of their quality & hygiene controls miss the forest for the trees.
Quality & hygiene control staff should conduct hazard analysis within their facilities and create a work schedule focusing on the critical control points.
At the above-mentioned factory, for example, problems such as contamination and pinhole had occurred frequently. In spite of the situation, little analysis had been conducted on these problems, and their quality & hygiene control was focused on a series of minor adjustments. In order to make the factory even a little better, it is important to spend much time on minimizing the abnormalities and complaints from on-site workers on a daily basis.
Quality & hygiene control should be analyzing the data obtained within a factory and feed back the results to the on-site operations. If you focus only on data-gathering processes without paying attention to what the data suggests, your “quality & hygiene control” does not make any sense.
Quality & hygiene control is not something to create a mountain of data. It is necessary to understand that efficient quality & hygiene control with minimum data creation is the key to ensure safety and security of food.