I was listening to “The Money Show” on 702 about two weeks back and they were discussing the Listeriosis outbreak. They said that not only has this affected Enterprise. The whole processed meat industry has lost 60% of their market. Over 1,000 people have lost their jobs and another few hundred are on short time. The processed meat industry has not yet put together a campaign to reassure consumers that their products are safe to eat. The only reason, I can think of, for this lack of a campaign, is that they cannot assure the customers that their products are safe.

Part of the excuse was, “Listeriosis was not a notifiable disease until recently.” Rubbish! Listeriosis is a bacterium and you are not supposed to supply bacteria laden products to the market.

Listeriosis is a Health and Safety issue, but it is also a Quality issue.

The definition of quality is “Meeting the customers’ requirements,” or put another way, “Fit for purpose.” So what are the customers’ requirements for polony and vienna sausages? They must be cheap, tasty, consistent, contain protein and be safe to eat. The first three the customer can measure directly and will respond with his buying power, if they don’t measure up. The packet states the fourth requirement and regulation controls it. The customer relies on the supplier to meet the “Safe to eat” Requirement. The suppliers are not supplying a quality product on this requirement!

I have said in other articles, “If you think Quality is expensive, try to non-quality.” 60% of the market wiped out! Some of that you will never recover, people are getting used to the alternatives.

I have never worked in the food industry, but I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry under clean room conditions. It is not rocket science. It just requires discipline and management commitment, I repeat, “Management Commitment!”

Let’s think of the control points:

  • Incoming raw materials. Is the chicken and pork gunge a bacterial soup when it comes in? What is the supplier doing to supply quality raw materials? Does he maintain the “Cold Chain” so that the bacteria cannot multiply?
  • Do you maintain cold room conditions during storage? Do you have a chart to prove this?
  • Do you manufacture polony and vienna sausages under clean room conditions? My idea, from the pharmaceutical industry, of clean room conditions, would be:
    • A separate area, glass or imperviously coated walls, tiled floor, stainless steel tables and equipment
    • Area washed down with steam daily before the day’s work starts. Equipment washed and steamed
    • The clean area has a change room with a clean and dirty side. Have lockers for surplus clothing on the “Dirty side.” Step over the bench into your clean rubber boots, put on a gown and hairnet, (including a bead net for guys with beards), wash and dry your hands, put on a mask and gloves, wash and dry your gloves. Go to work. Discard the gloves and masks each time you leave the clean area. Wash the boots daily during steam down. Wash hairnets and gowns daily.

  • Do you cook the raw material before or after making the sausage and polony? Does the cooking process kill all the bacteria? Do you conduct microbiological tests to prove this?

Continue down the rest of the cold chain to the customer’s plate.

O, we seem to be doing a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) study, which you are supposed to do anyway. You did a HACCP study? Good! Now you have to implement the controls you identified. This is a management function. The legal requirement falls on the company directors in their personal capacity. This may sink in to their minds if we put some of them in jail for capable homicide.

Doing and implementing your HACCP study, and conducting microbiological tests to prove that the implementation was successful, would allow manufacturers to assure their customers that the product is safe to eat.

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