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Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Cherry Processor and the Ice Cream Topping Manufacturer:

It's not even a contest between David and Goliath when Goliath has abandoned commonsense:

What if you tried something different like this cherry processor with no certification costs, no certification stress, no customer loss but operation fortification and improvements are achieved? What if this something else was SSQA implementation?  What if the SSQA implementation imposes no certification pressures but provides product safety and quality fortification strategies that go beyond snap shot audits. What if SSQA exceeds certification schemes and your expectations in its scope, effectiveness, efficiency and practical reality? What if you could easily go back to what you were doing with certification as the cherry processor in this narrative was prepared to do without losing anything? (Warning: the desire to go back to the unnecessary stress and costs  is likely to die a natural death once you have tried the SSQA way). Take a quick look at things you may be missing without the SSQA Manual. 

The Reality-Based Narrative:

A small frozen cherry processor supplies to a manufacturer of toppings for ice cream and other desserts. The topping manufacturer has an extraneous matter specification of “less than 2 quarter inch pieces of stem and/or pit in a single 20 LB pail of frozen cherries. The Cherry Processor has completed its food safety and quality assurance program development to the point of going for external certification audit at the GFSI level. 

During the past 12 months, the topping manufacturer recorded five instances of more than 5 cherry stems and/or pits found in single pails of frozen cherries. These instances were reported to the supplier through a supplier non-conformance incident tracking procedure implemented by the topping manufacturer.

In response to the observed instances of non-conformance, the cherry manufacturer added more line inspectors to the cleaned and pitted fresh cherry inspection stations. There had been two inspectors but the number increased to five before the last two instances of more than 5 cherry stems and/or pits in separate pails of frozen cherries. Meanwhile, the cherry processor is proceeding with a third party food safety and quality system certification process. From this account, should these five instances of non-compliance to the supplier’s specification prevent the cherry processor from receiving a third party audit certification?

The cherry processor has also investigated the possibility of installing an automated cherry processing system with better capabilities of removing stems and pits. It will have to borrow the money for acquiring this system with a borrowing cost that is just a little more than the cost of the anticipated annual certification audits. The processor is contemplating stopping the certification process for a while (the next 3 years) in favor of the automated cherry processing system. Is this a good move? 

If the cherry processor goes ahead with stopping the certification process, acquires the automated system, and is successful in eliminating the observed non-conformance, should the topping manufacturer, in spite of the quality improvement success, drop this processor as a supplier because it stopped the third party certification process for more than 1 year?

Suppose the topping manufacturer allows the 3-year certification hiatus and encounters no further food safety or quality issues originating from the cherry processor, should the topping manufacturer stop buying from this processor after the 3 years are past and the processor still does not have a third party audit certificate? Suppose the unit price of the supplied frozen cherries are increased to absorb the expected annual cost of the third party audit and certification, should the topping manufacturer pay the increased price and continue to push for the certification?

Upon appropriate investigation, the frozen cherries processor finds that installing a blast freezer improves the integrity of the frozen cherries and, therefore, the quality of the manufactured ice cream topping by the topping manufacturer. Installing the blast freezer again means the possible cessation of the third party audit and certification process for a while to manage costs. With no food safety or quality issues encountered and now the improved quality but no third party certificate, should the topping manufacturer go to other suppliers until this cherry processor resumes third party certification? Suppose such a move by the topping manufacturer results in the processor not being able to afford the third party audit and certification process, would you say the move is prudent?
Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate. 

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