Safety & Quality of Traditional Greek Pasteli Products:
A case study
Dr. Vassilis Georgakopoulos
PAPADOPOULOU & Co.
For 80 years now PAPADOPOULOU & Co. has been producing quality traditional pasteli products (made by sesame seeds and honey). During the ensuing years, priority has always been given to the maintenance of the reputation for quality that the company has built for itself. This aim continues to manifest itself within company policy.
However, in the last 15 years it has become obvious that the consumer has developed a higher degree of awareness with regard not only to the quality, but to the safety as well, of traditional pasteli products. Therefore, the food companies, all around the world, must be in a position to meet the higher expectations of their consumers, not only by maintaining but also by improving the safety and quality of their products.
The importance of providing high standards that are at least comparable to those of our competitors is an essential part of any business strategy. PAPADOPOULOU & Co. is attempting to maintain and improve its safety and quality standards by using an approach based on 5 "building bricks" that the company believes are essential for its improvement programme to progress. They are initiatives on:
(a) Supplier Quality Assurance,
(b) Hygiene & Quality Training,
(c) Hygiene Improvement (application of Good Manufacturing Practices)
(d) Distribution Quality, and
(e) ELOT 1416:2000 (HACCP) Accreditation.
These five areas are not in any order of priority. We believe that they are of equal importance and our aim towards a "total quality" approach with regards to our products can be achieved only by carrying all five initiatives forward together.
Supplier Quality Assurance
Through the years, we have recognized that only the supplier can control the quality of the goods and services that we receive. It was our intention to work closely together on a multi-functional basis to ensure that the goods and services we receive, we can use with confidence. The aim is to enable us to achieve the best balance between (a) quality standards, which we can sustain cost-effectively and (b) quality standards, which we need to maintain the quality of our products, taking due regard to the efficiency of our manufacture. Thus, our efforts have been driven towards creating and maintaining an approved list of cost-effective and reliable suppliers of raw materials, packaging and services, which is fundamental to our business philosophy.
This approach has created a better understanding and the relationship built with our suppliers has given both parties considerable confidence in a long-term basis. It has also enabled us to have a higher degree of association with fewer suppliers, but a much greater understanding on mutual problems. Therefore, we are assured that we are getting "right first time" materials & services within our manufacturing unit, enabling us to increase our production efficiencies.
Hygiene & Quality Training
PAPADOPOULOU & Co. has long recognized that people are its greatest resource and in order to facilitate our quality and safety improvements, intensive programs of training are being undertaken by our personnel. Section managers and factory operatives are continuously trained in food quality and safety matters with an emphasis on how to better assess our products. Responsibility for quality and safety rests on the factory floor and, therefore, an investment in training proves to be greatly beneficial.
All our food handlers are undertaking the basic EFET (Greek Food Standards Agency) certificate so that they will have a comprehensive understanding of food safety & hygiene requirements. The large investment in training is already having an impact, with an increased awareness of and commitment to hygiene, safety and quality improvement.
Hygiene Improvement (application of Good Manufacturing Practices)
For many years now we have been building our efforts on hygiene and hygiene improvement for our factory and all of our processes. Through regular inspections we try to identify areas of weakness and seek suggestions as to corrective action in these particular areas.
Broadly speaking, hygiene operations can be broken down into people, plant and premises. With regard to people we have a code of conduct for dress and behaviour within our factory, the basic aim of which is to minimize the risk of foreign substance contamination in our products.
Our plant and equipment is chosen with great care, to ensure that various policy standards are met, concerning the supply of equipment and how it should be installed for the most hygienic operation. We also include a rapid testing programme with regard to microbiology, to ensure that the cleaning of our plant and equipment is effective and also our general standards of hygiene are up to microbiological standards. All the materials that are used in our premises - belting, equipment, cleaning materials etc. - are assessed for suitability for use.
The aim is to ensure, as far as practicable, that the product reaches the consumer in the best possible condition. Quality assurance is relatively easy to achieve whilst the goods are in our direct control - that is, until they reach the customers' premises. Although products are formulated to have long shelf lives, in the order of months rather than weeks, storage under adverse conditions can affect quality. It is therefore important that we know the physical properties of our products.
Extremes of temperature and humidity can affect the quality of most pasteli products, as can mechanical damage. Laboratory tests are carried out to determine all the above properties of our products (as well as their microbiological condition) and detailed instructions on correct handling and storage have been issued to personnel in our distribution chain.
A system (soon to become computerized) tracks the palletized goods as they pass from the factory to the dispatch point so that the age and location of our products is monitored continuously, fulfilling the requirements of law for the traceability of goods.
Specifications have been issued for the palletisation of goods, including pallet layouts and stretch wrapping, the design and use of road transport vehicles (which are all insulated), and the control and monitoring of temperature and humidity conditions in our stores.
The result of the above measures is that we are able to package our products as economically as possible, protect them from extreme temperatures and mechanical damage, monitor their age and keep track of them as they pass through the distribution system - all essential requirements for the maintenance of quality.
ELOT 1416:2000 (HACCP) Accreditation
The company set out some time ago to achieve accreditation to HACCP and at this stage it is accredited to ELOT 1416:2000 (HACCP) [ELOT: Greek Organization for Standardization]. PAPADOPOULOU & Co. took a decision that would use consultants who could bring a fresh point of view to the everyday running of the factory operations and support with regular audits the operation of the food safety management system.
Whilst it is not intended here to discuss HACCP in detail, it is our belief that the benefits derived from HACCP are considerable. We have had to look at ourselves in a different light, and the disciplines as well as the document control that have resulted from ELOT 1416:2000 (HACCP) have given us great benefits in that we are able to identify our problems and resolve them much more quickly. There is a clear definition of people's responsibilities within the food safety management system and, therefore, an understanding of their role from the beginning. In addition, there have been considerable derived cost savings with regard to our better control procedures.
The control of people, plant, equipment, ingredients and packaging materials is an integral part of our efforts to ensure that our hygiene standards are as high as possible. They, also, incorporate the HACCP principles in our attempts to minimize the chance of contamination for our products.
We continue to review our standards and objectives to try to improve them for the future and to ensure that we meet with our consumers' expectations for the quality of our pasteli products (Accreditation to ISO 9001:2000 is the next quality target of the company).
It is our hope that the improvement program the company is carrying out, will demonstrate to the consumers the care taken by PAPADOPOULOU & Co. during manufacture and distribution to ensure the safety, quality and nutritive value of traditional Greek pasteli products that are on sale in the market-place.