Milk Minute: Food safety is priority number one

By Sudeep Jain, MMPA Director of Quality Assurance 

At MMPA, the safety of our products is paramount. The year 2020 has brought so many challenges, but our commitment to producing safe, quality food has not, and should not, waiver.

In this article, I want to share with you some of the work that happens every day at MMPA plants to ensure that the products are safe to consume and are made to the quality standards that our customers expect—no different than what our dairy farmer members are responsible for on their farms. We receive some of the best quality milk in the nation from our member farms, and convert it into finished products such as fluid milk, condensed skim milk, milk powders, butter, cream, Ultra-filtered skim milk, Ultra-filtered skim milk blends and various varieties of cheese. Most of these products are classified under the ready-to-eat (RTE) category.

Food safety is an expectation, not a competitive advantage, in the evolved, 21st century food landscape. Customers and consumers have choices. The way we see it, food safety is the minimum bar that a food processor must pass to offer their products to buyers. We want consumers to have undeniable trust in the safety of dairy products every day when they drink a glass of milk or eat a piece of cheese.

All MMPA plants fall under the inspection by Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and state regulatory agencies like the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development or the Indiana Board of Animal Health.

The MMPA Quality Assurance team is constantly working to ensure that our plants meet the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The latest regulation is FDA’s Intentional Adulteration rule, which is aimed at preventing intentional adulteration of food from acts intended to cause wide-scale harm to public health, including acts of terrorism targeting the food supply. For ensuring safe food production at our plant, we have divided the plant into “zones” depending on the activities that take place in those areas. We take microbiological swabs to check for the presence of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria in those areas. If concerns are identified, corrective actions are taken to ensure that our plants remain safe to make food for human consumption.

Additionally, all MMPA plants carry the Global Food Safety Initiative’s Safe Quality Food (SQF) Code (version 8.1). This is a voluntary certification program that standardizes the food quality and safety requirements across a broad spectrum of food manufacturers. Participation in this program helps our sales team sell products to a variety of customers and limits the number of audits that the plant operations team must manage.

As our sales team works with customers to find new and innovative uses of MMPA products, my department, the quality assurance team, works side by side with them to support the research and development work—be it sharing samples, supporting documentation or new product specification development.

We also believe that knowledge is best used when you are willing to share. Our quality team participates in industry workshops sponsored by Dairy Management Inc (DMI) and American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) to help develop better testing methods, new ways of ensuring food safety in dairy plant operations, all of which may ultimately result in increased consumer confidence in dairy products.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »