The production and sale of food is strictly regulated. In addition to the EU, national legislation sets us a precise framework within which to act. In addition to legislation, we at Meira think that food safety is a prerequisite for our operations. We develop our operations in the spirit of continuous improvement. We conduct self-monitoring, training and supplier audits from a quality and food safety perspective. For example, the certification of the FSSC 22000 product safety management system that we have achieved shows that we take food safety in our operations beyond what is required by law.
The journey of raw materials and packaging materials is often long and complex – for example, a large part of our raw materials come from tropical coffee, pepper or spice farms. To identify the entire product supply chain and the risks associated with it for food safety, we assess raw materials and processes using the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system.
Raw material suppliers often have a seller or a wholesaler within the EU from whom Meira buys raw materials. They help to examine the quality of the raw materials and ensure the conformity of the products. However, all items imported to Meira are inspected upon arrival to ensure that the raw material meets the supplier’s specifications. The receiving sample is analyzed, for example, for microbiological quality and physical properties. In addition, e.g. pesticide residues are examined by random sampling as part of self-monitoring. The end product is also always checked: the taste, texture and microbiological quality must meet our requirements.
Entire staff included
At Meira, the entire staff is very motivated to do their job professionally and sustainably, developing continuously. Successful innovations are made everywhere in the house. One of the most important successes in recent years in terms of food safety is the ISO 22000 certification of coffee production in 2018 and its expansion and certification in accordance with the FSSC 22000 standard in 2019. This requires an extension of the HACCP procedure and sets requirements for, eg the inspection of consumer packaging for extraneous materials. Meira has also been awarded McDonald’s own quality management certificate.
Also, the best grade in the Oiva system of food control inspections maintained by the Finnish Food Authority for several years is an example of us doing the right things in the right and ambitious way.
Even quality work must be adjusted
The most challenging part of this work is that there is no ready-made level of quality, but the information must be constantly adjusted. For example, after a bad harvest season for a raw material, we have to decide where to set the quality limit in order for that raw material and the product made from it to meet our requirements.
Another challenge is the increase in food fraud and its detection. We can rely on EU legislation and the assessments and reviews of our long-term partners in many ways, but the ultimate responsibility for the products always lies with Meira. Food fraud, such as coloring or adding other parts of the plant in the food, has been observed around the world. At Meira, we ensure that consumers who buy our products can be sure that the products are safe and only contain the ingredients mentioned in the package.
Challenges to our operations are also posed by our fine but old factory building and relatively old roasting machine stock with limited potential. Renovating the machinery and keeping the building modern and safe is an important part of the development work. We have a top team and a lot of development ideas, but naturally implementing projects requires a lot of time and resources. That is why it is necessary to look at our needs in the long run so that they can be met over the years.
The effects of the covid-19 pandemic at the Meira plant have been quite small, as our hygiene rules have always been very strict. Due to covid-19, we have increased desinfectioning the surfaces and the staff take turns for breaks and lunch. Despite the exceptional situation, our security of supply has remained normal.
Cooperation is power
My field of work is broad, interesting and motivating. The best thing about my job is its versatility. It’s nice to work with good and high-quality products. I also learn something new every day, both at our factory in Vallila and when auditing our partners. Sometimes there have been positive surprises: for example, when auditing spices at our Vietnamese supplier, I noticed that product safety was much more advanced than with many operators here in Finland.
This job is definitely teamwork and I couldn’t do it successfully without my great coworkers!
The author works as the Quality and Responsibility Manager at Meira