Food processors and manufacturers-who receive raw foodstuffs from farmers and can, jar, freeze, or otherwise prepare them for distribution-monitor their production processes to meet state and federal standards, as well as to ensure consistency of the prepared foods' appearance, aroma, and taste and to minimize waste and potential customer complaints. Protection against intentional contamination at present rests on physical security of the processes and not on biological monitoring of product.
The standards to which food is processed and checked are set by both companies and federal regulations (described below). Companies such as Kellogg's, General Mills, and Pillsbury impose stringent quality standards both internally and on their suppliers. For their suppliers, the quality standards cover not only contamination and spoilage but also the appearance, texture, size, and weight of the incoming foodstuffs. Their sales success depends on the degree of consistency they can achieve. For example, the largest buyer of potatoes in the United States, McDonald's Corporation, specifies to its supplier the specific strain of potatoes to be grown and its care and the size, weight, appearance, and texture that are acceptable for purchase. Every bag of French fries must look, feel, smell, and taste like every other bag.
Food processors and manufacturers generate and store information relevant to food safety and contamination, including records of pasteurization and irradiation. However, they do not routinely share data with the government except what is required for facility inspection and to comply with export requirements, as discussed below. Moreover, the industry is not vertically organized except in a few cases; hence these companies cannot track food from the farm all the way to the dinner table. Extensive records are available for review on products such as meat, seafood, low-acid canned foods, and juice that are produced under mandatory hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) programs discussed in Chapter 3.The records required by regulations include HACCP plans, HACCP records, process authority approvals, and sanitary standard operating procedures (SSOP) records.
To convey the detail of food processing, we discuss two industry sectors in more detail: cereal grains and milk production.
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