Introducing The World of Food Quality, with Austin Bouck
I have a customer on the phone with a technical question, can you help them?
Do we need to do anything special if we ran orange juice for a customer?
Are we GFSI certified?
We just found a piece of cardboard in the hopper, it’s on hold, what do we need to do?
What’s the shelf life going to be?
The inspector is up front.
Can I say this on the label?
The cherries were left out of the refrigerator, can we use them?
How often do we need to clean this room?
Someone says they saw a bat in the warehouse.
Sanitation, pest control, product attributes, packaging integrity, customer satisfaction, legal requirements, crisis response, processing validation, audit schemes, complaint investigation, risk assessment.
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Chemical inventories, licensing, supplier inspection, challenge testing, sensory analysis, quality assurance, quality control, competitor investigation, nutrition labeling, allergen validation, analytics, site security, laboratory management, fraud prevention, process flows, HACCP, VACCP, document control, contract review, statistical process control, specifications, new legislation, public statements, lot tracing, training, new construction, plant design, ventilation management, protective clothing, maintenance, calibration, water testing, product testing, high-risk, low-risk, intended customer-risk.
The million-and-one different areas that quality folks spend their time on contribute to one goal: making sure that the customer receives what they expect. This expectation not only includes the actual performance of the food itself, but also the trust that the business who made it did so safely, legally, and ethically.
This is what we do every day in food safety and quality, and it’s a complex task whether you’re working on portion control in a small family restaurant or evaluating the impact of changing cheese suppliers for a national franchised fondue company.
My name is Austin and I ended up in the food industry by a happy coincidence. While I originally had a strong career track towards becoming a veterinarian, a chance food microbiology internship while I was debating re-applying to grad school led to a love of food quality.
It excites me in the same way that animal medicine does in that there’s constantly new research and information, complex problems to solve, and an amazing community of individuals trying to make the world a better place. Five years later I still can’t believe how happy I’ve been with my choice and the opportunities it’s provided.
Quality is a wonderful mishmash of technical scientific work, resource management, and education. When I was studying veterinary medicine we used to discuss the other end of the leash for animal health, something I continue to remember anytime I want to push a process change or educate consumers to use their thermometer.
All the science in the world doesn’t make that final decision, people do.
In my articles on FoodGrads I’ll talk about different roles in food quality and what makes a good candidate, as well as some hard questions about the ethics of the decisions we make when quality and business needs are both on the table, or how to make your personal impact on public health.
I look forward to hearing what sorts of additional topics readers want to see here on the subject of food safety and quality, and excited to be a part of FoodGrads!
Author: Austin Bouck is a quality assurance manager at a regional beverage company in Oregon, USA. When he’s not at work solving technical quality challenges, he continues to ponder food safety issues on his blog, Fur, Farm, and Fork, which helps him stay sharp and share his knowledge with other professionals and the public.
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