Quality is key to consumers, speakers tell OFPA convention

April 10, 2015
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Dave Edmark, Agricultural Communication Services
479-575-6940 / dedmark@uark.edu

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Rick Roop, Tyson Foods senior vice president for food safety and quality, addresses the Ozark Food Processors Association’s 109th annual convention and exposition in Springdale.
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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Networking in the food industry benefits consumers, public health and supply chain operators through participation in the Global Food Safety initiative, a prominent food safety executive told the Ozark Food Processors Association at its 109th annual convention and exposition on April 8.

The convention began with the annual business meeting for reports on the status of OFPA and an update from representatives from its convention sponsors and sustaining member companies, Del Monte Foods, Inc. and Sager Creek Vegetable Co.

Rick Roop, Tyson Foods senior vice president for food safety and quality, explained the workings of the GFSI as part of the association’s program on “Consumer Expectations: Driving Industry Changes.” The GFSI was founded in Europe in 2001 as a collaboration of leading food safety experts from retail and manufacturing. Tyson, along with several other food companies such as Kroger, McDonald’s and Walmart, is represented on the GFSI board. Participants in GFSI provide each other ideas on how to improve their own food safety programs.

GFSI’s benchmarking model determines equivalency among companies’ food safety schemes and accommodates audits. Roop explained that many companies want a third-party audit and use GFSI audits as trusted evidence to present to their food service clients. He said many companies won’t buy a food product unless its food safety procedures have been through a GFSI audit.

“An audit is a snapshot in time,” Roop said, noting that there are criteria that all auditors should follow when applying GFSI standards.

Addressing Tyson’s approach to the topic, Roop said the company uses the slogan, “Food safety: why not you?” referring to both consumers and company personnel. All management personnel at Tyson are required to take food safety training regardless of their area of responsibility so they will know about issues that affect their own work. “It gives them a better understanding so they can do a better job for a food company,” Roop said.

Food producers fail “when product availability takes precedence over product quality,” said Lamont Rumbers, Sam’s Club senior director for quality. “We fail to understand the complexity of the process or we make it too complex to execute, which may increase your chance of failure,” he told the association. Rumbers blamed problems on poor training of professionals responsible for quality.

Too often, he said, quality is regarded as a “thing” and is not defined. “We get better one failure at a time but that is not strategic,” Rumbers said. Problems can be compounded when many suppliers lack properly trained quality personnel in their facilities who don’t know enough about quality program development and implementation.

In addition to better training, Rumbers called for quality managers to be less dependent on technology and to exercise “management by walking around” and hands-on training in their plants.

Quality – along with service and trust – is among the components that add up to a product’s value to enable companies to create value for their customers, said Ed Fryar, owner of Ozark Mountain Poultry of Rogers. “The only way you will grow your business is by meeting your customer’s demands and by providing your customers better value,” he said.

The poultry industry has done well in recent decades as chicken products have displaced beef and pork products as the best selling meat. Fryar noted that the poultry industry has done so by processing and packaging its goods with specific final products in mind for consumers. Several decades ago, poultry was sold usually as whole chickens or cut-up versions. The availability of further processed chicken products such as nuggets, hot wings, chicken appetizers and others has helped poultry rise to its current ranking as the top meat product. Fryar said, adding that chicken products cost consumers a smaller share of their earnings than previously.

The association also heard remarks from Leslie Skybo, frozen foods quality manager for ConAgra Foods, on the company’s best practices for responding to food allergens in products.

The OFPA convention opened April 7 with its annual golf tournament held at Shadow Valley Country Club in Rogers. More than 40 golfers played in the event with proceeds benefiting the OFPA scholarship fund. Scholarships sponsored by OFPA and its members were awarded to five students from the University of Arkansas Food Science Department. Eleven students participated in a scientific poster competition. The convention had 42 exhibitors and more than 300 attendees.

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