Cleaner food production wins new business

M-Power Food general manager Kenneth Seet says the changes were initially difficult to adapt to, but the company has seen benefits, such as a higher standard of food safety.

When the management of M-Power Food - a company that makes powdered milk products - tried in 2012 to introduce new systems to its production staff in an effort to obtain ISO 22000 certification, there was a chorus of complaints.

"The uniform is too hot"; "the head gear is very ugly"; "I didn't go to school, so I don't know how to fill in the reports" were among some of them. Staff also objected to the paperwork they had to do to keep records of machinery washing and maintenance checks, recalls Mr Kenneth Seet, the company's general manager.

However, attaining ISO 22000 was vital. When the company started in 2001, it was trading in food products. When it started manufacturing milk products in 2011, its customers, especially those from Europe, where food safety standards are stringent, pressured them to adopt it. Other potential customers would also not bite otherwise, it said.

M-Power pressed on and in January this year, it gained the ISO accreditation, with funding for about 60 per cent of the accreditation costs being borne by Spring Singapore.

As a result, the entire process, starting from obtaining the raw materials, has been systematised.

Firstly, there are strict checks to ensure that there are at least 12 months to the expiry date for the raw milk powder supplies from Europe and New Zealand.

Before ingredients are mixed, they are put through a sieve to catch any stray bits of plastic, paper or metal. Later, the mixture passes near a big magnet that can catch metal objects such as staples. Reports and testing are now also part of the process. A sample from each 2,000-bag lot produced is sent to an independent laboratory to be tested for contaminants such as bacteria.

Previously, staff checked machines when they broke down. Now, they check machinery at regular intervals and record this so that in the event of a fault, they can easily identify lots that might have been affected. As a result of the ISO accreditation, some new customers are now trying out M-Power products.

"It was painful. But the greatest benefit is that these processes have now become routine, and this helps raise the standard of food safety, because ultimately, food safety is more important than anything else," says Mr Seet.

ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Systems

What it is: ISO standard outlines the systems that food supply companies must have, so as to ensure that their products are safe.

This article was first published on August 6, 2014.
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