Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Jamaica Macaroni Factory Limited, local manufacturer of macaroni products, is moving towards Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification.
"It's part of growing and becoming more efficient," said James Chen, the company's managing director, about the certification process which began in 2010 .
"We've had some assistance from the European Union (EU) through the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA)," said Chen of the €30,000 grant which contributed to them addressing lighting issues, retrofitting their loading dock and creating architectural plans for a finished goods warehouse. This grant represented 50 per cent of these costs.
HACCP certification is an international food safety standard used to regulate food manufacturers. It will soon be mandatory for all Jamaican food exporters to the United States.
But Chen said it's not cost effective for him to compete in the American macaroni industry, as they have better economies of scale. He said receiving this certification engenders greater trust with his local clients.
"Having that will certainly make your customers more confident in your ability to produce, to quality standards," said Chen, who explained that aside from being monitored locally by the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica. They are also randomly audited by their business customers.
Established in 1967, the factory produces macaroni products for approximately 10 other local brands including Grace, Lasco and Ramson's as well as their own in-house brand Marco Polo. The macaroni products include macaroni elbows, shells, spirals, macaroni and cheese dinners and longer varieties to include macaroni sticks, lasagne noodles, fettucini and spaghetti.
"The biggest problem we face is is taking an old building and converting that," said Chen, indicating that it has been the company's practice to gradually improve their facilities. They run a predominantly automated factory, that operates 24 hours per day, with industry specific machinery from Italy, which is considered amongst the best.
The next phase of the certification process involves building a finished goods warehouse which will help in a more efficient production system.
"We have to have our raw materials separate from our finished goods. Whereas previously it was quite acceptable to have a big store room where you would have everything," said Chen, further explaining that they are awaiting the plans to begin construction.
"We also document our systems and procedures. What we do, how we do and how frequently we do it, so the records are critical, " said Erica Wright, quality assurance manager at the factory, which she explained creates a greater degree of traceability. This documentation process is well on the way with staff getting more accustomed to them.
"How the system is set up ensures a lot of quality control on line as opposed to quality assurance which is more system based, because it's best to control it while you are running your system rather than after the fact," said Wright.
"Based on where we are, I'm optimistic that within the next two years maximum, we'll be on our way. It requires a lot of work, a lot of documentation."