Food safety in the Caribbean

by Laurie Gorton
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Like all food manufacturing sites today, Pan Pepín, Bayamón, PR, has increased its vigilance about food safety. Its approach is to get ahead of the curve, anticipating needs before they become requirements. As a result, it is the first wholesale bread and bun bakery in the Caribbean to achieve SQF certification and the second grain-based foods company on Puerto Rico to do so.

Additionally, the company consistently receives “superior” or “excellent” ratings from AIB International through a voluntary inspection program. It adopted HACCP several years ago and conducts mock recalls at least twice annually.

“We have tried to stay ahead on food safety matters, voluntarily exceed the regulatory requirements,” said Mario Somoza, the company's CEO.

That strategy led Pan Pepín to SQF two years ago. Victor H. Rodriguez, director of operations, and Amarilis García, the bakery’s quality control manager, received SQF practitioner certification, and they devoted a year to training employees and developing the necessary documentation. The first SQF inspection took place during the past year, and the bakery received SQF 2000 certification with a 97% score.

Employee safety matters receive equal attention, and the bakery has a formal program for safety personnel and trains its staff in CPR as well as safe equipment operation.

Puerto Rico has the highest energy costs in the NAFTA trade zone, with electricity especially expensive. Mr. Rodriguez pointed out the skylights added to the roofs over the bakery’s facilities. “The natural light in the building helps reduce the electrical load,” he said. LED lighting now illuminates the office environment.

To hold down distribution costs, the bakery is in the process of converting its route trucks from gasoline to propane. All 50 trucks in the distribution center housed at the bakery now run on propane, and a fueling station sits next to the loading docks. “We are starting on the next distribution center, and eventually all will have their own propane pumps,” Mr. Somoza said.

Wastewater generated by bakery production and sanitation operations is treated onsite before it returns to the municipal water system. Certified staff runs the in-house water treatment facility.
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