• ISO 9001


    ISO 9001 is a process-based quality management system that organizations can use to demonstrate the consistent quality of their products to customers and concerned regulatory institutions. Customer satisfaction is then further enhanced through continual improvement of their system. As an example, in an ammunitions factory it would be hopeless to inspect all the bullets manufactured - instead one monitors the process used to make them. Similarly one can describe in documented procedures such as production manuals the process of converting the fruit of the coffee tree into exportable green bean.

    When an organization's quality management system complies with ISO 9001 and when the coffee is processed in accordance with these procedures, then the quality management system (not the product) can be ISO 9001 certified. During cultivation too many variables (weather, diseases, pests) are beyond the control of the producer, and this is why in the case of green coffee the process in the ISO system starts when the cherry is picked, and ends when the container is delivered to the ship's side. This can work for estate coffee that is exported under its own name, but is less easy to apply to smallholder coffee because numerous small deliveries to collection points or washing stations automatically lose their identity. And blended coffee shipped in bulk gains an 'identity' only upon loading.

    Nevertheless, good harvesting and processing standards are essential to maintain quality, and ISO 9001 provides those who process their own coffee for export with identification and traceability for all the coffee produced. The batch number can lead back to the day of picking, where on the farm, what the weather was then, how long it took to dry the coffee, how well it was dried, and a number of other variables - all useful information in determining the cause of any quality problems that may subsequently arise. Perhaps none of this provides any immediate or direct economic advantage, but estate growers using the system say they have become better processors and are better able to provide the sort of quality guarantees that the larger commercial roasters demand. For details go to www.iso.org.

    However, by themselves these ICO and ISO objectives do not provide answers to the ever more stringent food legislation being introduced at the consumer end, and the potential impact of this on coffee exporters. But ISO 22000 incorporates the requirements of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points or HACCP system developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (see following section 12.04). HACCP has increasingly become a mandatory requirement in the markets of various countries since the 1990s, most notably for non-farm food businesses in the EU since January 2006. As ISO 22000 is an auditable standard, certified companies can demonstrate their compliance to HACCP. Certification to ISO 22000 could facilitate acceptance by global food retailers, as it also covers the requirements of key standards developed by various global food retailer systems.

    Tools on ISO 22000 and ISO 9001 have been developed by the and are available: see http://www.intracen.org/eqm and look for Bulletins-Handbooks: (top right side):

    HB 17 "ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Systems - An easy-to-use checklist for small business - Are you ready?" is a software-based self-diagnostic tool on ISO 22000 (published in 2007). The tool helps small businesses, operating in the food chain, to understand the regulatory requirements for food safety and to make an assessment of their readiness to implement ISO 22000 and obtain some preliminary guidance on applying the standard.

    "ISO 9001 Fitness Checker" is a tool that is designed to assess an enterprise's readiness for ISO 9001 certification and to identify the main areas for improvement prior to certification. For more information on this tool contact: quality@intracen.org.

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