Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to Justino Jeremías Pérez Hernández, a collaborator in the food safety and quality area of Grupo GR for over 5 years.
Jeremías, a native of Chiapas, is an Agricultural Engineer with expertise in supervising different crops across the domestic operation of this important farming group. In this interview for Veggies From Mexico, he shares what is it like for him to work in the food safety area and what are his perceptions about the industry in the upcoming years.
1.Would you mind sharing with us a bit about your professional experience and how long have you been working for Grupo GR?
I am experienced in implementation, auditing and certification of schemes such as SRRC from SENASICA, Global GAP, Primus GFS, HACCP, CTPAT, organics and SMETA.
I am a FDA-authorized individual qualified to design, train, implement, and assess food safety plans (qualified individual in preventive controls (PCQI).
I have been in the GR group for over years. Here, I have been able to work in a variety of crops within the company operation. I started working with nuts and onions in Chihuahua, and then I had the opportunity to work in Sonora by implementing the Primus GFS, Global GAP certification schemes. In Torreón, I was the speaker at a training on SENASICA’s pollution risk reduction system. For the last two years, I have been working in the Sinaloa operation, implementing all these commercial certification schemes. I have also been working with the Eleven Rivers Growers badge and the implementation of the SMETA Social Responsibility certification.
2. What is your working field what are your duties within the company?
Mostly, I am in charge of coordinating the food safety and quality programs, which involves the following activities:
1.-Plan and establish the quality and food safety procedures, standards and specifications.
2.-Review and ensure compliance with customer requirements, described in contracts or food safety appendixes of these.
3.-Work together with all the departments to establish the quality and food safety requirements for external suppliers.
4.-Ensure that manufacturing or production processes comply with foreign and domestic standards, based on the control points defined at the APPCC Plan (HACCP).
5.-Define, together with the operational staff, quality procedures and work instructions.
6.-Establish and maintain documentation controls and procedures.
7.-Monitor the Plan APPCC by collecting relevant data and generating inspection and verification reports.
8.-Make suggestions for changes and upgrades both on the product and the processes, and how to implement them.
9.-Use relevant quality tools and supervise that managers and other staff understand how to improve the system.
10.-Promote awareness in continuous improvement and its involvement for all the staff to produce high quality and safe food.
11.-Coordinate all the following certification schemes: SENASICA, GLOBAL GAP, PRIMUS GFS, CTPAT, Organics.
3. Tell us about the biggest challenge you have encountered
Working on standardizing the guidelines for different stakeholders, internally and externally; making staff understand the significance of implementing the practices established by the certification schemes and developing them according to the company operations, and also achieving the commitment of all stakeholders, including senior management, to accomplish the stated objectives.
4. In your opinion, what are the key areas of farming operation?
Production, Social Responsibility, Food Safety, Marketing and Administration. Proper cooperation between these areas ensures that all goals are achieved and also promotes company’s growth.
5. What strategies do you develop to improve food safety processes within the company?
1.-Keeping the focus on the customer
2.-Creating commitments with leaders
3.-Creating commitments for the operational staff
4.-Having an approach on processes
5.-Performing internal audits consistently
6.-Perform evidence-based corrective actions.
6. Why do you consider the food safety culture important in farming companies?
This is the key part of the company, a culture that is reflected abroad. Its importance is that it makes our products safe and helps us meet consumer needs.
7. What tools do you use to improve the food safety culture?
Promotion and training by digital media (ZOOM). We periodically perform trainings with all the staff, including executives, supervisors and operational staff. For the operational staff, we perform on-site trainings, with the support of graphic material such as screens, where we present all the information with regards to the best practices of food safety, social responsibility and internal regulations of the company, avoiding crowds and taking care of all the hygiene protocols established by the COVID-19 pandemic.
8. What are the benefits your company has benefited with for having different food safety and social responsibility certifications?
1.-Credibility and safety of our products.
2.-Growth for better financial economic development.
9. Would you think that being a part of Veggies From Mexico/Eleven Rivers Growers has brought some benefit to the company and if so, tell us about it.
The audits being performed during the entire season have led us to see our deficiencies. This is a great benefit for Grupo GR, as we are striving every day to be better positioned across all of our production and packaging chains.
10. In your opinion, what will be the main changes for the industry in the coming 10 years and how will it affect farming companies?
For the most part, the change will be generating less pollution. But on the farming side, companies will have a bigger challenge, on which products we should use to meet our production goals.
11. Is there anything else you would like to add?
That would be all for now, and thanks a lot to the entire team at Veggies From Mexico.