Study programme - MSc Food Quality Management

Food quality analysis is different from the analysis of 'normal' products. Food, food products, flowers, cattle and crops are living matter that changes continuously over time due to (bio) chemical, physical and microbiological influences.

The main consequence of this results in an enormous variation of complex interdependencies. Hence, the importance of the technological knowledge is highlighted. Technological domains, such as microbiology, chemistry, process technology, physics, human nutrition, plant science and animal science, are necessary for understanding this complexity and for its proper control. On the other hand, many human activities and decisions are key factors in the production chain.

Combination of knowledge

To understand these influences on product quality, knowledge of psychology is essential. This is the reason that there is an integrated use of sociology, economics, mathematics and legal science within management studies. Subsequently, a combination of understanding human behaviour, knowledge from the field of technology and understanding behaviour of living matter are needed. This way food quality management embraces the incorporated use of technological disciplines as well as the integrated use of managerial sciences through the so-called TM (techno-managerial) model. It assures the interactive consideration of quality problems from both technological and managerial views.

Techno-Managerial model

The TM model, which is shown below, represents typical “life” situations when the differences in people’s expertise do not lead to better results and cooperation, but hampers the process instead. Interestingly enough, miscommunication arises because managers and people with a technical background speak a different language that is not understood by others. On the other hand, they themselves do not comprehend what the non-technical person is trying to say. Therefore, there should be a group in the middle that acts as a “translator"/'mediator" between the two groups. These kinds of experts, with common expertise in the field of food and human behaviour, are trained through our MSc programme. technological and a managerial basis.

The integration of technological and management knowledge concerning food quality is taught in the 'Basic course food quality management', the 'Advanced course food quality management' and the 'thesis'. All is underscored by this integration ith the principles of multi methodology.

Study programme

Wageningen University has an academic year which is divided into 6 periods. During the periods 1, 2, 5 and 6 a student follows two courses each. Usually one course is scheduled in the morning and one in the afternoon. Six weeks of classes are followed by a week of self study that culminates in an exam week. In period 3 and 4 - both 4 weeks including the exams - students follow one course per period.

The first year of the programme is comprised of compulsory courses and discipline courses.

The second year is divided into a thesis (36 ECTS) and an internship (24 ECTS). The topics of the thesis and internship should be within the scope of the specialisation. A thesis is carried out at Wageningen university. The internship is always outside Wageningen University and can be in any country, at a university, an industry or an institute. Your internship is a unique learning opportunity, where you can apply your academic skills in a professional environment. The internship is not related to the thesis, but is under supervision of one of the departments in Wageningen.

A few examples from the field

How personnel can harm quality

One of the aims of the thesis is the chance of working on a real problem and in the end giving recommendations for its solution. One such problem is the situation in a meat company faced with a very serious issue- its meat products are contaminated as a result of plastic. Starting with the literature review, all aspects of quality control, quality behaviour and technological factors affecting food safety of meat products were examined. This way a framework is constructed which shows human behaviour stands out as a quite a substantial factor. Afterwards, the more practical execution of the research was conducted by doing interviews, observations and protocol checks on completeness and workability. Finally, the real reason for the contamination was revealed- the company uses many procedures but does not stimulate people to commit to quality in their work. The following recommendation to this problem is that the working facilities and procedures should be improved as well as the devotion to the work by line personnel.

Is what we buy in one EU country the same as in all the rest?

The quality and safety of the products we buy are one of their most important features. Still, due to differences in legislation, product and process characteristics it turns out that we do not buy  the same dairy product if we go from one European country to another. This fact is revealed by microbiological analysis of the content of dairy products in several countries. Case studies at national food safety authorities in these countries show the existence not only of different regulations, but also differences in responses to food safety legislation and food safety management systems. Consequently, a problem is detected and one way to resolve it is by doing hazard analysis and by comparing critical control points in the dairy chain plus equalising the documentation.

Food safety control: Pesticide residues in oilseed are underestimated

Pesticides have a particular behaviour that is the focus of this thesis paper. The special focus is on the influence of the vegetable oilseed processing steps on pesticide residue removal. The latter is examined through experiments and the use of a simulation model to analyse pesticide residues. Along with the experiments literature is reviewed so as to give more insight into vegetable oilseed processing, properties of the applied pesticides, effect of vegetable oilseed processing on pesticide removal and control activities in the industry. The results of the experiments have shown that relying on incoming material control and prediction of the ratio of pesticides in crude oil can lead to an underestimation of the level of pesticides in crude oil.

How to choose the right food quality system for a potato chips production plant?

The lack of food quality system for the potato chips production means difficulty to abide by the food quality and assurance regulations. Internal needs (quality strategy and policy) and external requirements by customer and other stakeholders are also lacking. That is why, the pros and cons of the various food quality assurance system (HACCP, ISO, GMP, BRC, SQF, IFS, EUREP-GAP) are weighted in questionnaires along with the specific characteristics of the production process and the organisational management. In this way a number of scenarios are created which aim at helping the company make the best choice for the implementation of a certified food quality system.

Do food safety management systems work well in the Philippine seafood industry?

Microbiological safety is a problem for the seafood industry in the Philippines, which lead to notifications and refusals of products. The companies have their own systems translated from acknowledged standards and guidelines for assuring safety. By using scientific literature and expert’s observations the effectiveness of their system was estimated. This was done through crucial control activities explored in a survey. This survey showed that employee’s technical knowledge and skills are to be enhanced, equipment and facilities are to be upgraded and specific procedures for maintenance, sanitation and assurance system to be improved. This way food safety performance can be and must be developed.

What are the critical points of Spanish and Dutch truss tomatoes?

The quality of a tomato is predefined by its colour and firmness. These attributes that can be affected by different factors like for temperature conditions during transport and storage, the cultivar used or the relationships between chain actors. One way of looking and determining the critical points is studying the literature on quality attributes of tomatoes, consumer expectations, logistics and the dynamic behaviour of the tomato. Apart from that an experiment was conducted where tomatoes were stored at different temperatures and evaluated during several weeks. The results showed data related to the tomatoes' biological variation. Afterwards, a couple of scenarios about time and temperature related to harvest, storage and transport activities were established. These scenarios show which factors could influence the acceptance period and can be seen as a critical point in the chain.

Traceability systems in the fish supply chain: a case study of Tanzania

Owing to the fact that the fish processing industry has no specific requirements on a traceability system, each and every manufacturing company chooses its own preferable way to do that. This project started by reviewing track and tracing systems, elements of traceability systems, traceability objectives and strategies, product and process characteristics of food chains and fish products, organisation characteristics and working conditions in food industries. As a result a barcode based traceability system or a RFID based traceability system was proposed as the best one to be used in practice followed by a total quality management system. This stemmed from a preference for commitment to quality and traceability by top management.

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