FORFAR -- Ontario's smallest dairy processor makes a popular line of cheeses and curd from 100,000 litres of milk every year.
Forfar Dairy Ltd. is also producing extra paperwork these days, after becoming HACCP certified.
Co-owner and manager Donna O'Connor candidly admits to having mixed feelings about achieving HACCP certification last March, following three years of transition and a cost she estimates at $65,000 to $70,000.
"There's more tracking and accountability," says O'Connor at first, but adding, "Everything has to be written down triple and quadruple times. It's paper intensive; it's an employee's nightmare and an employer's."
Although not mandatory in the industry, she says the company pursued HACCP certification to attract custom cheese-making orders. "We were making cheese for other groups and we had some requests."
She says the transition included equipment upgrades and employee training, which is ongoing.
The role of HACCP coordinator was added to the duties of an employee already overseeing quality control at the plant.
Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), who oversee HACCP certification, visit the plant once every three months and conduct an audit of the firm's HACCP paper trail. Prior to certification, CFIA inspected the plant monthly.
The less frequent visits are a reflection of CFIA's acceptance of the rigorous quality control measures that come with HACCP . "We're checking ourselves," she says.
O'Connor, a retired Ministry of Natural Resources employee, and Murray Campbell, a retired accountant, purchased Forfar Dairy two and a half years ago from the farmers' co-op that previously owned it.
The company employs 15 people during the summer, and 10 otherwise. Traditionally known for its aged cheddar, Forfar also offers a line of sheep and goat cheeses sold through health food stores.
This year, Ontario's dairy producers are facing the start of their own version of HACCP on the farm, under the National Quality Assurance Program being implemented by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
However, that program, while HACCP-inspired, is not the full-fledged HACCP program used by the food processing industry. "That's probably a good thing," says O'Connor.