Quality Assurance of Current Combat Ration Pack Components: 2009/10 Submission
Quality assurance (QA) testing of current combat ration pack (CRP) components was carried out in support of through-life management of CRP. The QA program involved inspection and testing, interpretation of results for compliance assessment and reporting. Many products were found to be non-compliant with ADF Food Specifications and/or national food standards current at the time of testing. The single most common issue was failure to meet fortification requirements. Recommendations to improve the safety and quality of CRP are provided: maintain relevant functional and performance requirements in ADF Food Specifications; ensure compliance with the requirements; and maintain a continuous improvement process for CRP components, packaging and documentation. Ongoing collaborative effort among CRP suppliers, Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group and DST Group has seen the majority, if not all, the recommendations in this report implemented.
Quality assurance (QA) testing was carried out for 29 current combat ration pack (CRP) components from the 2009/10 ration packing program. The QA testing program consists of: determination of initial compliance and nutritional composition, shelf life evaluation, warranty verification and nutritional composition after 24 months of storage. The testing matrix for these components is provided at Appendix A of this report.
The evaluations reported here were conducted against the specifications that were current at the time of the study. This report should not be considered as wholly representative of the current state of CRP components, as many improvements have been made. However, the types of concerns raised remain relevant and worthy of vigilant monitoring to maintain and improve the quality of CRP components.
The QA program involves three main themes: inspection and testing, interpretation of results for compliance assessment, and reporting.
In this report, Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group-Scottsdale draws a number of conclusions:
- Many products in the QA testing program for 2009/10 did not adhere to Australian Defence Force Food Specifications (ADFFS) for one or more analytical determinations (chemical, microbiological, physical, and sensory), or labelling requirements
- The single most common issue was failure to comply with fortification requirements.
- In some cases, non-conformance to specification was most likely due to outdated (and inappropriate) requirements in ADFFS
- A number of non-compliances with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Standards Code (FSC) were identified.
Almost 20% of the components evaluated failed to meet warranty requirements. Whilst singularly, non-conformances identified would not have great impact overall, combined there is potential for substantial decrements in nutritional value and acceptability of a ration pack.
To improve the quality of CRP foods and ADFFS, it is recommended that Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG):
- Improve and broaden functional and performance based requirements for both foodstuffs and packaging
- Investigate non-conforming product
- Remove inconsistencies and ’gaps’ within the ADFFS documentation and better align documentation with national standards
- Review relevance and appropriateness of fortification requirements
- Improve initial product (sensory) quality and stability to ensure acceptance of product at time of consumption.
To improve compliance to labelling requirements, recommendations have been made to investigate inconsistencies and non-compliance of labelling to national standards. An acceptable level of deviation between analytical and Nutrition Information Panel values should also be established.
Thanks to the ongoing collaborative efforts among Health Systems Program Office at CASG, DST Group-Scottsdale, and CRP suppliers the majority, if not all, the recommendations in this report have been implemented. The non-compliant products identified in the QA 09/10 program are either no longer in CRP or have been improved by the supplier to meet the performance criteria. ADFFS have been converted to Australian Defence Standards (DEF(AUST)) and are aligned with the national standards including the FSANZ FSC. DEF(AUST) provides the functional and performance based requirements for both foodstuffs and packaging. The packaging of all CRP components has been improved based on the DEF(AUST) packaging standards.