Gogo Quinoa is committed to offering high-quality products that are both plant-based and allergen-free, so as to make them accessible to the greatest number of people. Our recipes are also produced, as much as possible, from organic farming and without GMOs. And although not all of our products are certified organic, the majority are.
Our number one priority is also to ensure the safety of our products, constantly keeping the wellbeing of our consumers in mind.
To ensure we meet these goals, we have embarked on the certification challenge, and we will share some of these experiences today.
It is towards organic farming that our company turned first, more than 10 years ago in 2007. Working with suppliers that respected the precepts of organic farming meant guaranteeing foods that would be free of dangerous processes, whose long-term effects are still unknown, such as with the use of pesticides, GMOs and irradiation culture.
We wanted to be affiliated with a label that was growing in popularity, highly recognizable and well reputed, after all, it is the rigor of the certification process that inspires trust in our consumers.
It is with this in mind that we chose Ecocert as a certification body, both for their international recognition and their professionalism.
Being certified organic is first and foremost a work of selecting its suppliers: we can not use the products of a non-organic supplier in our recipes. This involves our buyer doing a lot of research to find certified products (some ingredients are much easier to find than others), followed by a systematic verification of our partners’ certificates. After this, certified laboratories will carry out pesticide and chemical analyzes on the more-at-risk products.
Our suppliers are not the only ones who need to follow strict organic regulations: using pesticides to get rid of undesirable insects for example, or unapproved chemicals to clean our equipment, would be out of the question. To be organic is to think differently. It is to go the extra mile to find creative solutions instead of taking the easy route and doing so with the intention of being responsible in protecting our environment and our health.
The certification ends with the audit which takes place every year. Our suppliers and their certificates are screened and our cleaning and traceability methods as well, and sometimes samples of our products are taken for analysis. But we are experts in this exercise now, we have been doing it for ten years and it has always been a success! On top of that, we also have a second, equally serious certification: Non-GMO certification issued by the Non-GMO Project.
Gogo Quinoa has always prided themselves in being a company that does not use any of the 10 priority allergens identified by the Canadian government. But we wanted to go even further, so in 2012, we certified all of our “Gluten-Free” products with the Gluten- Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a member of the Gluten Intolerance Group.
Gluten-free certification, like organic certification, requires precise control of our suppliers and their products. We categorically refuse any raw materials, produced on the same lines as other gluten-containing products, to cross our production doors. We also require important documentation, such as certificates of analysis, letters of guarantee or production diagrams.
It is our responsibility to evaluate the risks of contamination present for each ingredient and to perform gluten analyzes accordingly. And in order to avoid internal contamination, good hygiene and manufacturing practices are applied: equipment cleaning, hand washing, employee training, awareness, etc.
As for our responsibility towards our organic commitment, an annual audit is conducted by GFCO to ensure that we comply with the regulations: suppliers are reviewed, our procedures studied and a floor inspection is performed.
Although we are only certified Gluten Free, we do not work with any food allergens. We also give particular importance to peanuts, given the seriousness of the possible consequences. That’s why our rule is to be a “peanut free” factory and we do not accept peanuts at our workplace, including in the cafeteria. In addition, we perform tests to test peanuts on all raw materials used in our products displaying the logo “Peanut-free”.
Without wishing to downplay the importance of our other certifications (GMO-free, Kosher by the Orthodox Union, Aliment du Québec), we wanted to focus on our latest certification, the SQF certification. It is a more discreet and less known certification of the general public because it does not appear on the packaging. In fact, for this certification, we do not certify our products individually, but rather the entire company.
The SQF certification is a GFSI certification, that is to say, an international food safety certification recognized by all food market players, regardless of their country of origin. As a result, it is a highly sought-after certification by major distributors, which in the long run will enable our products to be accessible to as many people as possible across the country, and beyond.
This certification consists of meeting many prerequisites in the field of food safety, which includes: the state of the production site, the analysis of the risks for the consumer, the quality controls, the approval of the suppliers, the maintenance and the cleaning of equipment and premises, allergen management, non-compliance and complaints management, staff training, good manufacturing practices, etc.
We started the implementation of the SQF regulations in early 2017. It was up to us to update and improve our food safety management system to meet all the prerequisites, and further increase the level of safety of our methods and products.
For more than a year, we worked hard. A new consultant, the release of new products, and the relocation of our plant from Ville St-Laurent to Laval enabled us to be successful. We finally passed the certification back in March 2018.
Again, we are subjected to an annual audit, sometimes surprised ones.
It is by meeting the daily challenges of our certifications that our company strives. We can assure you the continuous improvement of our methods, providing you with the best possible products, every time!