At EPIRUS SA ensuring the quality of our products has always been a fundamental value we constantly pursue. We apply state-of-the art technology and the strictest specifications to the quality control process, from production to packaging. Our commitment to quality becomes evident in our Quality Assurance Policy whose objective is the constant improvement of all the company’s procedures. Quality Assurance for all EPIROS products is achieved stage by stage at every single production phase, as prescribed by the Total Quality Management System for Continuous Improvement. To us, quality signifies customer satisfaction and safety for our products.
Collection-Transport of Milk
Quality fresh milk and a high level of milk hygiene are very significant parameters for the production of quality cheese; this is achieved through the correct preservation of the milk after it has been milked.
In order to secure the quality of its raw material, EPIROS provides its producers with special cooling tanks that preserve milk at low temperatures. In the space of a few hours the milk is collected by special isothermal trucks, wholly-owned by EPIRUS, preserving the cooling chain. EPIRUS S.A. is the only company in North-Western Greece to apply such a collection system.
A quality control laboratory is operated within the EPIRUS plant, performing chemical and microbiological tests. The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art analysis apparatus and quality control devices for the raw material and the products, at every stage of the production process. Strict checks are undertaken regularly, from the point where the milk is received at the plant, through production, maturing, packaging and storage of the final product; this ensures that specifications are being met at every stage. Since at EPIRUS we follow specifications and quality control checks over and above the standards set by current legislation and the requirements of food safety systems, our Quality Control lab has been accredited as a Self-Controlled Laboratory by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
At EPIRUS’ modern plant the milk received undergoes strict and continuous quality control tests. A high-tech automated system for the reception, pasteurization and standardization of the milk ensures that the products are healthy and have all the characteristics typical of EPIRUS cheeses.
At EPIRUS production is undertaken with ultramodern machinery that fulfills all safety and health requirements for our products.
Pasteurized milk is transferred to our state-of-the-art automated production line, operated via computers. This ultramodern production line has been designed to simulate the traditional cheese-making process for feta. Thus, rennet and culture are added to the milk in exactly the same way it was done for decades by the traditional cheese-makers in the region. This is followed by curdling and cutting the curd into small pieces to facilitate the elimination of whey. The curd is then transferred, via an automated constant flow system, to special molds, depending on the desired shape of the cheese.
The whey is collected and preserved in an isothermal tank. EPIRUS whey cheeses (Anthotiro (soft whey cheese) and Zimithra) are produced by the ultramodern condensation and processing unit. A closed processing and product flow circuit ensures the hygiene of the final product.
Temperature and humidity conditions in all the production facilities are controlled and an EU13 system filters incoming air for totally hygienic conditions.
The Maturing Process
Soft brine cheeses (feta, Goat Cheese and light white cheese) as well as hard cheeses (kefalotiri, kefalograviera) require maturing after production. They are transferred and placed in the maturing area where, under strictly controlled temperature and humidity conditions, they mature and develop their aroma and flavor. This is a very important stage for our cheeses; only when they have acquired the desired characteristics, after countless quality controls and tastings under specific parameters, are they ready for the next stage. After maturing, the cheeses are transferred to controlled temperature cooling chambers where they remain until they are brought to the end consumer.
EPIRUS’ new ultramodern packing plant started operating in the final trimester of 2007, fulfilling all the required specifications for the hygiene and safety of the products it processes. To this end, the unit is split into grey and white zones. The packing facility has separate compartments by product type; personnel enter passing through hygiene stations to disinfect their hands and shoes.
Compartment for the processing of white brine cheeses with automated cutting machines, vacuum packing lines and packing lines for plastic containers that are automatically filled with brine and sealed with film to ensure the hygiene of the end product.
Compartment for the processing of yellow cheeses with automated slicing machines and packing lines in a modified atmosphere.
Compartment for the processing of yellow hard and semi-hard cheeses with an automated grating machine and a packing machine for grated cheese in plastic sachets with a modified atmosphere. Also, an automated cutting and vacuum packing line for cheese in strips.
Final packages are checked daily at EPIRUS’ packing plant and the packing lines have automated weighing and rejection systems as well as metal detectors. This not only ensures the hygiene and safety of our products but also the quality of the ready packaged products.
Temperature and humidity conditions in all the compartments are controlled and an EU13 filtered air repletion system keeps the pressure inside the compartments at a higher level, creating an aseptic environment.