Quality and Safety:
Step by step we set the standard.
Andean Naturals works constantly to make sure that we deliver only quinoa at its finest to our customers. We process Royal Quinoa at our Bolivian plant, JISA, using an exacting, step-by-step system to ensure a prewashed, ready-to-cook product that meets the highest international standards for food safety.
Andean Naturals founded JISA in 2008, specifically to improve the quality of quinoa available for export to the US and other growing markets with demanding food-safety standards. In 2010, we opened a purpose-built plant that processes only quinoa -- exclusively organic quinoa, in fact -- eliminating any risk of cross-contamination. Today, JISA’s sophisticated technology, innovative thinking and ultra-rigorous approach to quality control make this the most advanced quinoa-processing facility in the world.
Our procedures ensure a purity level of at least 99.995%. At every step of the way our quality control team analyzes a sample of product for approval before it goes on to the next cleaning phase. We are unapologetically obsessed with quality! Every batch exported is sampled no fewer than 250 times during its journey from raw material to customer delivery. Most processing facilities may have one or two quality control supervisors; JISA currently has 26 employees fully dedicated to process quality control.
Quinoa is transported by truck from the fields to our JISA facility. Initial testing by our quality control team includes screening to ensure that the quinoa is pesticide-free. We also check for stones and twigs, and pay an extra premium to the farmers for cleaner product.
Prior to washing, we pre-toast the quinoa seeds, as families in the Andes have always done. This proprietary step enhances the nutty flavor of the quinoa.
* This step applies only to our True Quinoa® line — coming soon to provide the most authentic, traditional flavor and texture — as close as possible to the way Bolivian farmers have prepared their quinoa for centuries.
The seeds enter a pre-cleaning phase in which they are passed through large vibrating screens to eliminate twigs, sticks and other larger foreign material that may come in from the fields.
The quinoa is lifted up into a large vacuum-like machine that extracts all the small twigs that are part of the quinoa plant. The quinoa is heavier than the twigs, therefore it simply drops down to trays below.
To further remove the saponin coating, the quinoa is passed through a tumbling and aspiration process. This is an industrial adaptation of the ancient technique of placing quinoa in large stone basins where the seeds are stepped on, releasing the saponin through pressure and friction.
The seeds are next passed through a patented, three-part washing process that includes an initial rinse, a wash and a second rinsing. The quinoa is then automatically transferred onto a spin-drier. Quinoa sprouts very quickly, so this entire process only lasts eight minutes. In the fields, quinoa farmers spend up to 20 minutes rinsing their quinoa in water prior to being able to use it for cooking.
To quickly dry the quinoa and prevent water from penetrating into the seed (thereby activating it to start sprouting), the seeds are transferred to drying tables. Each batch is dried in less than 15 minutes.
Although dry and edible at this point, the quinoa still contains many small impurities that need to be removed for safe consumption -- quartz stones that look like glass, volcanic rock fragments and mud balls. These impurities often arrive on the quinoa during the hand-harvesting process. Farmers lay down the stalks in rows to dry, and strong winds cause stones and small mud balls to get caught in the seed heads. JISA uses a series of sophisticated gravity-based equipment to eliminate the waste matter.
Two large optical selectors remove all matter that is different from quinoa in color and shape, including any remaining tiny stones. It is also at this stage that different colors of quinoa are sorted. For example, all red and black quinoa seeds are removed when processing white quinoa. The process for “AA” quality grade (most often found in retail commodity quinoa) ends at this stage.
When we process “AAA” grade quinoa, the product goes through an additional purifying step, raising it to meet the strictest specifications and ensure the highest food safety levels. AAA-grade quinoa is only offered on special order for high-end ingredient applications or in our True Quinoa® line.
The product is packaged in various presentations -- pouches, 25-kilogram bags or large, 1-metric-ton bags for high-volume shipments. Every package goes through a final metal detection, just to make sure that not even the smallest fragment remains. After this process is concluded, the finished product is held in our temperature-controlled warehouse, ready for export.
An independent quality control team analyzes the finished product by inspecting sixty 100-gram samples. From there, a lab specialist takes up to an hour sorting through a 4 kg (8.8 lbs) sample, checking for any impurity that may have escaped detection. A further sample is sent to an outside food lab to test microbial levels and make sure that our product meets the highest food-industry specifications in full.