Letter From The Editor: Vilsack in the Veepstakes
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/letter-from-the-editor-vilsack-in-the-veepstakes/#.V4wnXU4eaUl
By Dan Flynn (July 17, 2016)
Taylor’s Maid Rite restaurant in Marshalltown, IA, had a real friend in Thomas James “Tom” Vilsack, 40th Governor of Iowa.
He gave them a waiver from state food safety laws to allow a 1920s-style cooking vessel, risking cross contamination in the production of loose meat sandwiches. There’s no record of anyone being sickened taylor'smaidrite_406x250or killed by the Vilsack waiver. His loose food safety enforcement for loose meat was in effect during much of his term, from 1999-2007.
Iowa’s next governor, Democrat Chet Culver, eliminated the Vilsack waiver for Taylor’s. Iowans love their loose meats and other older Maid Rites may have been in on the waiver.
It’s an ironic little story because, as we all know, Vilsack went on to become Secretary of Agriculture with responsibility for food safety of meat, poultry, eggs, and since March 1, catfish.
It was looking like Vilsack would remain as secretary of agriculture right up to the hour of Obama’s departure from office next Jan. 20, about 187 days from now.
But in recent hours, there have been reports that this long-time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton could be tapped as the Democratic nominee for vice president. This will all work out in the next few days. But as long as the possibility is there, it gives up the opportunity to dish up dirt on Vilsack for the “feeding frenzy” that is sure to follow if he does get the job.
We wonder, for example, how many of the nation’s ace political reporters know that Congress made a law back in 1993 that says the president shall nominate someone who, subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, shall serve as USDA’s under secretary for food safety.
But guess what? We don’t have one.
Since Dr. Elisabeth Hagen left government three years ago, there has not been a USDA under secretary for food safety. Nor has anyone been nominated, let alone confirmed. No one talks about it, but it’s pretty clear it goes unfilled on purpose.
Washington political writers have already depicted Vilsack as a dull white guy who may have some agribusiness contacts but that’s about all he has going for him, other than his long friendship with the Clintons. But tell me, does a dull guy play fast and loose with loose meat and dare to flout the law requiring the naming of an under secretary for food safety?
I think not.
Vilsack cuts a cerebral figure atop the behemoth USDA with its $140 billion budget that reaches into every corner of the country. But underneath, he’s a prospective vice president who likely wants it bad. He’s probably be a lot like Joe Biden, just with less chortling
The principal qualification to be a modern day vice president is simply the ability to grovel. It did not use to be that way. Harry Truman could drink bourbon down at the Capitol until FDR assumed room temperature. But the change came when President Jimmy Carter gave Walter Mondale a White House office. From then on the vice president as his own man was out and the groveling vice presidents have been in.
Vilsack’s groveling was demonstrated to be a good as it gets. Most of Michaelle’s Obama’s early initiatives fell upon Secretary Vilsack, everything from the “Let’s Move” obesity project to the White House garden fell on USDA’s people and budgets to pull off.
And a childhood friend says Tom and Christie Vilsack are Iowa’s “sanitized” version of Bill and Hillary Clinton. One never knows if a candidate for vice president wants the pressure of being held up to any kind of standard.
These are, after all, the highest offices in the land. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Food Safety After a Flood
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/food-safety-after-a-flood-2/
By Carla Gillespie (July 16, 2016)
Wondering about food safety after a flood? Here is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommends:
If you have advance notice of heavy rains that may produce floodwaters, buy jugs of water and shelf-stable foods that can feed your family for a few days and store them in an area flood waters are not likely to reach. Keep a jug of liquid bleach and a cooler in the same area. Find out where you can purchase dry ice.
Buy appliance thermometers for your freezer and fridge. In the freezer, gather food together this will help it stay cold longer. If you lose power, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if you keep the door closed. A full freezer will keep food at a safe temperature for about 48 hours, a half-full freezer will keep food at a safe temperature for 24 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Before you eat food from a powerless fridge or freezer, check the temperature, if the thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe.
If there is no thermometer in the freezer, check each package. If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below when checked with a food thermometer, it may be safely refrozen. Perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items) that has been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40° F for two hours or more should be thrown away.
Throw away all foods that come into contact with floodwaters that are not in waterproof containers such as cans or jars. Containers that are not considered waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers should also be thrown away if they have had contact with floodwaters.
Metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils can be saved. Wash them with hot soapy water and sanitize them by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of drinking water. Use the same bleach solution to wash pans, dishes, utensils, can openers and countertops.
Never taste food to determine if it is safe. And when in doubt, throw it out!
FDA Releases 10-Year Strategic Plan
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/fda-releases-10-year-strategic-plan/
By qualityassurancemag.com (July 15, 2016)
FDA has released the Foods and Veterinary Medicine (FVM) Program’s Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2016-2025, outlining goals and objectives for the next 10 years.
FDA has released the Foods and Veterinary Medicine (FVM) Program’s Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2016-2025, outlining goals and objectives for the next 10 years. The FVM program encompasses the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the related activities under the Office of Global Regulatory Operations and Policy and the Office of Regulatory Affairs.
The strategic plan is organized under four goals: food safety, nutrition, animal health, and organizational excellence. It is based on the following principles: (1) public health is the first priority, (2) partnerships are the key to success, (3) scientific expertise and research are the foundation of the FVM Program’s work, and (4) the FVM program is committed to operating openly and transparently.
Following is a published letter from Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff and Deputy Commissioner for Global Regulatory Operations and Policy Howard R. Sklamberg.
We are pleased to present the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Foods and Veterinary Medicine (FVM) Program’s Strategic Plan Fiscal Years (FY) 2016–2025, which outlines our goals and objectives for the next 10 years. This is an exciting time for the FVM Program. The congressionally-mandated modernization of the FDA’s regulatory framework for preventing foodborne illness is one of the most challenging initiatives in FDA’s history and will have significant public health and economic benefits. We also have many opportunities to promote and facilitate healthy food choices for the population and enhance the health of animals. It is imperative that we continue driving toward a more proactive, preventive, risk-informed approach to food and feed safety, nutrition, and animal health that makes excellent use of our scarce resources. This is essential to meet the challenges of:
•Persistent foodborne illness;
•An unacceptably high prevalence of diet-related chronic disease leading to excessive health care costs;
•Increasing globalization and complexity of the food and feed supply;
•Rapid advances in science and technology that pose both challenges and opportunities for achieving our public health goals; and
•High expectations for all of our activities among the consuming public, the industry, Congress, and a wide range of other important stakeholders.
The FVM Program is responsible for a wide range of activities to meet these challenges. Our mission is to promote public health by preventing foodborne illness, fostering good nutrition, and improving the safety and efficacy of animal health products. We also ensure FDA regulations and guidance provide clear and reliable direction and assistance to industry, both inside and outside the United States, with a goal to obtain high rates of compliance with standards necessary to protect public health and meet consumer and stakeholder expectations.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) enacted in 2011 is based on congressional recognition of the unique challenges faced by FDA in the area of food safety in the 21st century. This FVM Program Strategic Plan takes this statutory framework into account, places high priority on the implementation of FSMA, and focuses on how FDA plans to modernize its food safety work. This includes:
•An increased focus on obtaining compliance with preventive control standards rather than finding and responding to violations after an illness or outbreak has occurred;
•Strengthening FDA technical expertise and capacity to support FDA and industry in implementing the new prevention standards;
•Furthering federal, state, local, and territorial partnerships, and investing in training and capacity to ensure efficient, high quality, and consistent oversight nationwide; and
•Broadening interaction with foreign partners and increasing oversight of importers, who will have more responsibility for the safety of imported foods.
Beyond FSMA implementation, the FVM Program Strategic Plan for FY 2016–2025 provides greater focus on important public health goals and objectives in the areas of nutrition and chemical safety that will drive us toward our vision of protecting and enhancing the health of people and animals. Organizational excellence will remain a central strategic priority for our program to make the best use of all available resources and to continue to invest in our workforce.
The success of this plan depends on FDA working seamlessly across internal organizations; federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory partners; and international borders—as well as engaging a wide range of consumer, industry, public health, and scientific stakeholders and partners. We will continue to build the FVM program for the benefit of the people we serve. To that end, we welcome comments on this strategic plan, and we plan biannual reviews that will allow us to incorporate what we learn through our experience and from our stakeholders as we do our work in the coming years.
See the full plan at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/UCM507379.pdf
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Food Safety Consulting Expected to Increase in Price
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/food-safety-consulting-expected-to-increase-in-price/
By qualityassurancemag.com (July 15, 2016)
According to IBISWorld, the price of food safety consulting is expected to increase 1.5% over the next three years due to surging demand and higher input costs.
According to IBISWorld, the price of food safety consulting is expected to increase 1.5% over the next three years due to surging demand and higher input costs. While prices have been rising, buyers still benefit from the minimal risk of experiencing significant price fluctuations. "As businesses operating in food-related markets seek to ensure compliance with all safety laws, they are expected to rely more on food safety consulting services, encouraging suppliers to raise their prices and hampering buyer power. Still, mounting market competition will help mitigate more dramatic price increases," says IBISWorld procurement research analyst Anna Son.
The market for food safety consulting services contains a significant number of suppliers. As such, there is low market share concentration, which indicates high levels of competition among suppliers. Due to fierce competition, suppliers are pressured to offer incentives to maintain their customer base and attract new clients. Such incentives often include reduced pricing or favorable contract conditions, such as flexible payment terms.
Businesses striving to meet regulations set forth by the FDA, CDC, USDA and EPA will continue to drive demand for food safety consulting services. Specifically, demand from food product manufacturers and food services providers for food safety consulting services will rise. Furthermore, manufacturing output levels are expected to increase, indicating greater production from food processing plants, food product manufacturers and food packaging providers.
The full, 26-page report is available at http://www.ibisworld.com/procurement/food-safety-consulting-services.html.
CDC closes investigation; warns of ongoing Listeria threat
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/cdc-closes-investigation-warns-of-ongoing-listeria-threat/#.V4woI04eaUl
By Coral Beach (July 15, 2016)
The investigation into a Listeriosis outbreak traced to frozen vegetables from CRF Frozen Foods Inc. has ended — but federal officials warn more people could still be stricken by the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes pathogen.
“People could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be freezers and people who don’t know about the recalls could eat them,” according to an outbreak update posted this afternoon by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
“Retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat recalled products.”
Those “recalled products” include more than 350 frozen products packaged by CRF Frozen Foods Inc. under 42 brands, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recalled products were sold across the U.S. and Canada.
“The FDA facilitated the recall of at least 456 products related to this outbreak. CRF Frozen Foods recalled 358 products and at least 98 other products were recalled by other firms that received CRF-recalled products,” according to FDA.
A complete list of the recalls linked to CRF Frozen Foods’ recall is available on the FDA website.
Production plant remains closed
CRF owners closed the Pasco, WA, plant where the food was produced after issuing recalls on April 23 and May 2. The first recall was for 11 frozen vegetable products. The second was for all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed at the facility from May 1, 2014, through this spring.
Today an external public relations consultant hired by CRF said the company’s owners will take their time reopening the facility. He said CRF’s business is seasonal, based on crop harvests, and with the end of summer nearing it wouldn’t make any difference if they reopened in a few weeks or a few months.
“The company executives are spending a good bit of time and effort focused on a new design of the plant, to ensure the company has state of the art equipment and processes, once operations resume,” said spokesman Gene Grabowski.
Officials with the privately held CRF, which is part of the R.D. Offutt Co., were pleased that the outbreak investigation was declared ended, Grabowski said this afternoon, adding that they would “continue to proceed with redoubled vigilance to ensure that nothing of this nature happens again.”
Although CRF knows how much product it shipped, its officials did not reveal those volumes in its recall notices.
“The company has no estimate of product recalled or destroyed,” Grabovski said. “Much of the recalled product has been managed by retailers, so no complete records are available.”
The victims and how they were discovered
The outbreak includes at least nine people from four states on opposite sides of the U.S. They were sickened with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that Ohio officials coincidentally discovered in CRF frozen products while conducting routine testing of randomly collected packages of frozen foods from retail stores.
All nine people were so sick they had to be hospitalized. Three of them died, but state public health officials reported to the CDC that only one of the deaths was specifically caused by the Listeria infection.
The first known victim became sick in September of 2013. Five victims fell ill in 2015 and three were confirmed with the outbreak strain this year. The most recent case was May 3, according to the CDC.
CDC scientists detected the outbreak in March this year and linked it to frozen food from CRF’s Pasco plant using a combination of high-tech DNA testing and the oldest medical technique on the books — patient interviews.
“State and local health departments attempted to interview the ill people, a family member, or a caregiver for the ill person about the foods the ill person may have eaten in the month before the illness began,” CDC reported.
Officials were able to interview four people, three of whom reported that before they became sick they ate frozen vegetables that turned out to have been produced at the CRF Pasco plant.
“Two reported Organic by Nature brand frozen vegetables. The third ill person reported eating O Organic brand frozen vegetables,” CDC reported.
While the CDC investigators were trying to find a common denominator among the Listeria victims, staff with the Ohio Department of Agriculture were conducting routine, random product sampling of frozen vegetables from grocery stores.
The Ohio tests revealed Listeria monocytogenes in frozen organic white sweet corn and frozen organic green peas packaged under Meijer’s True Goodness brand. Both products were produced by CRF at the Pasco facility.
“Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to eight bacterial isolates from (the) ill people, and the Listeria isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from (one) ill person,” the CDC reported.
Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to compare and ultimately match the Listeria monocytogenes samples from the outbreak victims and the randomly tested frozen vegetables. PulseNet is a national sub typing network of public health labs and includes a national database of DNA fingerprints of foodborne pathogen strains.
FSIS Will Begin Posting Location-Specific Food Safety Data Online
Source : http://www.wholefoodsmagazine.com/news/breaking-news/fsis-will-post-food-safety-data-online/
By WholeFoods Magazine Staff (July 14, 2016)
Washington, D.C.— To help promote transparency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced it will begin sharing with consumers food safety data from slaughter and processing facilities.
“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said Al Almanza, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, in a news release. “Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”
FSIS also anticipates the release of its new data sharing plan will motivate individual establishments to improve performance and lead to industry-wide improvements in food safety by providing better insights into the strengths and weaknesses of different practices.
The new datasets, after 90 days from publication in the Federal Register, will be published on a quarterly basis on data.gov and will include results for “Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; results for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and young turkeys, comminuted poultry, and chicken parts; routine chemical residue testing data in meat and poultry products; and advanced meat recovery testing data.” Results for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and Salmonella in ready-to-eat (RTE) products and processed egg products will also be released.
Data availability and possible impact on public health are two criteria FSIS will consider to “determine which datasets are best suited for future public release.”
A code will be also be given for each facility and more detailed information will be given by FSIS than what is currently listed in the searchable establishment directory.
Full detail on the framework has been released in the Establishment-Specific Data Release Plan, which the agency developed “in response to President Obama’s call for increased data sharing and greater transparency under the Open Government Plan by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).”
FDA amends facility registration rule to limit fraud, ease inspections
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/fda-amends-registration-reg-to-cut-food-fraud-ease-inspections/#.V4wo0U4eaUl
By Cathy Siegner (July 14, 2016)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is amending its final rule on the registration of food facilities to require additional information from registrants. The goals are to reduce potential fraud and make it easier to find domestic or foreign food operations when inspection time rolls around, the agency stated.
During a Wednesday morning conference call, Erwin Miller, chief of the Data Systems Integration Branch for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said the changes will improve the accuracy of the registration database in the U.S. and overseas.
He said key elements of the amendments to the rule will codify certain provisions in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was enacted in 2011.
The amended regulations, which affect “registration of food facilities that require domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture/process, pack, or hold food for human or animal consumption in the United States …,” are scheduled to be published today in the Federal Register.
“These amendments will further enhance FDA’s capabilities with respect to responding to food safety issues, and in addition, provide FDA with information that we can use to focus and better utilize our limited inspection resources,” the agency’s notice stated.
Among other things, the changes will require:
•email addresses from registrants;
•registration renewals every two years on even-numbered years;
•assurance that FDA can inspect food facilities according to federal law;
•permit electronic records submission by January 2020, and
•require unique food facility identifiers by 2020.
Further, the definition of retail food establishments is being revised so some will not be required to file information with FDA as retail food facilities. There is also clarification about the annual monetary value of food product sales to consumers under the rule, Miller said.
He noted that, in some instances, food facility information submitted to FDA has been falsified, so the agency is trying to make it more difficult for unauthorized individuals to register facilities.
In stressing the federal agency’s roles regarding partnership, education and training, Miller said FDA will be issuing guidance on the final rule in the near future.
“FDA is committed to working cooperatively with the food establishments to facilitate an understanding of the rules,” he said.
In a question-and-answer session at the end of the call, one participant asked about the required unique facility identifiers (UFIs) that FDA will provide to make sure companies’ correct information is being registered with the agency. She said that some facility registrations were canceled in the past due to incorrect information.
“What happens is when we get multiple registrations with the same address, we have to vet that out,” Miller replied.
Another participant asked how FDA will verify the information submitted via an online facility registration form, how long it will take, and whether the agency will notify registrants about what type of problem might have caused a delay in registration.
“One of the things that the agency will strive to do is guidance through the process,” Miller said. “This will not be implemented until 2020, which gives us time so that whatever we decide to do will be in the best interests of the industry and will not be a burden to the requirements.”
He suggested facility owner/operators, registered agents and others contact the FDA’s help desk — FDA Unified Registration and Listing Systems, or FURLS — for more information and/or technical assistance.
FDA has scheduled an Aug. 3 webinar on the Final Rule under FSMA to Update Food Facility Registration. It is not necessary to register for the webinar, and more information about it can be found here.
FDA’s Strategic Plan: Food safety, nutrition, animal health
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/128966/#.V4wpyk4eaUl
By U.S. Food and Drug Administration (July 14, 2016)
Editor’s note: The Food and Drug Administration posted this “FDA Voice” column July 14 under the title “Charting a Path Forward on Food Safety, Nutrition and Animal Health.” It was co-authored by Stephen Ostroff, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine; Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; and Tracey Forfa, acting director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
At FDA, we need to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges of today as well as those of tomorrow, and the FDA Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program’s new Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2016-2025 helps us to do just that.
Our new Strategic Plan makes it clear that we must have an overarching and risk-based approach that encompasses our broad portfolio of responsibilities. The plan organizes this work under four key goals: food safety, nutrition, animal health and organizational excellence.
Whether it’s chemical safety, dietary supplements, cosmetics, genetic engineering, nutrition labeling, antimicrobial resistance, review of animal drugs, or ensuring that we have the right technologies to identify hazards in the commodities we regulate — all of these issues impact the public health.
FDA is a public health agency first and foremost — and that is where our focus will be, using the core principle of science and tools such as regulation and guidance, research, and outreach and education to get us there. This fall, we’ll be issuing a broad implementation plan which will highlight specific actions under these four goals.
Over the past several years we’ve made a lot of progress in a number of key areas. We have been very focused on developing the implementation framework for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), an enormous undertaking to modernize our preventive approach to food safety, and that work will continue. At the same time, we’ve made great headway on nutrition, modernizing the Nutrition Facts label, publishing draft, voluntary targets for reducing sodium in various foods, and making a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe.”
We’ve addressed the impact of animal agriculture on antimicrobial resistance by phasing out the use of medically important antimicrobials for production use and bringing remaining uses under the direction of veterinarians. And whole genome sequencing has helped us to identify the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks with speed and precision.
One important lesson we learned from our work on FSMA that we can apply moving forward is the importance of transparency and active stakeholder engagement. We transformed the way we do business, and it helped to make our work on FSMA successful. Sometimes, our perspectives may differ from those of our stakeholders, but the important thing is that we seek common areas of alignment to solve problems. We plan to use this approach more broadly.
It’s important that our plan stays current. It will be updated to reflect emerging science, technology, innovation, and trends in globalization. It will keep pace with emerging hazards and risks in the products we regulate. That is why we are establishing an open docket. Comments can be submitted at any time, so that we can consider them and update the plan at least every two years.
We encourage you to take a look at the plan and let us know what you think. We will have plenty of opportunity for discussion in the months and years to come as we work to improve the public health together.
Federal food safety inspection data will be made public
Source : http://www.fooddive.com/news/federal-food-safety-inspection-data-will-be-made-public/422519/
By Carolyn Heneghan (July 13, 2016)
•The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will begin releasing quarterly data sets featuring inspection and enforcement actions and sampling and testing results tied to individual companies and plants.
•This data will include more detail about the processes in each facility, and will be easily sortable.
•Prior to this initiative, FSIS only released establishment-specific information in limited scenarios, like official enforcement actions against violators of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act or in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
FSIS devised this plan during the past seven years as part of the Obama administration’s open government plan.
In that time, many manufacturers have worked on their own to better communicate food safety and animal welfare practices through annual reports, websites and social media, or even through in-person facility tours. This has improved transparency of their operations and could make them less vulnerable to having these data sets made publicly available.
Transparency is a key factor in consumers' meat purchasing decisions, evidenced by high growth percentages for segments such as antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, natural and organic, according to the annual Power of Meat survey released by the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute.
Using technologies like the Internet of Things can also improve supply chain traceability, which enables manufacturers and regulators to more quickly and easily identify potential causes of contamination.
There have already been positive outcomes from FSIS's approach to data collection and analysis. The agency's data-driven strategy for identifying and preventing food safety risks has reduced instances of foodborne illnesses by 12%, according to federal reports.
If manufacturers can achieve that same level of success by applying a data-driven approach to their own internal food safety strategies, companies could save millions of dollars and preserve their reputations in the long run.
Food Safety News: FSIS moves establishment specific data to open government portal
Meat + Poultry: USDA to publish plant-specific food safety data
USDA: Meat, Poultry Food Poisoning Dropped 12 Percent in 6 Years
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/usda-meat-poultry-food-poisoning-dropped-12-percent-in-6-years/
By Carla Gillespie (July 13, 2016)
The most significant changes to the food safety system since the 1950s, enacted during the Obama administration, led to a 12 percent drop in the rate of food poisoning from meat, poultry and processed egg products, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administartion (USDA). From 2009 to 2015, better testing methods, an emphasis on mislabeling, and improved scientific processes have helped the agency to more quickly identify food that is contaminated with pathogens or is mislabeled, the agency said.
“The United States has the strongest food safety system in the world, and over the past seven years it has grown even stronger. We’re better now at keeping unsafe food out of commerce, whether it’s made unsafe because of dangerous bacteria, or because of an allergen, like peanuts or wheat,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Over the course of this Administration, we have tightened our regulatory requirements for the meat and poultry industry, enhanced consumer engagement around safe food handling practices, and made smart changes to our own operations, ultimately moving the needle on the number of foodborne illness cases attributed to products that we regulate.”
The USDA outlined five changes in the last eight years that have led to improved food safety. The first is declaring six additional strains of E. coli adulterants in raw beef.
E. coli O157:H7 was declared and adulterant in the 1990s making it illegal to sell products contaminated with it. Because of increased awareness of the dangers of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC), six more STEC strains known as the “Big Six” were declared adulterants in 2011. They are: E. coli O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145.
The second change was requiring meat companies to label “mechanically tenderized” cuts of beef. This process, where steaks, cops or other cuts of meat are pierced with needles or small blades to break up tissue and make it more tender, can push pathogens from the surface into the interior of the meat altering its safe cooking temperature. To kill pathogens, cuts of meat must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145¢ªF while ground beef must be cooked to 160¢ªF. Cuts of meat that are mechanically tenderized must be treated like ground meat and cooked to an internal temperature of 160¢ªF. But without the required labelling, consumers did not know if the meat they were buying had been mechanically tenderized, and therefore could not know the proper temperature it should reach to be safe to eat.
The third change was setting pathogens for chicken parts. Even though most poultry is purchased in parts, such as wings, breasts or drumsticks, until February 2016, there were only pathogen standards for whole birds and ground poultry. The new standards are expected to prevent 50,000 cases of foodborne illness annually.
The fourth change was requiring poultry producers to create a plan to prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter, rather than trying to address contamination after it occurs. Poultry companies now have to collect samples for pathogen testing at two points on their production line.
The fifth change, which began in 2012, requires meat and poultry companies to hold products that are being tested for pathogens until tests results are available. The goal of the rule is to prevent tainted meat from entering the marketplace.
USDA Changes Regulations to Improve Humane Handling of Veal Calves
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/usda-changes-regulations-to-improve-humane-handling-of-veal-calves/
By qualityassurancemag.com (July 13, 2016)
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced changes to improve humane handling inspections at facilities that produce veal meat.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced changes to improve humane handling inspections at facilities that produce veal meat. With the change, FSIS will begin to require that veal calves that are brought to slaughter but cannot rise and walk be promptly and humanely euthanized, and prohibited from entering the food supply. Previously, FSIS has allowed veal calves that are unable to rise from a recumbent position to be set aside and warmed or rested, and presented for slaughter if they regain the ability to walk. FSIS has found that this practice may contribute to the inhumane treatment of the veal calves. This change would improve compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act by encouraging improved treatment of veal calves, as well as improve inspection efficiency by allowing FSIS inspection program personnel to devote more time to activities related to food safety.
Additionally, after review and consideration of comments to the proposed rule, FSIS is amending the regulations by removing a provision that requires ante-mortem inspection to be conducted in pens. This final rule makes clear that FSIS inspectors have the authority to conduct ante-mortem inspection and condemn non-ambulatory disabled veal calves the moment they arrive on the premises of the establishment.
“FSIS is dedicated to ensuring that veal calves presented for slaughter at FSIS-inspected facilities are treated humanely,” said Deputy Under Secretary Al Almanza. “Prohibiting the slaughter of all non-ambulatory veal calves will continue this commitment and improve compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.”
Since 2004, FSIS has prohibited the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for human food because the inability to rise may be a symptom of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). While BSE is not a serious risk in cattle younger than 30 months of age, the regulations apply to all cattle, including veal calves. Currently, unlike adult cattle, veal calves that regain the ability to walk after being warmed or rested may enter the food supply. In 2013, FSIS granted a petition by the Humane Society of the United States asking the agency to remove this provision. This new rule will remove the provision, requiring that non-ambulatory calves be promptly and humanely euthanized, in keeping with requirements for adult cattle.
The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. A draft copy of the final rule is available here: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/interim-and-final-rules.
Throughout the month of July, at the height of summer grilling season, USDA is recognizing improvements made to the U.S. food safety system during the Obama Administration, which are some of the most significant updates made since the 1950s. USDA's modernization efforts are bringing down the number of foodborne illnesses in USDA-regulated products. Advanced testing methods, greater focus on mislabeling, and more rigorous scientific processes are building a stronger overall safety net to detect pathogens and mislabeled product before they reach consumers, leading to a 12 percent drop in foodborne illness associated with meat, poultry and processed egg products from 2009 to 2015. New consumer-facing tools, like the FoodKeeper app, allow Americans to further guard themselves and their family against foodborne illnesses. More information about these efforts can be found on USDA’s Medium page at http://bit.ly/results-ch7.
Listeria outbreak set apple industry on a targeted course
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/128818/#.V4wqCk4eaUl
By Cookson Beecher (July 13, 2016)
SEATTLE — Sometimes when something that “just can’t happen” does happen, valuable lessons are learned.
That was the case when some batches of commercially produced, packaged, whole caramel apples turned out to be the cause of a listeriosis outbreak in 2014-15 that infected 35 people from 12 states, putting 34 of them in the hospital. Listeria monocytogenes bacteria contributed to at least three of the seven deaths that were linked to the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The onset of illnesses ranged from Oct. 2014 to Feb. 12, 2015, when CDC announced that the outbreak “appears to be over.”
When the outbreak began, no one suspected apples. After all, fresh apples had never been linked to any major food safety outbreaks. Quite the contrary. According to a recent survey reported in The New York Times, 99 percent of members of the American Society for Nutrition and 96 percent of a representative sample of the American electorate consider apples and oranges as healthy. No wonder apples have always been considered a shining star in the produce industry.
The bony finger of blame
Must be the caramel, was the first reaction when caramel apples were linked to the Listeria outbreak. But, no, to almost everyone’s surprise, the source of the problem turned out to be fresh apples from Bidart Bros. in California.
State and federal investigators found Listeria monocytogenes on polishing brushes, drying brushes, a packing line drain, inside a wood bin and on an automatic packing line.
In addition the inspectors “observed direct food contact areas of packaging equipment used during the 2014 apple season, constructed and/or maintained in a manner that they cannot be properly cleaned.”
Subsequent research revealed the Listeria monocytogenes on the apples’ skins got pushed into their flesh when the sticks were inserted into them as part of the caramel apple production process. The caramel coating, in turn, sealed apple juice in between the skin and coating, providing a microenvironment where the Listeria could grow undisturbed.
Not surprisingly, repercussions rained down on the apple industry. Washington state was hit especially hard. It is the nation’s largest producer of apples, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, having produced 4,550 million pounds in 2010. In contrast, California produced only 115 million pounds that year. Of that comparatively small California volume, Bidart was not a major player. In other words, it was a relatively small orchard and packing house by industry standards.
Yet with inaccurate news about the outbreak running rampant through social media, some importers in Asia temporarily stopped buying U.S. apples altogether. Before it was over, the outbreak had gouged a $15 million hole in export sales for Washington state’s apples.
“It was terrible — totally out of control,” Mark Powers of the Northwest Horticultural Council told more than 300 people attending the Center for Produce Safety’s 7th annual food-safety research symposium.
“The response was off the charts — out of the bounds of reality.”
More than that, he said, it triggered “a sea change in our thinking about export risks.”
Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer for the Produce Marketing Association, described the situation as one of the industry’s “watershed moments,” saying that “everything is global now.”
But thanks to some concerted diligence in getting the correct information out to the right people, the spilled apple cart was finally righted, and export sales resumed. But the fresh fruit industry had learned an important lesson. It was going to have to hunker down and take a “whole-systems” approach to food safety. And that meant packing lines were going to come under even closer scrutiny than before.
The times they are a changin’
Something else had also changed. Before the outbreak, the main food safety focus for apple growers and shippers had been E. coli, since the outbreak, “the focus is on Listeria almost entirely,” Ines Hanrahan, project manager for the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, told symposium attendees.
In response to the outbreak, the industry made quick progress in developing training and workshops on cleaning and sanitation in the packing sheds. Change was the name of the game.
“For the first time, the cleaning and sanitation personnel were included in the workshops,” said Hanrahan, adding that suppliers were also included. “We were getting everyone on the same page. We realized we had a lack of communication.”
Instead of telling workers they needed to wear gloves and clean the brushes, for example, the workers were also told why doing that was important for food safety. They also learned why it’s so important to properly clean equipment such as dunk tanks more frequently and why standing water is such a huge problem when it comes to food safety.
Having a reward system in place, whether it be pizza parties or just the acknowledgment that the workers are doing things right, is also important, Hanrahan said.
“It’s about the people,” she said. “About really understanding what they’re accomplishing. And how does this relate to them — to their family.”
Changes in personnel can play a part in this since management and the crew leader need to have “buy in” for the need to take more time for cleaning. Those who don’t, or won’t, need to go.
Having buy-in from ownership is also important. They need to know that “If you don’t get this straight, you won’t have anything to sell,” Hanrahan said.
When good needs to be better
Not that the apple industry wasn’t already following good food safety practices, especially since most of the retailers require food safety audits. In fact, many people at the research symposium agreed that the industry was ahead of the curve. But the Listeria outbreak put a tighter focus on what was needed to prevent foodborne pathogens from getting into packing sheds and onto the apples.
The situation also saw industry competitors come together, with some opening their operations to one another as a way to share information. Coffee groups were formed, with competitors joining in.
“It expanded industry connections,” said Hanrahan, sharing some of the key learnings from the outbreak:
•Get organized before an outbreak;
•Work together on all levels;
•Research your answers, because insufficient answers create insecurity and delay an active approach to the situation; and
•Conduct research that is practical.
Hanrahan also said when companies put in new packing lines, they need to make sure the drains are accessible for cleaning and that there’s good lighting, adequate setups for cleaning, and enough water.
Northwest Horticultural Council’s Powers also offered some tips about the flow of information after an outbreak:
•Decide who needs to know what;
•Stick to the facts; and
•Determine the message and the messenger. Who are the credible ones?
In many cases, said Powers, people didn’t trust their own regulators. In other cases, social media is viewed as a trusted source of information. “We didn’t have the resources for social media,” he said.
As for some lessons learned about social media posts during outbreak and recall situations, Powers had this advice to share: “Always put a date on your communications — and get a social media expert.”
“We have to be trusted as a credible source of information,” he said, referring to the need for the produce industry to work with researchers and media to get the right information out. He also pointed out that now, when anyone with a laptop can communicate whatever message he or she thinks is correct, there’s a lot of room for a lot of miscommunication.
During a break in the presentations, PMA’s Whitaker stressed that social media is a tool that needs to be leveraged.
“It’s one of these hurdles that we need to learn how to use,” he said. “You wouldn’t have thought of it several years ago. But we can use it to get good food safety information out to people instead of just having it sit around on shelves in binders. The trick is to get it into the hands of the right people.”
During her presentation about lessons learned during the outbreak, Kathleen Glass, associate director for the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, said data about the 2014-15 outbreak provides an explanation about why there was an outbreak and why something like it can potentially happen again.
“As we look at other types of food products, it highlights the effect of the microenvironment on food safety and emphasizes the need to be taking a look at other intervention strategies,” she said.
The ultimate goal, according to Glass: “So we can make a listeria-free or pathogen-free environment for food products that might be able to support (pathogen) growth.”
Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor of Food Safety at Cornell, also warned that fresh vegetable and fruit producers need to keep in mind what the end use of their product will be. In other words, “What can go wrong with our product once it’s out of our control. Could a use for the product turn it from a low-risk food into a high-risk food?”
“In the end, this will come back to us,” Wiedmann said, warning what could happen if looking forward isn’t part of an overall food safety strategy.
“We need to think outside the box and envision new approaches,” he said.
5 Things to do Before Severe Weather Strikes
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/5-things-to-do-before-severe-weather-strikes/
By Carla Gillespie (July 12, 2016)
When severe weather strikes and the power goes out, it can be confusing to figure out what food is safe to eat. Here are five things to do before the storm that will take some of the guesswork out of severe weather food safety, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Make sure you have working appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer. Safe temperatures for the fridge are 40°F or lower, in the freezer 0°F or lower.
Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or other small containers prior to a storm. Tuck them in between frozen foods to help keep them cold. Freeze any food you don’t plan to eat in the immediate future such as leftovers, milk, fresh or poultry. This will help to keep them at a safe temperature for a longer period of time. Group food together in the freezer to help them stay cold longer.
Find your cooler or purchase one. Clean it out.
Find out where you can purchase dry ice or block ice. Set aside some cash.
Buy a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that don’t need cooking and some bottled water. Store the goods on high shelves.
If the power goes out, buy the dry ice or block ice. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Without power, a refrigerator keeps food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. Around the four-hour mark check the fridge thermometer to make sure it is below 40¢ªF and transfer foods to your cooler that has a block ice or dry ice in it. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours without power, a half-full freezer will hold for 24 hours.
USDA Will Begin Posting Location-Specific Food Safety Data
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/usda-will-begin-posting-location-specific-food-safety-data/
By Linda Larsen (July 12, 2016)
The USdA is going to begin sharing food safety data specific to slaughter and processing facilities on Data.gov. The FSIS Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan will let consumers make more informed choices. It may also motivate these establishments to improve their performance, and uncover the strengths and weaknesses of different food safety and processing practices.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza said, “FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food processing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness. Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”
The USDA has 7,500 food safety inspectors who work in more than 6,000 meat, poultry, and processed egg facilities and more than 120 ports of entry every day. Since 2009, FSIS has implemented significant food safety changes, and a 12% drop in foodborne illnesses associated with regulated products was the result.
The National Research Council reviewed this proposal and recommended a data release strategic plan. This release of data is motivated by the public’s right to know, and targeted transparency. The possible negative ramifications from this data release could include end users drawing inappropriate conclusions because of data misinterpretation, and potential adverse effects on inspector performance and brand reputation. But the NRC Committee concluded that there are “strong arguments supporting public release of establishment-specific FSIS data, especially data that are subject to release under FOIA (Freedom of Information Access).”
This data will publish on Data.gov on a quarterly basis, 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. FSIS will provide information on the processes used at each facility. Results for Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella in ready-to-eat products and processed egg products will be released.
Other dataset will then be shared, including results for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella bacteria in raw, non-intact beef products; results for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken and turkeys, comminuted poultry, and chicken parts. In addition, routine chemical residue testing data and advanced meat recovery testing data will be shared.
Pub linked to Salmonella cases repeatedly failed inspections
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/pub-linked-to-salmonella-cases-repeatedly-failed-inspections/#.V4wq_k4eaUl
By Coral Beach (July 12, 2016)
A restaurant whose customers have contracted Salmonella infections has repeatedly failed health inspections but has not been closed down by authorities.
The Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant in Seattle had unsatisfactory ratings from public health inspectors three out of four times in the past year, according to documents from Public Health of Seattle & King County. Restaurant officials have not responded to request for comment.
Health officials are expecting results this week for test samples from food-contact surfaces in the restaurant that they collected July 1 after two customers were confirmed with infections from the relatively rare strain of Salmonella Thompson.
The “unsatisfactory” inspection reports were from visits on June 2 and Nov. 3 in 2015 and July 1 this year. Only a June 8, 2015, inspection — which was a mandatory follow up — resulted in Fadó’s earning a “satisfactory” rating. Even that inspection report cited violations, though, including unclean food-contact surfaces and food held at improper temperatures.
Many of the violations cited in June 2015 were also present during the November 2015 inspection, as well as the July 1 inspection this year. Failures included holding foods at improper temperatures, which encourages bacterial growth, and problems with hand-washing sinks that made it impossible for employees to keep their hands clean.
Employees at the restaurant, which is part of a national chain headquartered in Atlanta, were also observed handling food with their bare hands when they should have been using utensils or wearing gloves.
Equipment such as can openers and meat slicers were not clean, according to the inspection reports. In November mold was found in the ice machine.
The July 1 inspection report included details about the health department’s procedures for compliance problems. A July 7 inspection showed the problems noted the previous week had been corrected. However, the restaurant could have continued to operate even if it failed the follow-up review.
“The Health Department will conduct a re-inspection of your establishment within 14 days of this inspection. If not all red critical violations are corrected during the re-inspection, a second re-inspection may be required,” the July 1 report stated.
“If these red critical violations are still not corrected on the second re-inspection, your permit may be suspended and your facility closed. Please note that your permit may be suspended after the third occurrence of a red critical violation within any 12-month period.”
Egg Farmers’ Prison Sentences Affirmed in Food-Safety Case
Source : http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/blogs/insider-law/2016/07/egg-farmers-prison-sentences-affirmed-in-food-saf.aspx
By ,Josh Long ( July 12, 2016)
A federal appeals court recently upheld the short prison sentences of Iowa egg farmers in a case that a legal expert said could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and has ramifications for corporate officers who violate the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA).
The owner of Quality Egg LLC, Austin “Jack" DeCoster, and his son Peter DeCoster, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations for introducing eggs into interstate commerce that had been adulterated with Salmonella. The guilty pleas prompted a federal judge in 2015 to sentence the men to three months of imprisonment.
Separately, federal judge Mark Bennett ordered the company to pay a fine of US$6.79 million and placed Quality Egg on probation for three years.
Challenging the prison sentences before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the egg farmers argued the punishments were unconstitutional or alternatively unreasonable. In a decision filed July 6, a three-judge panel with the Eighth Circuit ruled 2 to 1 to affirm the sentences.
Quality Egg is an egg production company that did business as Wright County Egg. A 2010 outbreak of Salmonella that caused 1,939 illnesses was linked to Wright County Egg and another business, Iowa-based Hillandale Farms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The DeCosters had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations as responsible corporate officers under the FDCA, but they argued the prison sentences were unconstitutional because they didn’t personally engage in wrongdoing.
In striving to overturn their sentences, the farmers sought to compare their situation to ones in which courts have ruled due process was violated when defendants were sentenced to prison for crimes under vicarious liability—a legal doctrine in which a supervisory party is held responsible for a subordinate’s conduct.
Quoting U.S. v. Park, an often-cited 1975 Supreme Court case, Eighth Circuit Judge Diana Murphy distinguished the doctrine of vicarious liability from corporate officers who are held accountable under the FDCA for failing to prevent or correct “conditions which gave rise to the charges against him."
“Here, as owner of Quality Egg, Jack decided which barns were subject to [Salmonella] environmental testing, and as chief operating officer, Peter coordinated many of the company's [Salmonella] prevention and rodent control efforts," Murphy wrote. “Neither of the DeCosters claim to have been ‘powerless’ to prevent Quality Egg from violating the FDCA. Despite their familiarity with the conditions in the Iowa facilities, they failed to take sufficient measures to improve them."
In a concurring opinion, Eighth Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender said he agreed with the judgment because the district court had found the defendants were “negligent," and the case did not raise concerns associated with incarcerating individuals based entirely on their positions as responsible corporate officers.
“The DeCosters’ challenge to their sentences relies on the premise that they were held vicariously liable for their subordinates’ violations—that is, liability was imputed to them based solely on their positions in the company," Gruender noted. “But because the DeCosters were negligent, their liability is not vicarious. Instead, they are responsible for their own failures to exercise reasonable care to prevent the introduction of adulterated food."
Bill Marler, a well-known attorney in Seattle who filed lawsuits against Quality Egg on behalf of consumers who fell ill from Salmonella, said he presumed the defendants’ lawyers would ask the Supreme Court to review the case. If the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, the Eighth Circuit’s judgement would stand.
Attorneys representing the defendants did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Marler said the defendants were sentenced to jail time by the trial judge even though prosecutors had not requested incarceration. “But the court was also aware of a pretty long and sordid history that the DeCosters had with respect to egg production over the last 20-plus years," said the attorney, who referenced farms in the Northeast linked to outbreaks of Salmonella.
Since prosecutors had not asked for jail time, Marler said he had been concerned that the Eighth Circuit would have found a reason to overturn the judge’s prison sentences.
“And I think that would have sent a message to CEOs that if you are charged with a misdemeanor, like these guys were, you are not going to go to jail," Marler said in a phone interview. “I think the fact that the Eighth Circuit upheld it sends the message that in fact you can go to jail for a misdemeanor."
Last year, the National Association of Manufacturers and the libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, raised concerns that the case could have harmful ramifications for the American economy. They argued the Eighth Circuit should vacate the judgments based on a lack of “mens rea" or a guilty mind.
“If executives can be imprisoned for criminal violations of strict liability laws by virtue of the position they hold within a company, the United States economy would suffer," the organizations argued in a brief filed in July 2015 with the Eighth Circuit. “Executive business decisions would be motivated less by good business principles and more by fear of possible future prison sentences."
“And, even then, corporate officers would not be able to fully protect themselves from criminal liability," the brief continued. “Under the responsible corporate officer doctrine, executives could be held criminally liable for conduct that is entirely outside their control."
In a dissenting opinion, Eighth Circuit Judge C. Arlen Beam appeared to be sympathetic to such concerns. In spite of the defendants' purported negligence, he declared, "However, there is no precedent that supports imprisonment without establishing some measure of a guilty mind on the part of these two individuals, and none is established in this case."
Beam pointed out the egg farmers did not know their products were contaminated with Salmonella.
“And when first alerted to the problem by the FDA in August of 2010, Quality Egg immediately, and at great expense, voluntarily recalled ‘hundreds of millions of shell eggs produced at Quality Egg's facilities,’" the judge noted. “This is hardly the stuff of ‘guilty minds.’"
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