But is it (microbiologically) safe?
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/11/but-is-it-microbiologically-safe/
By Doug Powell (Nov 7, 2016)
Mangoes are coming into season.
Australian egg producers are flogging studies saying that eggs are OK to eat every day.
But are they safe?
And the pork producers have a national 6-2-2 campaign:
Discover the secret to the perfect pork steak with our new 6-2-2 campaign.
Take a 2cm pork steak (sirloin, leg, scotch fillet or medallion).
Pre-heat a pan, griddle pan or BBQ plate just like you would for any other steak.
Cook the pork steak on one side, without turning, for 6 minutes.
Turn it over once and allow it to cook for 2 more minutes. This method will cook the steak to just white but if you prefer it cooked pink, just reduce the cooking time.
Remove the steak from the pan and rest for 2 minutes. Resting allows the juices to settle and produces a more tender and juicy result.
Remember the simple rule for next time: 6 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other and 2 minutes to rest = the 10 minute pork steak.
(No accounting for variations in cooking devices, just use a damn thermometer and take out the guesswork.)
All at the same time as Australia’s annual food safety week began with this year’s theme , raw and risky (sounds familiar).
The NSW Food Authority is throwing its support behind the Food Safety Information Council’s Food Safety Week 2016 that commences today Sunday 6 November, urging NSW consumers not to become one of the estimated 4.1 million people affected by food poisoning each year in Australia.
Dr Lisa Szabo, NSW Food Authority CEO, said the theme of this year’s Australian Food Safety Week “Raw and risky” is a timely and apt reminder that some foods carry more risk than others.
“Recent years have seen major food poisoning outbreaks linked to risky raw foods such as unpasteurised cow’s milk, raw egg dishes, bean/seed sprouts, frozen berries and lettuce,” Dr Szabo said.
Nine food businesses closed last month over food safety breaches
Source : http://www.newstalk.com/Nine-food-businesses-closed-last-month-over-food-safety-breaches
By Jack Quann (Nov 7, 2016)
There were also three successful prosecutions in October
These were for breaches of food safety legislation.
The orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE) and veterinary inspectors in Mayo County Council.
Four closure orders were served under the FSAI Act, 1998 on:
Sunnybank Hotel (Closed area: Public bar only), 68 - 70 Botanic Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Millars Restaurant (adjoining pub remains open), Ballydangan, Athlone, Roscommon
Shan (restaurant/café), 6 Crow Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
K&C Norton Wholesale Foods Limited, Unit 5C, Ballymount Road Lower, Ballymount Trading Estate, Ballymount, Dublin 12
While five closure orders were served under the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010 on:
Dynasty Chinese Restaurant & Take Away, Unit 9, Ballymun Town Centre, Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin 11
7 Star Pizza (take-away), (Closed area: potato peeling and chip production room on first floor), 68 Main Street, Mallow, Cork
Midnight Express (take-away), Main Street, Mullagh, Cavan
Bella House (restaurant/café), Castle Street, Kells, Meath
CoCo Asian & Chinese Takeaway, Main Street, Ballingarry, Limerick
And one prohibition order was served under the FSAI Act, 1998 on:
Mr Paul Howley (wholesaler/distributor), Ross, Castlebar, Mayo
Last month there were also three successful prosecutions in relation to one hotel, namely:
Glide Path Limited, Jackson's Hotel, Glenfin Street, Ballybofey, Donegal
Jackson’s Hotel Ltd in Receivership, Jackson's Hotel, Glenfin Street, Ballybofey, Donegal
Stephen Tennant, Jackson's Hotel, Glenfin Street, Ballybofey, Donegal
Commenting on the enforcement orders, chief executive of the FSAI Dr Pamela Byrne stressed the importance of food safety management systems.
"Food safety is of crucial importance for public health and there can be no excuses from non-compliant food businesses.
"The serving of 10 enforcement orders shows the importance of having a robust food inspection system to check that food businesses are complying with the food safety laws.
"It is vital for consumers’ health that this system of inspection and food testing is maintained to ensure that action is taken to deal with food businesses that put public health at risk.
Food business owners need to take full responsibility for food safety training of all their staff, including the management, to ensure the highest standards are maintained."
Publisher’s Platform: It is time to Vaccinate against Hepatitis A
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/11/it-is-time-to-vaccinate-against-hepatitis-a/#.WDuLSfmLSUl
BY BILL MARLER (Nov 6, 2016)
It’s not just for travelers and people at risk anymore.
I spent the last day meeting with the family of a woman that died too young from complications of Hepatitis A after eating tainted scallops from the Philippines. I represent nearly 80 others from that same outbreak – many who have been hospitalized, and even months after consuming scallops, they are still not back to normal health. Over the years I have represented hundreds of others who became ill from this vaccine preventable foodborne illness. Think about some of the outbreaks in the recent past:
Over 500 were sickened (and five died and one person needed a liver transplant) in the 2003 Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis A outbreak linked to green onions from Mexico.
In 2013 at least 165 were sickened by frozen pomegranates from Turkey sold in a frozen berry mix at Costco – dozens were hospitalized, some with severe complications.
Currently there are at least 140 with Hepatitis A linked to Tropical Smoothie Cafes tied to imported frozen Egyptian strawberries – a nation-wide recall has been announced recalling the suspect strawberries from January 2016 because others may well be at risk.
And, let’s not forget the dozens of outbreaks that have been caused by ill food handlers – many who have recently returned from vacation in areas where Hepatitis A is common. Over the years I have become a bit of a broken record (that saying shows my age) advocating for vaccinating food service workers. Recall, people are most infectious before they show symptoms or feel ill. So, before a restaurant owner knows he has a problem that can damage customers and business the problem is already a problem. In 2000, I represented dozens of people sickened after consuming sandwiches at a Seattle area Subway – one young boy required a liver transplant. The cause was an employee who returned from vacation with a brewing Hepatitis A illness.
Fact: Hepatitis A is endemic in most of the world except the United States and Western Europe.
The CDC suggests that a Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for: “All children at age 1 year, Travelers to countries that have high rates of Hepatitis A, Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where Hepatitis A is common, Men who have sexual contact with other men, Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs, People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates and People who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory.”
However, the CDC also says that that you can contract Hepatitis A “through direct person-to-person contact (fecal-oral transmission); contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water; or from contaminated raw, inadequately cooked, or frozen fruits, vegetables, or other foods.”
So, getting a Hepatitis A vaccine is not just for travelers and people at risk anymore. It is for everyone that eats imported food items from areas where Hepatitis A is endemic. You do not need to travel to be at risk, now the risk is imported for your consumption.
I would urge the CDC to add consumers of imported “shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water; or from contaminated raw, inadequately cooked, or frozen fruits, vegetables, or other foods” to its list of who should be vaccinated.
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FDA Weighs in on Hepatitis A Egyptian Strawberry Problem
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/fda-weighs-in-on-hepatitis-a-strawberry-problem/#.WDuMSvmLSUm
By BRUCE CLARK (Nov 3, 2016)
Update 11/3/2016: The FDA has learned that frozen strawberry products subject to recall by The International Company for Agricultural Production and Processing (ICAPP), including but not limited to whole, sliced and sugared, and diced strawberries, may have been served in food service operations as recently as October 27, 2016.
The FDA recommends that institutions and food service operations supplied by any of the five companies identified below immediately reach out to their suppliers and determine if they received frozen strawberry product recalled by ICAPP. Then, if needed, institutions and food service operations that find they served any recalled product within the last two weeks should contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to hepatitis A virus and the potential benefit of post exposure prophylaxis.
The FDA and CDC are not currently aware of any illnesses related to any recalled products other than whole frozen strawberries. However, because hepatitis A can have serious health consequences, CDC advises post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for unvaccinated persons who have consumed any of the recalled frozen strawberry products in the last 2 weeks. PEP offers no preventive benefit to persons whose exposure occurred more than 2 weeks ago.
The five consignees who received recalled frozen strawberry products from ICAPP are:
C.H. Belt of Lake Forest, Ca. (sold under CH World Brand)
Jetro/Restaurant Depot of College Point, N.Y. (sold under James Farm brand and unbranded “Bits & Pieces”)
Sysco Corporation of Houston, Tex. (sold under Sysco brand)
Patagonia Foods of San Luis Obispo, Ca. (sold under Patagonia brand)
Reddy Raw of Woodridge, N.J. (sold under Regal brand).
The FDA is working with these firms to help identify further downstream customers who may have received the recalled frozen strawberry products. More product information in table below.
The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections linked to frozen whole strawberries in smoothies served in Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurant locations.
On October 19, 2016 the FDA placed frozen strawberries from ICAPP on Import Alert 99-35 after multiple positive samples confirmed hepatitis A in the product.
As of October 20, 2016, CDC reports 134 people with hepatitis A linked to this outbreak have been reported from 9 states (AR, CA, MD, NC, NY, OR, VA, WI and WV).
129 of these cases reported eating a smoothie containing strawberries from Tropical Smoothie Café. There have been no cases reporting illness from this same exposure since September 23, 2016.
5 cases had no exposure to Tropical smoothie café. The latest illness onset date among these cases was 10/1/2016.
The investigation into these cases is ongoing.
According to the CDC, information available at this time does not indicate an ongoing risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus infection at Tropical Smoothie Café’s. Tropical Smoothie Café reported that they removed these strawberries from their Cafés nationwide on August 19.
On October 25, 2016, ICAPP recalled all frozen strawberries and frozen strawberry products that it has imported into the United States since January 1, 2016. These include whole, sliced and sugared, and diced frozen strawberries.
7 sick with E. coli; cider mill’s products, facility test negative
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/11/7-sick-with-e-coli-cider-mills-products-facility-test-negative/#.WDuMv_mLSUl
By CORAL BEACH (Nov 3, 2016)
Kansas officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak among people who attended an annual festival at Louisburg Cider Mill, with the cause proving elusive after initial tests did not find the pathogen in the production area, finished cider or whole apples.
Seven people have been laboratory-confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
Josh Hebert, president of the 39-year-old operation, said the company is continuing to cooperate fully with state and federal officials. The KDHE and personnel from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration assessed the Louisburg Cider Mill on Oct. 27. State inspectors collected samples for testing.
Hebert said the Kansas Department of Agriculture notified him via email that all of the samples came back negative for E. coli.
The cider mill uses apples from growers in and around the Kansas City metropolitan area, Hebert said. The company uses a heat pasteurization process for all of its cider products but does not add preservatives.
During the annual Ciderfest, which was on the weekends of Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2 this year, food and craft vendors have booths on the cider mill grounds. This year, Herbert said, there were 12 to 15 food vendors with everything from ice cream to barbecue. He was asked to provide a list of them to the state investigators.
The festival weekends also included pancake breakfasts by a local Lions Club this year.
In addition to those multiple food sources as possible vectors for the E. coli, a pony ride operation was on the mill grounds for the festival. A few goats, pigs and other farm animals are kept near the corn maze during the festival, but Herbert said it is not set up as a petting zoo.
State officials initially concentrated on activities during the first of the two festival weekends, Herbert said. But the notice posted Wednesday by the state health department references both weekends.
“If anyone has experienced diarrhea within one to 10 days after attending the Ciderfest on Sept. 24-25 or Oct. 1-2, please call the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline at 877-427-7317,” the health department notice requested.
The symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody and vomiting, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If there is fever, it usually is not very high. Most people get better within a week. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
As many as 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.
Ready-to-Eat Foods: Preserving the Trust of the Consumer
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/octobernovember-2016/ready-to-eat-foods-preserving-the-trust-of-the-consumer/
By Thomas Sauer
One of the many benefits that Americans and other citizens of developed countries enjoy is the relative safety of their food supplies. In 2014, a study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada ranked the top countries for food safety performance. Not surprisingly, the top tier included countries like Canada, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. Reports like this instill a strong level of trust in food purchased and consumed in those particular countries, but is that trust really deserved?
As reported in a Food Safety Magazine eDigest article in January 2016, a total of 626 food recalls occurred in 2015 based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports. As usual, food allergen issues made up the bulk of the recalls. The allergens involved in the recalls included:
• Milk/dairy: 82
• Peanuts: 49
• Eggs: 42
• Wheat/gluten: 34
These numbers include not only cross-contamination but also, in many cases, labeling issues where product was packaged in the wrong container. Failure to monitor label and package updates also contributed to these recalls.
Yet, with all the high-profile public recalls that are, many times, sensationalized in media reports, the general public is very trusting of the wholesomeness of most foods, including ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.
RTE foods pose a whole separate set of challenges when it comes to food safety. One can argue that if someone doesn’t properly and completely cook foods like chicken, beef or fish, there is the potential for contamination from bacteria, nematodes, etc. But if a consumer purchases food that is designed to be edible without further processing, he or she expects it to be safe.
Think about it. When you purchase an RTE food at a grocery store, at a restaurant or from a street vendor, you typically don’t stop to think about whether it will cause some sort of harm or make you sick. If you’ve ever visited a foreign country with inherent sanitation or clean-water issues, you may need to pick and choose what you eat or drink and actively avoid certain venues. You just don’t need to do that in most areas outside of the third world.
But in the United States, Canada and most other developed countries with strict food sanitation laws, the “obligation of prevention” is automatically assigned to the food provider, whether a food processor, a restaurateur or a street vendor.
What is the “obligation of prevention?” If a food handler produces a product that is understood to receive no further treatment to prevent hazards of any type, that business must understand that the consumer will believe the product is safe to consume. That is an awesome responsibility for any processor of RTE foods. And it is one that many processors don’t necessarily take as seriously as they should.
The Difficulty of Defense: An Example
Let’s consider a food that nearly everyone loves: ice cream. Ice cream is a very popular RTE food that can be a real food safety challenge, to say the least. It’s consumed by people of all ages and backgrounds, including those who might be immune-compromised, allergic, pregnant or otherwise susceptible from a health standpoint. But let’s look at some recent ice cream recalls: deaths and illnesses due to Listeria monocytogenes and countless withdrawals from the market resulting from adulteration from unlabeled allergens or other ingredients.
Is this because ice cream processors are inherently sloppy? Or that ice cream is an innately unsafe food? Hardly! Ice cream products, like all dairy foodstuffs, are some of the most regulated foods on the market. And due to the history of ice cream-related food safety recalls and negative publicity, processors are hypersensitive to the associated liability.
Take a look at the frozen-dessert section of your local supermarket. The large variety of products is almost overwhelming: full-fat ice cream versus reduced-fat ice cream; sandwiches, low-carb offerings, sorbets and sherbets; not to mention goodies with peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, eggs, soy and, of course, milk, which is taboo in water-ice products and sorbets. I’m using frozen desserts in my examples, but the same principles can be applied to most RTE foods, especially those with complex product-mix production runs.
These products are not typically produced on separate, sterile lines in plants that have completely separate environments. Yet, they are RTE foods that are deemed to be safe by anyone who consumes them, even those who aren’t predisposed to some malady. What kind of defense do processors have against cross-contamination and potential liability?
There’s an old adage that says “The best defense is a good offense.” This especially applies in this case. Food processors need to go on the offensive to defend themselves against recalls caused by the adulteration of their RTE foods. They need to protect their products at all levels, starting in the manufacturing environment.
Segregation of RTE Zones
In most food processing plants, there are various areas or “zones” that can be separated based on their use and level of food handling. Ingredient intake areas are typically considered raw zones and should be treated as probable sources of bacterial contamination. Personnel working in these areas should be restricted to this zone and not be permitted to enter other areas of the plant, especially RTE areas.
Food plants typically use color-coded schemes to separate the use of cleaning utensils such as brushes and cleaning buckets. The same can be done with personnel attire in finished-product handling zones. Various-colored jumpsuits can be used for permanent employees to indicate the same separation. In addition, different-colored hairnets and disposable smocks can be used for both visitors and permanent employees moving from one product zone to another.
Environmental swabbing for pathogens should be more frequent and more vigorous in areas where cross-contamination of RTE products could occur. Some of the more robust swabbing regimes utilize a zone concept to identify the level of cross-contamination risk present from one area of a food plant to another.
Based on the susceptibility of an RTE food that may be exposed to the food processing environment, one can assign zones as follows:
• Zone 1 is the most sensitive to contamination: typically, a product-contact surface. Positive, confirmed pathogen results in this zone would be considered a food safety hazard and would render finished product adulterated. Finished product that has been inadvertently released to the market prior to receiving a positive result would almost surely lead to a product recall.
• Zone 2 is an area that is in “close proximity” to a product contact surface and is less susceptible to contamination than Zone 1 (but still of high concern). External factors (personnel, water, air, equipment) could easily transfer pathogens from Zone 2 to Zone 1.
• Zone 3 is an area of lesser importance and with a reduced chance of contamination for an RTE product. However, based on traffic patterns, air movement and other vector concerns, identification of pathogens in these areas is of moderate concern.
• Zone 4 is used by some food processors but not by all. There’s a valid debate about how effective it is to swab things like dumpster areas, bathrooms, etc. Proponents say there is always a potential of tracking pathogens from one of these areas into a more critical area, but others feel it’s akin to finding some type of crawling creature if you turn over a rock in a desert. You may not find anything, but don’t be overly surprised if you do.
Preparation of “Natural” RTE Foods
The whole attractiveness of RTE foods versus anything that requires increased preparation is the savings of time and effort. Consumers are living in a world of constant hustle and limited time, being driven by obligations around work, school, kids and endless other activities. Yet, some people hold the opinion that the preservatives and additives in quick, convenient RTE foods render them unwholesome and inferior to fruits and vegetables or other natural foods.
Consider a food like the banana. Some people consider bananas one of the healthiest foods available. They are the most popular fruit in the world. And according to USDA, bananas have overtaken apples as the most widely consumed fruit in the United States. From a nutritional standpoint, bananas are high in potassium and pectin (fiber) as well as magnesium, vitamins C and B6, and antioxidants. What’s best about bananas is that they have their own natural seal to protect them from the elements. Seemingly the “perfect” RTE food, right?
But even bananas get a bad rap from many food purists. Bananas are grown in parts of the world that are hot, humid and full of invaders like insects, mold spores and nematodes.
There are a few insecticides, fungicides and acaracides (mite killers) that are regularly used on bananas. Surprised? Don’t be. Your display of bananas at the supermarket would be a bit more fuzzy without them, and you would be paying much more for less attractive fruit.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaracide and miticide that has been used to impregnate plastic bags draped over the banana bunches that hang from the banana plant (Figure 1).
The chlorpyrifos that is embedded in the blue plastic bags essentially dissipates long before the bags are removed at harvest time. The use of white bags typically indicates the lack of pesticide incorporation.
The banana bunches are cut down from the plant and taken to the nearby packing station. At the packing station, the bunches are separated into clusters, which are what you see on display at the grocery store. This is when the crown of the cluster (the point where the individual bananas connect to each other) is sprayed with (or dipped in) fungicides such as thiabendazole and imazalil. Without this treatment, rapid mold growth on this part of the banana cluster is highly likely. Studies have shown that the outer peel of the banana protects the edible portion from contamination, although many organic proponents obviously disagree.
Modified-Atmosphere Packaging of RTE Foods
While we’re on the topic of bananas, let’s look at how RTE foods are specially shipped or packaged to improve shelf stability. Modified-atmosphere packaging (or MAP) of bananas with ethylene, carbon dioxide and special moisture-scrubbing packaging can greatly reduce the ripening effect and prolong shelf life.
MAP is a means of controlling (i.e., slowing) the microbial or enzymatic action on foods that leads to discoloration or spoilage. Although conventional methods of slowing spoilage like refrigeration, pickling, culturing, curing, etc. have been used for a very long time, MAP is an alternative that doesn’t greatly affect the normal organoleptic qualities of the food.
As an example, fresh fruit and vegetable products, packaged in special foil packaging, may be flushed with gas mixtures such as 90 percent nitrogen, 5 percent oxygen and 5 percent carbon dioxide to provide the ideal environment to extend shelf life. As a comparison, the normal composition of air is 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, 0.03 percent carbon dioxide and traces of noble gases. As you can see, the relative level of oxygen is greatly reduced.
Reducing the oxygen level prolongs the shelf life of RTE foods such as fruits and vegetables by delaying the oxidative breakdown of some key components of the product. Reduction of oxygen concentrations (< 8%) also helps reduce the production of ethylene, which is part of the natural ripening process.
So why not flush all the oxygen out of the packaging? At very low oxygen levels, anaerobic respiration can occur. Not only might this lead to product tissue destruction, but it can also lead to the production of unfavorable metabolites that contribute to off flavors and off odors. Even worse, anaerobic conditions can lead to the potential growth of foodborne pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum.
There has been some experimentation by packers of fresh green vegetables in the United Kingdom who have been testing oxygen mixtures between 70 percent and 100 percent. This application has been found to be very effective in inhibiting enzymatic discoloration as well as both aerobic and anaerobic microbial growth. However, there have also been reports that elevated oxygen levels (around 80–90%) may actually stimulate the growth of foodborne pathogens such as Escherichia coli and L. monocytogenes. So look to more and more innovation in the use of MAP to extend the shelf life of RTE foods.
No discussion of RTE foods would be complete without mentioning foodservice channels, specifically restaurants. According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, norovirus was found to be the most common foodborne disease agent, accounting for 42 percent of all confirmed foodborne outbreaks during the study period.
Handling of food by an infected person or carrier (65%) and bare-hand contact with food (35%) were the most commonly identified contributing factors.
A separate study identified potential environmental factors as part of 154 foodborne illness outbreak investigations in foodservice establishments. The following data were published by the CDC3 as preliminary findings:
• The majority (84%) of the foodservice establishments involved in the outbreaks were complex establishments, meaning a complex food handling process is utilized for one or more foods handled in the establishment. Additionally, 13 percent were cook-serve establishments, and 3 percent were prep-serve establishments.
• Spanish was the primary language of 58 percent of food workers, but only 41 percent of managers could speak Spanish.
• Floor-cleaning policies existed in 95 percent of establishments, but only 37 percent of these policies were written.
• Fewer establishments had policies on cleaning of food contact surfaces (88%), cutting boards (89%) and food slicers (72%).
• More managers (66%) received paid sick leave than workers (35%).
• The majority (96%) of establishments had hand sinks available in employee restrooms and work areas (94%). However, hands-free-operated sinks were rare (restrooms: 4%; work areas: 3%).
In summary, RTE foods are becoming a growing percentage of the overall food sales market. Innovation in processing and packaging is contributing to the number of applications for types of products and channels for sale. Demands by consumers for foods that are healthy, organoleptically acceptable after extended periods and safe for consumption continue to drive the current market trends.
Consumers have a high degree of confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of foods that are presented for sale as RTE. Food processors and other food handlers have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure there is no breach of that trust. Processors of RTE foods must remember that their employees are the last point of contact with that food prior to its being consumed by the end-user. This is a huge responsibility that can’t be discounted.
The incorporation of preventive controls (e.g., Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), as required by the Food Safety Modernization Act, is a key component in a food safety program that helps prevent the adulteration of RTE foods. This is true not only at food processing plants but also in foodservice channels.
So whether dealing with fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, liquid beverages, frozen treats, baked goods, prepared meat snacks, chilled foods, confections, foodservice items or any of the other growing number of RTE foods, the common objective with all of them is protection against adulteration. It protects your consumers, your shareholders, your brand, your reputation and your business.
Thomas Sauer is a quality & food safety consultant and a charter member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine. He has held positions in quality assurance, food safety and operations with companies such as Chiquita, Kraft, Unilever and Wells Enterprises. He can be reached at email@example.com.
FDA finds Listeria in ice cream plant; recall details incomplete
By NEWS DESK (Nov 2, 2016)
Listeria monocytogenes found by federal inspectors in an unnamed brand of ice cream produced by Dr. Bob’s spurred the recall of AC Creamery branded ice cream Wednesday even though the pathogen had not been confirmed in it.
The Anaheim, CA-based AC Creamery Inc. posted its recall of Manila Sky Purple Yumm flavor ice cream with the Food and Drug Administration, citing the agency’s discovery of Listeria monocytogenes at the production facility of Dr. Bob’s of Upland LLC.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found samples positive for Listeria monocytogenes in the contract manufacturer’s, Dr. Bob’s of Upland LLC, facility, and in finished product of another company’s brand, leading the contract manufacturer to recall all ice cream products produced this year,” the AC Creamery recall notice states.
However, neither the FDA nor Dr. Bob’s had posted any recall information as of 10 p.m.
EDT Wednesday for the year’s run of products referenced in the AC Creamery recall.
No illnesses had been reported in connection with AC Creamery’s Manila Sky Purple Yumm ice cream as of the posting of the recall notice. The ice cream is made with purple yams and has a cream cheese swirl.
The recalled 16-ounce packages of Manila Sky Purple Yumm ice cream were distributed nationwide to retail stores and events such as the Florida Food & Lodging Show and the Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture and California State University Pilipino American Student Association Friendship Games. The product comes is paper cups marked with an expiration date of “Mar 06, 2018” stamped on the bottom.
“Consumers who have purchased 16-ounce packages of ‘Manila Sky Purple Yumm Ice Cream’ are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund,” according to the recall notice. “Consumers with questions may contact the company at 714-871-9951.”
Anyone who has eaten any of the AC Creamery recalled ice cream and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and alert their doctor to the possible exposure. Symptoms can take up to 70 days to develop.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
Your Food Contamination Crisis Plan: Four Steps to (Relative) Peace of Mind
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/your-food-contamination-crisis-plan-four-steps-to-relative-peace-of-mind/
By James E. Lozier, Esq (Nov 1, 2016)
Food contamination claims are not only expensive but also potentially devastating to a food provider’s reputation and brand. And while no one expects to be subject to a contamination claim, everyone in the business must be prepared with an appropriate food contamination crisis plan. The cost of not doing so could be the very existence of the company you’ve worked so hard to build.
In addition, such plans are now required under recent amendments to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Do you have a plan? And, if so, will it survive scrutiny if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes knocking? Consider these four steps to assuring that you are protected:
1. Acknowledge the Risk to Your Business
Many food providers operate under the hope that a food safety crisis simply cannot happen to them. However, there is little question that the U.S. government is focusing heavily on food contamination issues. This is motivated in part by a tremendous increase in the number of food contamination and adulteration claims—generally, one such claim is reported to FDA every day. Added to this is a new “culture” within FDA and Department of Justice: one of aggressive enforcement of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and, along with it, the new requirements of FSMA.
2. Establish a Team
If your company doesn’t currently have a food contamination crisis team, you need to establish one. With a team in place, the company can respond not only with the speed necessitated by a food contamination crisis, but also in a thoughtful manner. Little is worse than scrambling upon realizing the need to institute a recall or a market withdrawal.
Your food contamination crisis team will need to include 1) top company officials with authority to make immediate decisions, 2) legal counsel familiar with food production, recalls and market withdrawals, 3) food experts familiar with your production process, 4) regulatory expert and 5) a crisis-management PR provider.
3. Create a Written Plan
The crisis management team needs to create a written plan, ahead of any actual crisis, outlining the process for handling various contamination or adulteration scenarios. The plan should also clearly reflect the current composition of the team and the contact information for each member.
In order to create a comprehensive and aggressive plan, the team should spend some time considering the following:
• The possible risk of food contamination/adulteration at different junctures of its process for growing, processing, packaging and/or transportation of its food products
• The way the company should respond when involved in a worst case scenario
• The manner in which the company officials will communicate with its employees and other outside third parties
• The procedures, if any, that can be put in place now before being faced with a contamination/adulteration issue in order to be prepared for that possibility
4. Put your Plan to the Test
Test what you’ve written. Engage in dry runs. Create hypotheticals and brainstorm potential responses. Review the plan, ideally each quarter, but at a minimum each year. The value of a current and well-thought-out plan simply cannot be understated.
In conclusion, despite the challenges it presents for food providers, a certain level of governmental oversight of food production is both necessary and potentially helpful to the industry. Our government is charged with protecting the integrity of our food supply in an effort to limit the incidence of consumer illness and death from contaminated or adulterated foods. And at the same time, by providing clear guidelines for food safety, the government can protect food providers from unreasonable liability claims.
Government oversight is not going away. So the best that food providers can do is to be beyond reproach in preparing for potential contamination or adulteration scenarios. Yes, this takes an investment of time preparing for something that we hope will never happen. But consider this. Most of us don’t expect our homes to burn down. But we nonetheless invest in insurance policies to protect against such a potentially catastrophic event, despite how incredibly unlikely it is.
Simply put, your food business deserves the investment of time that this simple four-step plan requires. And perhaps you’ll reap the additional reward of a better night’s sleep.
A Vision for Food Integrity and Social License
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/a-vision-for-food-integrity-and-social-license/
By Brian Sterling (Nov 1, 2016)
When people think about food safety, they tend to gravitate to ideas like handling practices, avoiding contamination, reducing the risk of foodborne illness and safeguarding the consumer. They perhaps think of safety as the ultimate precompetitive measure of quality in food.
There is a good reason for this. The burden of foodborne illness is substantial. For example, in the United States, one person in six suffers from a foodborne illness every year. Of those, nearly 130,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from their illness. The numbers in Canada are comparable (one in eight suffering from foodborne illnesses in 2013). And for these and other reasons, over the years governments have imposed increasing regulation and stricter enforcement mechanisms.
For food businesses, the pattern on food safety for decades has been one of responding to regulators while maintaining higher standards. This is a strongly embedded culture throughout the food industry.
Given the growing complexity of our global food system, inspection and containment actions most often arise in response to a specific incident. It is simply impractical to inspect all food or reduce the risk of a foodborne incident to zero. Even the most ardent proponent of regulation realizes that one cannot ‘inspect in’ food safety, any more than automotive companies recognized decades ago that you cannot ‘inspect in’ quality on a vehicle or part.
Therefore, there is an increasing global trend and support from companies and regulators for more proactive approaches to food protection. There is growing realization among food professionals that “food safety” is only part of the larger and richer vision. Leading practitioners in food companies and governments are now thinking and talking about food protection.
So what is this? And why is it important?
Food protection is an encompassing phrase that embraces food security, food defense, food sustainability and food safety. Food protection is considered the goal; the other four elements contribute in their own way to this outcome: They are the means to achieve the goal. Some may find this simply word-play and that semantics do not alter the concerns about protecting food.
But words are important. By talking about food protection, we broaden thinking about what we can do to improve the safety, quality, sustainability, defense and overall integrity of our food and the system that delivers it. This ‘systems thinking’ approach is the basis for creating more effective protection of food.
We are starting to now understand that by historically focusing primarily on food safety, we have tended to create a reactive mindset and have left unexplored real opportunities to systemically address a number of other important food integrity issues. The argument is that if we do not “deal with the big picture,” then by default, we address disjointedly the issues of food fraud, food waste, sustainability and food security. We end up applying isolated strategies and tactics with no cohesive use of limited resources.
By examining food integrity in a broader vision and context, we can more effectively strengthen our food system by leveraging activities that address more than one issue at a time. This helps make our food system more competitive, more reliable, more sustainable, more efficient and, yes, safer. So the next questions relate to the ‘connectors’ between the five points of our model.
In short, if we think of food safety as an important contributor to a more comprehensive picture of what can really drive improvement in the industry, food protection, then what is its connection with food sustainability? What about with food security or food defense? We will open up a dialogue on these and other connections to address issues of food safety, food security, food defense, sustainability and food integrity. If food system partners change their thinking, then they change their behavior and practices.
By thinking differently, we can affect the way we achieve results.
CPMA renews commitment to food safety with a new strategy
Source : http://www.freshplaza.com/article/165893/CPMA-renews-commitment-to-food-safety-with-a-new-strategy
By freshplaza.com (Oct 31, 2016)
In 2015, Food safety was identified as a top priority area of focus for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), and members agreed that while many organizations focus on food safety research, there was very little which specifically addressed the Canadian produce industry. The CPMA Food Safety Committee suggested to the CPMA Board that a model for outcome-based food safety initiatives be created. To support the development of this model, CPMA conducted a thorough review with key produce industry stakeholders to identify the resources and tools the produce industry (CPMA members specifically) wanted from CPMA in relation to food safety.
The following areas were identified in the review process as key areas CPMA needed to address/manage:
• Management commitment and food safety culture
• Employee training and personnel knowledge and education
• Traceability standards
• Implementation of food safety schemes
• Crisis management
• Research pertinent to the Canadian context
•Support to standardize food safety requirements for retailers
• Market research
To support these needs, CPMA’s Board of Directors has agreed to the following strategy which will be further developed over the coming year:
1. CPMA will provide resources for enhancing employee and management knowledge in the area of food safety:
o Areas that require immediate attention include microbiology, risk assessment, trend analysis and commodity-based best practices, which will be accomplished through webinars, guidance documents/summaries and/or by having direct access to experts.
2.As an immediate priority, CPMA will provide support to members on upcoming regulations, as well as management commitment and food safety culture.
3.CPMA will provide funding for applied food safety research that is directly applicable to the Canadian produce industry.
4.CPMA will maintain and/or enhance its role when representing members in government and multi-sectoral/multi-country consultations and/or meetings.
To action this renewed food safety strategy, CPMA is seeking a Food Safety Specialist. The Food Safety Specialist will hold primary responsibility for CPMA’s food safety efforts and will act as the principal liaison with all food safety stakeholders including: industry, government, academia and other stakeholders. Through their efforts the incumbent will lead the empowerment of industry on awareness, understanding and the culture of implementing food safety standards across the fresh fruit and vegetable sectors. The incumbent will also be responsible for responding to member food safety inquiries, crisis management, monitoring domestic and international regulations, developing/delivering education/training programs to CPMA members, and resourcing public/private funding for food safety research.
A detailed job description can be found at www.cpma.ca/careers
These Are the Real Horrors of Halloween, According to a Food Safety Expert
Source : https://munchies.vice.com/en_uk/articles/these-are-the-real-horrors-of-halloween-according-to-a-food-safety-expert
By NICK ROSE (Oct 31, 2016)
Usually, when a stranger offers candy to a child, it’s a huge red flag.
Yet, during Halloween, this behaviour is not only tolerated, but encouraged, often under duress from children forcing a “trick-or-treat” ultimatum onto adults.
Usually, the horror stories we hear around Halloween revolve around psychos putting pins and razor blades in candies destined for children. But we here at MUNCHIES, thanks to not one, but two experts, have largely debunked the urban legend of children being injured by razor blades, poison, or weed-infused candies.
READ MORE: Stop X-Raying Your Kid’s Halloween Candy
Sure, incidents of intentionally tainted candies do arise on occasion, but, for the most part, razor-blade-stuffed Kit Kats are the stuff of urban legend among sugar-high American children. But there are more pressing and more common threats to the well-being of costumed little ones.
Dr. Rick Holley is a food safety and food microbiology professor at the University of Manitoba. We spoke to Holley about the dangers of Halloween—both real and perceived—from weed edibles to razor blades to sketchy apples.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Rick. According to the US Census, 41.2 million kids trick-or-treat every year. Why do you think taking candy from strangers is such a widely accepted thing at Halloween?
Rick Holley: Culture is a funny thing. Our customs are part of the fabric of things that we’ve come to expect to be normal. Under most sets of circumstances, the hazards are pretty minimal with those sorts of things.
As a food safety expert, what are the main things that people should be vigilant about before they head out trick-or-treating?
There are a range of things to be aware of, depending on the age of the children involved. Before the kids go out, the first thing would be for parents sit with them and have a meal. That way, the kids don’t snack on the candies that they pick up during their tour, before you, as an adult, have the opportunity to screen them for potential hazards. It’s important for parents to throw out anything that hasn’t been packaged commercially, or if the wrapping material has been violated in any fashion—if there’s a rip or tear or small hole.
What about baked goods?
Homemade food products are not on the menu, in this particular event. There is risk associated with that. While many folks who prepare home-cooked food for kids are well-meaning, the best thing to do is avoid these because of the usual risks associated with preparing food at home.
For the most part, Halloween treats are mass-produced chocolate bars and candies. What are the main concerns for these products?
The risk is that the material might be formulated with something that’s hazardous to health, whether it’s chemical or physical hazard of one sort or another. The risks are usually generated as a result of an unsavoury fraction of the population at large that wants to cause injury, for no apparent reason. We see it at every step of the way. There is no way to completely erase that risk.
The other thing that is significant [at Halloween] is the costume, it should definitely be made of a fire-retardant material. It’s also a good idea for kids not to wear masks, but non-allergenic face paint instead, so that there isn’t restricted vision.
That doesn’t sound like a whole bunch of fun for young kids. Doesn’t this take some of the enjoyment out of Halloween?
It might diminish the informality to a certain extent, but when the kids are young and they’re growing up with these more reasonable standards, I don’t think it takes away that much from the moment.
That being said, apple-bobbing seems kind of gross—a bunch of kids biting apples from a communal bowl and getting saliva in there. Is apple-bobbing considered hygienic?
If we completely sterilise the activities and the environment that we raise our children in, are we doing a favour? Common sense here. The water has to be clean, the apples have to be clean. Keep an eye on the children and make sure that none of them are showing signs of respiratory illnesses and I think everything is okay.
What about candied apples?
One of the things that happened a few years ago was listeria in candied apples. They were commercially manufactured. There were 35 hospitalisations and seven deaths. In this case, seven folks were pregnant and one lost a child, and three children [got] meningitis as a result of eating candied apples. And we’re talking about apples sold through Costco and other big retailers. That experience should illustrate that commercially prepared candied apples should be avoided. It turns out that the stick injured the tissue in the apple and allowed the bacteria that was naturally present to grow to large numbers, and that [was what got] the kids sick. So avoid those!
They’re delicious, but I’ll take your word for it, I guess. What about weed edibles? Is that something kids and parents should worry about?
I think this goes back to what I said earlier about homemade products—avoid them. (Laughs) You’re a responsible reporter.
Because of your job, you see the very worst of what can happen when people aren’t careful with that they eat. Do you think you have a skewed perspective, and might be overly cautious?
It depends on perspective. I don’t think I do, but when we get together at dinner parties, the discussion gravitates toward thing associated with food safety and those discussions can be centred around the bad things that happen and that’s not good. There has never been any attempt on my part to make anybody paranoid about the issue of food safety. In large measure, the proportion of illnesses that are caused are relatively [small compared] to incredible numbers of meals, and in Halloween candy, that we consume [just once] a year, is very, very small. So I think that when push comes to shove, you have to have a pragmatic approach.
So, once it’s been properly screened, what’s your favourite Halloween candy?
Caramilk. Oh, yeah. It’s kind of cool how they get the caramel in the bar. You have to be a food scientist to appreciate that.
How does Cadbury do it?
They use a slurry of sugar and they put an enzyme in there called invertase, which breaks the sugar down into glucose and fructose, which are liquid. So the invertase makes it go from solid to liquid. Also, [I like] Bounty’s Cherry Blossom; I don’t know if that’s still popular today, but I liked it as a child. Anyway, it’s a lump of chocolate with a cherry floating around in the middle, and they did that the same way—by using invertase.
Thank you for sharing this secret with us and keep them kids safe this year.
My pleasure, thank you.
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