New leadership at USDA, FDA might increase outside meetings
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/new-leadership-at-usda-fda-might-increase-outside-meetings/#.WSTrm2iLSUl
By DAN FLYNN (MAY 22, 2017
Poultry, antibiotics, Ionophores and activities with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were among the subjects of April meetings between Al Almanza, administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and people outside the federal government.
Almanza’s public calendar for April included five meetings, four before Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was confirmed by the Senate on April 24. There was a noticeable reduction in meetings with outsiders at both FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration while the agencies waited for Trump administration leadership to arrive.
With both Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb now on the job — Gottlieb was confirmed on May 9 — the meeting traffic for the nation’s top two food safety agencies will likely pick up.
Almanza hosted two meetings on poultry, on April 4 with a delegation from the National Chicken Council and Sanderson Farms that was said to be over the NPIS or New Poultry Inspection System; and on April 25 with a group from the California Poultry Federation over the poultry inspection rule. Hany Sidrak, executive associate for regulatory operations at FSIS was the only agency representative other than Almanza at both meetings.
Jesse Sevcik and Eric Steiner, both from Elanco, met with Almanza on April 11 over Ionophores and antibiotics. Ionophores differ from other classes of antibiotics in that they are not seen as important to human health. Elanco is an animal food producer and a division of Eli Lilly and Co.
Carolina Giliberti, executive vice president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) met with Almanza, his deputy and international coordinator on April 19 to talk about joint activities.
Almanza held a second meeting on Ionophores on April 20 with Scott Graves, principal with Williams and Jensen. Graves is the former majority staff director for the House Agriculture Committee, who is now in private practice.
Stephen M. Ostroff spent April as acting FDA Commissioner. He attended the April 5 Food Fraud Conference in Quebec City, Canada; and on April 27 participated in the Pew Charitable Trusts event on “Information Regarding the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and Beyond for Improving Food Safety.”
Those were his only food safety related meetings during the month. He did keep busy, however, with meetings on heroin epidemics, pharmacopeia, “first and human” medical research and the global challenge of antimicrobial resistances.
With FDA Commissioner Gottlieb’s confirmation, Ostroff returned to his regular job as Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, where he is charged with implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Almanza also remains as the acting head of USDA’s Office of Food Safety until President Trump nominates and the Senate confirms the next USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, a position that went vacate for the last three years of President Obama’s tenure.
USDA championed new policies in 2016 to reduce food waste
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/usda-championed-new-policies-in-2016-to-reduce-food-waste/#.WSTqjGiLSUl
By KELLY NUCKOLLS (May 21, 2017)
Editor’s note: This essay is a 2017 runner up for the “Publisher’s Award” and was written as part of a food safety litigation class at the University of Arkansas Law School taught by Bill Marler and Denis Stearns of the Seattle law firm MarlerClark LLP.
Food waste is sickening. The amount of safe and nutritious food that is wasted each year in the United States is astonishing: An estimated 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is never consumed. Yet, approximately 49 million Americans are suffering from hunger. Instead of using this excess food to feed the hungry, most of this food waste ends up in the trash. This sight is nauseating — billions of pounds of food rotting in U.S. landfills while approximately one in seven Americans are food insecure.
Food safety concerns are some of the many factors that contribute to the large amount of food waste in the U.S. There is a widespread misconception that some food products cannot or should not be recovered due to food safety concerns. This has resulted in businesses throwing out food that is still perfectly good and safe to eat. For example, a large number of food products are thrown into landfills that are mislabeled, even though they are still safe for human consumption. Some of this food could be diverted from the landfill by simply relabeling the product to declare an ingredient originally omitted. Other product labels may create a false sense of concern that the product is no longer safe. A new, clearer label could prevent food from going to waste.
To address these concerns, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced two new policies in 2016 to help businesses and consumers reduce food waste. The first policy action was the issuance of FSIS Directive 7020.1, which created a new and simpler relabeling process for businesses that want to donate food products that have minor labeling errors. The other step taken by FSIS was the issuance of a new guidance document that suggests manufacturers use standard and consistent language for date labels to reduce consumer confusion and food waste that is a result of this confusion. These new policies apply to all meat, poultry, and some egg products in the U.S.
FSIS Directive 7020.1 makes the relabeling process easier for businesses who want to donate recalled products. Prior to this new policy, food products regulated by FSIS had to follow a re-approval labeling process before the product could be donated. In addition, that product had to be plainly marked “Not for Sale.” Businesses were discovering approval could take anywhere from 60-90 days, resulting in a lengthy process, which took up a large amount of storage space. The re-labeling application process required time and labor. It was also costly for businesses to pay their employees to re-label and stamp “Not for Sale” on each product. Overall, the costs of donating the products were not feasible for businesses.
Now, under FSIS Directive 7020.1, businesses can donate certain mislabeled products without worrying about the costs associated with the re-labeling process. Under the directive, economically adulterated or misbranded meat and poultry products can be donated “as is” without applying for temporary label approval and without adding the “Not for Sale” statement on each package. The only requirement is that there is a bill of lading that describes the quantity and description of the donated item, the reason the product was recalled, and a statement that the product is not for sale, which accompanies the donated product. However, the temporary label approval and “Not for Sale” package statement are still both required if the product is misbranded because it did not include an ingredient of public health concern: Wheat, fish and shellfish, eggs, peanuts, dairy, tree nuts, or soybeans or “[i]ngredients that may cause food intolerance, such as sulfur-based preservatives (sulfites), lactose, Yellow 5 (tartrazine), gluten, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).” Also, the donated product is still required to be inspected by officials before it is shipped to the nonprofit organization.
FSIS “Food Product Dating” guidance document will also assist with the fight against food waste. Federal law does not regulate or require date labels on food products, with the exception of baby formula. Instead, there are a plethora of state laws that regulate date labels, some of which outlaw the donation of food that is past its date. The lack of uniform regulation causes confusion around whether or not the date on the food pertains to the product’s safety. The date labels on most products do not relate to food safety. Yet, according to a national consumer survey, 84 percent of consumers toss out food that is past its date because of safety concerns. FSIS’s guidance document addresses date labels’ contribution to food waste in the U.S.
Now, FSIS encourages date labels to only use “Best if Used By” language. Manufacturers and retailers should try and refrain from using any other date label phrases. The guidance document also states that unspoiled, wholesome, safe food can “be sold, purchased, donated, and consumed beyond” its “Best if Used By” date. FSIS also confirmed that besides infant formula, dates on food products are not a way to determine the safety of a product.
These new policies may have a significant impact on reducing food waste across the U.S. One survey found that 20 percent of food waste at the consumer level is from date label confusion. If manufacturers and retailers follow FSIS’s Food Product Dating guidance, consumers will only be required to know the meaning of one phrase. In fact, according to a survey by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the National Consumers League, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, most consumers relate “Best if Used By” to the quality of a product, not safety. Thus, the guidance document will help clear up consumers’ confusion around date labels and food safety.
The new FSIS directive will also ensure that businesses are not throwing out safe food. A large number of products are recalled due to labeling issues — 60% of all FDA recalls, for example. These products were not always relabeled and redistributed, and businesses moved forward with the cheaper alternative — tossing the products into the landfill. Now, FSIS’s removal of the approval process for certain products will allow businesses to re-label products for donation in a more efficient manner. These policies show FSIS and USDA’s dedication to reducing food waste.
Even so, there are some flaws that prevent FSIS from having a larger influence on consumers, businesses, and the amount of food waste in the U.S. For one, FSIS regulates a small portion of U.S. food products, around 10 percent to 20 percent, whereas, the Food and Drug Administration has regulatory authority over a majority of the food in the U.S. Thus, the FDA would probably have a larger impact than the USDA if it initiated these policies, but the FDA has not implemented similar guidelines.
Moreover, FSIS’s policy statements are not new legal requirements like administrative rules. These statements are not federal law, but are simply how the agency will interpret a law. The guidance document and directive are easier to repeal than an administrative rule. When a new president is elected, the new administration may change or remove these policy statements. Thus, FSIS’s policies to combat food waste are not permanent. Businesses may be wary to follow these new policies until it is clear that the new administration will not repeal or change them.
FSIS’s guidance document on date labels also will not completely clear up consumer’s confusion about date labels. The document does not mandate manufacturers and retailers to only use the “Best if Used By” language. It only suggests they follow this recommendation. The document also does not preempt state laws that prohibit donating food past its date or state laws that require certain products to contain a wide range of confusing phrases.
FSIS Directive 7020.1 still does not address the significant problems with re-labeling products recalled due to ingredients of public health concern. For these products, the approval process for the temporary label can still take up to 90 days. The longer a product must be stored at a business, the stronger the likelihood that they will need the space for inventory, and that this safe, edible recalled product will be tossed into the trash. This includes a large amount of recalled products — over 10 million pounds of meat and poultry products were recalled in 2015 due to an undeclared allergen. Yet, these products are still edible — there is no risk in donating a product that has been properly relabeled with the correct ingredients and allergens.
Even so, the USDA and FSIS should receive significant praise for their efforts to reduce food waste in 2016. These two new policies should help to reduce the amount of food that is wasted due to misinformed food safety fears. However, more can be done to ensure that food safety and food waste reduction work hand in hand. Caution is and should continue to be used when it comes to proper food safety, and there should always be a strong regulatory process in place to protect the general public from food borne illness. However, “[e]xcessive caution has consequences . … Just as there are ramifications to eating food that’s [unsafe], so are there repercussion for all of our waste.”
To learn more about the USDA’s food waste reduction efforts visit the U.S. Food Loss and Waste Challenge website.
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Almost 160 tons of institutional meals recalled for bad water
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/almost-160-tons-of-institutional-meals-recalled-for-bad-water/#.WSTrJ2iLSUl
By NEWS DESK (May 21, 2017)
Contamination is thought to have come from runoff from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base
Correctional Industries, which supplies the Washington state Department of Corrections and senior citizen nutrition programs, is recalling almost 320,000 pounds of frozen meat and poultry products because they were made with contaminated water.
The Olympia, WA-based food production operation reported the problem to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Tuesday, according to the recall notice posted on the agency’s website.
Well water used to produce the frozen foods has been found to be contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals, known by the acronyms PFOS and PFOA, according to city and county health officials. The public in the Airway Heights, WA, area has been warned not to use the water for cooking or drinking. Restaurants and other foodservice operators are under orders to not use tap water in the area.
The contamination is thought to have come from runoff from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base, according to reports in The Spokesman-Review newspaper. The chemicals found in the well water are believed to be from fire-extinguishing foam the Air Force used from 1970 until last year on a fire-training site as well as two locations where aircraft have crashed.
Unidentified “institutions” in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington received the frozen meat and poultry products, which were produced and packed on various dates from April 1 through May 15 at the Correctional Industries location in Airway Heights, WA.
The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 40238” or “EST. P-40238” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products can also be identified by the following label information:
31-lb. boxes containing “BROWN GRAVY W/BEEF, MASHED POTATOES, PEAS & CARROTS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
36-lb. boxes containing “CHICKEN ENCHILADA W/ENCHILADA SAUCE, RICE, AND BLACK BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
25-lb. boxes containing “CHICKEN PATTY WITH RANCHERO SAUCE, RICE AND GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
31-lb. boxes containing “CHICKEN PATTY WITH RICE, BBQ SAUCE, AND BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
27.75-lb. boxes containing “CHILI SAUCE WITH MEAT, RICE AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
30-lb. boxes containing “COUNTRY FRIED CHKN & BEEF PATTY W/GRAVY, MASHED POTATOES & CARROTS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
22.75-lb. boxes containing “CREAMED GRAVY W/GROUND BEEF ON BISCUIT & O’BRIAN POTATOES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
26-lb. boxes containing “CREAMY CHICKEN ALFREDO WITH ROTINI AND CORN” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
24-lb. boxes containing “CREAMY CHICKEN CASSEROLE WITH ROTINI AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
29.25-lb. boxes containing “LASAGNA WITH GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
28.75-lb. boxes containing “MEAT LOAF PATTY W/MASHED POTATOES, GRAVY & GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
29-lb. boxes containing “ORANGE SAUCE W/CHICKEN, RICE, AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
29.25-lb. boxes containing “SALISBURY STEAK W/GRAVY, MASHED POTATOES & VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
27.5-lb. boxes containing “SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN WITH RICE AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
27.75-lb. boxes containing “TERIYAKI SAUCE WITH CHICKEN, RICE AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
28.75-lb. boxes containing “TURKEY CHILI WITH RICE AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
27.25-lb. boxes containing “VEGETABLE STEW WITH BEEF, RICE AND PEAS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
27.5-lb. boxes containing “WHITE TURKEY ALA KING W/RICE & PEAS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
23.5-lb. boxes containing “HALAL CREAMED GRAVY W/GROUND BEEF ON BISCUIT, & POTATOES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
25-lb. boxes containing “HALAL BEEF GRAVY WITH RICE BLEND, AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
25.5-lb. boxes containing “HALAL BEEF W/MACARONI & CHEESE SAUCE, & GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
26.5-lb boxes containing “HALAL GROUND BEEF & VEGETABLES W/RICE, & GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
26.25-lb. boxes containing “HALAL CREAMY CHICKEN CASSEROLE W/SEASONED NOODLES & VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
22-lb. boxes containing “HALAL CHICKEN PATTY W/RICE & RED BEANS, & VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
25-lb. boxes containing “HALAL CHILI SAUCE FLAVORED W/MEAT, MACARONI, & GREEN BEANS” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
25-lb. boxes containing “HALAL MEAT SAUCE WITH SPAGHETTI, AND CORN” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
24-lb. boxes containing “HALAL SLOPPY JOE BBQ SAUCE WITH BEEF, POTATOES AND VEGETABLES” and “Mfg Date” April 1, 2017 through May 15, 2017.
Although the recall notice states the products were shipped to “institutions,” it warns consumers to not eat the recalled products.
“There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products,” according to the recall notice.
“Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase. Consumers with questions about the recall can contact Michael Cline, industries manager, at 509-244-4232.”
New Technology Helps Companies Respond to Recalls Faster
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/new-technology-helps-companies-respond-recalls-faster/
By Food Safety Tech Staff (May 18, 2017)
A recent survey found that many consumers expect a recall to be resolved within one to two days. Today one company released a product touted as the first real-time software as a service (SaaS) platform for managing recall and stock withdrawal with the goal of helping food companies respond to recalls faster.
Recall + Response, launched by FoodLogiQ, allows food companies to implement a targeted recall strategy across the supply chain and track the progress of the recall. An automated communications function (via phone, email and text) sends notifications that can accelerate the delivery of information throughout the supply chain during a recall. The platform can initiate stock withdrawals and recalls, as well as mock recalls. Its features include withdrawal templates that the user can define and create to prepare for recalls and stock withdrawals, and a mock recall feature to test the recall readiness of a user’s supply chain. It also has an automatic escalation function if no action is taken by a location or no contact is made in a specific timeframe.
USDA reorganization plan could reduce food safety protections
Sourcd : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/usda-reorganization-plan-could-reduce-food-safety-protections/#.WSUCAWiLSUl
By BRIAN RONHOLM (May 18, 2017)
A seemingly minor component of the USDA reorganization plan released last week could have a negative impact on food safety as the plan gets implemented. Much of the focus has been on the creation of a new undersecretary for trade position, but the plan also calls for the establishment of an interagency committee that would coordinate agricultural trade policy. This committee would be chaired by the new trade undersecretary and would include, among other agencies, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
While some coordination between food safety and trade is appropriate, the inclusion of FSIS on such a committee is potentially troubling, giving the appearance that trade is going to have significant influence over food safety priorities at USDA. The public health mission of FSIS should be an equally separate focus within the department, and trade considerations should not impact food safety policy direction.
As many know, countries wishing to ship meat and poultry products into the United States have to demonstrate that their food safety inspection system is equivalent to the system here in the U.S. This can be a very deliberative process that includes document submissions, lengthy reviews of regulatory structures, and on-site verification audits.
As a result, there sometimes can be tension between FSIS and another USDA sub-agency — the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) — over this equivalency determination process. Some countries have found the FSIS process to be onerous, and have been able to find advocates within FAS, especially when the other country is considering opening their markets to U.S. products.
If the role of FSIS on the interagency committee is to merely provide status updates of equivalency applications, it would represent a more appropriate approach that would be consistent with current practice. However, since this panel would be chaired by FAS with FSIS as a member, it gives the appearance that trade will take precedence over food safety.
The recent announcement that cooked chicken from China soon would be eligible to be shipped to the U.S. offers an example of this situation. China has teased the re-opening of their market to U.S. beef for a long time only to change their minds frequently; and then the issue became subtly linked to receiving equivalency status for their poultry products. Despite the impression given in some media reports, there was no direct trade of equivalency for U.S. beef access to China; the process was far more nuanced, and FSIS had been working on an analysis of China’s food safety system for processed poultry for years and had recently completed its evaluation. However, the optics of the announcement are undeniable.
Given the numerous food safety concerns China has experienced in recent years, an equivalency determination from the U.S. presents an opportunity for China to improve their food safety reputation around the world. Also, the potential of the Chinese market is so immense that those in the U.S. beef industry have exercised extreme patience in waiting for China to re-open them. It appears China may be serious this time, given the granularity of the discussions compared to before, but many who have followed this issue continue to take a wait-and-see approach.
It would be easy to believe that the creation a new undersecretary for trade is warranted and would lead to the facilitation of similar types of deals in the future. However, this approach may not have been unnecessary.
Agricultural exports enjoyed the best eight-year period ever during the Obama Administration, topping $1 trillion, and that was due to the strength of people who worked to increase trade opportunities while maintaining high food safety standards – USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Michael Scuse, Darci Vetter, Alexis Taylor and Jonathan Cordone. Successful advocacy for increased agricultural exports will not result from the creation of a new undersecretary, it will be derived from the strength and commitment of the personnel involved.
Increased agricultural exports for diminished food safety standards for imported products is a bad trade that should not be made. However, the establishment of an interagency committee that potentially allows FAS to unduly influence FSIS could create a culture at USDA that permits this to happen.
SoyNut Butter Co. bankrupt because of E. coli outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/soynut-butter-co-bankrupt-because-of-e-coli-outbreak/#.WSUClWiLSUl
By CORAL BEACH (May 17, 2017)
Dixie Dew Products expected to liquidate next; retailers Target, Amazon, etc., also could be liable
The SoyNut Butter Co. has filed for bankruptcy, citing an E. coli outbreak linked to its I.M. Healthy brand peanut butter substitute and manufacturer Dixie Dew Products as the causes for its financial failure.
The Glenview, IL, soy butter company’s president and 90-percent shareholder Stephen Grubb listed some victims of the E. coli outbreak as creditors with “unknown” amounts owed to them in the Chapter 7 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy court in Illinois.
At least 32 people — 26 of them children — across a dozen states have been confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the soy butter and the manufacturing plant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seventeen of the victims are represented by Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who has been practicing in the foodborne illness arena since 1993 when he represented victims in the Jack in the Box hamburger E. coli outbreak.
“The bankruptcy was not unexpected,” Marler said Tuesday. “We expect Dixie Dew to follow suit in the next 30 to 60 days.”
The action in bankruptcy court effectively puts civil cases filed by outbreak victims in state and federal courts on hold, Marler said. Insurance coverage that SoyNut Butter Co. and Dixie Dew Products have, assuming the manufacturer also files for bankruptcy, will total about $12 million and can only be used to compensate outbreak victims, not other creditors, Marler said.
If both SoyNut Butter Co. and manufacturer Dixie Dew Products go bankrupt, retailers who sold the implicated soy nut paste will be liable to outbreak victims, Marler said. Those retailers include Target and Amazon.
“This underscores how important it is that retailers pay attention to where they’re getting their products,” Marler said.
“If a responsible retailer would have looked at Dixie Dew and I.M. Healthy they would have seen what the FDA saw. You can’t just buy stuff and sell it without knowing where it comes from.”
Editor’s note: Bill Marler is a founding partner of MarlerClark LLP and publisher of Food Safety News.
County wants public’s help with ‘Safe Eats on Kern Streets’
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/county-wants-publics-help-with-safe-eats-on-kern-streets/#.WSUCWmiLSUl
By NEWS DESK (May 16, 2017)
A program launched Monday by the Kern County Public Health Services seeks to reduce foodborne illnesses associated with food trucks and street vendors while encouraging the public to report sellers who don’t have proper permits.
Based in Bakersfield, CA, the county’s public health department kicked off the “Safe Eats in Kern Streets” campaign Monday. Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine unveiled the campaign during a news conference, citing an increase in the “number of vendors and complexity of food being sold from the street in unsanitary manners.”
The county health officials are encouraging people to only buy food from vendors and food trucks that prominently display their large, green mobile food permits. They also want the public to report vendors who do not have permits.
To help with the public reporting aspect of the campaign, the Kern County health department has added a link in its “Safe Diner” mobile app to identify the location and name of a vendor for public health officials to investigate.
California health officials at the state and county levels have been concerned about street vendors — particularly those selling Mexican-style soft cheese — since late 2015.
In March 2016 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) revealed it had been tracking a Salmonella outbreak for several months.
“Since November 2015, at least 50 patients have been infected with three different strains of Salmonella,” according to the March 2016 warning. “No deaths have been reported, but hospitalization has been required in several cases.
“The investigation into these cases is ongoing, but several patients have reported consuming potentially unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese purchased from street vendors before they became ill.”
County officials in Kern County reported at least seven people there were sickened from eating soft-cheese products from an unapproved vendor.
Food Safety Management Systems: Internal Audits
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-safety-management-systems-internal-audits/
By Roberto Bellavia (May 16, 2017)
One of the requirements for a food safety management system (FSMS) is for the organization to have a robust internal audit program. This aligns well with the concept of continuous improvement following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of improvement.
Once an organization has developed its FSMS, the management system must be deployed and implemented. The only manner to verify that all the requirements have been implemented and verified as planned, all training is being delivered, understood and employees are following it correctly is by the development and implementation of a robust internal auditing program.
Developing the Audit Program
The organization will first need to identify hourly and management employees who are willing to learn how to become internal auditors. This team of interdisciplinary areas, will require special training on the following:
• The specific standard being audited
• Techniques and requirements for an internal auditor to follow and identify nonconformities
• How to write audit reports to identify compliance or non-conformance in a manner that clearly describe areas of concern and allows the organization to determine correct course of action to eliminate issues, improve processes and ensure food safety, quality and regulatory compliance
With practice, the team will become proficient in helping the organization to verify that food safety programs are implemented correctly, understood by employees and being followed, as required in procedures and work instructions. This is very important to assure that the organization is meeting the obligations sets as goals and running the food-safe operations.
The internal audit process requires the following:
• The organization must develop an audit schedule and scope for the year that includes all requirements from management system standard used.
• The audit schedule must include all known food safety legal requirements for the facility so the internal audit team reviews how the organization is assuring compliance at all times.
• Audits will verify paperwork is being completed, as required by law.
• Audits must review how the organization remains aware of and implements new food safety requirements (e.g., The Food Safety Modernization Act) as they become regulation or law.
• By using independent internal auditors, the organization will find deficiencies prior to an outside assessment.
• By following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of continuous improvement, any identified nonconformance can be rectified or mitigated, as required.
• Upon completion of improvement, the organization will send out an audit team to verify and validate the corrective action solved the nonconformance.
• Management is aware of nonconformance and signs off on any rectification. This allows management to determine what other steps are required to assure compliance at all times and look for methods to improve in other areas not part of initial audit scope.
Audit reports are used by management to determine the state of compliance for the organization. The audit reports and information learned are then used, in part, for the management review process.
Food Defense Planning – For What Purpose?
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-defense-planning-for-what-purpose/
By Robert A. Norton, Ph.D. (May 16, 2017)
U.S. Special Forces operators have a saying: “Slow is smooth…smooth is fast.” What in the world does that mean? More importantly, what can food corporations learn from these very elite warriors? The U.S. Special Operations Command is responsible for executing missions that conventional forces are neither equipped nor trained to handle. In other words, they are trained for the most difficult and high-consequence missions. Without trivializing in any way their mission, let’s transpose for a moment the idea of high-consequence mission realities onto the kinds of things that might be encountered by the food and agriculture industries as they make food defense plans.
Two observations: Competition on a global scale is brutal for food and agriculture, and real adversaries are expanding in both numbers and capabilities. This means that food defense must become more robust in a very timely and yet economical manner. Global competition means budgets are tight, and fiscal constraints are an ongoing reality. Adversaries have fewer constraints. In the realm of food defense, the defenders have to be right every time. Adversaries, on the other hand, only have to overcome defenses once to achieve their goals and do damage.
Adversaries want to act before defenses are made robust and fully implemented. That gives them an advantage. In an attempt to get ahead of the threat curve, corporations may erect defenses too rapidly or without sufficient planning. As a result, their lean security budgets might be squandered. Worse yet, the adversary might win.
When I was a young person, it seems as I look back, I was always in a hurry. If I had a goal, I charged ahead, sometimes winning but often failing, because I didn’t have a plan and hadn’t thought about my next move. As an older and hopefully wiser person, I have learned that goals are best met when appropriate time is taken in the planning stage, before actual mission execution is even considered. Action without planning often leads to disaster. On the other hand, too much planning can be a problem. In other words, planning always has to be followed by action.
We’ve all known people who can talk a good game but never actually get past the thinking stage. Put differently, no decision or a decision that is inordinately delayed is in fact a decision not to act. In matters of food defense, that choice could prove fatal to a real customer. On a larger scale, the choice not to act can destroy a brand.
Food defense, in many ways a young discipline, has always been important for corporations, because they have occasionally experienced product tampering, actual or threatened. Food defense has gotten a higher profile recently as regulatory requirements redefine and codify its meaning and scope. Results of new regulations have been mixed; large corporations on the whole are pretty comfortable in their planning (usually having the manpower to deal with the scope of threats and the legal requirements), but small and medium-size businesses struggle. They struggle not because they lack motivation or intent, but because compliance requires “days and dollars,” beyond what they are already doing. More work piled upon an already full load sometimes leads to mistakes, which threaten company image and damage profitability.
Wait too long to make decisions, however, and the adversary gains an advantage. The resulting damage, whether caused by delay in planning or by impulsivity, impacts both corporate liability and, potentially, consumer safety.
How, then, do Special Operations work and how can these principles be applied to food corporations? First, remember that threats always have both spatial and temporal elements. In corporate security terms, this means adversaries can change both the character and level of threat very rapidly, depending not only on their own abilities and access, but also in part on how you engage both the situation and that potential threat actor. Special Operation teams always seek to take the advantage away from the adversary, defeating them before they are able to act.
Never forget, the ongoing reality is that the greatest threat for any food corporation is the insider. Fixed food defenses—closed circuit security cameras being one example—can and do serve an important purpose, particularly at critical security points (e.g., product concentration points), but they can become a liability if they are depended on too completely or considered all that is necessary for effective food defense. Food defense threat actors, particularly insiders, seek knowledge of physical defenses and planning strengths and weaknesses. As they seek this information, patterns of behavior are made manifest, if one knows what to look for.
Knowing this, food defense operators, like Special Forces operators, must train and work as a team so they can both detect and respond seamlessly. Timely planning has to be translated into timely action. Each member of a Special Forces team serves a specific purpose, but also cross-trains, enabling them to step in and take over a different role if a team member or supporting element is incapacitated. Food corporations must take the same approach. Teams have to be built and cross trained so gaps do not develop.
Like so many things in business or the military, most everything depends on the individual acting properly and in a timely manner. A highly trained and motivated individual is irreplaceable and can do much to make a bad situation better. Don’t expect technology to take the place of a highly trained individual; a broken piece of technology is just that—broken and therefore of no use. Technology, unlike a human being, can’t adapt, improvise and overcome. Again, it’s all about the people.
Suppose for a moment that a key element of a food defense plan is dependent on that aforementioned security camera. A thinking adversary might ensure the camera is not working when he or she wants, even for just for a moment. Remember that bad things can and often do happen very quickly. For any food defense plan to be effective, rapid detection and response must be possible. Proactivity must always be a goal. Think here of the Special Forces team. Take the advantage away from the adversary. Detecting and neutralizing a threat before it has matured ensures the best outcome.
Planning and execution must incorporate redundancy and overlap to ensure vulnerabilities do not increase, should a key security element fail (which is bound to happen, as history proves). The same is true for personnel. If Joe has the responsibility of being the food defense “eyes” in a particular area of a food processing plant, what happens when Joe doesn’t come to work? Good food defense plans overlap both defensive technologies and personnel.
Food and agriculture adversaries are not going to go away. Insider threats will always persist, and external threat actors like ISIS and other terrorist groups will seek to use food and water as a means to achieve their desired effects. In response, food corporations from the smallest mom and pop operations to the largest multi-national corporations will have to make food defense investments commensurate with the level and nature of the threats. As part of this effort, food corporations also will need to invest in Intelligence, meaning they will have to start looking for those threats that are beginning to mature, whether internal or far afield.
The natural tendency has been to depend on the government and law enforcement to give warnings. This will continue, but increasingly corporations are realizing they can’t necessarily depend on government warnings, since the government’s Intelligence responsibilities are so widespread and focused. Developing threats directed toward food and agriculture may not be passed on to food and agriculture corporations soon enough to prevent food defense failures.
We at the Food Defense Working Group strive to fill in some of the intelligence gaps that exist between corporations and government. In the coming year, food and agriculture-related intelligence efforts will be increased. The best way to keep posted on developments is to go to our website at aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense/, follow our blog at aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense/blog/ and friend us at www.facebook.com/fooddefensegroup/. Food defense is what we do, because in the end it is in everybody’s interest that is done right.
Special Report: Food Safety in the Spotlight
Source : http://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/special-report-food-safety-in-the-spotlight.html
By Gaynor Selby (May 16, 2017)
Potential changes to US Food and Drug Administration policies which could impact on food safety issues and the consequences that Brexit may have on policy as Britain withdraws from the European Union - these are just two of the issues in the food safety space right now. On both sides of the pond, and elsewhere, the issue of food safety is a hot topic as consumers and industry decipher the mountains of information, bureaucracy and legislation there is on the subject.
FoodIngredients First breaks down some of the issues.
There is very little that gets taken as seriously as food safety within the food and beverage industry as a whole. Getting this wrong, even slightly, can seriously impact a company’s bottom line, ruin its reputation and much more importantly injure or harm the public at large.
2016 was a nightmare year for Chipotle, while earlier in 2017 Brazil looked like it was going to suffer severely in the wake of its meat scandal. However, apart from a few initial temporary import restrictions, there hasn’t seemed to be that much fall out from this thus far.
Every year the list of food safety challenges increases.
Traversing Trump Uncertainty
The most sweeping reform of US food safety laws in more than 70 years - the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) - was signed into law by President Obama back in January 2011. It aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
However, there is a potential threat that the Trump administration will reduce the budget of the US Food and Drug Administration which could impact on the Act or even revise it altogether. The budget cutting potential poses questions for American food and drink sectors concerned whether or not there will be more changes or regulations to come.
Scott Gottlieb assumed command of the FDA in early May and the Commissioner will be closely followed.
The political landscape is just as uncertain, if not more so, in Europe as the potential impacts Brexit dominates the future-proofing of the UK’s food and drink industry as well as its agri-good sector.
Future trade deals and the potential trading with partners with a more lax approach to food safety perhaps? What about the impact of tariffs, customs, border controls, phytosanitary inspections, labeling and the type of documentation/certification required? How will Britain respond to no longer being under EU regulation, scientific evaluations and research? And what will the “new” UK laws about food safety look like? What are the opportunities and risks?
There are so many more food-related issues right now - but, in truth, there are very few concrete answers at the moment.
European Food Safety Authority
Consider this. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists recently devised a way to more accurately estimate consumer exposure to enzymes used in food production.
Although historically enzymes are considered to be non-toxic and not a safety concern for consumers since they are produced naturally by living organisms and present in ingredients used to make food, today’s foods are also made using food enzymes produced industrially. These enzymes are extracted from plant and animal tissues or produced by fermentation of microorganisms.
Dr Christina Tlustos, an exposure expert who sits on EFSA’s Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavorings and Processing Aids (CEF), which developed the approach, said: “We have developed an exposure tool which can be tailored to each food process involving food enzymes. The tool uses technical conversion factors, which means we can combine food consumption data with enzyme use levels and take into account the level of transfer of food enzymes into food products.”
The same methodology will be applied to all remaining food enzymes applications scheduled for assessment by EFSA. What happens then after Brexit?
With so much more speculation than resolution, the “if’s” and “but’s” of what Brexit will mean mount ahead of next month’s UK General Election - and they won’t stop there. It’s a little under two years before aspects are really set in stone. Nevertheless wide-scale discussions concerning the deregulation and reregulation of the UK food market and the impact this has on food safety will continue apace.
Food Safety Technologies
Wageningen University & Research is researching a new way to test food for harmful substances on the spot using a smartphone and app which is being touted as a potential game-changer. This novel approach towards food safety monitoring bypasses the need for food inspectors to take food samples, send them to laboratories for testing and wait several days for the results, which show nothing is wrong in most cases.
Currently, samples are still taken throughout the food production chain, registered and tested for residues of pesticides, antibiotics, natural toxins, allergens and other contaminants. The vision is that tests will be carried out on site by food inspectors using their smartphone, saving time and money. It also means laboratories can put advanced equipment to use on more relevant suspected cases and obtain evidence of any food safety violation.
Wageningen believes that it’s not just professionals who could benefit from the app and smartphone technology, it’s entirely possible for it to be rolled out to consumers so they can test their own samples.
In April, processing engineers Bühler said that industry and consumer pressure for a “zero tolerance” approach to contamination is driving unprecedented demand for its SORTEX E optical sorters, with sales doubling, following the introduction of SORTEX BioVision technology in 2015. Bühler’s innovation has revolutionized nut processing capabilities for existing customers and is now attracting new ones, meaning orders for SORTEX sorters are expected to continue their upward trajectory, as world nut production continues to increase and processors strive to eliminate all forms of contamination from nuts.
Israel-based company Yarok Technology Transfer, which develops rapid and accurate tests for the food industry, recently received the United Nations International Award 2017 for “Innovative Ideas and Technology on Agribusiness” for its fast testing system that detects the presence of dangerous bacteria in food in just 45 minutes.
Yarok was one of five winners selected from over 330 entries from 80 countries involved in the competition aimed to identify the world’s most innovative technologies and ideas in agribusiness to improve the socio-economic, food safety and security conditions in Less Developed Countries (LDCs).
It is a period of potential change for global food safety as changing consumer demands, advances in traceability, rising technologies and innovations as well as the evolving regulatory environment make safety across the food supply chain increasingly complicated.
High profile food safety and fraud scandals have always damaged companies and governments, but in today’s Internet-driven world and social media, the consumer is more powerful than ever. This is likely to increase as the digital age progresses further still.
At the same time countries - in particular the US and China - are adopting stricter and more complicated regulations for standards which creates an unprecedented compliance risk. While the UK will go it alone of all fronts, including yet-to-be-determined policies and regulations on food.
Study: Raw Milk, Cheese Cause Extreme Proportion of Illnesses
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/study-proves-raw-milk-cheese-unsafe-extreme-proportion-of-illnesses/
By qualityassurancemag.com (May 15, 2017)
Although raw milk and cheese are consumed by less than 5% of the U.S. population, according to a CDC report, these unpasteurized products account for 96% of illnesses caused by contaminated dairy products. Thus, the report calculated, unpasteurized dairy products cause 840 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than do pasteurized products.
With consumer demand for organic and natural foods (i.e., minimally processed foods) on the rise, the popularity of unpasteurized milk in the U.S. has been growing as well – but it also is raising public health concerns. This is because, in contrast to some perceptions, natural food products are not necessarily safer than conventional ones, as evidenced by higher rates of foodborne illnesses associated with unpasteurized dairy products.
The researchers estimated outbreak-related illnesses and hospitalizations caused by the consumption of cow’s milk and cheese contaminated with Shiga toxin–producing E. coli, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter spp. using a model relying on publicly available outbreak data. In the U.S., outbreaks associated with dairy consumption cause, on average, 760 illnesses/year and 22 hospitalizations/year, mostly from Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp.
As consumption of unpasteurized dairy products grows, the authors state, illnesses will increase steadily; a doubling in the consumption of unpasteurized milk or cheese could increase outbreak-related illnesses by 96%.
Pasteurization has greatly reduced the number of foodborne illnesses attributed to dairy products, and continuous efforts to reduce milk contamination pre- and post-pasteurization are further decreasing the disease burden. Yet, despite a decrease in dairy consumption in the United States, recent studies suggest that over the past 15 years the number of outbreaks associated with unpasteurized dairy products has increased. The fact that fewer states are prohibiting the sale of unpasteurized milk than in the past (20 in 2011 from 29 in 2004) is increasing availability – again raising public health concerns, especially because raw milk consumers include children.
With all these factors, the authors concluded, outbreak-related illnesses will increase steadily as unpasteurized dairy consumption grows, likely driven largely by salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis.
The study: Costard S, Espejo L, Groenendaal H, Zagmutt FJ. Outbreak-related disease burden associated with consumption of unpasteurized cow’s milk and cheese, United States, 2009–2014. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 Jun [date cited]. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2306.151603
CFIA working to remove Kelly brand of Gigas Oysters from market
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/05/cfia-working-to-remove-kelly-brand-of-gigas-oysters-from-market/#.WSUFE2iLSUl
By NEWS DESK (May 13, 2017)
Toronto-based DOM International Limited is recalling the Kelly Oysters brand of Gigas Oysters from the marketplace due to marine biotoxin which causes amnesic shellfish poisoning, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
DOM International Limited is an import/export company that specializes in importing and distributing sustainable and organic seafood products for the North American market with main product lines include salmon products from around the world, and fresh and frozen organic seafood.
Kelly Oysters is based out of Kilcolgan, is a village on the mouth of the Kilcolgan River at Dunkellin Bay in County Galway, Ireland.
Consumers should not consume and retailers, hotels, restaurants and institutions should not sell, serve or use the recalled product described below.
The affected product may have been sold at retail at locations in Ontario and Quebec during the period shown below, including at Daily Seafood, Seacore Seafood and the Seafood Depot, all in Ontario. And at Diane’s Seafood Delight in Toronto, and Profishionals in Montreal.
CFIA says consumers who are unsure if they have purchased affected product should check with their retailer. Retailers, hotels, restaurants and institutions are advised to check the tags or labels on oyster packages or with their supplier to determine if they have the affected product.
Domoic acid is a marine biotoxin which can accumulate in shellfish such as bivalves (soft shell, quahog, surf, razor and propeller, mussels, whole scallops and oysters). Domoic acid can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) if consumed.
The symptoms of ASP vary from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to muscle weakness, disorientation and memory loss. They usually occur one-half to six hours after consumption. In extreme cases, death can occur.
Anyone who suspects they’ve became sick from consuming oysters should seek medical attention. CFIA says consumers should check to see if this recalled product in their home or establishment. Recalled product should be thrown out or returned to the location where it was purchased.
No illnesses have been associated at this time with the recalled oysters.
This recall was triggered by the company. CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.
The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.
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