Important Clarification of FSMA Produce Rule Ag Water Compliance Dates
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/important-clarification-of-fsma-produce-rule-ag-water-compliance-dates/#.WpO04s-6xbV
By Trevor Suslow (Feb 25, 2018)
Boy did I get this wrong…but so did many others…most seriously, some domestic and international trainers and Lead Trainers providing the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training programs.
At this time, two diametrically opposed understandings and information transfer communications of the compliance dates for growers to have completed initial water?testing profiles are still propagated in some PSA Grower Training events.
The purpose of this communication is to assist in correcting this situation and supporting PSA efforts to have one standardized message on agricultural water testing as the specific provisions and requirements evolve and are resolved.
Recognizing that the PSA Director and staff made an effort in December 2017 to clarify the modified dates proposed in Extension of Compliance Dates for Subpart E Agricultural Water ? § 112.41 (title abbreviated for simplicity), released in September 2017, the correct interpretation did not uniformly penetrate the full cadre of trainers and industry food safety professionals. When first released, many others and I failed to consult our copy of Bureaucracy?speak for Dummies and thought we understood the intent and implications, especially for those growers not currently conducting routine water testing.
Though some may be shocked to learn the proposed revisions to compliance dates for establishing a Microbial Water Quality Profile were unclear, the nuance of when initiation of baseline testing was required evaded even ardent PSA?engaged individuals. To many of us, common?sense views of compliance meant you were ready to go not ready to start.
A few of us, notably including Don Stoeckel of the PSA staff (firstname.lastname@example.org), have been working for some time to get definitive and simplified clarification, for trainers and growers, on the proposed compliance dates by which covered farm operations must have a fully developed and on?going Microbial Water Quality Profile.
I have recently communicated with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) staff at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as this variable interpretation of compliance dates has come up multiple times and been problematic in grower training conducted in California. The uncertainty led to subsequent vigorous debates between suppliers and buyers as they work to update audit specifications to meet Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements.
Once more acutely aware of the on?going split in interpretation, FDA CFSAN was very helpful and responsive to me in making their intent clear, unofficially, and indicating a timeframe for finalization of the dates.
I was informed that the proposed extension of compliance dates is moving close to review by FDA general counsel and finalization for publication is anticipated in the near future. Though not yet published, I felt this note was important to disseminate now and as broadly as possible to PSA trainers and the industry in the interim.
The clarification and confirmation received (see below for the formal request submitted to the FSMA Technical Assistance Network (TAN) in November 2017 and the very recent official response*) is immensely crucial to PSA trainers and university extension responding to questions of industry and auditor interpretation.
Equally, as state agency staff have been attending PSA training and preparing for their role in the On?Farm Readiness Review program and, ultimately, in compliance inspections, it is critical that uniform and clear information sharing regarding the tiered compliance dates are communicated (See this PSA web page).
In closing the circle, through sharing my FDA CFSAN communication discussions with PSA staff, here is our best “unofficial” understanding of when water testing must be initiated.
In accordance with the revised and extended compliance dates for establishing a microbial water quality profile (MWQP) for covered activities under Subpart E– Agricultural Water (this, of course, assumes that some testing program and an MWQP is retained during the interval between 1/26/2018 and 1/26/22), the following applies:
•The initiation of microbial indicator testing would not be a compliance requirement for larger businesses (> $500K) until the compliance date of 1/26/22
• The initiation of microbial indicator testing would not be a compliance requirement for small businesses (> $250K < $500K) until the compliance date of 1/26/23
•The initiation of microbial indicator testing would not be a compliance requirement for very small businesses (> $25K < $250K) until the compliance date of 1/26/24
•The earliest complaint MWQP expectation for surface water, for example, would not occur until 1/26/24?26 for the larger businesses
Bottom line: Those of us who interpreted the language of the proposed extension and shared our understanding with many others that, if further revisions were not developed, the earliest testing programs would need to be in progress following the 1/26/18 compliance date for the Produce Rule and completed for a compliant MWQP by the 1/26/22 Subpart E compliance date for larger businesses (and so forth for other business tiers) got it wrong, according to FDA.
A copy of this note and a simplified table is being sent to all attendees of our PSA training and the clarification will be shared at the upcoming Water Summit, February 27?28, 2018.
Question to TAN
This question is about FDA’s Proposed Rule “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding Produce for Human Consumption; Extension of Compliance Dates for Subpart E.
The proposed rule states: “As part of this proposed extension, we also propose to simplify the subpart E compliance period structure such that all compliance dates for subpart E provisions as applied to non-sprout produce would occur at the same time.”
This language of the proposed rule is not explicit about whether the proposed compliance dates of 2022, 2023 and 2024 (depending on business class size) apply to the provisions about calculating the microbial water quality profile (MWQP( and using the results to determine the appropriate ways in which water may be used (112.45 (b)).
This question has immediate relevance to farms, because if the intent of the proposed rule is to have an MWQP in place at the proposed compliance dates, then some farms would be required to being sampling as early as 2018.
Thank you for whatever information you can provide about the intent of the proposed rule related to timing of sample collection in support of MWQP calculations and operational decision making.
Response Thank you for writing. First, we note that since finalizing the Produce Safety Rule, FDA has received feedback that some of the standards outlined in Subpart E, “Agricultural water” (21 CFR Part 112, §§ 112.41-112.50), which include numerical criteria for pre-harvest microbial water quality, may be too complex to understand, translate, and implement. These factors can be important to achieving high rates of compliance.
In response to these concerns, the FDA is exploring ways to simplify the microbial quality and testing requirements for agricultural water while still protecting public health. For more information, see “FDA Considering Simplifying Agricultural Water Standards” at https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm546089.htm
As discussed in your inquiry, FDA has proposed to extend, for covered produce other than sprouts, the dates for compliance with the agricultural water provisions in the Produce Safety Rule (82 FR 42965 (Sept. 13, 2017)). The proposed compliance dates are in the table, below. See 82 FR 42965 (Sept. 13, 2017) for more information on this proposed rule.
Proposed Compliance Dates for Requirements in Subpart E for Covered Activities Involving Covered Produce
(Except Sprouts Subject to Subpart M)
Proposed time periods starting from the effective date of November 27, 2015,
produce safety final rule (January 26, 2016)
Size of covered farm Compliance Period Compliance Date
Very small business 8 years January 26, 2024
Small business 7 years January 26, 2023
All other businesses 6 years January 26, 2022
If finalized, these compliance dates would mean, for example, that a farm that is not small or very small must begin sampling (emphasis and highlight added by Suslow) and testing untreated surface water in accordance with § 112.46(b)(1)(i)(A), as applicable, no later than January 26, 2022.
Additionally, the farm has discretion under § 112.46(b)(1)(i)(A) as to both (1) the number of samples they include in their initial survey, provided that the total must be 20 or more samples (unless the farm establishes an alternative testing frequency in accordance with § 112.49); and (2) the time period over which such samples are taken, provided that the period must be at least 2 years and no more than 4 years.
FDA intends to use the extended time period to work with stakeholders as it considers the best approach to address their concerns while still protecting public health. The extended compliance dates will also give farms an opportunity to continue to review their practices, processes, and procedures related to agricultural water and how it is used on their farms.
It is important that as FDA implements FSMA, the agency strikes an appropriate regulatory balance and decreases regulatory burdens whenever appropriate. FDA remains committed to protecting public health while implementing rules that are workable across the diversity of the food industry.
Thank you for contacting FDA’s FCIC/TAN.
View popular Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) questions and answers identified by the Technical Assistance Network (TAN), on our website.
This communication is intended for the exclusive use of the inquirer and does not constitute an advisory opinion (21 CFR 10.85(k)). Also, note that this response is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all applicable requirements. Please check FDA’s web page (www.fda.gov) regularly for guidance reflecting our current thinking.
Additional information on FSMA can be found on FDA’s FSMA web page (www.fda.gov/fsma). This communication may contain information that is protected, privileged, or confidential. If you have received it in error, please immediately delete all copies.
Advisory committee revises hepatitis A vaccine guidance
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/advisory-committee-revises-hepatitis-a-vaccine-guidance/#.WpO1Ls-6xbV
By News Desk (Feb 24, 2018)
With a unanimous vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending that anyone over the age of 12 months, who hasn’t been vaccinated for hepatitis A, should receive the vaccine after the fact if they are exposed to the highly contagious virus.
Post-exposure immune globulin should be administered to unvaccinated adults aged 40 and older depending on their doctors’ risk assessments, according to the recommendation from the committee that advises federal agencies. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appoints the committee members. They provide recommendations for the department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hepatitis A infections can be contracted in a variety of ways, including close personal contact with an infected person, sharing needles, and the consumption of contaminated food or beverages. The virus can survive in frozen food for long periods of time.
The committee considered two questions this past week regarding hepatitis A vaccines. One question regarded post-exposure hepatitis A vaccines for people 12 months and older. The other concerned hepatitis A vaccines in infants ages 6 to 11 months who are traveling outside of the U.S.
Both questions earned unanimous approval with 14-0 votes. Much of the committee’s discussion focused on the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak, including foodborne cases, in several states. More than 1,200 people have been infected, with almost 50 deaths reported in the current outbreak. The majority of infected people are homeless, substance abusers, or both. However, depending on the state, 20 percent to 30 percent of cases are neither homeless nor substance abusers.
The committee recommended that infants ages 6 to 11 months who are traveling internationally should receive a dose of hepatitis A vaccine. Committee members noted that immune globulin cannot be given with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The new guidance recommends that infants ages 6 to 11 months who are not traveling outside the U.S. should receive the two-dose series of MMR and hepatitis A vaccines at ages 12 months or older.
Food and food handlers, servers and other foodservice workers can spread the hepatitis A virus.
In 2016 almost 150 people in nine states developed confirmed cases of hepatitis A infection traced to frozen strawberries from Egypt that were used in beverages served at Tropical Smoothie restaurants.
Also in 2016, a hepatitis A outbreak traced to frozen, imported scallops sickened 292 people, mostly in Hawaii. Two victims died.
The CDC reports there were more than 90 hepatitis outbreaks from 1998-2016 in the United States.
Advisory committee recommendations are not considered final until they are published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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Salmonella outbreak in Colorado growing; 2 restaurants closed
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/salmonella-outbreak-in-colorado-growing-2-restaurants-closed/#.WpPDfs-6xbV
By Dan Flynn (Feb 23, 2018)
County officials say no fines planned for restaurants because lost sales are punishment enough
A Colorado burrito restaurant, forced to close after catering two community college events where some attendees were sickened with Salmonella poisoning, did poorly in health inspections during the past three years.
As of Thursday there were 10 people confirmed with Salmonella infections linked to the restaurant, according to the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. One child had been admitted to a local hospital.
Carrie Hanley, Weld County’s director of community health services, Thursday warned residents that this “has the potential to be a large outbreak.” More cases are likely to be confirmed soon.
Five people became infected at two community college events catered by the Burrito Delight restaurant at 1230 Denver Ave. in Fort Lupton, CO. Three cases are attributed directly from that location.
The Burrito Delight restaurant racked up 22 red violations during five inspections since late 2015. Red violations are those “more likely than other violations to contribute to food contamination or illness.”
In its last regular inspection, Weld County public health rated both the Burrito Delight in Fort Lupton and its sister location in Dacono, CO, as “marginal.” At that time, neither location was closed down. Instead, the restaurant was provided with the opportunity to correct the red violations before undergoing re-inspection.
Debra Adamson, Weld County’s director of environmental health services, said Burrito Delight’s Fort Lupton restaurant was found with numerous violations when inspected Thursday. These included a dead mouse on a sticky trap behind a reach-in cooler, food held at improper temperatures, and employees failing to wash their hands and drinking beverages next to unprepared food.
Weld County closed both Burrito Delight locations, which are north of Denver, pending the outcome of the outbreak investigation. County officials do not plan to impose any fines or penalties in exchange for the restaurant’s continued cooperation.
“The loss of business is penalty enough,” Adamson told local media.
The two catered events at Aims Community College linked to the Salmonella infections were on Feb. 9 and 13. Burrito Delight catered both, serving 70 on Feb. 9 and about 400 on Feb. 13. At least eight people were confirmed sick. The restaurant charged the college $3,800 for both catering jobs. An Aims spokesman said the college only used Burrito Delight once before, in October 2017. The college did not check the restaurant’s inspection record but may make such a step mandatory in the future.
“Salmonella is a bacteria that causes symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, fever, and occasionally vomiting,” said Mark E. Wallace,executive director of the Weld County Health Department. “Symptoms typically last 4 to 7 days, and most people recover on their own. Anyone who suspects they became ill should contact their health care provider.”
Wallace said for some people, diarrhea may become so severe that they require hospitalization. Symptoms typically appear 6-72 hours after eating contaminated food and will usually last for 4 to 7 days without treatment. However, in severe cases, the symptoms may last longer.
The critical red violations that earned the Fort Lupton Burrito Delight it’s most recent “Marginal” rating included:
•Flies in the kitchen at the time of inspection with fly strips fill entirely without being replaced.
•No content labels were attached to spray bottles containing chemicals.
•The cleaner for food contact surfaces used was a bleach with fragrance, which leaves a toxic residue.
•Hand soaps were not available.
•Milk, orange juice, and sour cream stored in soda cooler that as holding at 47 to 48 degrees, far warmer than the 41 degrees or colder that is required.
•Roasted pepper salsa with a temperature of 110 degrees was cooling in a mixture of water and ice in a prep sink. A half hour later, it was at 100 degrees. Potentially hazardous foods require rapidly cooling to 41 degrees or less with six hours.
•Employees did not wash their hands before donning single-use gloves.
Before Burrito Delight will be allowed to re-open in either location, Weld County’s investigation must be completed and the restaurants must have safe food handlers either by re-training existing personnel or hiring new staff, the facilities must be deep-cleaned; the food supply must be new or sanitized, and be in substantial compliance when re-inspected.
Fear of national meat scandal - thousands of food safety breaches revealed
Source : https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2018-02-22/uk-dirty-meat-plants
By Andrew Wasley (Feb 22, 2018)
Many of Britain's meat processing plants and cold storage facilities are failing hygiene standards
More than half of the meat processing and cold storage facilities audited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had major non-compliances with hygiene or food safety regulations in the last three years. According to data seen by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, multiple inspections took place at 890 individual premises and inspectors found that 540 of them, or 60.5% had at least one major breach.
We also found that the meat supplier Russell Hume, which was banned from selling any more meat by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in January and has since gone into administration, had been marked down for 25 major breaches of regulations over the last three years. The firm, which previously supplied restaurants including Jamie Oliver’s Italian and Wetherspoons, reacted to the ban by saying it had an “unblemished reputation”.
A surprise visit by the FSA to Russell Hume’s Birmingham plant had previously revealed “serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations”. Data seen by the Bureau, in a joint investigation with the Guardian, reveals that audits carried out in Russell Hume factories had highlighted non-compliances at the firm’s meat cutting plants. The audits took place in plants in London, Birmingham, Exeter, Liverpool and Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire between September 2014 and May 2017.
FSA data for a comparable period also suggests that these problems could be endemic in the industry. The Bureau has calculated that most of the meat plants (where meat is prepared and processed into food products) and cold stores (where meat is kept in chilled conditions) inspected from a whole range of suppliers had at least one major non-compliance with hygiene or food safety regulations. The failings are amongst thousands of such breaches documented in these facilities between 2014 and 2017.
Our analysis of the data has revealed 2,600 “major” non-compliances relating to food safety and hygiene regulations during audits carried out at 890 meat cutting plants and cold stores. Many had multiple "major" failings.
A major breach is, by the FSA’s definition, “likely to compromise public health, including food safety... or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken”.
Breaches found at the Russell Hume meat plants related to multiple aspects of production, including:
•Maintaining legal temperature controls
•Minimising or preventing cross contamination
•Ensuring standards of environmental hygiene
•Monitoring of food safety systems
Kerry McCarthy MP, who served as shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2016, told us that the findings “raise serious questions as to how robust the FSA’s system for monitoring food hygiene really is.”
Kath Dalmeny, the chief executive of the food campaign group, Sustain, told the Bureau: “These figures are truly shocking. Meat products are far too often a cause of risk to our health and a breakdown in trust in the food system.”
She added that she was concerned about the cuts to budgets for bodies that regulate food, including: “our local authority meat hygiene services, independent public analyst laboratories and trading standards inspectors. They doggedly insist on pursuing the flawed notion that ‘light-touch regulation’ is good enough for the meat industry. It simply isn’t. And consumers won’t forgive politicians who choose ideology over safety.”
“All these things are dangerous. Remember, meat is a natural product. It is contaminated sometimes with human pathogens”, said Ron Spellman, who has been a meat inspector for 30 years and who represents the European Association of Food and Meat Inspectors.
Spellman is also specifically concerned about Russell Hume: "What I also find worrying is the attitude of the company...in which they blame the FSA’s handling of the issue... there seems to be no willingness to accept responsibility.”
Professor Hugh Pennington, a renowned expert in bacteriology, welcomed the fact that inspection staff were discovering issues: “Widespread breaches [are] obviously a bad thing, but their detection shows that the regulatory system seems to be working. In the past outbreaks occurred because the regulators were missing the breaches.”
But he cautioned: “My big concerns would be regarding temperature control failures because these are straightforward to avoid - measurements are simple to make and record and so errors easy to spot and put right.” He added that cross-contamination was particularly important to avoid “to prevent the nastiest bug - E.coli O157 - getting into the food chain.” (Pennington chaired government inquiries into the two most serious outbreaks of E Coli in the UK.)
Our data shows that cross-contamination and temperature controls continue to be a concern. Amongst the overall number of failings identified by FSA auditors in the period we analysed, there were more than 200 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising the risk of cross-contamination.
An FSA spokesman told the Bureau: "we carry out thousands of audits and unannounced inspections of meat plants each year to verify the food hygiene standards are being met. Issues which may pose imminent or serious risk to public health will result in immediate and robust enforcement action being taken."
He continued: “each audit assesses almost 50 different hygiene criteria and a single issue can result in multiple major and minor non-compliances being recorded. Only 2% of plants were found to have more than two major non-compliances and the majority had none at all. Where major non-compliances are found follow up audits and unannounced inspections will increase to ensure the issues found have been resolved.”
In a statement, the former directors of Russell Hume Ltd said: “Between 2014-2017 the FSA carried out a number of routine inspections and audits of Russell Hume’s six branches. The audit system is specifically designed to highlight areas for improvement, and inevitably there were a small number of recommendations over this period that required action. But these averaged around one a year per branch, and taken together and in the context of industry practice as a whole, the audit results were positive for Russell Hume. The company has never been prosecuted for food safety or hygiene offences, and saw no FSA enforcement action taken against it over this period.”
There is growing anxiety that the problems in the meat industry may be wider than initially thought. Four different companies have now withdrawn meat, and the FSA has also set up a national review of meat processing plants. This week the agency met with meat industry heads to discuss the situation, for a discussion that was apparently “constructive and engaging”.
In the House of Commons this week shadow secretary of state Barry Gardiner MP asked Liam Fox MP, secretary of state for international trade, whether he was aware that the FSA had recently detained large quantities of out of date meat in a cold store company. Gardiner said the meat was believed to come from Ireland and South America and that one of the companies he named had been implicated in the Irish horsemeat scandal of 2013 and had previously been found guilty of meat labelling fraud. He asked that the secretary of state “urgently liaise with ministers in the Republic, with the FSA here and with the Irish Food Safety Authority” to look at the supply chain.
“Failure on this scale can’t be attributed to just a few rogue businesses falling through the cracks,” said Kerry McCarthy MP, adding: “Consumers need to have confidence in the system and need to know that action is being taken against companies with incidents of major non-compliance.”
Header image, of a stock-shot of supermarket meat, via Shutterstock
How US plans to speed up pig slaughter times could endanger food safety
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/animals-farmed/2018/feb/21/how-us-plans-to-speed-up-pig-slaughter-times-could-endanger-food-safety
By Andrew Wasley (Feb 21, 2018)
US industry chiefs are pushing for line speeds to be increased so that more animals can be slaughtered per hour. But campaigners say this could exacerbate food safety problems
Speeding up production lines at US pig processing plants could lead to unsafe meat getting into the human food chain, warn campaigners, as a new analysis shows higher levels of error in plants where they are experimenting with faster lines.
A similar plan for the US’s chicken sector ended up on hold after significant pushback. But proposals in the pork sector are currently being considered, and campaigners fear this may pave the way for companies taking over some inspection duties themselves.
Food and Water Watch analysed food safety and hygiene violation records from 2012-16 for five pork processing plants taking part in a trial of the proposed system, and compared the results to five other plants operating in a traditional way.
Some 84% of all violations relating to compliance with food safety plans occurred in plants taking place in the trial, the analysis shows, along with 73% of carcass contamination breaches, and 61% of violations relating to equipment sanitation.
“We believe that this new system will increase the risk of unsafe products being placed into commerce,” said senior lobbyist Tony Corbo. “Companies will be permitted to develop their own food safety plans and identify what they believe the pathogen of concern is. So, salmonella might not be the pathogen they select to control or eliminate. FSIS [Food Safety and Inspection Service] will not require the companies to submit plans in advance for review and it could be years before the agency realises that the food safety plans might not be valid, putting consumers at risk.”
The FSIS defended the proposals, stating: “FSIS has collected data since 1997 and has found that the hog slaughter plants in the programme performed as well as the traditional inspection system in terms of food safety and product wholesomeness. FSIS data also show that FSIS inspectors continue to document non-compliance and the agency takes action to protect public health by ensuring that safe and wholesome products enter commerce.
“The claim that industry will perform inspections is false. Under the proposal, FSIS inspectors would continue to conduct 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection; the plant employees would make cuts and present the carcasses and parts to FSIS inspectors for inspection. Under the proposal, inspectors would conduct more offline food safety tasks that place inspectors in areas of the production process where they can perform verification tasks that have direct impact on, and are the most important to ensure food safety.”
We’re entitled to eat safe meat. Why has that become such a lottery?
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/20/meat-food-safety-trading-standards
By theguardian.com (Feb 20, 2018)
As meat products are withdrawn from sale, and cash-strapped councils struggle to enforce standards, the regulatory system is breaking down
Here we go again: all the signs of another scandal involving meat and food safety. The first stirrings were in January, and while the authorities seem to have kept the lid on it for the moment, it has the feel of previous crises over food supply that have erupted after initial rumblings. There is confusion about what’s actually happened, and arguments over whether rules have been broken. The food watchdog has been accused once again of being too heavy-handed as steaks have disappeared from high street menus. It’s a fairly safe bet that there is more to come. The difference this time is that the structures that were set up to protect the public after previous crises are crumbling.
The Food Standards Agency was created in 2001 asa central regulator after a series of food and farming scandals, with a mission to put consumers’ interests first. It depends on a functioning partnership with local authorities, which remain responsible for much food testing, inspection and enforcement. But savage cuts to councils’ budgets have forced them to squeeze trading standards and environmental health teams so hard that many struggle to fulfil their statutory obligations around food.
The agency itself has proposed a major shake-up of the way it oversees food businesses. It wants to shift responsibility for inspection and the cost of it on to industry itself. Reducing the burden on business with light-touch regulation has become its mantra. Private assurance schemes will increasingly take over from government-employed inspectors, and businesses that are generally compliant are to be rewarded with fewer inspections. We seem to have forgotten that it was companies deemed to be low risk that were at the heart of food adulteration scandals involving horsemeat and illegal cancer-causing dye.
The FSA has been tight-lipped about the current problem, and so far we have few details about its exact nature. The little we have been told has been expressed in the inelegant jargon of the trade: “serious non-compliance issues around use-by dates and food safety management systems” in companies that few people have heard of.
Russell Hume, a large supplier of meat to pubs, restaurants and hotels was first. It had its cutting plants closed by the FSA in January and was told to withdraw all its products after an random unannounced audit by agency inspectors. The company was dispatching hundreds of tonnes of meat a week to many large customers, but it had no public face, so the embarrassment was felt by the big names who bought from it – especially JD Wetherspoon and Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants. The FSA has said it is still investigating a “serious and widespread” problem at the company. As Russell Hume collapsed into administration this week, it attacked the FSA for acting disproportionately, and said relabelling was industry-wide because the rules were not clear.
The withdrawals spread: to DB Foods, a sister company of and supplier to Muscle Meats, and then to Fairfax Meadows, another giant supplier to the catering trade, with customers including Nando’s, and other high-profile hotel, restaurant and pub chains. All have said they take food safety very seriously and have cooperated with voluntary withdrawals. Wetherspoon’s had just switched a third of its supply away from Russell Hume to Fairfax Meadows, only to suffer a double withdrawal.
Now the Guardian has learned that another meat wholesaler has also voluntarily withdrawn some of its products – Midland Food Services was inspected after the Russell Hume investigation, and officers reported a mouse infestation. The withdrawal began on 9 February but the FSA kept quiet about it. The public has still not been told where it was exposed to this unhygienically produced meat, although the company says it was a few droppings rather than an infestation, that the problem is now solved, and that restrictions have been lifted. As officials look up and down the chain to see who has been sending what to whom, an ever-wider web of companies will be drawn in. Will we be told about these, or will their names be kept quiet too?
Instead of the transparency on which the FSA was founded, we have been given what have now become the usual reassurances from the regulator: no one known to be ill, let alone dead as a result, nothing much to share here.
Although we are in the dark about many aspects of the latest meat relabelling, we know from previous scandals what sort of concerns arise. Food safety depends on being able to trace meat right through the food chain, and on a series of rules about identifying the source of meat and when it was produced.
Procedures on use-by dates and relabelling are not merely nerdy technical points. They can be life-or-death matters. Read the FSA’s guidance on repacking stored meat, and you can see why. It is common practice in the meat industry to vacuum pack fresh meat once it is slaughtered and cut. Removing the oxygen prevents spoilage and can keep meat looking good for months. When you open the pack it deteriorates rapidly and can smell terrible for a while, but more importantly the potentially deadly bacterium Clostridium botulinum can grow even in a vac pac.
Because of this, regulations require that meat off the carcass is given a 10-day shelf life. If you unpack and repack it, you are supposed to apply the original use-by date unless you have cooked it or have other methods of control in place. But parts of the industry, the guidance says, give meat a rolling 10-day shelf life, a practice it condemns because it can add extra days or even weeks and months. Cases of botulism food poisoning are rare, but since it is potentially lethal these safety procedures are crucial. Deaths from fires caused by unsafe cladding seemed a remote risk too until, at Grenfell, they tragically weren’t.
All meat must also be labelled with official health marks to make it possible to trace it back to the original licensed slaughterhouse and date of processing, so that consumers can be sure it is safe and is what it claims to be.
Journalists have repeatedly found hygiene and labelling concerns where auditors have seen none. Guardian investigations have reported such things in 2001, in 2014 and in 2017.
Separate from these, we know from previous prosecutions that audits that tend to concentrate on paperwork and tick-boxes can be cheated. Previous official investigations have also revealed how extraordinarily easy it is to fake health marks and rewrite use-by dates and traceability notes. You just need a printer and you can churn out new ones with different dates or with marks hijacked from other factories and apply them to boxes of meat mixed with any old horse, undeclared offal or head meat.
Local authority sampling and testing of foods fell by a quarter in 2017. At the same time council public analyst laboratories that carry out these tests are disappearing, as their work for depleted trading standards teams dries up. These cuts may seem safe to make. They’re not. Will it take a serious outbreak of food-borne illness for the government to realise what we are losing? • Felicity Lawrence is a Guardian special correspondent and author of Not on the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on your Plate
The Future of Food Safety for the Foodservice Industry
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/the-future-of-food-safety-for-the-foodservice-industry/ (Feb 20, 2018)
By National Registry of Food Safety Professionals
The Future of Food Safety for the Foodservice Industry
The 1980s and 1990s were a challenging period for the U.S. restaurant and foodservice industry, marked by the evolution and globalization of food supply chains; increased regulatory oversight to control Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and other potentially deadly foodborne pathogens; increased media attention on foodborne illness outbreaks; and heightened consumer activism for safe and quality food.
The era was rife with complex and perplexing issues for industry stakeholders, serving as the impetus behind the evolution of new principles, such as active managerial controls; advanced technologies (i.e., automated handwashing systems for food handlers); and science-based practices (e.g., robust cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces).
It is thus an opportune time to explore the future of food safety in the restaurant and foodservice industry and what lies ahead—by extension—for its supply chain partners.
Foodborne Illness Inroads
As the nation’s second largest private sector employer—estimated at 14.7 million workers—and with over 130 million meals sold daily, the restaurant and foodservice industry is committed to protecting consumers by making significant inroads against foodborne illness.
Annually, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. A 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Services report placed the economic impact caused by foodborne pathogens at $15.5 billion yearly.
Operations, both large and small, face a myriad of supply chain management challenges, regulatory reckonings and compliance activities, such as local health inspections, to maintain and improve food safety. Going forward, restaurants and foodservice establishments must:
• Support risk management initiatives from farm to fork
• Monitor suppliers to ensure they comply with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations
• Adhere to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code provisions designed to prevent foodborne illness and outbreaks associated with restaurants and other retail foodservice establishments
• Foster stronger and transparent relationships with suppliers
• Leverage advanced technologies in the workplace
• Support food safety standards in accordance with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)
• Further its commitment to food handler training program
FSMA, the sweeping legislation enacted in 2011 under the Obama administration, places a significant premium on prevention in several rules designed to control contamination in the country’s food supply from farm to fork. While the impact of FSMA on the restaurant and foodservice industry is largely deemed as minimal, its ramifications on suppliers are mighty.
Robert L. Garfield, senior vice president of the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), says the implementation of the prodigious law has been especially trying for small and very small companies which deal with “tight financial bottom lines” on a daily basis.
The SQFI executive notes that small producers hoping to capitalize on promising market opportunities, such as local sourcing, can find themselves under intense duress when “something like the FSMA produce rule comes along.”
“All of a sudden they are required to do things that they do not have the understanding, money or staff to do,” Garfield says.
Small producers, manufacturers and distributors generally do not have an overabundance of resources like their larger counterparts to comply with hordes of local, state and federal requirements. But they must persevere to sustain partnerships with their customers.
“Food operators and retailers are going to start insisting that the products that come into their establishments are as safe as they can be,” Garfield states. Consequently, he notes, suppliers are “going to have to step up and do the things that are necessary to help ensure the protection of their brands.”
In speaking with FSMA challenged companies, Garfield is encouraged that some are taking proactive steps, such as pursuing GFSI certification, to better navigate the many contours of FSMA, but others—unfortunately—are adrift. SQFI, which is administered by the Food Marketing Institute, has created guidance programs for smaller companies which are having a rough time gripping the intricacies of FSMA.
In a related vein, restaurant and foodservice establishments are urged to forge stronger relationships with suppliers. On-site risk-based inspections can be particularly beneficial in helping suppliers understand and comply with FSMA mandated practices and procedures.
Integrated Food Safety System
FSMA is the reigning 800-pound gorilla in the food industry, but Joseph Corby, Executive Director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), believes the time is ripe to achieve a long discussed regulatory objective: an Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS).
In 1998, AFDO—an international, non-profit organization dedicated to streamlining and simplifying regulations—was the first U.S. group to advocate the creation of an IFSS that would empower state and local authorities to collaborate effectively with federal agencies.
Under a joined alliance, IFSS strategic partners—with input from food industry stakeholders—would:
• Implement and use data from foodborne illness and outbreak surveillance for evidence-based food safety policies and programs, and evaluate their effectiveness
• Implement efficient, prevention-focused, risk-based inspections
• Plan and prioritize work to coordinate resources
• Promote use of compliance and enforcement tools for achieving compliance with food safety laws and regulations
• Share foodborne illness data among strategic partners
• Promote use of compliance and enforcement tools for achieving compliance with food safety laws and regulations
With the implementation of FSMA, Corby, who has led AFDO for 9 years, says many facets of an “integrated food safety system are in place,” moving IFSS from a vision born two-decades ago to a reality in the not too distant future.
“In FSMA, there is a mandate that FDA better coordinates with its state and local partners to achieve an IFSS,” he explains.
Consolidated IFSS data will someday make it possible for industry stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the causes behind restaurant/foodservice related foodborne illness outbreaks and drive the development of prevention practices.
Noting foodborne illness incidences are decreasing nationwide, Corby is bullish on the future of food safety. His optimism is fueled by a number of factors; one in particular is the evolution of whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology, which has been utilized by the FDA since 2008 to isolate and understand the source of foodborne illness outbreaks.
In addition to determining the source of a foodborne illness outbreak with great speed and precision, the federal agency is employing WGS technology to:
• Ascertain which illnesses are part of an outbreak and which are not
• Determine which ingredient in a multi-ingredient food is responsible for the outbreak
• Differentiate sources of contamination, even within the same outbreak
• Link small numbers of illnesses, including geographically diverse illnesses occurring across multiple states, that might not otherwise have been identified as a common outbreak
From a scientific perspective, WGS is in its infancy. The continued development of this cutting-edge technology has the potential to yield a host of food safety improvements in the future.
Like Lennon and McCartney, the “future” and “technology” are conjoined in popular culture making it virtually impossible to discuss one without the other.
The food industry has long embraced futuristic, science-based technology to improve and advance product safety. Over the past several years, groundbreaking innovations ranging from novel packaging to advanced electronic tracking systems have propelled food safety.
A number of 21st century advances, such as wearable technology glasses (for virtual auditing and training), predictive analytics (to forecast major food safety risks), and mobile capture technology (to manage integrated assessments), are gaining traction in the restaurant and foodservice industry.
The exponential potential of these innovations, which have been applied in various business sectors, is still to be realized, but their ultimate influence is expected to be far reaching.
Safety in Every Meal
By 2026, jobs combining food preparation and service are expected to spike by 15 percent (a gain of 504,000 positions) in the restaurant and foodservice industry. This anticipated growth magnifies the importance of having trained and skilled food handlers.
Stating “consumers expect safety in every meal they buy,” Cindy Jiang, director of global food safety & supply chain compliance for McDonald’s, says proper training and education in the workplace are instrumental in ensuring patron expectations are met.
The CDC and FDA commonly cite five factors—food from unsafe sources, inadequate cooking, improper holding temperatures, contaminated equipment and poor personal hygiene—as leading causes of foodborne illness outbreaks in retail and food service establishments.
Jiang, a leading food safety training proponent, states operations should leverage training from reputable providers to help food handlers grasp proper safety procedures and achieve measureable organizational goals. Management teams, she adds, must be consistent in monitoring personnel to ensure they comply with safety protocols.
Overall, the restaurant and food service industry is doing a good job in communicating its efforts to improve food safety to consumers through educational outreach initiatives, according to Jiang, but there is room for improvement.
“It’s a challenge, but we can do a better job of communicating our message to consumers,” she says.
Industry stakeholders are urged to utilize various communication channels, such as websites, blogs, social media and traditional public relations vehicles, to broadcast its food safety agenda to consumers.
More Precious than Gold
Other than water, no natural commodity—not silver, not gold, nor platinum—is a more important to human survival than safe, nutritious and quality foods. The World Health Organization, a leading global health advocacy group, attests to this socioeconomic truth.
Food safety is an ingrained part of our daily existence. Looking ahead, the restaurant and foodservice industry faces an extensive safety checklist, but is well equipped through a plethora of scientific tools, technologies and advances to mark every box.
For more information on the National Registry for Food Safety Professionals, visit www.nrfsp.com/.
8. National Restaurant Association. 2016. Creating Food Safety Culture. Chicago, IL.
FDA warns supplement maker food safety ignorance no defense
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/fda-sends-warning-letter-to-supplement-maker/#.WpPDBs-6xbV
By News Desk (Feb 19, 2018)
A dietary supplement manufacturer is on notice from the FDA because the firm’s products were prepared, packed, or held under conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to heath.
Staff from the Food and Drug Administration inspected the San Francisco, CA, location of Reishi D. International Inc. from Aug. 2-7, 2017, and discovered “serious violations” of the Current Good Manfacturing Practice (cGMP) regulation for foods, according to a Feb. 7 warning letter made public by the FDA in recent days.
Additionally, review of the firm’s product labels resulted in misbranding violations, “during the inspection of your facility, our investigator collected labels and brochures for your Reishi D. dietary supplement which contain violations of the Act and applicable regulations.” according to the letter sent to Zheng Xiong Li, CEO of Reishi D. International Inc.
Specifically, FDA’s Division 5, West Director Darla Bracy, noted the following observations logged during the inspection:
•During the inspection you did not provide documentation of the approval for release of your dietary supplements by your quality control personnel.
•You distributed Reishi D., Lot #CC4020-6160 and failed to collect and hold a reserve sample. The firm also informed the FDA investigator that they were not aware of the requirement to collect and hold reserve samples of finished dietary supplements they received from their contract manufacturer.
•You told our investigator that you did not have any written procedures for handling any returned dietary supplements.”
•The firm’s Reishi D. product is misbranded because the label fails to identify the part of the plant, e.g., root, leaves, from which each botanical dietary ingredient in the product is derived.
•The firm’s serving size declared on the labels are incorrect. The suggested use states “Take 1 capsule twice daily,” but the serving size lists “2” capsules. The serving size listed should be one capsule. An incorrect serving size could lead a consumer to overconsume the product.
•The firm makes the false claim in their product brochure: “Propolis is a rich source of minerals, vitamins C, E, provitamin A, and B-Complex ….” To bear “rich in” claims, a product must contain 20 percent or more of the RDI or DRV of the nutrients that are the subject of the claim. The Supplement Facts label for the firm’s Reishi D. product does not list any minerals or vitamin C, E, A or B vitamins. Furthermore, an RDI has not been established for “provitamin A.”
The FDA noted a response letter from firm on Oct. 15, but evaluated all of their corrective actions as inadequate. Once again, the FDA requested that the the firms next response “include the timeframe in which the corrections will be completed and provide any documentation that will effectively assist us in evaluating whether the corrective actions have been made and the adequacy of such corrective actions.”
Food companies are given 15 working days to respond to FDA warning letters. “You should take prompt action to correct the violations noted in this letter. Failure to do so may result in regulatory action by FDA without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction,” according to the warning letter.
Norovirus at the 2018 Winter Olympics: Two Athletes Affected
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/norovirus-at-the-2018-winter-olympics-two-athletes-affected/
By Staff (Feb 19, 2018)
Norovirus at the 2018 Winter Olympics: Two Athletes Affected
Last week, the Swiss Olympic team announced that a previously existing norovirus outbreak that had sickened security workers at the 2018 Winter Olympics had spread to its own athletes.
The statement said that two Swiss athletes--Fabian Boesch and Elias Ambuehl, both freestyle skiers--had contracted norovirus while at the Olympic games. Both individuals were treated by the team’s own doctors and their symptoms subsided thereafter. According to the statement, both athletes were expected to move forward with competing, with safety precautions in place and approval from the International Olympic Committee.
Although the outbreak had occurred at a youth training center in Pyeongchang where the affected security workers had been residing, the two Swiss athletes were staying in Bokwang--not in the Olympic/Athlete’s Village. They were also said to have had minimal contact with other athletes and had never visited the Olympic Village.
Mikaela Shiffrin--an American skier--had reportedly vomited before her competition on Friday and reportedly said that she might also have norovirus. After finishing in fourth place, however, she then said that her illness was likely just nerves.
Since just before the games opened on February 9, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 232 individuals with norovirus.
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