FoodHACCP Newsletter



Food Safety Job Openings

03/17. Quality & Food Safety Technician – Stanfield, OR
03/17. Quality Assurance Technician -  Bolingbrook, IL
03/17. Quality Assurance Technician – Dillon, MT
03/14. HACCP & Food Safety Coord - Mundelein, IL
03/14. Quality Assurance Manager - Minden, NV
03/14. Food Safety Scientist, Toxicology - Louisville, CO
03/12. Quality and Food Safety Mgr – Gainesville, GA
03/12. QA Coordinator – Palm Beach Gardens, FL
03/12. Food Safety Tech - 2nd Shift – Sebastopol, CA

03/19 2018 ISSUE:800

 

How to upgrade your plant to meet food safety standards
Source : https://www.foodengineeringmag.com/articles/97366-how-to-upgrade-your-plant-to-meet-food-safety-standards
By Wayne Labs (Mar 18, 2018)
If your plant is more than 30 years old, chances are it needs some work if it’s to meet current regulations and pass muster with food safety and customer audits
Just like an older home, an aging food plant can have its share of problems. If your roof leaks, or there’s a hole in the wall in which cold air and critters could come through—or your front door loses all its weather stripping—you’d be on it in no time. These situations are even more problematic for an older food and beverage facility, especially where food safety is concerned.
If your plant engineer doesn’t routinely check for facility problems, plant conditions have a way of deteriorating quickly. And in a food plant, many of these problems aid bacterial growth if not expediently fixed. Knowing which things to check is a good place to start, such as water stains on the ceiling or walls; standing water; excessive dirt or dust on or around grills; unsealed wall or ceiling penetrations; improper door closure; improper area pressurization; dirt, dust or residual product on equipment, support frames or cabinets; personnel and materials flow paths; personnel gowning and hygiene practices; and your cleaning procedures—to name a few.
What can go wrong?
Architectural and engineering professionals can tell a few stories about older plants and the remediation needed to make these facilities more food safe.
“Our team had to solve a problem that segregated personnel from the process because of Salmonella cross-contamination,” explains Ib Elandaloussi, process engineer for Burns & McDonnell’s food & consumer products.
The manufacturer, located in the Midwest, produces extruded food products and had Salmonella throughout the plant. Elandaloussi’s engineering team planned a design to segregate personnel, control flow in and out of high-risk areas and physically separate the extruder area and dryer area.
“It was a unique project, because the facility was poorly designed for food safety, and we had to look at several options and evaluate them for logistics, reliability, efficiency and food safety,” adds Elandaloussi.
Peanut Corporation of America had a roof leak, which caused widespread Salmonella contamination in peanut paste and peanut butter products. Moisture is an insidious problem, says Eric Wigger, Food Plant Engineering project manager.
“We worked with a client in a hot, humid climate,” he says. “Moisture was coming through the ceiling of the facility. It was a condensation issue and required us getting on top of the ceiling, cleaning and sealing all of the joints and installing metal panels. That stopped the condensation.”
Wigger knows of a couple of situations where owners had extreme roof problems, some with leaks for many years or improper ventilation in the ceiling cavity. One solution was to build another roof over top of the existing roof and then tear out the old roof, which solved the problem.
Noah Schneider, STSC, project director for CSM Group, food & beverage/industrial manufacturing, recalls a food manufacturer producing baked goods in the Southeast that was experiencing bacterial contamination in its RTE areas of production. The facility was over 50 years old and had experienced extensive growth in the past five years. The quantity of production lines had nearly doubled, and new equipment was interspersed between existing equipment.
Upon investigation into potential sources for contamination, it was determined that the air handling equipment servicing the RTE area had not been evaluated or upgraded with the newly added loads. In addition to the inabilities of the equipment itself, the distribution system was unchanged. Inspections of the equipment revealed heavily contaminated growth areas within the ductwork and air handlers—some of which were not even completely functional.
The solution was to clean and service all the air handling units and replace the interior ductwork distribution system with a fabric duct. The fabric duct allows for planned maintenance and cleaning, and provides proper distribution of the air to the required areas. All the air handling equipment was able to be returned to originally designed specifications, and new drip pans and filters were installed. The root cause of the contamination was determined to be condensation pans clogged with debris that passed through inadequate filters. Proper maintenance and analysis of the required air distribution needs of the new production operations would have prevented the contamination and avoided costly product holds and rework.
Food safety planning and surveys
Under FDA’s FSMA, a processor’s food safety plans are expected proactively to identify food safety risks and hazards; implement preventive controls; monitor, validate and verify that the implementation is functioning as designed; and provide the necessary training and documentation to sustain the plan on a continuous basis. Routine inspection, maintenance and mitigation procedures should be in place to validate and verify that the facility’s program for the prevention of potential food safety issues is adequate and working, says Mike Follmer, RA, vice president/senior project architect at Hixson Architecture & Engineering.
“There is an expectation that every food safety risk is identified, with a plan in place for mitigation of each risk,” he says.
Even if you’re not planning a facility upgrade, facility surveys should be a normal occurrence.
“The survey should be done on a weekly basis, and daily if necessary, which would involve bacterial swabs to detect any growth,” says Ronald Walden, senior project manager for Alston Construction’s food & beverage group.
The plant manager, QC manager and shift supervisor should all be present. The survey should cover all areas—not just the hot spots. Once areas have been cleaned, another set of swabs should be taken to ensure they are free of bacteria.
“When possible, I think these surveys are best conducted in house, because it allows you to control the solutions and discussions that take place about your facility and its cleanliness,” says Mike Keough, Stellar director of business development. “These surveys should be risk based. Consider what the greatest risk of your process is and make that the priority. For example, you’re going to do things differently if your process is raw meat and poultry vs. a fried snack item.”
Surveys should be internal and multi-departmental, says Mark Redmond, PE, president, Food Plant Engineering. QC, operations and maintenance departments should be involved in surveying the entire plant thoroughly, from floor to ceiling, because different sets of eyes see different issues.
“Before you begin, identify your survey criteria based on your process and facility,” advises Redmond.
Use broad strokes at first to survey the plant, looking down and up, because overhead problems are often overlooked. Next, identify and evaluate areas that need to be looked into further, rating the potential for risk. If there’s a high risk potential in a particular space, swab the area.
When you need a facility upgrade
When a facility upgrade is necessary to fix severe or recurring issues, it’s time to enlist outside help to plan the project. But remember, if a project is not funded to go beyond the scope of the planned project, preliminary, detailed audits might not be considered part of it, says James White, senior process engineer at CRB.
“As consulting engineers in a regulated industry, it is our responsibility to do our due diligence and point out issues or deficiencies in the facility to the owner or owner’s representative,” says White.
The survey or audit should be a multidisciplined approach conducted by a certified survey/audit company and should include members of the operations and maintenance groups, as well as those individuals familiar with regulations, including FDA and cGMP requirements, adds White.
“Often, we are tasked with reviewing a known trouble spot or helping to identify the root cause of an issue,” adds White.
Sometimes, this can lead to a simple solution, but could require expanding the scope of the survey to other areas of the facility—for example, roof, mechanical or interstitial space, or underground plumbing.
One other issue looms in plant upgrades—codes. You may find that other things not associated with the actual upgrade, like plumbing or electricity, need to be brought up to code to meet local requirements.
“A code requirement survey is important, as many legacy buildings have not been updated in a long time, and the utilities may be outdated as well,” says Pablo Coronel, PhD, CRB director food processing.
Electrical, mechanical, air handling and civil surveys must be done, and a comprehensive report should take all possible risk factors into account.
As exemplified earlier via the bakery example, a food facility is often built around specific processes and products, but over the years, the facility grows and adapts to changes in production methods, requirements and technology, as wells as new products, says Coronel. Often, new lines are crammed into the space, and modifications are made as needed. Any facility upgrades must be done around the existing and possible future processes that will be carried out in the facility.
Roof problems: Fix or replace?
How serious is a roof leak? Much of what FDA found at Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) was enough to warrant major upgrades to the roof and HVAC systems. Besides an ineffective peanut roasting system, which failed to kill Salmonella, FDA discovered mold growth on ceilings and walls, gaps in A/C intakes on the roof where contaminated water leaked in over production and packaging areas, and other exposed openings to the outdoors.
“The easiest way to spot where a leak might be is to look for staining on surfaces underneath the roof,” says Ed Wright, project executive for The Austin Company.
This would include the structure and ceilings below. If a leak is identified, Wright recommends a professional roofing company that is proficient in repairing and/or replacing the specific type of roof that is currently on the structure.
“Roof leaks can be very tricky,” says The Austin Company’s Jeff Dearduff, corporate director, baking and snack. “You may have the spot identified where the moisture is dripping through, but the slope, roof construction type, insulation condition and number of penetrations can cause you to chase the source of a single leak to areas far away from the identified drip point.”

A thorough understanding of the roof design above the visible ceiling is a must, so that tracking can be fast, effective and sure, adds Dearduff. Roof condition issues must be inspected from the surface with visuals of what is apparent—and further core samples of the roof buildup systems—to understand the conditions of the layers below.Roof inspections should be conducted after a recent rainfall or enhanced with added water to view how the roof drains and to observe any areas of poor drainage/pooling, says Carl Enzenauer, process engineer for Wenck’s facilities and process engineering. Inspections after rainfalls should extend to rooftop/outdoor HVAC units to look for water penetration into the units’ housings. Ceiling inspections should be up close, looking for actual leaks, corrosion or discoloration. Cost-effective fixes (short of entire roof substrate replacement) range from roof patching by a qualified contractor, installation of product shields or catch pans with drains routed away from open product.
Improperly sloped floors
Unfortunately, our fast-paced changes in new cravings at the supermarket can make it really difficult for processors to keep up, and that’s not necessarily good.
“Product lines are changed out overnight, and time has not been spent to address floor slopes and repairs,” says Tim Williams, director of project management, Dean Snyder Construction.
To help find problems ahead of time, making a 3D model of a room with its equipment can save a lot of headaches after the fact, adds Williams.
CRB’s White shares an old construction joke. Question: How do you locate the high spot in the floor? Answer: Look for the floor drain. Floor drains are notorious for not being the low point of the floor. Obvious signs are standing water or areas that have to be squeegeed to get them dry.
An incorrect slope can be addressed using a commercially available floor coating and a buildup to the floor to achieve the proper sloping, says White. Additionally, spill containment or berms can be installed using floor coatings to keep wet areas contained and away from dry areas.
Several modern floor systems exist that can be applied on top of existing floors or require very little rework, adds CRB’s Coronel. Systems using polymers (polyurethane, epoxy, etc.) can be applied and graded properly. The key is to find a qualified contractor to do it right the first time. Keep in mind that floors can only be done after any underground utilities work has been finalized.
Adding drains to improperly sloped floors can be problematic, as puddles may still exist, says Dean Weber, manager for Wenck’s facilities & process engineering group. High-strength urethane grout can be applied over the concrete floor to fill in low spots. Polymer grout can also be added to slope the substrate with a +1/4-inch overlayment of urethane concrete mortar topping, which can provide the necessary 1 to 2 percent slope to existing drains. The most expensive option in terms of cost and scheduling is the complete replacement of the floor and drain system.
Cracks, drains and under the floor: Repair or replace?
It’s common for flooring to crack around drains due to thermal expansion, says Stellar’s Follmer. So, it’s important to maintain these to avoid the accumulation of dangerous levels of Listeria and erosion under the slab. In older buildings, Follmer also recommends running a vision system/CCTV down a certain percentage of drains to check for any material breakdowns, rotting or buildup. There are many solutions to repairing in-floor or underground piping, and often, the solution will be very specific to a particular situation.
Drain systems are usually one of the most deteriorated portions of a manufacturing facility, partially due to their use and abuse over the life of the facility, says CSM Group’s Schneider. Failures occur from incorrect chemical use, incorrect drain system materials, inadequate pipe sloping, clogs and clog removal practices that can destroy drain components, such as P-traps and Y-connections. Corrective solutions that are least destructive can be pipe lining and selective excavation and the replacement of failed components. Detailed scoping, planning and video analysis of existing conditions are good methods to develop the baseline information necessary to make informed decisions on repairs.
After locating by video inspection where a blockage is, the pipe should be cleaned via hydro jetting or mechanical means, says Mark Livesay, ESI Group USA vice president automation. There are different technologies available to repair the piping without tearing up the floor. One of them is lining the pipe where an epoxy liner is pulled, inverted, installed and cured in place. Another system is static or dynamic pipe bursting, where the existing pipe is cut or burst, and a new, same diameter or larger pipe is pulled into place, replacing the damaged piping without tearing up the entire floor, adds Livesay.
Floor drains are one of the most difficult subjects when it comes to plant upgrades—not only from a food safety point of view, but also from environmental and code perspectives, says CRB’s Coronel. “Underground” utilities packages are probably the most complex and expensive part of any renovation project. Unfortunately, it becomes even worse if problems are found after tearing up sections of the floor.
In very few cases, the issues are easy to solve (e.g., clogged pipes), but more often than not, a complete rebuild of the floor drain system is needed for reliability and safety, adds Coronel. In a perfect world, the current occupant of the space has access to the original drain plans, and no modifications have been performed over the years. Unfortunately, in many cases, even finding the location of the pipes and the drain “trees” is a major task.
Walls—be gentle with them
What if Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) are found on a wall? Considering that walls and partitions need to be stainless-steel (SS) wall panels or a cement wall that is washable (no voids), and if the right cleaning procedures are followed, there should be no Lm present.
“If Lm is found on a wall, then it may be an indicator of a more insidious problem than if [it is] found on the floor or floor drain, because it likely indicates an issue with airflow and air quality, which could mean Lm may be throughout the facility, rather than focused in one area,” says Burns & McDonnell’s Elandaloussi.
In such a scenario, the root cause must be determined, and thorough testing of the entire facility needs to be conducted.
“Think about why [Lm] occurred in the first place. Why is it there?” says Elandaloussi. “Address the issue—review sanitation logs, procedures, sanitation, validation.”
Is the Lm just on the wall or in the wall?
“If Lm is found in a wall, it may be a symptom of a much greater problem, as the wall may now be a repository for bacteria and needs to be remediated,” says CRB’s Coronel.
In many cases, interior walls may have water leaks in the footings and wherever penetrations have been made into the walls. Walls can be either resealed, or large sections will need to be replaced, Coronel advises.
Another problem in older facilities is bacterial growth, often due to incompatible materials being used or facilities being repurposed for a new application with no consideration to the existing construction materials, says CSM Group’s Schneider. Rooms that have been converted into production areas could have used building materials susceptible to moisture intrusion or have voids between improperly sealed wall-to-ceiling and wall-to-floor joints and voids behind the wall construction. These conditions foster bacterial growth for weeks or years—until a catastrophic event occurs.
“Often, a minor appearance of an issue on an exterior surface can be the tip of the iceberg of greater concerns hidden from view,” says Schneider
Remediation for these situations can include the complete removal of the suspect construction materials and starting from bare construction with correct construction materials.
However, the biggest wall problems are damages caused by forklifts and people, says Stellar’s Keough. When walls get punctured, the inside of them is exposed, making it harder to clean them properly. These holes become susceptible to harboring bacteria—whether the walls are insulated metal panels (IMPs) or porous concrete block.
The biggest problem with walls and partitions, especially IMPs, is they don’t seal well to a curb surface or a floor surface, says The Austin Company’s Dearduff. Channels and caulking is the typical fix but never serves as a permanent barrier from moisture penetration. When IMP walls with Styrofoam or other insulation get wet, they can wick that moisture into the walls, which leads to breeding grounds for bacteria, out of sight and out of mind.
Conclusion: What’s the business plan?
So far, we’ve only scratched the surface on the problems and potential repairs or upgrades that may be needed to bring an older food or beverage plant up to meet the rigors of today’s food safety regulations. Whether it’s less expensive to apply Band-Aids for now or upgrade major sections of a plant will depend wholly on the application and projected growth of a company and/or facility.
A processor’s business plan and future forecast will ultimately decide which is best: patching problems, renovating or moving to a new site.
For more information:
Alston Construction, www.alstonconstruction.com
Burns & McDonnell, Website for Food Safety & Food Defense
CRB, www.crbusa.com
CSM Group, www.csmgroup.com
Dean Snyder Construction, www.deansnyderconst.com
ESI Group USA, www.esigroupusa.com
Food Plant Engineering, www.foodplantengineering.com
Hixson Architecture & Engineering, www.hixson-inc.com
Stellar, www.stellar.net
The Austin Company, www.theaustin.com
Vilter, www.emerson.com/vilter
Wenck, www.wenck.com

 

 


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Publisher’s Platform: Free Advice to a Food Company CEO during a Listeria Outbreak – Specifically Tiger Brands – Enterprise CEO, Lawrence MacDougall
source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/publishers-platform-free-advice-to-a-food-company-ceo-during-a-listeria-outbreak-specifically-tiger-brands-enterprise-ceo-lawrence-macdougall/#.Wq8WgOjFKUl
BY BILL MARLER (Mar 17, 2018)
Imagine that the phone call comes or an email pops into your inbox – “Sir, we have been contacted by the health authorities and they say our product (polony) has been linked to illnesses and deaths. What do we do?”
So, what do you do?  Lawrence MacDougall received that call.  Now, what has he done and what will he do?
After being involved in every major (and a few minor) food poisoning outbreaks since the Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak of 1993, I have seen it all. I have seen good CEOs act badly and make their and their company’s problems worse and I have seen bad CEOs handle the outbreak with such aplomb that they become associated with both food safety and good PR.
So, what do you do?
Of course, it is always best to avoid the outbreak to begin with. When I have spoken to CEOs or their Boards–generally, pre-outbreak and pre-lawsuit–I always pitch them on “why it is a bad idea to poison your customers.” Putting safe food as the primary goal–yes, alas, even before profits–will (absent an error) give you a very, very good chance of never seeing me on the other side of a courtroom.
But, what if despite your best efforts, or what if you simply did not care, and an outbreak happens.
So, what do you do?
First, have a pre-existing relationship with the folks that regulate you. If someone holds your business in the palm of his or her hand, you should at least be on a first name basis. No, I am not suggesting that you can influence your way out of the outbreak but knowing who is telling you that your company has a problem allows you the ability to get and understand the facts. Do regulators and their investigators make mistakes? Perhaps, but not very often and not often enough to waste time arguing that your company did not poison customers.
Second, stop production of the implicated product and initiate a recall of all products at risk immediately. This procedure should have been practiced, and practiced, and practiced before. All possibly implicated suppliers should be alerted and all retailers should be offered assistance. Consumers need to be engaged too.  The goal now is to get poisoned product out of the marketplace and certainly out of the homes of consumers.
Third, launch your own investigation with two approaches, and at the same time. Are the regulators correct? And, what went wrong? Tell everyone to save all documents and electronic data. The goal here is to get things right. If it really is not your product, what has happened is bad, but survivable. If it really was your product, then learning what happened helps make sure it is likely to never happen again. More than anything, be transparent. Tell everyone what you find–good or bad.
According to the South African Minister of Public Health, Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi:
Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from stool collected from one of the ill children, and from both of the polony specimens collected from the crèche. These isolates were sent to the NICD Centre for Enteric Diseases and underwent whole genome sequencing and genomic analysis. The ST6 sequence type was confirmed on all three isolates on Saturday 27th January. Remember that in the last press conference I informed you that from clinical isolates obtained from patients (patient blood), 9 sequence types of Listeria monocytogenes were isolated and 91% were of sequence type 6 (ST6). We had then concluded that time that this outbreak is driven by ST6.
Following the lead from the tests performed on these children from Soweto and the food they had ingested, the EHPs (Environmental Health Practitioners), together with the NICD and DAFF representatives, accompanied by 3 technical advisors from the World Health Organization in Geneva, visited a food-production site in Polokwane and conducted an extensive food product and environmental sampling.
Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from over 30% of the environmental samples collected from this site, which happens to be the Enterprise factory in Polokwane.
To conclude the investigation, whole genome sequencing analysis was performed from this Enterprise factory and the results became available midnight or last night. The outbreak strain, ST6, was confirmed in at least 16 environmental samples collected from this Enterprise facility.
THE CONCLUSION FROM THIS IS THAT THE SOURCE OF THE PRESENT OUTBREAK CAN BE CONFIRMED TO BE THE ENTERPRISE FOOD-PRODUCTION FACILITY IN POLOKWANE
As of the March 14, 2018 update of Listeria monocytogenes Outbreak from the Centre for Enteric Diseases (CED) and Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response, Outbreak Response Unit (ORU), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)/National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), a total of 978 cases has been reported since 2017. Since the last situational update (8 March 2018), 11 additional cases have been reported to the NICD. The death total remained at 183.Given the above work by NICD and the fact that the number of ill is failing post-recall, Tiger Brands – Enterprise has nothing to argue about the source of the outbreak.
Fourth, assuming that the outbreak is in fact your fault, publicly admit it. If it is not your fault, then fight it. However, pretending that you are innocent when you are actually at fault will get you nowhere. Asking for forgiveness is not a bad thing when you have something to be forgiven for. Saying you are sorry is not wrong when you are in fact wrong.
Mr. MacDougall, given the facts saying this was both heartless and stupid: “There is no direct link with the deaths to our products that we are aware of at this point. Nothing.”
Fifth, do not blame your customers.  If your food has a pathogen it is not your customers responsibility to handle it like it will likely kill them or a member of their family.  Hoping that the consumer will fix your mistake takes your eye off of avoiding the mistake in the first place.
Sixth, reach out to your customers and consumers who have been harmed. Offering to pay legitimate losses will save money and your company’s reputation in the long run.  The public with give you credit and it will be a reduction from the future award during litigation.
Seventh, teach all what you have learned. Do not hide what you have learned. Make your knowledge freely available so we all limit the risk that something similar will happen again.
Mr. MacDougall, I will match you personally 1,000,000 Rand to donate to an Organization or University in South Africa to lead a review of both food processing standards and governmental regulations and oversight.  I will help find experts from around the world to assist.
Yes, you can do all of the above and still get sued. And, I might be the one to sue you, and in Mr. MacDougall’s case I am. Yet, companies who have followed the above find their passage through an outbreak, recall, and litigation temporary. The companies that struggle for unfounded reasons will seldom exist in the long run, or they will simply pay my clients more money.
Bill Marler is trial lawyer who spends a great deal of time trying to convince companies around the world why it is a bad idea to poison customers. Twitter @bmarler and Blog at www.marlerblog.com

Her office confirms the death of Rep. Louise Slaughter at age 88
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/her-office-confirms-the-death-of-rep-louise-slaughter-at-age-88/#.Wq8W6OjFKUl
By NEWS DESK (Mar 16, 2018)
U.S. Rep Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
One of the most prominent food safety advocates in Congress is dead at age 88.
The office of Rep Lousie Slaughter, D-NY this morning confirmed the Congresswoman who has represented the Rochester area since 1987 has died after a fall in her home.She was the oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that Slaughter suffered a head injury after a fall and was under hospital care for a concussion.
Liam Fitzsimmons, chief of staff for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, released this statement yesterday (March 15):
“Congresswoman Slaughter fell at her Washington, DC residence last week and was taken to George Washington University Hospital to receive treatment and monitoring for a concussion. She did not suffer any fractures or broken bones and is receiving excellent care from the world-class medical staff at GW hospital. The congresswoman is tough as nails, and she will bring that same spirit to this recovery. We appreciate the outpouring of support and the community’s patience during her recuperation. We will release additional information as it becomes available.”
Slaughter was the only microbiologist in Congress and was active in the Food Safety Caucus. She was a graduate of the University of Kentucky with degrees in microbiology and public health.
The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 counts as among her many accomplishments in Congress. Only a week ago, she was among ten Food Safety caucus members signing a letter to President Trump, urging the appoint of a USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety.
Dorothy Louise McIntosh was born on Aug. 14, 1929, in Lynch, KY.
She married Robert Slaughter in 1957 and the couple move to the Rochester area.
Her political involvement began with her election to a Monroe County legislative seat in 1975. She went on to serve two terms in the New York State Assembly before winning election to Congress in 1986.
She’s won re-election every two years ever since and was the first woman to represent Western New York in Congress.

Canada Proposes New Measures to Combat Salmonella Caused by Frozen Raw Breaded Chicken Products
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/canada-proposes-new-measures-to-combat-salmonella-caused-by-frozen-raw-breaded-chicken-products/
By Staff (Mar 15, 2018)
Canada Proposes New Measures to Combat Salmonella Caused by Frozen Raw Breaded Chicken Products
Frozen raw breaded chicken products continue to be identified as a source of Salmonella infection in Canada. In the last 10 years the incidence of Salmonella illness in Canada has steadily increased. This increase has been driven by Salmonella enteritidis, the most common strain of Salmonella in the food supply that is often associated with poultry.
For this reason, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and industry at large are actively working to identify and implement measures at the manufacturing/processing level to reduce Salmonella to below a detectable amount in frozen raw breaded chicken products such as chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken strips, popcorn chicken and chicken burgers that are packaged for retail sale. This approach focuses the responsibility on the poultry industry and represents a fundamental change to existing requirements for frozen raw breaded chicken products.
CFIA says that while frozen raw breaded chicken products often appear to be "pre-cooked" or "ready-to-eat," these products contain raw chicken and are intended to be handled and prepared the same way as other raw poultry. The safety of these products rests with the consumer who is expected to cook it, according to the directions on the package.
CFIA is asking poultry processors to identify Salmonella as a health hazard and to implement changes in order to produce an end product that reduces Salmonella to below a detectable amount. The industry has been allowed a 12-month implementation period, beginning immediately, to put the proposed changes in place.
Previous measures were implemented in 2015 when industry voluntarily developed additional labelling on frozen raw breaded chicken products that included more prominent and consistent messaging, such as "raw," "uncooked" or "must be cooked" as well as explicit instructions not to microwave the product and they voluntarily introduced adding cooking instructions on the inner-packaging bags.

Shelf life and food safety increase with new SeaWell seafood trays
Source : http://www.packagingdigest.com/trays/shelf-life-food-safety-increase-seawell-seafood-trays1803
By Rick Lingle in Trays (Mar 15, 2018)
Designed with next-generation absorbent technology, SeaWell Seafood Trays that can extend a products’ market reach made their world debut this month.
A first-in-the-world of anything is usually deserving of attention, and more so when it features patent-pending technology that increases food safety.
CSP Technologies, Inc. company Maxwell Chase, which specializes in extending freshness and enhancing food safety with its unique packaging solutions, introduced the SeaWell Seafood Trays at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, March 11-13. Available in a signature blue color and a variety of sizes for various capacities, SeaWell is a first-of-its-kind active packaging solution that significantly extends the shelf life of fresh seafood in many cases by up to 50% or greater.
The patent-pending SeaWell seafood trays feature integrated absorbent technology incorporated into wells at the bottom of the trays to absorb excess fluids. This innovative technology reduces exposure to fluids and lessens potential damage to seafood products. The packaging system increases freshness and visual appeal, absorbs odors, and enhances safety. The trays are made of recyclable polypropylene.
“Quite simply, the new SeaWell seafood trays have the potential to revolutionize the seafood industry,” says Neal Watson, Maxwell Chase general manager. “They represent a game-changing technological breakthrough offering superior product protection for customers’ high-value seafood products. The result is extended market reach, enhanced brand recognition and improved consumer experiences.”
Watson tells Packaging Digest that the SeaWell packaging system can be used in both retail and food service markets for a variety of seafood.
“Different size systems are being developed to support the various market and product needs,” he says. “We currently offer half- and quarter-size steam tray and are developing a one sixth and filet sizes. We are vertically integrated and can provide custom sizes, colors and tray functions when needed by a customer.”
How does the technology work, does it soak up excess liquid like a sponge?
“SeaWell does not act like a sponge,” Watson responds. “The technology works to create the optimum environment for the contents. The key to creating the optimum environment is to work with the customer to develop the system that works for their species, their process and their customer’s needs. The system is engineered to resolve issues with shelf life, product integrity and presentation to the customer in a retail or food service setting and can be applied to fresh and frozen items.”
Works for frozen seafood and other meats
The shelf life of frozen seafood also is extended; products can be packed frozen and then thawed in the same package maintaining product integrity, with resulting fluids absorbed in the tray’s wells – invisible to consumers, who enjoy a pristine product. Whether fresh or frozen, a key benefit is that geographic markets for seafood processors can be expanded.
Customer collaboration is a key part of the development process.
“Each SeaWell packaging system is different for each customer and species type,” Watson explains, “so we strive to develop a collaborative partnership with our customers. We will test their product in our food R&D labs and develop ‘real’ data to support a packaging system that aligns with their specific product needs.  We then work together to develop a proposal and timeline for implementation.”
Notably, it is applicable to other meats. “The packaging system can be applicable to other protein products outside of seafood,” Watson says. “We are currently testing other types of protein products in our food R&D labs.”
When asked about costs, he says that “we customize packaging systems based on customer and product requirements. Therefore, costs cannot be determined until we partner with a customer to develop their specific packaging system. The system is designed to add value to the customer’s products and brands.  The evaluation occurs at the customer’s facility in order to fully develop the system for maximum value.”
Automation-friendly for high-speed production environments, the trays offer clear visibility of the packed product, promoting the exchange of authentic product and representing a "case-to-cook" solution for easy execution in industrial kitchens.
The company is working with customers who are each in a different stage of commercialization, according to Watson.
_______________
You’ll find the latest cobots, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a 3-day packaging conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; New York City).

It’s getting harder to open those raw milk loopholes
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/its-getting-harder-to-open-those-raw-milk-loopholes/#.Wq8YLujFKUl
By DAN FLYNN (Mar 15, 2018)
Raw milk advocates have gained some ground in the last decade, going from 29 to 43 states that allow some way to sell milk without pasteurization. However, in only 12 states are retail sales of raw milk permitted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And 19 states ban retail sales outright.
But raw milk advocates have been successful opening up any number of loopholes, from herd shares to on-the-farm sales to permitting transactions at farmer’s market and exceptions for pet sales.
This legislative season’s main trend might be one of exhaustion with state lawmakers worn out on the subject, perhaps because they at least are satisfied with the status quo. The dangers of raw milk are well known, but the advocates persist.
This legislative season, raw milk bills in Iowa and Tennessee hit the rocks. Iowa has left its raw milk legislation parked in the House Local Government Committee for almost two months, and proposals in Tennessee went nowhere under pressure from mainstream dairy groups.
Iowa’s House File 2055 (HF2055) would have allowed consumers to buy raw or unpasteurized milk, but it appears to be dead, missing deadlines for bills to move along. Iowa’s session adjourns in mid-April.
In Tennessee, SB 1913 and HB 1963 would have permitted the direct sale of raw milk butter, while SB 2104 and HB 2229 would have exempted raw milk and dairy products sold from a home kitchen from licensure, inspection, and regulation. The General Assembly passed on both, effectively killing them for at least another year.
According to the NCSL, 46 states have adopted the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance or PMO. California, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania don’t use the PMO as the basis for their milk safety law.
NCSL says the federal government, through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not permit the sale of raw (unpasteurized milk) milk for human consumption and advises states not to allow the sale of raw milk.
“Since the FDA does not regulate raw milk, it can be sold only in the state where it was purchased and cannot be sold across state lines or internationally. It also forbids states from permitting the sale of products made from raw milk, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, butter and ice cream. Some hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss, can be made from raw milk,” NCSL adds.
Again, according to NCSL, states can alter their raw milk policies in any one of three ways: passing statues conflicting with Section 9 of the PMO; adopting regulations conflicting with Section 9 of the PMO; or by administrative policy. The states, for example, might choose not to crack down on cow share programs.
There is one way around all of this–just say the raw milk is for your animals.
NCSL found that raw milk sales for animal consumption are at least potentially legal in all states but under commercial feed licensing laws.   Michigan has the only state law expressly prohibits the sale of raw milk for animal consumption. “The variables are the states’ willingness to grant licenses to producers of raw milk for animal feed and how strictly state agencies would monitor licensees to make sure that raw milk sales did only go for animal consumption, NCSL says. “The PMO regulations do not apply to the sale of raw milk for animal feed.”

Recent Widespread Power Outages Raise Questions About Food Safety
Source : http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2018/03/14/power-outages-food-safety/
By
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If the last few storms have left you without electricity for hour or days, you’ve likely wondered if the food in your refrigerator is still safe to eat, or should end up in the trash.
“When the power goes out, the best thing to do is don’t open your fridge,” said Rutgers professor and food safety expert Don Schaffner, “and don’t open your freezer.”
When it comes back on, Schaffner says to check the freezer temperature.
“That thermometer is going to be your best indication as to whether the food is going to be okay to consume when the power comes back on,” Schaffner said. “As long as that food is still frozen, or even if it’s not frozen, if it’s at refrigerator temperature — 40 degrees or less — it’s okay to use or to refreeze.”
As for what’s in the refrigerator…

“I think most experts would agree that as long as the temperature of the food has not risen above 45 degrees fahrenheit, you are okay to consume it,” he said.
But, Schaffner says, if you’re still waffling on whether it’s safe…
“When in doubt, throw it out.”

Melon grower responsible for Australian listeriosis outbreak named
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/melon-grower-responsible-for-australian-listeriosis-outbreak-named/#.Wq8YVejFKUl
By DAN FLYNN (Mar 14, 2018)
Percolating since January, the Australian listeriosis outbreak linked to rockmelons resulted in four deaths out of 17 confirmed cases before authorities named the grower that produced the contaminated cantaloupe.  The outbreak also isn’t likely over as Listeria is known for its long incubation period, meaning it can take several weeks after exposure before any symptoms are experienced.
The New South Wales (NSW) Food Authority says it is working with Rombola Family Farms, located in the Riverina agricultural region of Southwestern NSW, on the exact cause of the deadly outbreak.
Neither the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) nor the NSW Food Authority named Rombola Family Farms two weeks ago when the agencies warned consumers to avoid eating rockmelon because of the spike in listeriosis cases.
FRANZ’s Feb 28th statement said the NSW Food Authority was “working with the grower” to remove contaminated melons from the supply chain and consumers should throw away any they had at home. The NSW investigation is expected to result in some new food safety requirements for growers, who will likely embrace the changes in hopes of rebuilding their lost business both in Australia and overseas.
As demand for Australian rockmelon collapsed since the recall warning, it was the industry that pressured the NSW Food Authority to name the responsible grower.
“I know that growers would like the NSW Food Authority to name that grower,” said the Australian Melon Association’s Diane Fullelove. She believes only the one grower is producing bad melons.
On its website, Rombola Family Farms claims to be “one of the biggest melon growers in Australia!” Rombola Family Farms encompasses about 10,000 acres and employs up to 200 seasonal contract employees.
“The Rombola Family have been farming for over ?fty years since arriving in Australia from Calabria, Italy in the 1950’s,” according to its website. “The family was part of a large group of Italian migrants who helped transform the Riverina and surrounding areas into a dynamic, enterprising agricultural region.”
Food safety experts, however, say naming the responsible grower is not enough if Australia wants to win back consumer confidence. Dr. Douglas Powell, who writes from Australia for the popular Barfblog, says all growers must address “the basic elements of any on-farm food safety program.”
Two years ago, the 300 growers that comprise Australia’s melon industry were left reeling when the NSW Food Authority linked  “a spike in Salmonella Hvittingfoss cases” to Red Dirt Melons grown in the Northern Territories.  About 100 Australians were sickened, but survived, and the melon industry only recently recovered.
Listeriosis is the illness caused by consuming food contaminated with the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.   Cantaloupes or rockmelons, cold meats, raw seafood, soft cheeses, sprouts and both vegetable and fruit salads are among the foods most often contaminated by the Listeria bacteria.

Food safety experts urge Government to shelve inspection outsourcing
Source : https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/65352/food-safety-inspection-outsourcing/
By George Smith (Mar 13, 2018)
Two academics have called the Food Standards Agency’s programme of change into question, saying it is a “bad policy being rushed through when Ministers and Parliament are not paying attention”.
Leading food-safety experts have urged the UK Government to halt plans to outsource food safety inspections to private companies.
The proposals would, according to a new report published today by the Food Research Collaboration, endanger public health and damage UK food exporters after Brexit.
The report by Professors Erik Millstone at the University of Sussex and Tim Lang at City, University of London, questions why the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is pushing forward with a programme of change (called Regulating Our Future – or ROF) that will “destabilise the institutions responsible for enforcing food safety standards”.
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It outlines how the changes will make the UK food supply less safe by weakening systems that are “already too weak”, citing the fall in the Food Standards Agency budget over the last decade, and create conflicts of interest as food companies get the choice over who will inspect them. The academics also claim ROF will undermine the 1999 Food Safety Act, which assumed that safety and quality standards would be enforced by adequately trained and resourced local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) in collaboration with Public Analysts – ROF undermines that expectation.
Thirty seven food industry bodies signed a wake-up call on ‘Food Brexit’ on February 15. These did not include any consumer or public health bodies. That perspective is also needed, say Millstone and Lang, as is shown by significance of the ROF proposals.
Professor Millstone said: “ROF is terrible timing when Government has not even clarified how UK food security will be adversely affected by Brexit.
“These changes would impose a flawed shift in responsibility for food law enforcement.
“This would be risky at the best of times but, when uncertainties abound over ‘Food Brexit’, this is bad policy being rushed through when Ministers and Parliament are not paying attention.
“You cannot ‘put consumers first’ by keeping them in the dark. Food companies are well aware of the risks, but the government has not listened.”
In response to the report, a FSA spokesman said: “Removing Local Authorities (LAs) from the front line of ensuring food is safe and what it says it is has no part in our plans.
“We plan to enhance the role of LAs by making available to them other sources of information that will inform the type and frequency of inspection required.
“LAs will continue to have ultimate responsibility for enforcement of food safety and food standards regulation. No business will be responsible for regulating itself.”
To tackle the issue, Professors Lang and Millstone have recommended ROF be almost entirely discarded and the FSA given the power to order food businesses to collect and share with local authorities minimum food safety and quality monitoring data on their ingredients, processes and products.
To see the whole report, click here.

FDA finding could reinstate cross-Atlantic shellfish trade
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/fda-finding-could-reinstate-cross-atlantic-shellfish-trade/#.Wq8m4OjFKUl
BY NEWS DESK (Mar 13, 2018)
Imported molluscan shellfish from Europe are as safe as if they were harvested off Puget Sound or Massachusetts Bay, according to a Food and Drug Administration finding. FDA’s equivalence determination means two-way raw shellfish trade across the Atlantic is likely to be back on after a lapse of almost eight years.
“I plan to announce more over the coming year about this proposed equivalence determination as we continue to work with the EU (European Union) on the details for resuming mutually beneficial trade in this area,” said a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
“In the meantime, I’m committed to taking new approaches like this to maximize our shared resources and create greater efficiency in the trade of molluscan shellfish.”
The U.S. and EU have not traded any raw molluscan shellfish products for nearly eights years. The European Commission has not allowed U.S. shellfish to enter the EU  since 2010. The FDA has not permitted the import of live, fresh or fresh-frozen molluscan shellfish from the EU since the 1980s.
“In order to help break down this trade barrier and ensure the safety of imported shellfish products in both markets, the U.S. and the EU have been actively working to move an equivalence determination process forward,” Gottlieb said in the announcement.
The FDA and the EU have “set in motion steps that will allow molluscan shellfish trade – or what you may know as clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops, among others – between the U.S. and the EU for the first time in years,” according to the FDA commissioner.
Specifically, the FDA has published a proposed determination that the safety controls in the EU are equivalent to U.S. regulations. In a separate but complementary action, the European Commission is completing administrative procedures for its own proposed determination that U.S. safety controls are equivalent to those in the EU, a necessary step toward resuming trade.
The FDA commissioner says the bilateral effort shows that food safety and market access can go hand-in-hand. It’s another great case of the “FDA collaborating with U.S. trade agencies and working with a trusted international partner to better prioritize resources, ensure food safety and facilitate mutually beneficial trade,” according to Gottlieb.
According to the Brookings Institution, the American seafood industry contributes more than $90 billion to the U.S. economy and supports about 1.5 million jobs. Fish products account for more than $5 billion in the total value of U.S. exports, and roughly one-third of that is shellfish. With a 6 percent share of global trade, the U.S. represents the sixth-largest supplier of fish and seafood products to the world market.
According to Gottlieb, progress toward resuming two-way shellfish trade is a result of a multi-year, in-depth and cooperative review of shellfish safety systems in the U.S. and the EU. Technical experts on both sides of the Atlantic have concluded that many of the safety controls in the EU and the U.S are equivalent. Both governments recommended these actions after reviewing existing food safety programs, safety measures for molluscan shellfish, and on-site audits to verify each other’s systems.
Gottlieb says the proposed shellfish equivalence determination will help to unlock economic opportunity for both U.S. and EU exporters by creating new market access as well as making a wider selection of healthy and safe shellfish options available to consumers.
“It will also ensure American consumers that imported molluscan shellfish from Europe is as safe as what we produce in the U.S,” he said.
The U.S. and the EU worked with individual states and European countries to determine interest in participating in the initial equivalence evaluation, which required them to be subject to on-site audits.
The FDA worked with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference as well as the Pacific Coast and East Coast shellfish associations to identify interested U.S. states that volunteered to participate. If the determination becomes final, Massachusetts and Washington state will once again be able to send bivalve molluscan shellfish to the European market – a first since 2010.
Shellfish exporters from Spain and the Netherlands will also be able to sell raw bivalve shellfish in the U.S. market – a first since the 1980s.
These states and countries are just the first, and we are committed to continuing to work with the EU on procedures to add more states and European countries, Gottlieb said. We share a goal to see other U.S. states subsequently added to the list of eligible exporters in an efficient way, following the completion of this important step.

Who are Food Safety's Superstars?
Source : https://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2018/food-safety-superstars/
By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor (Mar 12, 2018)
For more than a century, food processors have been required to ensure the safety of their products. Events of the recent past have elevated that responsibility from the shadows of quality assurance to a major focus.
Is there a microbiologist in the house?
With the exception of deep-pocketed corporations in the food industry, the answer most likely is no. “Very few companies have a microbiologist on staff,” observes Dane Bernard, a microbiologist and former vice president-food safety and quality assurance at Keystone Foods, who now provides food safety consulting under the name Bold Bear Food Safety, Annapolis, Pa.
Not many more have a microbiologist on call, either. For decades, environmental swabs have been routine at plants under the auspices of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. With implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) under way, similar routines are beginning at some FDA-regulated facilities.
First, Know Thy Process
Food processors confused about how best to comply with new results-oriented outcomes in food safety should begin by getting a better understanding of how their process affects the products they make.
That’s the advice of Manpreet Singh, a food safety specialist with University of Georgia’s extension service.
Unless formulations and processes are identical, processors need a thorough understanding about the water activity, pH potential for allergen contamination and other variables and their impact on a product, advises Singh, who also is an adjunct associate professor in Purdue University’s Dept. of Food Sciences.
This is particularly true when high-pressure processing, sous vide and other novel technologies are applied. Just because a similar HPP-treated juice is safe doesn’t mean your product will not become contaminated, he says.
“Under FSMA [Food Safety Modernization Act], FDA has given processors the latitude to do whatever they want to do to make their product safe,” notes Singh. “It’s a different mindset,” but before they plunge into microbial controls programs, small and mid-sized processors need a clear understanding of the science of their own products.
The swabs are taken by quality assurance personnel, the boots on the ground for any science-based food safety program. At November’s Food Safety Consortium, Eddie Richter, chief science officer at Matrix Sciences, related the story of a client who offered a $100 bounty for every QA worker who delivered a positive result from a Listeria-detection swab.
That’s not difficult to do—a floor drain is a good place to start—but Richter’s point was that many FSMA-affected processors are taking a "don’t find, don’t tell" approach to environmental monitoring. The sin isn’t finding pathogens, it’s a lack of diligence in looking for them.
Swab-a-thons begin
At last year’s Food Safety Summit, industry professionals were aghast when peers in FDA’s first wave of preventive-controls inspections under FSMA described teams of regulators descending on their facilities to take hundreds of environmental swabs, giving rise to the term “swab-a-thons.” The regulators expected they would find some pathogens, and rarely were they disappointed. Better that QA staffers should find those microbes before the FDA, and the point of Richter’s tale was that a few positive results against a backdrop of many negatives are not necessarily a bad thing.
“We expect you to find positives,” Joann Givens, director of FDA’s food and feed program, told Food Safety Summit attendees. What’s important, she indicated, is what action is taken when a swab yields a positive result.
FDA had conducted only a handful of plant inspections for compliance with FSMA’s preventive controls rules at the time of that conference. A former quality systems director for McDonald’s Corp. said 130-150 environmental swabs were typical in those inspections for allergen and pathogen detection.
While undeclared allergens trigger a recall just as quickly as the presence of Salmonella or any other pathogen, they are unlikely to sicken as many individuals as microbially contaminated products. They also are unlikely to generate the level of brand damage and civil-suit settlements.
Beginning with the 1992 E. coli O157:H7 deaths and illnesses attributed to Jack in the Box hamburgers, attorney William Marler has represented many people affected by food contamination. Since then, he has been involved in most of the high-profile events, collecting more than $600 million from food companies on behalf of his clients, all of it involving pathogenic contaminants.
“If there’s one common denominator in those cases, it’s that there are always warning signs -- but people either chose not to react or make themselves aware of the problem,” says Marler, the managing partner of Marler Clark LLP (marlerclark.com), Seattle, who bills himself as the food poisoning attorney.
The heads of quality assurance at defendant companies are usually deposed in those suits. Many of them resisted product testing out of cost concerns, says Marler. “A lot came up the ranks through public relations or a background in the arts,” he grimaces. “They should have a science background and know what they don’t know” and seek expert counsel where necessary to fortify food safety programs.
History repeats itself
Germ theory dates to the 19th Century, but an understanding of the link between microscopic life forms in food and human illness is a more recent development.
The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 mandated sanitary conditions in the production of food, but almost 70 years would pass before regulators started cracking down on bacterial contaminants. Clostridium botulinum deaths tied to canned foods were the trigger for the low-acid foods regulations that came into being in the 1970s.
Dane Bernard was beginning his career with the National Canners Assn. as those regulations were rolling out. Beginning in 1907, the Canners served as the industry’s principal scientific organization; it would later become the National Food Processors Assn., which was absorbed into the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. in 2007.
To Swab or Not Swab?
The good news on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swabs and other methods to detect the possible presence of microbial contaminants in food and beverage plants is that costs have declined dramatically. The bad news is that they can add up to a major expense.
“If you have hazards that are reasonable to occur, you need some kind of environmental monitoring program in place,” concedes Mike Robach, Cargill Inc.’s vice president-corporate food safety, quality & regulatory and chair of the Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI) board of directors.
But if swabs consistently fail to detect microbial activity, it’s reasonable to assume current Good Manufacturing Practices and cleaning and sanitation regimens are effective and regular swabbing is unnecessary.
GFSI oversees food safety certification programs such as SQF and BRC, all of which are being updated to ensure they support the expectations of FDA inspectors under the Food Safety Modernization Act. As of year-end 2017, 22,662 U.S. food and beverage manufacturing facilities were certified under the GFSI programs, up 22.6 percent since 2015.
It took a decade before canners achieved steady state with the new regulations, Bernard recalls, and the time lag repeated in fresh meat processors in the wake of 1996’s HACCP mandate by USDA. Massive recalls that destroyed companies like Hudson Foods and Topps Meat Co. and drove Conagra out of the beef slaughter business attest to the difficulty in implementing effective controls. That history likely will be repeated with FSMA implementation, Bernard believes.
“If you have a good food safety culture, the food safety voice is heard at the production table,” he says, “but it takes time before it’s steady state.” Not until meat processors embraced product and environmental pathogen testing did food safety professionals have enough data points to effectively control invisible contaminants in their facilities.
Listeria monocytogenes in cheese in the mid-1980s and E. coli in apple juice in the mid-1990s somehow managed to surprise processors, though in hindsight they shouldn’t have.
Al Baroudi, a food scientist with a focus on technology and microbiology, was a quality assurance specialist for 98 Borden Foods dairies in the mid-'80s when he developed a HACCP-lite program that included 10-20 environmental swabs at each dairy. When news of 61 listeriosis deaths attributed to Jalisco Mexican Products’ cheese broke, “we knew exactly where it came from,” he says, because the dairy swabs already had flagged floor drains as a Listeria harborage.
Likewise, 66 illnesses and the death of a 16-month-old child from pathogenic E. coli in unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice in 1996 was predictable, Marler maintains. “Odwalla was told that its juice was unfit for the military, yet they continued selling it to pregnant women and kids,” he says. Conventional wisdom held that bacteria couldn’t survive in acidic juice; convention was proven wrong.
Quicker test results, better interventions
Technical advances provide quicker test results and greater accountability than ever before, points out Baroudi. E. coli tests that used to take a week now deliver results “within a couple of hours,” he says. Whole genome sequencing holds processors to account for illnesses that occurred years ago. A recent example is Listeria in Blue Bell ice cream: After comparing the genome fingerprint of 2015 illnesses with its DNA library, the Centers for Disease Control matched the pathogen with victims from a decade earlier.
A longtime proponent of ozonated water as an antibacterial intervention, Baroudi championed the technology at Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based Cheesecake Factory Inc. when he joined the organization 10 years ago as vice president of food safety and quality assurance. The company already had installed ozone generators at its two bakeries in the wake of a safety incident, and his advocacy resulted in deployment of ozone cleaning systems in the prep kitchens of Cheesecake Factory’s 214 restaurants.
An effective contact-surface sanitizer, ozonated water was approved by FDA for direct food contact 15 years ago. “Knowing the benefits of this technology, I wanted to make sure we had this killer step for supplies coming in our back doors,” explains Baroudi. Vendors, particularly poultry and seafood suppliers, receive additional rating points when they use the technology.
Fresh produce is one of the ready-to-eat categories that fall under FDA regulation and are receiving more scrutiny with FSMA. When romaine lettuce was implicated in December in multiple foodborne illnesses, kitchen ozone systems spared Cheesecake Factory’s restaurants. Some raw materials are packed in frozen ozonated water, providing timed release of the antioxidant during shipment.
Between ozone and PCR tests, Baroudi has leveraged his educational training and work experience into a comprehensive food safety program for his employer. His competitors can’t say the same, he believes. “All the big companies think of food safety and quality assurance as an overhead expense until they have a catastrophic event. Then food safety is Job No. 1, but by then it’s too late.”
The Jack in the Box poisonings of a quarter century ago were a seminal event in processors’ war against pathogenic E. coli. The gap between awareness and effective control, however, was measured in many years. “Ninety percent of my revenue used to come from E. coli cases,” says attorney Marler. “Now it’s close to zero.”
Listeria events, on the other hand, now account for the lion’s share of his cases. Whole genome sequencing will be the bridge between the bacterium’s long incubation period and the human illnesses it causes. That should be cause for concern for makers of snack foods, baked goods, leafy greens and other ready-to-eat products not regulated by USDA.
There was a lag of several years between Jack in the Box and “the recalls of the late '90s to the early 2000s, when the wheels came off,” Marler points out. “But once they started doing the testing, E. coli came under control. Whether or not there will be the same painful learning curve with leafy greens and other foods will depend on companies’ willingness to spend money on testing and HACCP enforcement.”
“Almost everybody knows it’s mandatory to have some kind of preventive controls in place,” says Gary Acuff, a microbiologist and nutrition & food science professor at Texas A&M University (nfs.tamu.edu) in College Station. “FSMA has a lofty goal, but implementation is going to take time.”
It’s also complicated by a shorter bench of science trainers. Land grant colleges like Texas A&M have diminishing staffs for their extension services, and FDA was counting on those personnel to get small and mid-sized food companies up to speed on the continuous improvement approach to food safety that underpins FSMA.
His advice: Start forging relationships with microbial testing labs, scientific consultants and others with expertise in this new form of germ warfare. “Zoning and environmental sampling is new to a lot of people,” Acuff allows. “There will be initial pain and eventual gain. There will be surprises, for sure.”
Food microbiologists are in short supply and high demand. That level of in-house expertise isn’t necessary for the vast majority of food and beverage companies, but cognizance of its importance and access to it when necessary can make the transition to steady state less painful.

HACCP Principles: No. 3 Set limits for critical control points
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/haccp-principles-no-3-set-limits-for-critical-control-points/#.Wq8nEejFKUl
BY LAURA MUSHRUSH |(Mar 12, 2018)
Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points sponsored by PAR Technologies. There are seven HACCP principles outlined by the Food and Drug Administration to serve as a guideline for creating a systematic approach in the identification, evaluation and control of food safety hazards.
Once a food company’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points team establishes critical control points (CCPs), their next task is to identify critical limits within each CCP.
While CCPs are the last place a company can control for food safety hazards, critical limits must be set to ensure food safety hazards are eliminated or reduced and maintained at acceptable levels for each CCP, according to Donna Schaffner, independent HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center.
“Depending on the product, each CCP may have multiple physical, chemical and biological critical control limits that need to be established,” explains Schaffner. “Temperature, for example, is a common element that needs to be controlled to stop biological food safety hazards.
“If the product is ground beef, the HACCP team needs to establish what temperature it needs to be stored at to keep pathogens from growing, along with what temperature and time the ground beef needs to be cooked to safeguard against food safety hazards such as E. coli O157:H7.”
Other elements, such as weight, pH, water activity, salt concentration, titratable acidity, chlorine and preservatives may need to have critical limits set, along with sensory observations such as smell and visual appearance.
Such determinations require specialized knowledge and training. Critical control limits cannot be established without specific knowledge about the particular food in question, the kind of production operation, and storage practices.
When it comes to establishing critical limits for CCPs, one of the most important factors is having a HACCP team with the knowledge and experience.
“With so many different components to a food company, from receiving and storing raw ingredients to processing and storing a finished product, there needs to be multiple points of expertise to adequately advise on every physical, chemical and biological hazard,” explains Schaffner.
“Setting critical control limits take a great amount of knowledge and understanding of microbiology and how multiple elements can compromise food safety.”

Brazil BRF plant in food safety probe puts 1,000 workers on leave
Source : https://www.reuters.com/article/brf-operations/brazil-brf-plant-in-food-safety-probe-puts-1000-workers-on-leave-idUSL1N1QU0WY
By Reuters Staff (Mar 13, 2018)
Brazil’s largest chicken processor BRF SA is placing more than 1,000 workers on leave at its Mineiros plant, one of the units implicated in a food safety investigation, the company said on Monday.
BRF said the decision to put workers on leave was made last year, part of “layout changes” on the factory floor. The company denied the move is related to the food safety probe dubbed “Weak Flesh.” Investigators have said companies including BRF are evading food safety checks.
Mineiros, where BRF makes turkey and chicken products, has been banned by the agriculture ministry from exporting to countries where specific sanitary controls are required to detect the presence of Salmonella spp, among them countries in the European Union.
Some 497 employees at Mineiros’ turkey production line will be placed on a 30-day leave, effective Monday, the company said in a statement. Some 623 employees working on the chicken product line will be placed on leave for 10 days starting on Monday, it said.
After the third phase of the food safety investigation, Brazil’s agriculture ministry banned exports out of BRF’s plants in the towns of Rio Verde and Mineiros, in Goiás state, and Carambeí in Paraná state.
The ban relates to 12 destinations which require specific controls for the Salmonella spp bacteria, including South Africa, South Korea and the European Union.
Last week, police arrested the former chief executive of BRF on charges that he and other BRF executives knew the company engaged in fraud to evade food safety checks.
The executives arrested, who have already been released from prison, will not be able to return to their posts at the company to avoid the risk of them interfering with the ongoing investigation. (Reporting by Paula Arend Laier; Writing by Ana Mano; editing by Grant McCool)

 

 

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