HACCP Principle No. 6: Verify, document, repeat to compete
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/04/haccp-principle-no-6-verify-document-repeat-to-compete/#.WsMO9c-6xbV
By Laura Mushrush (Apr 2, 2018)
Editor’s note: This is the sixth 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.
“Verification procedures need to be put into place so the things a food company said it was going to do in its HACCP plan are actually done right,” says Donna Schaffner, HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center South.
For example, if a HACCP plan states critical limits will be monitored by temperatures taken every hour, then the first point of verification of that procedure is a review of records by a second person to ensure it has happened on time and in the right manor.
“Calibration is an essential part to verification,” adds Schaffner.
“Not only would the thermometer and other instruments need to be checked to make sure they are calibrated correctly, but so do employees carrying out the monitoring procedures to ensure they are using taking measurements properly.”
According to Schaffner, food companies also need to validate why certain critical control points, critical limits and monitoring procedures were included in the HACCP plan.
“A company needs to be able to provide validation of verification that is backed by a scientific basis. If 40 degrees Fahrenheit was chosen as a critical limit, then it needs to defend why any temperatures above that point are not safe,” she explains.
Build paperwork time into schedules
The biggest challenge Schaffner sees food companies face when establishing verification procedures is managing the extra time it takes to look through paperwork and make checks that monitoring procedures are being performed right.
“The employee carrying out the verification procedure is meant to serve as a second set of eyes to whoever is monitoring but is usually carrying their own full day of work responsibilities on top of the extra paperwork. It’s not uncommon to find out they are just signing at the bottom of the page on a busy day and not looking through and checking everything on the paper,” explains Schaffner.
“When I was in industry, we had an hour of overlap with the next shift so the plant could continue to run smoothly while paperwork was made a priority. Whichever way a company chooses to handle it, it is very important employees are given time in their schedules to allow for thorough verification.”
The Color Code to Food Safety
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/column/the-color-code-to-food-safety/
By Scott Kiernan (Apr 2, 2018)
Over my 30-year career in the food industry, I have worked for small, corporate and private businesses. Food safety and the prevention of foodborne illness has always been a priority in all kitchens I have worked in and I have seen the challenges facing the industry. I have experienced difficulties in getting all food handlers to adhere to food safety policies, whether it is due to employing a large staff, lack of training, inefficient systems, miscommunication between front of house and back of house, or an inability to find qualified staff.
Awareness of Food Safety Today and Social Media
Industry professionals know that a culture of food safety is critical to preventing foodborne illness; in fact, 95% of chefs cite customers getting sick as their top concern according to a recent study that surveyed nearly 1,000 American Culinary Federation member chefs.1 In a time when more Americans are aware of and educated about food allergies than ever before, it is important for food professionals to pay close attention to recent developments regarding food allergens and sensitivities, and their implications. Customer demands have increased and nearly three-in-five chefs say staying on top of food safety issues and regulations is critically important.
This heightened awareness, coupled with social media, can have a lasting impact on a business. More consumers are relying on online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making it vital that all staff are trained and proficient in food safety practices to protect professional reputations and maintain safe and healthy environments. A bad review can damage a restaurant’s reputation and cause both customers and sales to decline. Beyond that, a foodborne illness can have a dramatic impact on insurance premiums, create negative media exposure and potentially lead to lawsuits and legal fees.
Food safety takes a large portion of chefs’ time on the job. Actually, 96% of chefs say they spend a fair amount of their day making sure food is being handled and stored correctly in their kitchen, while nearly half find food safety practices to be very time consuming.1 When you’re working in a commercial kitchen environment, you need products that are not only compliant with food safety regulations but also save time on the job.
Tackling Food Safety with Color Coding
A few months ago, I trialed a color-coded food storage and prep tools system. It delivers a way to tackle cross-contamination and potential foodborne illness in my kitchen, while providing my staff with a tool that is simple and saves time. The system comes in seven colors, each for use with a specific food type. Each utensil or storage container is matched to the appropriate food for a safer, more sanitary kitchen.
My tips for a safer kitchen:
•Color-coding is an easy visual tool on the job. A color-coded system makes it easier for staff to organize and identify stored items. All products in the line are made of quality, food-safe materials that are durable for a commercial setting. When you’re looking for a system, make sure the quality can withstand the daily demands of a commercial kitchen.
•Taking the time for training is key. A color-coded system helps prevent cross-contamination and the spread of foodborne illness as long as it is used as intended. The system is easy to learn, but only effective if all staff members are properly trained. Take time to train your team on how to use and adhere to the designated color codes.
•Make sure you have enough storage containers to meet your operation’s needs. You don’t want to run out of storage and cause staff to mix and match with other containers when they’re in a pinch. Incorporating containers that aren’t part of the system and not as easy to identify can lead to simple mistakes. Keeping your containers and cutting boards neatly organized on designated shelf space for each item will make it easier for staff to find and utilize the proper container. While containers are being used for storage, you may want to follow the “first in, first out” rotation when you have multiples of the same item.
•Don’t forget to consider storage. I like the idea of removing ingredients from their original boxes and storing them in their assigned, color-coded containers because there is no telling what contaminants may be on the outside of the boxes from leakage, dust and/or other elements during warehousing and shipping. Staff should take the same care with storage as they are with the product when it’s in use.
Make Your Food Safety Solution Work for You
Overall, I found the color-coded food storage system easy to use and helpful in keeping things organized. When implementing a system, make sure to consider what works best for the size of your operation, whether you need larger or smaller containers based on the amount of production, and storage of product used in your operation. I feel the system I used would be most effective in a small- to mid-sized operation. It could be a challenge to get everyone in larger facilities on board, but with proper training and good communication it could be beneficial to any operation in the reduction and prevention of foodborne illness.
The system is use is designed to be an added benefit and safeguard to a company’s existing food safety program, so make sure you’re equipping staff with the training and knowledge they need to be successful. The color-coded food storage system can make food storage safe and easy, and it’s important to remember that all food handling and safety regulations need to be followed in accordance with your local health department and state guidelines.
All food service industries face the ongoing task of preventing cross contamination and it is our responsibility to train and manage our staff, and hold them accountable to adhering to all local health code and company policies regarding food safety. A single error on the job can jeopardize any safeguards that may be in place putting yourself, other employees and the public at risk. Proper hygiene, labeling, storage and having an HACCP system will not work if all food handling staff from receiving to delivery of the product to customer do not have the proper training and supervision.
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Touchy feely restaurant screens covered with creepy crawlies
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/touchy-feely-restaurant-screens-covered-with-creepy-crawlies/#.WsMPrc-6xbV
By Aaron Cohen (Mar 31, 2018)
Restaurants are increasingly moving from clipboards and pens to digital technology. And they should. These digital tools streamline and simplify multiple processes – from taking customers’ orders to facilitating inspections.
But now, patrons and staff are likely to touch – and share – multiple screens. Whether your host is sending a text about an open table or a server is completing a sale, your team must commit to consistent, thorough “clean screen” procedures.
Preventative measures, like wearing and changing single-use gloves regularly, are among best practices, but they’re only the beginning. Digital-friendly sanitizing wipes should be easily accessible and regularly used. Sanitation schedules should be established for shared screens – similar to schedules for cleaning other equipment. Whatever the strategy, a regular sanitizing regimen is essential for a healthy, code-abiding establishment.
Washing hands saves lives. Many hands are sharing tools, devices, surfaces and germs in restaurants, and germs can spread fast through contact with these items.
Increasingly, restaurants and other food service organizations are relying on mobile technologies, such as POS systems, tablet menus, and remote card payment machines. Mobile devices are also being used to manage food prep and safety in accordance with inspection regulations.
While these devices offer multiple benefits – increased efficiency, accuracy, etc. – they may also carry some risk. Think about it: everyone involved in the experience of dining out runs the risk of sharing screens and, therefore, sharing germs. Screens constantly get shared between employees – and customers – during shifts.
How dirty do screens get? Scientists have found that the average cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Major pathogens, like Streptococcus, MRSA, and E. Coli have routinely been found on electronic screens. Passing these dirty devices around spreads the germs and bacteria to hands – and then, potentially, to other surfaces.
“Research says your phone is covered in germs: 25,107 bacteria per square inch to be exact. That makes your cell phone one of the filthiest objects you touch,” explained Francine L. Shaw, food safety expert and president of Savvy Food Safety Inc.
“With advances in technology, cell phones are consistently being utilized to execute food safety strategies throughout the food service industry. This is especially true for the leaders in the industry that have implemented this advanced technology to enhance their company’s food safety culture.”
So, how can restaurants successfully keep its screens germ-free? Here are three simple steps every restaurant should consider.
Step 1: Clean everything
“Technology is the way of the future. So how do you keep your phone clean? First and foremost, wash your hands,” Shaw explained. “Then clean and disinfect your cell phone by using a combination of 60 percent water and 40 percent rubbing alcohol. Mix the ingredients together, then dip a soft cloth – don’t use a paper towel, it may scratch the screen – in the solution and wipe the damp cloth gently across your phone.”
“Apple warns against using anything other than a soft cloth on your screen, but, let’s face it, a soft cloth isn’t getting rid of any germs,” Shaw added. “Personally, I love technology – there are many UV lights on the market that will destroy surface bacteria. Regardless of the method you choose, clean your phone frequently. And, keep it out of the restroom!”
We tell food service employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom and, hopefully, they all comply. But think about the hundreds of patrons visiting a restaurant daily. And what about employees coming on-shift to work while, inevitably, carrying their germy phones? If they touch surfaces in the restaurant before washing their hands, they can transfer germs to these items.
In family restaurants, children tend to touch everything in sight. I’ve seen toddlers who picked their nose or licked their fingers and then touched the table, doorknob, etc. And now that screens are more common in restaurants – used for everything from reviewing online menus to paying bills via a shared tablet – it’s critical that every screen in your establishment gets regularly (and properly) disinfected.
The solution: identify every device that has a screen and wipe it down. A tried-and-true product, like Windex Electronic Wipes, can work wonders for getting germs off a variety of electronic screens. It’s an all-purpose product that every restaurant should have on hand and insist that employees use regularly and often.
Though the food code no longer allows personal cell phones in kitchens, staff often use them before shifts and during breaks. Encourage employees to wipe their personal phones to prevent contamination. Additionally, require them to wash their hands after using their mobile devices and before touching food, surfaces and/or equipment.
Step 2: Make a schedule
Your restaurant employees schedule their shifts and tickets. Tables get wiped down before changing patrons. But is there currently a schedule in your restaurant for when a POS system gets disinfected? If not, there should be.
No one should have to wonder when a screen was last wiped down. A simple checklist will do. Cleaning products should be available in the main dining areas. If your restaurant isn’t looking to take up too much space with a box of screen wipes, consider a Microfiber Teraglove. It’s small, compact, and can fit anywhere.
Step 3: Sanitize screens
Restaurants are busy places. Not every job gets done according to schedule especially during hectic shifts. But, just like the kitchen and washing staff make sure the prep areas and cutlery are sanitized, the same must be done for all digital screens in your restaurant.
At the end of each shift, have the staff focus more intentionally, and more thoroughly, on cleaning all of the restaurant’s mobile devices. A heavy-duty product with a reputation for being effective, like Tech Armor, provides a full kit of microfiber wipes and cleaning solution. By disinfecting the surface of each screen, you’ll significantly limit the potential for germs and the associated risk of illnesses.
Restaurant leadership requires its employees to wash their hands after using the restrooms. Teams must follow specific protocols around cleaning dishes, utensils and kitchen equipment. Surfaces should be regularly disinfected, and restrooms scrubbed on schedule.
Another best practice would be to wipe down all shared surfaces and not just screens. For servers, tables and counters are more obvious, but what about menus, napkin holders, and condiment dispensers. A great opening practice is to wipe down these commonly touched components of the restaurant experience.
If you’re not regularly cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting your screens, you’re putting your staff and guests at an increased risk for spreading germs and contracting some pretty miserable illnesses. Create specific protocols around cleaning your screens to increase the health and safety of your facility, employees and guests.
Easter Food Safety Tips
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/easter-food-safety-tips/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 29, 2018)
Foodsafety.gov is offering tips to keep your Easter ham and eggs safe. Ham and eggs are traditional Easter foods in the United States.
When you are cooking ham, make sure you know whether or not the product is fully cooked. Hams that are fully cooked are labeled so. Ham that is not ready to eat but looks like it’s ready to eat will have a statement on the label that it needs cooking before you can consume it.
Fresh, raw, ham, or ham that needs to be cooked first, must reach an internal temperature of 145°F, with a three minute rest time, before it is safe to eat. Make sure that you use a reliable and accurate food thermometer to test the meat. And ham and other meats should be cooked at an oven temperature no lower than 325°F.
Cooked ham and cooked vacuum-packaged ham can be eaten right out of the package. Spiral cooked hams are also safe to eat right away. These hams can be eaten cold as long as they are marked “fully cooked” on the label. You can warm these hams to 145°F if you’d like. Any ham that has been repackaged in any location outside the federally approved processing plant should be heated to a final internal temperature of 165°F before it is served.
If you choose to hard cook and color eggs for Easter, make sure they stay refrigerated. Eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria on the outside and inside of the eggs. This pathogen will not affect the taste, look, texture, or smell of the egg.
To safely enjoy eggs, always store them in the fridge. Discard any eggs that are cracked or dirty. Be sure to wash your hands and surfaces with soap and water after any contact with raw eggs.
Always cook eggs until both the yolks and whites are firm. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks have both caused Salmonella outbreaks. Recipes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F.
Always eat eggs promptly. Don’t keep them at room temperature for more than two hours. Never eat hard cooked eggs that are used for an Easter egg hunt or decorations if they have been out of refrigerator longer than two hours. Be safe and throw them away.
Have a safe and happy Easter. Your dinner will be wonderful as long as you follow food safety rules.
First-Ever Controlled Environment Agriculture Food Safety Coalition Forms; Call for Members Now Open
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/products/first-ever-controlled-environment-agriculture-food-safety-coalition-forms-call-for-members-now-open/
First-Ever Controlled Environment Agriculture Food Safety Coalition Forms; Call for Members Now Open
Leading Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) growers have begun joining together to establish the first food safety group geared specifically toward CEA produce brands. The goal of this group is to establish food safety standards to protect consumer health. The group will officially kick off with an inaugural meeting during the United Fresh co-located 2018 Expos taking place June 25-27 in Chicago, where they will begin to develop the coalition’s structure and food safety standards.
CEA growers including Brightfarms, AeroFarms and Little Leaf Farms have joined the coalition as founding members, with numerous others expected to join in the coming months.
"The growing methods in our industry are different as compared to centralized and long-distance field-grown produce. This coalition provides an opportunity for all brands in the space to collaborate in an effort to further protect consumers by establishing standards and sharing insights," says BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot. "This is a critically important step in maintaining consumer confidence and supporting the growth of our industry."
Both the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association have come forward to show their full support:
“There is a real need for a group of this kind that enables the industry to combine their collective learning to develop and advance food safety practices,” says Dr. Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh. “We frequently get questions from CEA growers with food safety in mind and this coalition will serve as a resource to not only these growers, but to all companies in the industry.”
“By coming together, these leaders will advance food safety for controlled environment growers and for the fresh produce industry as a whole, which in turn will benefit consumers and public health,” says Bob Whitaker, Ph.D, Produce Marketing Association's chief science and technology officer. “They ask good questions about how to ensure their particular practices produce safe products, and have demonstrated they are willing to learn from and share ideas on risk- and science-based food safety with their open agriculture counterparts.”
“We take food safety very seriously and are proud to help lead this effort to elevate this critical topic not only for CEA growers, but also the industry overall including our retailer partners and ultimately the consumer,” says CEO David Rosenberg at AeroFarms.
The CEA produce industry is primarily made up of brands using hydroponic, aeroponic or aquaponic methods. All CEA produce organizations are invited to join the coalition to help shape the model and standard of food safety to protect consumer health. To join, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When human behavior clashes with food safety goals
Source : https://www.foodengineeringmag.com/articles/97406-when-human-behavior-clashes-with-food-safety-goals
By Crystal Lindell (Mar 29, 2018)
Yaohua Feng, of Purdue Food Science, talks about why companies need to account for irrational human behavior when implementing food safety procedures
When Yaohua Feng, an assistant professor at Purdue Food Science, observes home cooks, 64 percent of them don’t wash their hands before making a meal — and that’s when they know they’re being watched.
And unfortunately, employees at processing facilities aren’t always much better.
Feng has a background in microbiology, but her work in food safety isn’t quite what most people assume it would be. She studies how human behavior can be illogical and unpredictable and how that in turn can impact food safety. And she recently spoke during the Food Sure conference on how food and beverage companies can better approach these issues.
For example, even if employees receive good food safety training, and then pass a quiz showing they retained the information, they still may not follow the procedures.
“We try to investigate the discrepancy between knowledge and behavior. And what can we do to bring the gap closer,” Feng says. “We saw a lot of retention problems with even effective training. They will change their behavior, and then after a month people drop out, and after three months you get a significant drop.”
An it’s no secret that food safety issues are a huge economic burden to companies who deal with them. Just one spinach E.coli outbreak in 2006 caused $12 million in direct losses to the spinach industry partly because even after the outbreak cleared up, consumers continued to be in what Feng calls “scared mode.”
“They refuse to buy spinach, not only the spinach that is on the shelf, but also canned,” she explains. “Anything with spinach, they’re scared of.”
Unfortunately, many outbreaks are associated with infected workers, but it can be hard to get an entire staff at a processing facility to do all the things they should.
“Even if we [the managers] know the regulation, even if we recite all the words in the FSMA regulation, it doesn’t mean it will be us [practicing it]. It will be our food worker on the front line who will do that. We need to make sure we bring everyone on board and engage them.”
Feng suggests that companies put as much thought into their food safety training plans as they would anything else. For example, they should be validated the same way a sanitation plan would be.
She also says training needs to be repeated on a regular basis, as opposed to being a one-time thing. And, of course, the entire company culture has to be focused on food safety, from the CEO to the factory floor.
Feng also encourages companies to partner with her program at Perdue, which can help them spot problem areas and then address them.
“There is a lot of specialized microbiology in the food safety area, but when it comes to the training efficacy, there is very limited information on that topic, so that is one of the reasons that I really encourage the industry to try to partner with the university,” she says, adding that since they are not inspectors they wouldn’t be penalizing companies that do have issues.
Feng is clearly passionate about her work, with good reason.
“Our ultimate goal to make sure the product is safe,” she says. “I’m very passionate about food safety because it’s not just about our business, or my research, it’s about everyone and it’s about you and me.”
This article was originally posted on www.foodsafetystrategies.com.
New audit finds Spain’s pork inspections ‘equivalent’ to U.S.
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/new-audit-finds-spains-pork-inspections-equivalent-to-u-s/#.Wr2TGc-6xbV
By Dan Flynn (Mar 28, 2018)
The USDA’s most recent onsite audit of Spain’s inspection system for raw and processed pork products found the European nation’s efforts remain equivalent to those of the United States.
The report for the audit conducted in Spain from Sept. 27 to Oct. 19, 2017, was released Tuesday by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
“The purpose of the audit was to determine whether Spain’s food safety system governing slaughtered and processed meat remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged,” according to the report.
Spain currently exports the following categories of pork products to the United States:
1.raw – intact;
2.raw – not intact;
3.fully cooked – not shelf stable;
4.not heat-treated – shelf stable;
5.heat-treated – not fully cooked; and
6.heat-treated – not shelf stable.
The audit focused on six system equivalence components:
•Government oversight – e.g., organization and administration;
•Government statutory authority and food safety and other consumer protection regulations – e.g., Inspection System Operation, Product Standards and Labeling, and Humane Handling;
•Government Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system;
•Government Chemical Residue Testing Programs; and
•Government Microbiological Testing Programs.
“(Spain) did not adequately verify that establishments met government sanitation requirements that ensure ventilation is sufficient to control condensation to protect the product and prevent the creation of unsanitary conditions,” according to the FSIS report.
FSIS made the same finding in a 2015 audit, and corrective actions were not adequate. The report says Spain is now “committed to begin addressing the preliminary findings as presented.”
The FSIS audit team inspected five meat processing plants and two meat slaughter facilities in Spain as part of the in-country audit. Also included was the public health laboratory in Valencia and meetings with national and regional food safety officials in Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain currently exports raw and further processed pork products to the United States.
In May 2017 the FSIS completed a three-year verification of Spain’s pork exports to the U.S.
From June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2017, FSIS import inspectors performed 100 percent re-inspection for labeling and certification on about 36.8 million pounds of slaughtered and processed pork products exported by Spain to the United States.
“Of that amount, additional types of inspections were performed on 4,709,053 pounds, of which no product was rejected due to any food safety or other reasons,” according to the 52-page report.
Earlier this month the USDA announced that Northern Ireland’s raw pork exports to the United States could continue after a favorable audit report of that country’s food safety system. That in-country audit was also conducted in late 2017 by FSIS.
Fifth Recall Reveals Known Contamination at Raw Pet Food Plant
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fifth-recall-reveals-known-contamination-at-raw-pet-food-plant/
By Staff (Mar 28, 2018)
Fifth Recall Reveals Known Contamination at Raw Pet Food Plant
A Washington-based raw pet food company is issuing its fifth product recall since 2016 due to possible pathogenic contamination.
Arrow Reliance Inc. (dba Darwin’s Natural Pet Products) has issued a voluntary recall of various meat and organic vegetable meals because they may contain either Salmonella or Escherichia coli O128. As this latest series of recalls is being widely circulated in the media, it is also being reported that the manufacturer was well aware of Salmonella contamination at the plant, according to Food Safety News.
Previous inspections from 2017 reportedly cite more than 300 customer complaints involving ill pets, and also pet deaths after consuming products made by Darwin’s. The inspection records also prove numerous food safety violations at the facility.
Furthermore, inspection records appear to show that leadership at the Darwin’s plant knew of the contamination. There were instances of Salmonella found on equipment and thermometer verification logs failures, for example, but no records of corrective action were mentioned or located.
Inspection records also indicate that between January 2017 and December 2017, 332 customer complaints were logged. These complaints were due to a variety of problems—foreign material contamination (hair net material, metal, pebbles, plastic, rubber bands), product spoilage, package leaks, and sick and dying pets.
Food Safety News was also able to dig up a laundry list of violations cited in Darwins’ inspection reports:
•In addition to reporting on Darwin’s records, investigators recorded the following general “objectionable” conditions:
•Failure to conduct operations under cGMPs (current Good Manufacturing Practices);
•Raw materials were not thawed under conditions that would minimize the potential for growth of undesirable pathogens;
•Animal food contact surfaces not made of appropriate materials or maintained to protect animal food from becoming contaminated; and
•Equipment and utensils not used appropriately to avoid adulteration of animal food with contaminants.
Inspectors also cited the following specifics in their report:
•A mallet with raw meat material on it was on a rack used to store sanitized equipment in the sanitizing room;
•4-wheeled hand cart with two shelves covered with wet cardboard containing raw meat. Cart was touching a food preparation surface. Buckets used to carry and mix micro ingredients and phage preparation stored on the cart. Cart handle was broken and surface appeared to not be cleanable;
•Dirty tool from processing floor placed on top of sanitized yellow pallet;
•Food preparation table grooved and not cleanable;
•Flashing between wall and floor and behind prep table was damaged and contained meat debris;
•Employee observed breaking down dirty cardboard boxes with gloved hands and returning to processing floor without changing gloves or sanitizing;
•Freezer box “B” had bloody and rusted metal racks; bloody floors and boxes storing frozen meat; organic material behind racks;
•Cooler box “A” had bloody boxes of meat and vegetables stored on metal racks and pallets with organic material behind racks;
•Cardboard boxes containing raw meat were observed leaking and dripping blood onto boxes stored below and onto adjacent boxes, pallets and metal racks;
•Wooden pallets and metal racks not maintained or designed to be cleaned in a manner that protects ingredients against contamination;
•Fork lift was observed moving from the receiving/loading dock, over the packing floor, through Box A and into the raw product prepping room;
•Employees were wearing dirty boots in sanitation room and on process floor;
•Damaged wall in preparation room;
•Cement floor under hoses chipped and broken away. An approximately 12-inch x 12-inch hole was observed in first layer of cement;
•Employee pocket knife observed on food contact service;
•Door stops and upright pillar stops pitted and rusted;
•Slider door between prep room and temping room rusted and dirty; and
•Recycled wooden pallets noted in processing area at end of packing line.
Despite the records, the owner and president of Darwin’s—Gary Tashjian—told inspectors that he had not received any specific complaints of E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella poisoning from consumers. In order for Darwin’s to issue a recall, Tashjian contended that a complainant would need to provide positive test results from a veterinarian, then the company would test for contamination in the product that the ill pet consumed. If the test resulted in a positive, then a recall would be initiated, hypothetically.
Darwins’ raw pet foods are sold exclusively to customers via a subscription service.
Vibrio Cholerae Infections Associated with Herring Eggs in Canada
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/vibrio-choleroe-infection-associated-herring-eggs-canada/
By News Desk (Mar 27, 2018)
The First Nations Health Authority and Island Health is warning the public in Canada that confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infections have been reported in association with herrings eggs that are laid in the marine environment, and not in herring roe harvested from the fish. This bacteria causes a form of cholera, which is practically unknown in Canadian waters. You can see the possible contamination areas in the map below.
Canada has had just two cases of cholera a year since 2014. At least four people are sick in this outbreak. This infection is very rare in industrialized nations, but occurs in Africa, Haiti, and Southeast Asia, according to the CDC.
As of March 23, 2018, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has issued an emergency closure on Herring Egg Harvest in Mid-Vancouver Island. Potentially contaminated herring eggs laid in the marine environment are likely limited to this area at this time, according to the notice from Island Health.
The Vibrio cholerae bacteria live in brackish water. They cause an intestinal illness, with symptoms including mild to severe nausea, vomiting, and very severe watery diarrhea. Some people can be infected with Vibrio cholerae bacteria and not show any symptoms.
To protect yourself, do not consume any herring eggs harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay areas from kelp, seaweed, or other surfaces. If you have stored herring eggs, call the First Nations Health Authority Environmental Public Health Services at 250-924-6125. Samples are being requested form the public for testing. Keep the eggs cold and in the original package.
If you are sick, make sure that you avoid dehydration by drinking small amounts of fluid often. Visit your doctor for treatment and to confirm your illness. Let your health care provider know if you have eaten raw or lightly-cooked herring eggs within five days of illness onset, or if you are caring for someone who got sick after eating herring eggs.
The bacteria can be passed form person to person, even if someone does not have symptoms. Always wash your hands well after going to the bathroom or taking care of someone who is sick, especially if they have a diarrheal illness. If you have herring eggs, discard them. Freezing does not kill this bacteria.
This is an ongoing investigation. Officials are collaborating with the British Columbia Center for Disease Control and other First Nations communities. Public health officials are testing the marine water samples, leftover food samples, and are assessing handling and distribution of the product.
Vermont officials seek public’s help in norovirus investigation
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/vermont-officials-seek-publics-help-in-norovirus-investigation/#.Wr2UL8-6xbV
By News Desk (Mar 26, 2018)
A Vermont restaurant linked to a norovirus outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people reopened Sunday as public health officials continued their investigation.
The Vermont Department of Health began the investigation this past Tuesday after numerous reports from sick people who had eaten at the Windjammer Restaurant and Upper Deck Pub in South Burlington, VT.
“If you dined at this restaurant between March 11 and March 23, please help us by taking the short survey below,” according to the state health department’s outbreak investigation page.
“The questionnaire takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Responses are anonymous. … Please complete the questionnaire whether you were sick or not.”
Health officials allowed Windjammer and Upper Deck operations to resume Sunday. The restaurant and pub were closed Friday and Saturday for cleaning and sanitizing. Norovirus is highly contagious, can live for long periods of time on surfaces such as tables, and can easily be transmitted via foods and beverages.
At least nine of the more than 50 people who reported becoming sick after eating at the Windjammer have been confirmed by laboratory testing to have been infected with norovirus. All of the sick people reported eating at the Windjammer of its affiliated Upper Deck Pub before becoming ill, according to the state health department.
Windjammer owner Tom O’Connell told the Burlington Free Press that there is no evidence the norovirus outbreak originated at restaurant, telling the newspaper it could have come in from a customer, employee or food vendor. “Norovirus travels in mysterious ways,” O’Connell said, according to the newspaper.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that norovirus is the most frequent cause of foodborne illness in the United States. It causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Symptoms of a norovirus infection typically begin 12 to 48 hours after being exposed.
The illness usually lasts one to three days in most people. Some people can become so dehydrated that they need special medical attention to receive IV fluids. There is no vaccine for norovirus and no course of treatment other than maintaining hydration.
HACCP Principle No. 5: Establish, execute corrective actions
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/haccp-principle-no-5-establish-execute-corrective-actions/#.Wr2UVM-6xbV
By Laura Mushrush (Mar 26, 2018)
Editor’s note: This is the fifth 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 company falls out of compliance with its HACCP plan, it becomes at risk for having to issue a food recall.
“A HACCP plan outlines things that must be done a certain way to prevent food safety hazards,” explains says Donna Schaffner, HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center South.
“In the event of a HACCP deviation which causes a food company to fall out of compliance, the company must be able to justify why the product is still safe, in order to prevent having to issue a recall.”
While some HACCP deviations can cause major food safety hazards, such as cross contamination or not following proper cooking procedures. Others might have no impact on the product but instead could jeopardize a company, such as when employees fail to document that procedures were followed properly.
When reviewing any given deviation, there are a few questions that apply to all food companies:
•“What was the deviation?”
•“What critical limit(s) wasn’t met?”
•“How long have you been out of compliance?”
•“Who caused the deviation”
•“How much product was affected?”
•“Who is going to record and ensure implementation of corrective action?”
“These are all things that need to be investigated when a HACCP deviation occurs, in order to establish the proper corrective action,” explains Schaffner.
“If there are multiple monitoring procedure points along the process line, they might be able to prove if a product is still safe, despite lack of one of those actions being documented according to the correct time-table.”
For example, if a critical limit monitoring procedure requires that temperatures of raw ground beef be taken every hour and the assigned employee misses the time window, any product that missed the temperature check must be segregated. The food company must, at that point, implement proper corrective action, which might be microbiological testing of sample of the ground beef to ensure it is safe before being released for shipment.
Food companies might also have the option to repurpose the product, for example in this case, the raw ground beef produced without the proper temperature records might be immediately diverted for cooking and used as a cooked product.
According to Schaffner, the biggest issue she sees when reviewing deviation reports, is companies failing to take quick action.
“Sometimes companies will just set the product aside, not take action and ship it anyway. Other times a company will put products on hold, but not segregate them properly,” she says. “It is essential that corrective actions are done quickly and effectively to ensure that the food which can’t be proven safe does not get distributed for sale.”
Food safety considerations for automated packaging equipment
Source : http://www.packagingdigest.com/food-safety/foodsafety-for-automated-lines-1803
By Gary Kestenbaum in Food Safety (Mar 26, 2018)
Food packaging safety contributor Gary Kestenbaum offers opinions on effective food safety practices when clients and equipment suppliers specify, design and integrate computer-assisted, robotic and other reduced resources/high-capability technology into food packaging processes.
The question arose recently as to whether migration to automation, robotics and artificial intelligence within product-sensitive industries (food, pharma) production processes increases or mitigates (product) risks to the health and welfare of consumers.
Like most everything else, the answer likely is both.
Many excellent technical articles describing food industry equipment construction and design standards are available online, so I won’t revisit that aspect of the subject. Rather, I’d prefer to address basic processes intended to address food and packaging safety through the application of comprehensive risk assessments.
Before we proceed, I’d like readers to know that I will be speaking on this subject of food safety in automated operations in a presentation during EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; New York City) on Thursday June 14 from 10:30-11:00.
A good analogy to the opportunities created by automation and robotics in food, beverage and pharma production might be the driverless vehicle. Supporters of the technology claim benefits that include consistency of operation and the elimination of operator variation. The robotic vehicle and control systems therein are not influenced by skills learned in driver education, compromised reaction times based on individual driver factors, driver fears, distractions, impairments and bad judgement. Therefore, stakeholders claim the ability to deliver a safe on-road experience in a driverless vehicle is positively influenced by consistency and uniformity and not negatively influenced by human over-reactive or unnecessary braking, improper observations, careless driving, distractions, substance abuse and so forth.
That rosy perspective is all fine and good until an unexpected catastrophe occurs, such as the shocking death of a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ, on March 18th who was struck and killed by a self-driving SUV outfitted with sensor systems, operating in autonomous mode. Making the event even more heinous was the alleged presence of a human backup driver in the vehicle.
In advance of that horrific event, I had planned to cite malfunctions, hacking, damage, equipment failure and false error notifications (from onboard self-diagnostic systems) as potential areas of risk within autonomous vehicles. Ironically, I also planned to mention the unquestioned value of redundancies and backup systems in place similar to pilots/autopilots in commercial aircraft, as though said redundancies would prevent the exact type of tragedy that occurred. That all changed following the unthinkable event in Tempe.
Partial automation with limited human oversight
Automation doesn’t remove human elements, it just changes the dynamics. Humans will still develop the project plan to automate based on economics, efficiency and productivity. Principles of risk and safety are still in effect: when specifying systems for food or pharmaceuticals, the project plan must include risk assessments, design safety, checks, balances and statistically defensible validation protocols. Whether engineers are designing manually operated or automated devices, each part, assembly, disassembly, adjustments, systems monitoring, sanitation and so forth needs to be considered, evaluated and included in a comprehensive written project assessment and execution manual.
The challenges regarding safety are then in the design, the operation, monitoring and validations (FAT) as well as a 50-shift commissioning defect-control timeframe.
Evidence strongly suggests that there are gaps in automated, self-driving car safety design and operation protocols which must be corrected to complement the application. The deadly accident in Tempe suggests that even the most sophisticated autonomous systems are exposed to design and operational errors and omissions which can lead to human harm. I’m hoping that this puts manufacturers and end users of automated, computerized and reduced-human-resource food and pharma packaging equipment systems on notice to reinforce risk and hazard analyses to consider weaknesses that might previously have been dismissed or underestimated.
Consider application risks and hazard potentials
When implementing and qualifying a robotic palletizer project, the expectation is low that the safety of edible product will be compromised. However, projects that involve the design and implementation of systems wherein picking, dosing, filling, sealing, etc. involves a comestible and its contact packaging, oversight and criteria must be based on an assumption that various hazards will compromise consumer health and welfare if not anticipated, identified, discussed, documented, mitigated or eliminated.
I recommend that equipment project managers take a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) or Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventative Controls (HARPC) team approach to food and pharma equipment automation and robotics project development. If a facility embarks upon a new, automated capital project with equipment to stage, store, convey, mix, dose, package and case-pack/palletize allergens or micro-sensitive components, the HACCP and HARPC risk analysis and food safety teams need to begin by fully documenting and mapping the process, end to end.
Manufacturing and installation engineers must, in turn, provide the safety team members with written evidence showing that each individual documented risk or hazard had been documented, explained, considered and mitigated (on paper) in principle. The design group would need to reconnect with the project engineers and explain how the designs met or exceeded sanitary design expectations. They’d need to explain how they concluded that the materials and design were “safe” and sanitary, within the contexts of the applications. If equipment designs or operation components are truly new (e.g., the self-driving car), is it reasonable to expect equipment supplier engineers to satisfactorily opine on the full gamut of risks and hazards?
Based on my experience, engineering companies are not necessarily trained or resourced to address all client food safety hazard and risk-related questions. Hazards and risks to comestible product safety depend upon many factors, and equipment fabricators may or may not have deep experience with your specific application.
Considering practicality and cost limits, very few clients are going to fund pilot test equipment that gets tested, torn down, redesigned, rebuilt, etc. multiple times before the final production version is commissioned. The experts charged with delivering safety are going to have to cobble together a process that takes some risks and judges some aspects of safety “on the fly” during limited and initial commercialization.
HACCP and HARPC teams are continuously challenged to answer both general and specific questions during the risk assessment process. Whether the equipment and processes are labor intensive or fully automated, the investigative and challenge questioning processes remain fundamentally similar. The technical Hazard Analysis team of cross-functional experts are the in-house stakeholders and caretakers for product safety, as they ponder how normal setup and operation of a process, including equipment, might be expected to cause or facilitate chemical, physical or microbiological contamination which would cause harm to human and animal users.
The general principles of an equipment and systems risk assessment and analysis remain consistent, but consider that participant competencies and expectations will adjust commensurate with project complexities. Not surprisingly, when equipment end-users or sponsors increase the complexity or risk profile of products, ingredients, changeovers, components, testing and so forth, the risk assessment oversight team has to adjust and address same, and is expected to do so with qualifications, knowledge, expertise and forethought. Creation of the process summary reference manual upon which the project manager will depend will reflect the same general objective: that is, the safe, effective and timely processing, packaging and palletizing of food or pharma grade product on sanitary equipment designed for the intended uses.
Considerations for new production lines
However, new operations with risk potential clearly in need of consideration include component sophistication, footprints, changeover complexity, reduced human oversight and so forth.
That’s what makes the risk and hazard analysis process so critical. If the project manager isn’t given a comprehensive summary of risks, design, oversight and maintenance criteria, the details are left to the judgement of those outside the client organization. Issues of materials composition and appropriate design standards will assumedly be considered and integrated by supplier experts, but the client risk assessment team members must do their homework and anticipate “what else or new can go wrong” in addition to the previously identified and considered calamities documented in existing prior risk potential summaries created by “the team.”
Typically, the food equipment client project manager responsible for executing the project is not an expert in technical disciplines of microbiology, sanitation, food safety and related. Rather, the project manager is tasked with coordination of efforts and delivering an on-time, in-budget completion. In my experience, each cross functional hazard analysis team member should prepare, promote and champion a discipline-specific food safety agenda and once the information and recommendations are disseminated to client management, the “baton is passed.” Recognize that in a marketing-based organization, management makes final decisions and if an aspect of equipment design results in a food safety failure, make sure that your recommendations were communicated so that you or your function does not “own that failure.”
Examples of functional hazard team responsibilities include:
The quality function representative should oversee the hazard and risk assessment teams’ creation of an accurate summary of process activities within which the equipment will function. Focus should be on sensitive ingredients, components, changeovers, sanitation and expected degrees of difficulty.
Maintenance should create a section describing how change parts, inspection, adjustment and other hands-on, maintenance-related activities are expected to occur within the normal work environment.
Technical research should speak to incoming, intermediate and finished product-in-package expectations, limits, variations, risks and in-specification quality.
Operations staff and management representatives should collaborate to document production oversight, human resources and criteria for safe and effective operation. It must be noted that new automation systems represent many unknowns. Therefore, training, oversight and communication must be coordinated within the operations function.
Engineering should explain and document how “new” equipment, components, controls, processes and footprints integrate and synchronize with existing infrastructure, in addition to their typical guidance for regulatory and client-specified design criteria (small parts, delamination, forbidden materials, NEMA ratings, clean-out-of-place (COP)/clean-in-place (CIP) designs, etc). Engineering might also own ideation for redundancies to improve safety and reduce risk (recall the self-driving car human operator example).
Food Safety team members should ensure that there is a draft HACCP/HARPC plan created to identify and mitigate physical, chemical and microbiological risks and hazards associated with the new process. They should also collaborate with maintenance counterparts to identify how best to inspect and approve safe production restarts following downtime for any and all maintenance-related activities.
Sanitation managers need to study documents and manuals supplied by the equipment vendors in order to understand and then challenge how the state-of-the-art equipment can and will be cleaned, sanitized and maintained to create consistent and safe consumables.
Accompanying maintenance, testing, changeover, sanitation, and adjustment manuals need to be written in plain-speak, including technical language and local jargon alike, so that every maintenance and engineering resource can understand expected, unified processes.
In summary, I recommend that the client engineers and project managers approach new and/or complex food equipment design and installation projects based on objectives, requirements and component knowledge designed to deliver safe products.
Every unfamiliar component of a process requires new learning, expert advice and tutorials, a thorough review and the expectations of previously unfamiliar errors, omissions and learning curves. Automation, sophisticated controls, artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art components will naturally add complexity and challenges to the food safety risk and hazard identification and mitigation process, but, procedurally, the process objectives remain consistent.
Many eyes watch cutting-edge equipment projects initially and a safe, steady-state condition is often not easy to achieve. However, at some point the system is expected to pay for itself by operating “at advertised speed” with reduced human oversight. Thus, all criteria for success used to rate product and process safety during factory acceptance tests and related statistical commercialization assessments need to be comprehensive, well documented and understood by all. Compare the process statistically to odds at the casino. Run the system for enough hours and the product quality results will match the true odds for an error. Hazards and risks do exist and product failures will occur. Long-term success will be proportionate to design efficiency, client oversight and the continuous application of expected suitable resources. High-end equipment will properly perform and sustain safe output of goods when it in kind has been adequately designed and is continuously reviewed, adjusted, supported and maintained through skilled oversight and focused documentation.
You can hear Gary Kestenbaum in person address the topic of food safety considerations in an automated production operation during EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; New York City) on Thursday June 14 10:30-11:00.
Gary Kestenbaum is an independent food packaging safety consultant with 45 years of experience in the food industry as a food ingredient technician with National Starch, a food product developer with General and Kraft Foods, a package developer with Kraft Foods and as a food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Timeline on Australian listeriosis outbreak has yet to expire
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/03/timeline-on-australian-listeriosis-outbreak-has-yet-to-expire/#.Wr2T6s-6xbV
By Dan Flynn (Mar 21, 2018)
Government banking on best case scenario; says there shouldn't be any new cases after May 4
A woman who lived into her 90s in the Australian province of New South Wales (NSW) has become the sixth fatality in a rockmelon-caused listeriosis outbreak. With her death, the outbreak’s fatality rate is approaching 32 percent.
Rockmelons, or what we call cantaloupes in North America, are again being sold in Australia. NSW Health officials say melons now being sold are free of Listeria monocytogenes, and therefore safe to eat. But the danger remains for anyone who ate rockmelon suspected of contamination before it was all removed from the market in recalls.
From initial exposure to Listeria to the beginning of listeriosis symptoms can take as long as 70 days. The high fatality rate and the extended incubation period are unique to Listeria among foodborne pathogens.
Here’s how Australia’s listeriosis outbreak has played out:
Jan. 17 to Feb. 9 – This is the range of dates for the onset of illnesses for the first 10 cases of listeriosis in the Australian outbreak. Health officials mobilized in all states and territories, with illnesses found in NSW with 6, Queensland with 3, and Victoria with 1.
Feb. 23 – NSW Food Authority warns consumers “who are most vulnerable to Listeria infection such as older people, and people who have a weakened immune system due to illness or pregnancy” to avoid eating rockmelon after a recent spike in listeriosis cases in elderly people has been linked to the fruit.
In the same media release, the NSW Food Authority also says an unnamed rockmelon grower in the province was “voluntarily” ceasing production after its operation and the illnesses were linked. For those not in a vulnerable group, the NSW Food Authority promises rockmelon sold after Feb. 23 was safe to eat.
Feb. 28 – Food Standards Australia New Zeland (FSANZ) announces it is coordinating a trade recall of whole rockmelons following a spike in Listeria cases linked to rockmelons. “Eating foods that contain Listeria bacteria do not cause illnesses in most people, but in high-risk groups it can result in severe illness and even death,” FRANZ says in the recall notice.
It also says the NSW Food Authority is working with the grower to remove its rockmelon from the supply chain “so consumers can be assured that the fruit currently available on shelves are not implicated in this outbreak.”
Meanwhile, an Australian Melon Association spokeswoman says rockmelon produced by all other growers tested negative for Listeria and other types of melons are not implicated in the outbreak.
March 1 – The first two deaths are reported among the first 10 confirmed outbreak cases.
March 2 – Growers and retailers hold “crisis talks” as Australian public health officials urge consumers to throw away rockmelons over the ongoing Listeria outbreak. The situation is reminiscent of the deadly 2011 listeriosis outbreak in the United States. That outbreak was traced to Colorado brothers who used dirty water in their packing shed and ultimately sickened 147 people in 28 states, resulting in 35 deaths.
March 6 – Two more deaths are linked to the Australian outbreak, with the total number of confirmed cases rising to 17.
March 7 – Douglas Powell, a renown Kansas State University food safety expert living in Australia, questions the effectiveness of the country’s rockmelon recall, charging Australian’s reaction to the outbreak is “weak.” He points out that the limited information getting out is called “misinformation” by Australian’s growers.
“Sadly, the number of dead and sick will probably grow, because Listeria has an incubation period of two to six weeks,” Powell said. “The melon you ate five weeks ago could make you sick tomorrow. This is not misinformation, it’s biology.”
Meanwhile, the growers ask authorities to name the implicated grower.
March 13 – NSW Food Authority says Rombola Family Farms, one of Australia’s largest rockmelon growers and exporters, is the source of cantaloupes with the strain of Listeria monocytogenes causing the listeriosis outbreak.
It says it is working with Rombola and the broader rockmelon industry as it works to recover from the outbreak.
The outbreak includes 17 confirmed cases, including four deaths.
March 18 – The death of an elderly man becomes the outbreak’s fifth fatality. The number of confirmed cases reaches 19, including that of a pregnant woman who suffers a miscarriage.
March 20 – A woman in her 90s from New South Whales become sixth fatality.
May 4 – Seventy days after the recall: No further listeriosis cases should occur after this date, according to the timeline established by authorities in Australia.
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