FoodHACCP Newsletter



Food Safety Job Openings

04/06. Food Safety and Quality Professional – Nampa, ID
04/06. SQF Practitioner/Dir, Food Safety - Beecher, IL
04/06. Food and Env Safety Supervisor - Seattle, WA
04/01. Microbiology Lead Scientist - Charlottesville, VA
04/01. Laboratory Technician, Probiotics – Madison, WI
04/01. Sr. Res Sci – Microbiology- Cedar Rapids, IA

04/09 2018 ISSUE:803

 

All victims in New Jersey E. coli outbreak admitted to hospitals
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/04/all-victims-in-new-jersey-e-coli-outbreak-admitted-to-hospitals/#.WsrALM-6zct
By News Desk (Apr 8, 2018)
An E. coli outbreak in New Jersey has a 100 percent hospitalization rate and is  possibly linked to eating at Panera Bread, based on patient interviews.
Although state health officials did not specifically name Panera Bread in an undated statement posted this weekend, local officials have told media in New Jersey that their investigation includes Panera Bread.
“The department is investigating a possible association with a chain restaurant, but the association may be broader than a single chain restaurant. The department is in the process of gathering food history data from those who became ill,” according to the statement from the New Jersey Department of Health.
All eight people confirmed with E. coli infections had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Three of them were still in the hospital as of this weekend. The sick people are spread across four counties, Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Warren.
State and local health officials are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the outbreak investigation. Laboratory test results were not yet available when the state health department posted its outbreak statement.
If the test results show the victims were infected with the same strain of E. coli it will be strong evidence that there is a common source. The CDC will conduct follow-up tests to confirm the results if the strains match.
“We’re working with the FDA district office in New Jersey and our own investigators to trace back sources of food the individuals may have eaten as well as looking at records such as invoices of vouchers of food deliveries made to any of the restaurants that may be part of the investigation,” according to the New Jersey health department statement.
Most people infected with E. Coli usually get better within about five to seven days, however, some infections can be serious or even life-threatening. Symptoms can include diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that people cannot keep liquids down and they pass very little urine.
In addition, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people, especially children, who are diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS develops about a week after symptoms first appear, when diarrhea is improving, according to the New Jersey health department.

FDA Orders Mandatory Recall of Triangle Pharmanaturals Kratom Products
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/fda-orders-mandatory-recall-of-triangle-pharmanaturals-kratom-products/
By Food Safety Tech Staff (Apr 6, 2018)
Earlier this week the FDA ordered a mandatory recall for all Triangle Pharmanaturals food products that contain powdered kratom as a result of Salmonella contamination. The mandatory action was issued because the company “refused to cooperate with FDA despite repeated attempts to encourage voluntary recall,” FDA stated in a release.
For more than a month, FDA has been investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections that were linked to products containing kratom, a plant native to Thaland, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Over this period of time, there have been several voluntary recalls by companies that provide products containing kratom: PDX Aromatics, Tamarack, Inc., and NutriZone LLC. All of these recalls were due to positive Salmonella product sample results.
Triangle Pharmanaturals, however, was not responsive to FDA’s requests to issue a voluntary recall, even after samples of products manufactured by the company tested positive for Salmonella. “In the course of investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections linked to kratom products in conjunction with local officials, FDA investigators were denied access to the company’s records relating to potentially affected products and Triangle employees refused attempts to discuss the agency’s findings,” FDA stated.
“Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA has the authority to order the recall of certain food products when the FDA determines that there is a reasonable probability that the article of food is adulterated or in violation of certain allergen labeling requirements and that the use of or exposure to such article will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.” – FDA
As of March 14, the CDC reported that 87 people were infected with outbreak strains of Salmonella in 35 states; 27 people have been hospitalized. And as of April 2, 26 different kratom-containing products have tested positive for Salmonella.
FDA is advising consumers to avoid kratom and all kratom-containing products, which have been sold in several forms, including leaves, tea, pills, capsules and powder. “There is no FDA-approved use for kratom and the agency has received concerning reports about the safety of kratom, including deaths associated with its use,” the agency stated.

Social Responsibility’s Influence Over Food Safety and Quality
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2018/social-responsibilitye28099s-influence-over-food-safety-and-quality/
By Wendy White, M.Sc.
The concept of social responsibility has saturated social media over the last few years and crept into the organizational pillars of many corporations. In its infancy, green/responsibility initiatives were often placed with the quality leaders, which was a fairly intuitive decision. Whether trying to make a better product or make the world a better place, social responsibility and food safety/quality (FSQ) share the common roots of striving to “do the right thing.”
Social responsibility initiatives have evolved, and today, many large companies have separate corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments. CSR encompasses a variety of facets: environmental conservation, community outreach, sustainable sourcing/animal welfare, good labor practices, etc. As this concept of “doing the right thing” has expanded over the years, its influence over FSQ objectives continues. Often, one will pay dividends for the other, although there are definitely circumstances where they come into conflict.
Food Insecurity vs. Expiration Dates
One of the most pressing problems facing our country continues to be hunger, and Golden State Foods’ director of CSR, Anna Lisa Lukes, shed some light on the true extent of this problem. “Hunger is a rampant and real problem for so many Americans that finding a solution to avoid food waste while at the same time feed children and families who would otherwise turn to food banks should be an ambitious aspiration for those who are in a position to make a difference.” It’s believed that one in six children, or nearly 13 million kids, in the United States is food insecure or may not know where they will get their next meal, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger. Feeding America estimates that each year, 46 million people turn to its network food banks for support.[1]
How can there be such a devastating problem in a country with so many agricultural resources? A large contributor is the enormous amount of edible food that is discarded every day. Forty percent of our total production, or 133 billion pounds of food in our nation, go to the landfill annually.[2] Sadly, that makes food waste the largest contributor to municipal landfills across the United States.[3]
It is alarming how much edible food is wasted in this country, much of it by people with a misconception about its wholesomeness due to an expired date on the package. These ubiquitous dates come in a variety of flavors: Use Through, Sell By, Use By, etc. The public has been trained to faithfully and regularly cull out-of-date products from their pantries and fridges, sending them often straight into landfills.
Many organizations, such as Feeding America, are actively partnering with major global food companies to provide aid. These industry players are committed to donating wholesome products that might not meet strict customer standards. Governmental agencies have also committed to aiding this cause. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, created the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. This initiative brings together government, industry, academia and nonprofits with the goal of reducing 50 percent of food waste in landfills by 2030.[4] The mission revolves around the three Rs: Reducing food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling and cooking methods; Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organizations; and Recycle food waste into other product streams (animal feed or compost). This partnership is making inroads with thousands of participants. In 2016, USDA released new guidelines on date labeling, encouraging the use of “Best if Used By” to eliminate consumer confusion and decrease the amount of wholesome product that is needlessly discarded.[5]
Congress is trying to take this a step further by creating two proposed pieces of legislation—the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act. These would offer possible solutions by reducing consumer confusion, simplify regulatory compliance for companies and cut supply chain and consumer waste.[6] Now that the problem has gained strong attention, the industry can start making changes to stem the flow of edible product into this country’s landfills.
The Integral Role of Sustainable Sourcing in Food Safety
There is a deep quandary around certain agricultural products, which are largely sourced from developing regions. Items such as herbs, spices, coffee and palm oil need a particular climate to grow in the quantities needed to satisfy consumer demand. Industry leaders have partnered with global outreach organizations, such as the Rainforest Alliance, and fair trade initiatives to propagate education to these developing areas. A report commissioned by the United Kingdom and Norwegian governments found that agriculture is the biggest contributor to deforestation, causing up to 80 percent of losses worldwide.[7]
Often, these areas of the world are largely rural and lack the strict agricultural practices and processing standards that have become common for developed nations. Large corporations, which often depend on developing areas for their raw agricultural materials, have gone so far as to incorporate a vertical sourcing system, working firsthand with local growers and processors to ensure that their products are being raised and processed in a controlled, responsible manner.
There is sometimes a lack of education among growers and misconceptions abound, such as “a little pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer is good, more must be better.” Some of these practices greatly increase the likelihood of contaminating product, which is grown, harvested and often processed in these regions. These practices (increased chemical use, lack of crop rotation and certain harvesting techniques) may eventually lead to devastating harm to the farms and surrounding countryside. The vertical sourcing system has greatly benefited the companies as well as the local people by giving them the knowledge and tools to become safer and more efficient farmers; it has also helped preserve sustainable agricultural practices. Initiatives to protect and preserve local resources will ensure that there will be a sustainable supply of raw materials for future generations to enjoy.
Another benefit to controlled sourcing has been less likelihood of food fraud. Unfortunately, cases of large-scale intentional adulteration have often come from these rural areas where the people are so dependent on crop yields and under extreme pressure to meet quotas. Close communication with local farmers, assistance with resources and firm expectations can aid in combating this risk.
The combined outreach efforts of these large corporations, global organizations and universities have positively influenced sustainable Good Agricultural Practices and food safety standards in every part of the globe.
The Contribution of Animal Welfare to Quality
Animal welfare programs were widely adopted after the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 was passed into law,[8] setting the stage for appropriate treatment of agricultural animals in the United States. Innovations in animal husbandry, transportation and slaughter have grown into an industry of their own. There are regulations, audits, consultants and experts devoted to animal welfare.
There are few in the protein industry who don’t recognize the name Dr. Temple Grandin, a huge proponent of this movement since the beginning of her nearly 50-year career. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, she was named in the “Heroes” category.[9] Grandin was one of the first scientists to understand the extent that visual distractions influence animal behavior. She is famous for saying, “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.” Her designs for processing facilities serve to decrease stress in the animal prior to slaughter.
Researchers, Grandin among them, have drawn conclusive links that animal stress preslaughter produces many quality defects in meat. Defects such as bruises, blood clots and blood splash are often caused by injury prior to processing. When herd animals become agitated, they can often panic others, leading to kicking, gouging and biting. Improper animal control can also lead to crowding, with animals often pushing one another against fences.
Body chemicals generated through periods of great stress also have a direct correlation to negative changes in muscular tissue. Ideally, a calm, well-rested animal has high levels of glycogen, a sugar found in muscle that produces lactic acid postslaughter. Preslaughter distress consumes this sugar, causing reduced lactic acid levels. This chemical reaction is responsible for major meat defects such as dark, firm, dry (DFD) and pale, soft, exudative (PSE). DFD is found primarily in sheep and cattle when decreased lactic acid levels raise the pH. This can lead to a dark, unpleasant color and unacceptable flavor notes. Extreme anxiety in pigs may lead to PSE, which results in lighter-colored meat, which has trouble retaining moisture during cooking and also may lead to decreased flavor. The resultant reduced glycogen levels lower yields and shorten shelf life by increasing spoilage (lactic acid retards microbial growth), which creates unnecessary food waste.[10]
Studies have shown a marked decrease in these negative meat attributes in animals handled humanely. Preventive measures, such as redesigned corrals and entry tunnels, have been added to much of the country’s processing facilities to reduce injury.[11] The meat industry has done a remarkable job embracing animal welfare practices, much of which is self-regulated through global standards and third-party audits.[12] Customers often make animal welfare programs a mandatory part of their vendor management policies, requiring their suppliers to have animal welfare audits in addition to the more traditional FSQ audits.
Clean Labeling: Does It Cause More Food Waste and Increased Illness?
What is more alarming than reports of poisonous substances in baby food? There’s been a trend of sensational studies in the media, many of which have been discredited,[13] which have shifted consumer focus, once again, to examining food labels. This time, they are analyzing ingredient statements, and much of the public does not like what they’ve found. The decades-old demand for organic, minimally processed foods has morphed into a true concern about hidden ingredients. Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives (really any chemical-sounding name) are the new four-letter words of social media forums.
U.S. companies are scrambling to find natural alternatives to artificial colors. The fact remains that many natural colors are not as bright or long-lasting as their artificial counterparts. Americans like the sound of natural ingredients, but will they stand for brown strawberry syrup or a product that has a reduced shelf life? Consumers have a high standard for aesthetically pleasing, long-shelf-life, convenient products that require short preparation.
The public doesn’t seem ready to hear that preservatives are necessary in some foods when there is no acceptable natural alternative. There has been a push to utilize alternative technologies such as high-pressure processing and ultrahigh-temperature pasteurization to grant that extra level of food safety. Some supply chains have been completely reformatted, going from an ambient-temperature to a refrigerated product in the hopes of extending shelf life, sustaining quality and increasing the certainty of safety.
In truth, no one is sure about the long-term ramifications of these initiatives, which have spurred many companies to reexamine legacy formulas and find new ways to ensure robustness (lowering pH and water activity, utilizing safer ingredients and new processing technologies) in the absence of certain chemical ingredients. This is a good thing, but it still remains to be seen if we see an uptick in foodborne illness outbreaks due to riskier formulation. As discussed above, it’s fairly certain that with a reduction in shelf life, we’ll be seeing more expired products make their way from pantry shelves into landfills.
Water Conservation: Can It Decrease Facility Microflora?
Facilities that begin a sustainability program often start with water conservation. It’s amazing how many little drips and leaks are collectively found around a large manufacturing plant, especially one that utilizes water in its process. Water audits often take the form of kaizen events (a series of small events attended by department leaders) that seek to identify and rectify dozens of plant leaks that often go undetected during normal operations. These may even extend to the annex buildings and surrounding grounds. The goal of these kaizen activities is realized over time when their accumulated effects lead to annualized cost savings in utility bills and relief to wastewater treatment plants.
The next facet to these water conservation efforts is often reducing water during traditional cleanup operations, which in many industries are the leading contributors to water usage. Anyone who has witnessed a third-shift wet sanitation cycle has experienced the sauna created when hundreds of gallons of hot water are poured onto equipment and surfaces to return operational areas to clean and sanitary conditions. Extremely hot, high-pressure water has always been the main tool to remove lipids and melt fat. Unfortunately, what often happens is that water is overused during these cleaning operations. It doesn’t take a trained sanitor to tell you that moving food particles around with a high-pressure hose is much easier than sweeping or removing by hand. It takes constant training and careful management to ensure that overusing water doesn’t become standard practice.
Using less water is undeniably good for the environment and translates to a real cost savings over time—a real “win-win” situation. There’s actually a third win in this scenario. Sanitation expert Dr. Jeffrey Kornacki has long maintained that utilizing less water during sanitation can actually improve the microflora of an establishment by eliminating wet niches that are ideal for biofilm development. Biofilms develop when bacteria congregate, secreting polysaccharides, proteins and glycoproteins to improve adherence to surfaces. Moisture is a key component. As this film develops, it also acts as a protective barrier to external stresses (heat and sanitizers) and gives the bacteria access to nutrients and an opportunity for genetic exchange.[14] A fully formed biofilm is extremely hard to remove, and many sanitation strategies stress the importance of prevention.
Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a quality assurance manager quicker than those two letters “LM.” Listeria monocytogenes biofilms are commonly found in manufacturing environments that host wet conditions. Increased concerns over domestic Listeria outbreaks over the last decade have triggered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to release guidance on reducing this pathogen in food production environments.[15] Sanitation recommendations are included in this document: proper drainage, minimal use of high-pressure water during operations and other means of reducing moisture in processing areas.
At a recent industry meeting, Kornacki outlined several methods as an alternative to or in conjunction with traditional wet sanitation. All these methods contribute to water conservation efforts, reduce moisture in the plant and can aid in reduction of biofilm development. There are several types of blast cleaning, in which some type of medium (soda, sand, plastic beads or dry ice) is accelerated in a pressurized airstream to strike a surface to be cleaned and lift debris. Another type of dry cleaning utilizes vacuum technology. Dust and debris can harbor environmental pathogens such as Salmonella. Traditional dry cleaning methods using compressed air can expand the spread of such pathogens. Modern techniques often utilize centralized vacuum systems and mobile vacuum backpacks to access hard-to-reach areas. Dry steam cleaning utilizes superheated steam (~212–240 °F) via nozzles to directly apply heat to surfaces, greatly reducing the water needed and generating almost no wastewater runoff. Many companies have started using dry sterilant gases (e.g., ozone, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide vapor) to accompany traditional cleaning.
Observing sanitation and noting how long water is used in a certain area is an easy way to begin a water-reduction initiative. Certain surfaces could be better cleaned utilizing a cloth and sanitizer/disinfectant, especially electrical boxes, control panels and areas around delicate instruments. This practice might be more labor intensive but will certainly be gentler on sensitive equipment. There are ways of possibly reducing sanitation labor. Including engineering/maintenance personnel to identify equipment that could be further broken down during daily or periodic sanitation can make this process more efficient. Trend your preoperational observations and microbiological surface testing to better understand your problem areas and make accurate decisions on the proper cleaning frequency in different parts of the plant. Once you’ve exhausted your in-house talent, sanitation consultants may offer further aid. Many companies bring in experts to streamline sanitation practices, including overhauling enclosed clean-in-place systems to ensure maximum efficiency and reduce use of unnecessary water and chemicals.
Collaborative Efforts
Lastly, both CSR and FSQ practitioners share an unprece-dented proclivity toward collaboration. Even among direct competitors, leaders in these fields are the first to share innovations, encouraging others to adopt best practices. In an extremely competitive business, there’s a drive for continuous improvement, not just for individual companies but also for the entire field. Conferences are held solely to share this knowledge. For example, the International Association of Food Protection brings industry leaders from around the world to share both wins and losses. Seeing an industry leader speak honestly about mistakes and what has been done to correct them presents a stark transparency that is rarely seen anywhere else. More than any other, these two disciplines are not seen as a competitive advantage. Often, harm for one company can have devastating repercussions for everyone in that industry through consumer avoidance, increased regulations or negative connotations of similar products. Both sectors have entire sessions focused on what large businesses can do to uplift smaller ones. There’s absolutely no advantage, just following the mantra of trying to “do the right thing.”
CSR initiatives are by no means found solely in the food industry, but they seem to have a direct influence over many facets of FSQ. Many of these coincide in a collaborative effort yielding positive results, but there are potential conflicts and pitfalls to be considered in others.   
Wendy White, M.Sc., is the director of corporate food safety and quality at Golden State Foods and is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine. She can be reached at wwhite@goldenstatefoods.com.
References
1. www.feedingamerica.org/.
2. Hall, KD et al. 2009. “The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact.” PLoS ONE 4(11):e7940.
3. www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm#ChampionsFAQs.
4. www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/Challenge/index.htm.
5. www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/
newsroom/news-releases-statements-transcripts/news-release-archives-by-year/archive/2016/nr-121416-01.
6. pingree.house.gov/foodwaste.
7. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/
uploads/attachment_data/file/65505/6316-drivers-deforestation-report.pdf.
8. www.nal.usda.gov/awic/humane-methods-slaughter-act.
9. content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1984685_1984949_1985222,00.html.
10. FAO Guidelines for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Livestock; chapter 2: www.fao.org/docrep/003/x6909e/x6909e04.htm.
11. www.grandin.com/welfare/intro.welfare.html.
12. www.nal.usda.gov/awic/animal-welfare-audit-and-certification-programs.
13. www.forbes.com/sites/kavinsenapathy/2017/10/31/the-clean-label-project-is-using-bad-science-to-scare-us-about-our-childrens-food/#779ac15271e9.
14. Jefferson, KK. 2004. “What Drives Bacteria to Produce a Biofilm?” FEMS Microbiol Ltr 236:163–173.
15. www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm073110.htm.

 

 


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City offers hep A vaccine subsidies to foodservice workers
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/04/louisville-officials-offer-hep-a-vaccines-free-to-restaurant-food-service-workers-in-kentucky-outbreak/#.WsrAWM-6zct
By News Desk (Apr 5, 2018)
Nearly 200 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Louisville, KY, since November 2017, so local health officials are offering $25 vaccines to restaurant and foodservice workers in an attempt to curb the outbreak.
The initiative was launched this week by the Department of Public Health and Wellness in partnership with the University of Louisville’s Global Health Center, according to radio station WFPL.
Public Health and Wellness spokesman Dave Langdon said the department is subsidizing the vaccines with its own funds and donations. A single hepatitis A vaccine usually costs about $65, he said. This program is designed to encourage employers to help pay for vaccinations en masse to get as many foodservice and restaurant workers as possible vaccinated.
Nationwide, more than 1,200 people have been sickened by hepatitis A and more than 40 people have died. The outbreak is concentrated in less than 10 states, with California and Michigan the hardest hit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the first injection of the two-dose hepatitis A vaccine provides 94 percent protection for two to five years. The second dose given six months later provides 99 percent protection for 20 to 25 years.
People can also dramatically reduce their risk of contracting Hepatitis A by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, and eating, serving or preparing food.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that, unlike other forms of Hepatitis, does not usually result in chronic infection. It is caused by a virus and can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months with life-long consequences.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by microscopic particles of feces from an infected person. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea and yellowing of the skin and eyes.
The infection can be more serious for people whose immune systems are compromised because of chemotherapy, pregnancy or other causes.
In Louisville, Against the Grain co-owner Adam Watson told WFPL that more than half of the restaurant and brewery’s employees received the vaccine this week. The company footed the bill.
“There’s obviously the human element of simply not wanting to inflict unnecessary misery on other people,” Watson told WFPL. “But, beyond that, there’s absolutely a PR nightmare that comes with being the place that infected somebody with hep A.”
Businesses with more than 20 employees can arrange to have “pop-up clinics” at which University of Louisville staff can administer the vaccines. Those with fewer employees can get the vaccines at the university and can call Dr. Ruth Carrico at 502-852-1324 to make arrangements.
Kentucky typically sees about 20 cases a year of Hepatitis A, but the Louisville area has had more than 200, with four new cases reported during this past the weekend. One person has died from the disease, according to previous reports from local health authorities.
Louisville is part of a bigger trend of outbreaks across the country, including in Michigan, California and Utah, where two deaths were reported Tuesday. Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness Medical Director Lori Caloia said the hepatitis A virus found in Louisville is a close match to cases in California. In terms of pathogen testing, a “close match” usually means more than a 98 percent chance the strains are the same.
“There’s many theories behind how that may have happened, whether it was a person traveling here, a homeless person who migrated to this area … but we don’t know,” she said.
“It’s easily spread in areas where there’s poor hygiene,” she said.
Last month, the city alerted the public after two food-service workers workers — one at a Kroger on Dixie Highway and one at a Denny’s restaurant in St. Matthews — were diagnosed with the disease.
Still, Caloia said, the people most at risk are family members and friends of people with hepatitis A, in which case proper hand hygiene and food-handling lower the risk.

How often should I renew my food hygiene certificate?
Source : https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/news/food-hygiene/2018/04/how-often-should-i-renew-my-hygiene-certificate
By Virtual College in (Apr 5, 2018)
Food hygiene certificates are extremely common in the food industry, and are essential for most employees. Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 Food Hygiene Certificates are the most often recognised in the industry, covering most things that people might need to know if they’re working with food. Unlike most qualifications, however, it’s generally considered that they don’t last forever, and need to be renewed. The question is, how often should this happen? There isn’t necessarily a definite answer, but in this article, we’re going to help clear things up.
What does the law say?
Food safety law in the UK, which also incorporates EU law, is surprisingly flexible, which is in some cases helpful, but also means that it’s not always entirely clear what is legally required. According to the law, anyone working with food in the UK should be adequately trained for their role. Technically, this could be informal training from a more experienced colleague rather than formal training, so food safety certificates are not actually required at all. As a result, there’s no legal requirement for renewal. However, employers must be able to show that employees have been adequately trained, particularly in the event of something going wrong, which is why food hygiene certificates are commonplace, and generally accepted as mandatory by the industry. Without an up-to-date food hygiene certificate, it is difficult to prove adequate training.
What do employers say?
Many employers will have their own standards for renewal in order to stay on the right side of the law and ensure they give excellent service, and as a general rule, the industry standard is to renew your food hygiene certificate every three years. In certain industries and with high risk employers such as the NHS, it may even be the case that most food hygiene certificates are renewed every single year.
What happens if you don’t renew your food hygiene certificate?
Failure to renew your certificate will have different potential consequences depending on your circumstances, such as whether you’re an employer, self-employed, or looking for work.
As an employer, failing to renew your employees’ food hygiene certificates could open you up to issues if something goes wrong. If a customer falls ill and pursues legal action, then it might be up to you to prove your employees are well trained. Similarly, food hygiene inspectors will expect to see well trained staff. And of course, better trained staff are more effective in their roles - refreshing training can be very helpful indeed.
If you’re looking for a new job in the food industry, then training that is well out of date is unlikely to be as valuable as recent training. If you’re really looking to impress potential new employers, then you’ll want to have an up-to-date certificate. This shows that not only do you have the necessary skills and knowledge, but that you’ve gone out of your way to make sure you do.
Of course, as an employee, or if you’re self-employed, you might feel that for your own peace of mind you need to renew your certificate. We don’t always remember everything that we’ve learned over a longer period, so re-taking the course and renewing your certificate could be a great way of refreshing your skills.
Renewing your certificate
Renewing your certificate means retaking a course and getting a new one. Fortunately, these can be taken online quickly and easily, which means that there’s really no need to delay. Virtual College is one such provider of food hygiene courses, and you can take any of the three Levels on our site.  Click here to see our full range of online food hygiene courses.
The Level 2 course: is the most commonly taken course, suitable for most employees in the food industry that aren’t in a managerial role. If you currently have the  Level 1 food hygiene certificate  it may be worth upgrading to Level 2.

What do Seattle’s restaurant window food-safety emojis really mean?
Source : https://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/what-do-seattles-restaurant-window-food-safety-emojis-really-mean/
By Bethany Jean Clement (Apr 4, 2018)
After starting to pop up last spring, emojis are now in the windows of 7,412 King County restaurants to indicate how good their health department inspections have been. But what should the various happy — or not-so-happy — faces mean to you?
Is it actually okay to eat at a restaurant with a food-safety rating of just “OKAY”?
It’s been about a year since the signs started popping up at Seattle restaurants. After extensive work by the King County powers-that-be, we finally got a window-placard health-department-rating system, just like grown-up cities like New York or L.A.!
Now every spot gets a display card with an emoji: an overjoyed smiley-face with a ready-for-feeding, wide-open maw for “EXCELLENT”; a regular smiley face for “GOOD”; a face with a reserved little sideways parenthesis of a smile for “OKAY”; and a flat-line, meh-mouthed face for “NEEDS TO IMPROVE.” Ratings are based on the last four inspections, the better to track a place’s performance over time; restaurants are also graded on a curve compared to those nearby (which caused some controversy, but here we are). There is no frowny face.
But how much should the restaurant-window emojis influence you? A reader named Dave recently wrote asking for advice. “I finally looked at the online info for the county’s system and was struck by the descriptions of the various rating levels,” he said. “An ‘OKAY’ rating is characterized by ‘many’ red-level violations as observed in inspections; ‘GOOD’ is characterized by ‘some’ red-level violations; and ‘EXCELLENT’ is characterized by ‘no or few’ such violations. By these standards, I feel pretty leery about any that are rated ‘OKAY,’ and even the ‘GOOD’ rating is not too inspiring.”
Dave noted that he and his partner have eaten at restaurants with just “OKAY” ratings of late without any ill effects. “Perhaps, though,” he wrote, “we’ve simply been lucky with these types of restaurants and will likely have a bad experience if we continue to patronize them.
“Is there a rating at or below which a diner may want to avoid the restaurant?” Dave asked.
Good question — and the answer is, as you might expect, it depends. First and foremost, for the immunocompromised, very old or young, or those in another high-risk group, sticking with the highest-rated places is the best idea.
Beyond that, the good news is that restaurants rated “OKAY” really are okay. They’ve been put on notice about their health-code violations and know they must work to fix them; they’ve received education from the health department on how to do so, sometimes with additional staff training. Dave mentions recently eating, happily and healthily, at two particular Seattle places with “OKAY” ratings: Seattle Deli and Ba Bar (the latter rated “OKAY” for its 12th Avenue and U-Village locations, “GOOD” in South Lake Union).
I eat at Ba Bar every few weeks, and have done so for a long time; Seattle Deli is my banh-mi go-to, and has been for years. I eat at plenty of places with less than excellent ratings — and all kind of restaurants get dinged for all kinds of stuff. After I recommended the much-lauded, upscale Bateau for a special-occasion dinner, a reader named Terri wrote back, “Sounds great, but why is the food-safety rating just okay? Not reassuring.” What is reassuring is our system’s transparency: You can look up any restaurant’s inspection history on the county’s website to see exactly what kind of violations they’ve had. In Bateau’s case, it looks like they’ve had issues with workers not wearing gloves (talk to a chef about this and you’re likely to get an earful on how stupid depending on those for hygiene is — gloves get dirty too), and with specialized processing (having to do with their cryovac machine). These inspections date from a year ago January and last August; Bateau also received an education consultation in December. I am free to go eat steak at Bateau tonight, if somebody else is paying.
All King County restaurants are regularly and rigorously inspected, and the system works well in preventing food-borne illness. Being in good health (knock on wood), I’ll eat at a “NEEDS TO IMPROVE” spot, too — and if the food’s good, I’ll go back. There’s no frowny-face restaurant-emoji for a reason: Places that get too many violations, places that are likely to make people sick, get shut down. As King County’s food and facilities manager Becky Elias told me as the new system was being implemented, “We address imminent health hazards by closing the business.” These businesses also receive education, and they have to show that they’ve shaped up in order to reopen. When they do, they get the “NEEDS TO IMPROVE” emoji (and there is no grading on a curve for that). All restaurants are “held to the same food safety standards,” Elias said. And a restaurant that’s trying to bring the smile back to its emoji’s face is highly aware of those standards.
As of right now, 7,412 of King County’s restaurants have gotten their emoji window signs, and the rest will have them by this summer. It’s been a long time since I got sick from eating out locally (knock on wood!), while the memory of the last time that happened abroad is horribly fresh (I can tell you that, um, vivid story sometime … or not). We’re lucky to have the system we have. Don’t worry — “OKAY” is okay. Happy eating!

FDA Issues First Mandatory Recall for Food Product
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fda-issues-first-mandatory-recall-for-food-product/
By Staff (Apr 4, 2018)
Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a mandatory product recall for any and all food products that contain powdered kratom--a naturally-derived supplement often used for pain relief. This is a first for FDA when it comes to issuing a mandatory recall order to protect Americans from contaminated food products.
The company on the receiving end of the order is Triangle Pharmanaturals LLC. Sample testing detected traces of Salmonella in the company’s kratom products.
FDA forced the recall after Triangle Pharmanaturals did not respond to FDA’s initial request to issue a voluntary product recall.
Under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency does have the authority to order the recall of certain food products when the FDA determines that there is a reasonable probability that the article of food is adulterated or in violation of certain allergen labeling requirements and that the use of or exposure to such article will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.
“This action is based on the imminent health risk posed by the contamination of this product with Salmonella, and the refusal of this company to voluntarily act to protect its customers and issue a recall, despite our repeated requests and actions,” says FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “We continue to have serious concerns about the safety of any kratom-containing product and we are pursuing these concerns separately. But the action today is based on the risks posed by the contamination of this particular product with a potentially dangerous pathogen. Our first approach is to encourage voluntary compliance, but when we have a company like this one, which refuses to cooperate, is violating the law and is endangering consumers, we will pursue all avenues of enforcement under our authority.”
FDA has advised consumers to discard all kratom products they may have in their possession. Brands and varieties that have been recalled include Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Emerald Green, Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Ivory White, and Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Ruby Red. The recalled products are not limited to just these brands, though.
Kratom is naturally derived from a plant that’s mostly found in parts of Asia. It is not approved for use in all 50 states.

How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program?
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/how-should-packaging-be-addressed-in-your-food-safety-program/
By Richard F. Stier (Apr 3, 2018)
How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program?
In the April-May 2011 issue of Food Safety Magazine, an article entitled “How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program” examined the role of packaging and potential safety issues.[1] The food package, whether it is the primary or secondary package, serves a number of roles: It protects the food, provides the consumer with information, helps market the food, warns customers of potential dangers (such as from allergens), provides a container for transport, allows the product to be tracked and traced, and can even provide evidence as to how a product might have become contaminated or spoiled. Packaging was described as being able to inform a consumer or user about how fresh a product might be. The conclusion was that food packaging was generally safe, primarily because all materials used in packaging are subject to approval by regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Food Safety Authority.
So, the question is, has anything changed in the past 5 years? Does packaging pose a risk, and how should it be addressed in your food safety management system (FSMS)?
Hot Issues in Packaging
Consumers have developed a fear of chemicals, which is not scientifically justified. The attitude of many is “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want it in my food.” This has led to the clean-label movement, in which food processors are scrambling to remove the unpronounceable ingredients from their labels, whether they are harmful or not.
Five years ago, one of the big consumer concerns was a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical used to make a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate, which has been used in many consumer products, including reusable water bottles and baby bottles. BPA is also found in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining inside metal-based food and beverage cans. In January 2010, FDA stated that while tests supported the safety of low-level exposure to BPA, more research was being done on its potential effects on infants and children.
By 2011, FDA scientists had determined that infant exposure to BPA through foods was lower than previously believed, but the agency still supported industry efforts to find an alternative to BPA.[2]
So, FDA has not banned the substance but understands that there are consumer concerns. Because of these concerns, packaging suppliers have been utilizing other materials in packaging.
Foreign Material Concerns
Do packaging materials pose a food safety risk for foreign materials? Packages are manufactured from glass, various metals like steel, aluminum, and tin, and a wide range of plastics and polymers. All of these materials would pose a risk if they ended up in the product, but what are the chances that they actually would do so? Quite low, but there are issues that should be addressed in production facilities.
The Institute of Packaging Professionals (IOPP) has developed a document entitled Potential Food Safety Risks and Possible Controls for Food Packaging Materials.[3] This document looks at all kinds of packaging materials, including fiber and labels. For each type of packaging, the document includes two columns: Potential Issues (Food Safety Implications) and Possible Controls (this list is not all-inclusive; alternative controls are possible). The introduction to the embedded table includes the following statement:
“Many of these hazards may be controlled by strong prerequisite programs but some may require being considered Critical Control Points (CCPs) in a HACCP plan or equivalent food safety focused control plan.”
Figure 1 shows a partial screen shot of this table, which can be found on the IOPP website.[3]
This part of the table was selected intentionally. Glass and glass contamination is probably the most significant potential physical hazard. This is why all processors must develop, document, implement, and maintain a glass and brittle-plastic program. For companies packaging in glass, this program is especially important. Glass packaging operations must have especially rigid programs to address breakage. Among the elements that their program must include is what to do when there is on-line breakage. Many companies will remove all product or containers within 6 to 10 feet of where the breakage occurred. Companies packing baby food in glass may have even more rigid programs. The concern is that glass shards may end up trapped under the lid of a perfectly good container.
Foreign Material Controls
Food processors utilize a number of different unit operations to minimize the potential for foreign material contamination. How these are managed and utilized can protect finished products from potential contaminants that, depending upon the contaminant, could pose a health risk. These unit operations include air washers, water washers, metal detectors, X-ray machines, magnets, cameras, scanners, lighting systems, and visual inspection. And of course, processors need to not only develop, document, and implement procedures to control potential contamination with foreign materials but also to make sure that these procedures are properly maintained. Maintenance requires management commitment to ensure that workers are properly trained, that they understand that their job is important and that records are not only maintained but also properly reviewed.
Air Washers — Air washers are used in many types of processes and with different packages. They are used with glass, cans, and plastics or pouches. The air washer performs two functions with pouches. It cleans the pouch and can ensure that the pouch is open prior to filling. Air washers must utilize filtered air to ensure that the air itself does not potentially contaminate the package. The filter should be designed to remove moisture and oil. As part of the maintenance program, filters need to be monitored regularly. In addition, a program for routinely changing filters must be established. Pressure gauges on the filter system also allow the processor to monitor filter performance. Processors should also conduct studies to validate that the air filter effectively cleans the package in question. As an example, some lines are designed to air-wash bottles of different sizes. Processors need to validate the settings for each bottle size. If the same setting is used for all sizes, make sure it is effective.
Water Washers — Cans and bottles (plastic and glass) are often washed. Wash water may be cold, hot, or contain a sanitizer such as ozone. One manufacturer of baby food with whom I worked established the glass-washing step as a Critical Control Point (CCP) in their process. Their washing step was a two-stage wash: a warm-water rinse to temper the glass and a second-stage wash done at 180 °F or above. The washing step also included water pressure as part of the CCP. The combination of water temperature and pressure ensured adequate washing of the jars.
As noted above, water washing should be validated. To validate a washing step, bottles can be seeded with glass chips or other contaminants. The bottles are then recovered after the washer, filled with distilled water and shaken vigorously. The water is then poured through a filter apparatus and the filter examined for the seeded glass.
Metal Detectors — Metal detectors are designed to detect all metal in food products above a certain size. The size of metal that is detectable depends upon the product and its package. Different types of metal detectors are available to the food industry. These include systems that pass the products through on a conveyor, in-line systems for liquids, and vertical inspection systems. Metal detectors are almost always designed to reject product found to contain metal, although there are occasional units in which the conveyor simply stops. Ideally, the best location for a metal detector is after packaging, which is why conveyor-type systems are so popular. If metal is detected, the package will be rejected. Of course, if your package contains metal, processors would have to adopt another type of metal detection system or utilize X-ray detection. If the metal was originally from the packaging and it is large enough, the unit should find the metal. However, the chances of metal coming from packaging being a hazard are probably quite low.
X-Ray Machines — X-ray technology has expanded rapidly over the last few years. It remains expensive, but costs are coming down. Most people associate X-ray technology with foreign material detection, but X-ray machines have other abilities. These include mass analysis, confirming fill levels, evaluating seal integrity, recognizing missing product and data logging, since not only is each container X-rayed, but also the photograph is maintained. X-rays machines can detect metal and hard plastics, both of which are used in packaging. One must remember that X-ray machines and metal detectors do not detect and remove all metals or other foreign materials. They are effective down to a certain size.
Magnets — Magnets have many applications in food plants. They will remove ferrous and nonferrous metals, but unlike metal detectors or X-ray machines, they can remove very small metal fragments including rust. Grate-type magnets and bar magnets are excellent for removing contaminants such as staples or clips that may be used on bins or totes. There is a reason why food safety professionals discourage people from using staples on bins, totes, or anywhere in the plant. A few inevitably end up in the product.
Cameras — Many processors employ cameras to scan containers prior to use in processing. They are often employed on can lines adjacent to the depalletizer. As the containers leave the depalletizer, they pass the camera, which is linked to a computer. The picture is compared with the standard. If the photograph deviates from the standard, the can will be removed from the line. These systems can detect can defects that might affect sealing, grease spots on a container or other defects.
Scanners — Electronic sorting or scanning systems are finding more and more acceptance in the industry. This is due in part to advances in sorting technology. These systems, whether using lasers, vision systems, or other technologies, will remove foreign materials but are really utilized more for quality purposes. Laser-sorting systems can also be used for cleaning up bulk grains, seeds, and nuts. This is especially important since bulk containers are often used for moving different products. I once watched a processor pass a load of red lentils through a laser sorter. Two passes through the system removed a significant amount of foreign material including corn, soy, and wheat. This technology could be expanded to detect packaging defects (see cameras, above). How effective such technology would be at finding small pieces of packaging materials would depend on the packaging material and the product matrix.
Lighting Systems — Many processors using glass or plastic containers pass the packaging by a light box. Backlighting the bottles illuminates defects, making them easier to see. This is especially true with glass bottles or jars. Defects such as bird’s feathers, inclusions, or bubbles may be seen. I have never seen a backlit glass inspection system that included an automatic rejection system. Processors using these systems must rely on a worker to do the actual inspection and removal.
Visual Inspection — Visual inspection may be used to detect defects as noted above. There are inherent problems with visual inspection. It must be done by people, who get fatigued. Talk with any food processor that utilizes sorting or visual inspection and ask them how often they rotate people on and off the inspection lines. Some rotate at intervals as short as every 15–30 minutes. They are aware that visual inspection and/or sorting is tiring and efficiencies drop sharply as people become tired. Visual inspection as a means for detecting container defects or contamination is not the best option. Perhaps the best kind of visual inspection is when products or packages are physically handled by a worker when loading a retort basket or tray. They can be asked to examine each package for delamination, damage, breakage, or other defects that might pose a health or safety risk.
Allergen Management
The Preventive Controls regulation that was finalized at the end of 2015[4] defines allergen management as one of the required preventive controls. An allergen management program is a complex, multidisciplinary program of which labeling is only a part, albeit an extremely important part. The allergen labeling regulations clearly state that all allergens must be clearly identified on the package. Many processors use a statement like the following after the ingredients statement to ensure that allergens in the product are clearly defined: “This Product Contains Milk and Soy.”
Many other statements are used, but the bottom line is to inform the consumer of what is or may be in the product.
One of the best tools to ensure that the right labels are used on products is a label management program. The food package and its label are, therefore, a first line of defense and an essential element for ensuring consumer safety. Label management consists of several elements, including verifying that the proper labels are ordered and delivered, ensuring that the correct labels are used in processing, which includes removing and destroying old and outdated labels, and verifying that these protocols are being followed.
A label management program might include the following elements:
•    All current labels used in production will be printed and placed in a master label file. The current labels will be dated when placed in the master file.
•    When a label is updated or removed from use, that label will be removed from the master file.
•    The master file will include a change section. Whenever a change in label is made, that change will be noted in the change section of the master file.
•    At the start of production, the label or labels to be used that day will be compared with the label in the master file to ensure it is accurate. This check will be entered into the production records.
•    During production, one label from the beginning, middle, and end of production will be attached to the production records to verify that the proper label was used. The date and time that the label was removed from production and placed in the records will be noted on the label itself. The person doing this will also sign or initial the label.
Processors must also establish programs to monitor label quality from receipt through use and/or destruction. Such a program might include the following:
•    When labels are received, quality assurance shall be responsible for ensuring that the labels received are properly printed and accurate. This shall be accomplished by comparing a random sampling of labels with the master maintained in the main office.
•    If the new labels match the master, they will be approved.
•    If the new labels do not match, the lot will be rejected and returned to the vendor at their cost or destroyed on-site.
•    A record that the lot in question was destroyed shall be maintained.
•    Once received labels have been approved, they shall be securely stored adjacent to the production area. The storage area shall be clearly marked as accessible to AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. Labels shall be marked with the date received. Labels used for products containing allergens shall be clearly marked to ensure that they are not commingled with other labels.
•    Labels shall be removed from the storage area as required by production. A log shall be maintained of how many labels were utilized and whether any labels were returned to storage. In addition, production shall attach a label to the production records to clearly document that the lot being packaged used the proper label.
•    If a label becomes outdated or there is a change in formula requiring the development of a new label, all old or outdated labels shall be destroyed. A record that the lot in question was destroyed shall be maintained.
•    Quality assurance shall conduct quarterly inspections of the label storage area. Any deficiencies in storage, usage, or recordkeeping shall be noted and subject to corrective actions.
The Global Food Safety Initiative and ISO 22000
In today’s food processing industry, third-party audits are a fact of life. Buyers expect that their suppliers will have been certified under one of the four Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)-benchmarked schemes, have achieved ISO 22000 certification (Food Safety Management Systems – Requirements for Any Organization in the Food Chain[5]) or been inspected using a private standard developed by a firm or laboratory. Processors should ask their customers what program they would like to see. If a company demands that a supplier adopt a GFSI scheme, the operation should be allowed to select the scheme that best suits them: BRC (British Retail Consortium), IFS (International Featured Standard), SQF (Safe Quality Foods), or FSSC 22000 (Food Safety Systems Certification). These schemes mandate that food processors employ not just a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan but also an FSMS. One element of such a program is that processors approve all suppliers, including packaging suppliers, and conduct a risk assessment on all purchased materials. This means ingredients, raw materials, and packaging materials. The expectation is that this risk assessment will include two elements: an evaluation of the severity of occurrence for all potential hazards and the likelihood that they would occur. The assessment for each type of packaging material should be recorded and incorporated into the FSMS. The results of these assessments would indicate that packaging materials are low-risk items. If the assessment said that a material was a high-risk item, the company should take steps immediately to find a low-risk alternative. The goal is safety across the board.
Summary
So, is packaging a significant risk in the overall food safety management system? The answer is no. The overall risk is probably even lower today with the emphasis on adoption of GFSI audit schemes or ISO 22000. The GFSI schemes and the ISO standard mandate that processors conduct a risk assessment on all raw materials, ingredients and packaging materials. And guess what? The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act has the same mandates, and most food processors the world over evaluate risk on their packaging. In fact, the final paragraph from 2011 still holds true today:
“Packaging is and will remain an evolutionary science and technology. It is a discipline that constantly learns from its mistakes and has evolved rapidly over the past twenty years. Take a walk through your local market and you will see packages on the shelves that weren’t there a few years back. One word of advice to the food processor, however; when looking to change packages or materials, look to a packaging professional for help. Go to your suppliers, a consultant or someone in academia who understands the science and technology of packaging. They can help you not only find the best materials, but can help troubleshoot problems and reduce costs. Seek to do it right the first time around.”
Richard F. Stier is a consulting food scientist.
References
1. Stier, RF. 2011. “How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program?” Food Safety Magazine 17(2):30–33, 67–68.
2. www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm297954.htm.
3. www.iopp.org/files/public/FSAP/FSAP%20Risks%20-%20Controls%20Pkg%20Materials%20May%202009.pdf.
4. www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334115.htm.
5. www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=35466.

The Reality of Intentional Food Contamination Threats
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/the-reality-of-intentional-food-contamination-threats/
By Robert A. Norton, Ph.D. (Apr 3, 2018)
The headline splashed across the front page of The Sun, a British newspaper known for sensationalism, had everything necessary to get the public’s attention. Entitled, “ROBOT WARS – Russia could use robots to poison food for ‘untraceable’ AI assassinations in ‘chilling new Cold War,’” the article included robots, war, Russia, assassinations, a brave computer engineer presented as an expert warning the world, and apocalyptic visions reminiscent of The Matrix.
Obviously, my critique is tongue-in-cheek, but the topic of intentional food tampering is deadly serious. Computer scientist Jeremy Straub said Russia conceivably could use robots for “untraceable” assassinations of state exiles. He added that technology could be used to hack into a meal-ordering system as a way to tamper with the food. Through the wizardry of artificial intelligence (AI), he suggested, ingredients could be switched; perhaps someone with a peanut allergy could be served a burger with peanut residue. The mistake would appear benign, he said.
The article is certainly timely, coming in the wake of the very public nerve agent attack, presumably by Russia, on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in London. Unfortunately, the suggestions don’t make sense when examined, probably because Straub or the article’s author are not familiar with the food business.
Claim 1: “…future attacks on Russian exiles could be untraceable because of artificial intelligence…” True, future attacks could utilize AI, but such technology is often traceable. A lot of sensational claims have recently been made about AI, but we are a long way from the time when we need to be concerned about machines taking over the world and killing all the humans.
Do the Russians need to use AI for accomplishing subtle assassinations? Not likely. If Russia was responsible, a clear and very public message was being sent. Russia is seldom subtle, and the message would have been meant for Russians in exile. The message: “Betray us and you die.” A possibly accidental poisoning at a fast-food restaurant wouldn’t be nearly as effective.
Claim 2:  This next claim is the whopper…or, pardon the pun, actually the Big Mac of all of the article’s claims. Straub notes that McDonald’s uses kiosks where food can be ordered, and then brings up the food allergy idea. Could allergens be used as a weapon? Absolutely. Are bad guys thinking about how to do this? Possibly. It is true that one of the big concerns in food processing is the intentional introduction of an allergen or other toxic material into the food chain. This could be accomplished remotely (via a cyber-attack), but more likely by the actions of a disgruntled employee on the inside (which has happened) or even a would-be terrorist (which almost happened).
To use the McDonald’s kiosk system to conduct an assassination would not make a lot of sense. The Russians would first have to compromise both the kiosk system and the larger McDonald’s cyber network, to which the kiosk system is connected. Luckily, McDonald’s doesn’t want that to happen and spends lots of time and money assuring that it doesn’t.
But let’s assume for argument’s sake that this improbable event has happened. The rogue AI system would then have to instantaneously track the order and cross-reference the McDonald’s payment system, positively linking the order (let’s pretend a Big Mac) to the targeted individual (let’s call him “Ivan”), who is being tracked by the Russians. The Russians also apparently know that Ivan likes Big Macs and has a food allergy, and the compromised system is just waiting for that moment when he orders a burger somewhere in the world. Then somehow, that Big Mac is compromised at some point between the freezer and the front counter by the rapid introduction of some appropriately aberrant ingredient (allergen, toxic material, etc.).
I may be wrong, but I can’t recall ever seeing any surreptitious delivery device for some mysterious but deadly powder or liquid attached to any McDonald’s food handling equipment, just for that one assassination. I think I am pretty safe in claiming that McDonald’s would frown upon any such device showing up in any of their franchise locations.
Sure, if Ivan were allergic to eggs, a Russian spy might get a job at McDonalds and wait until poor Ivan ordered lunch. Then he could stealthily substitute the ingredients from an Egg McMuffin for those of a Big Mac. That might be a bit too subtle for the Russians if they wish to make a public statement by assassination, however. And Ivan, being the smart man he is, might just spot the fried egg before he took a bite. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and a lot more efficient for the Russians to use a knife, a gun, or a rope to eliminate poor Ivan? 
So is the food system a likely target for the Russians or, for that matter, the North Koreans or the Iranians? No doubt about it. Those threats are real, but should they be realized, they are most likely to come in a time of war. Are allergens or other toxic materials likely to be used in such attacks? Possibly, but the introduction of toxic materials to the food chain wouldn’t be subtle. If carried out on a large scale, that kind of action would be an act of war and provoke massive retaliation by the U.S. once the source is traced.
Let’s hope that day never comes, but in the meantime, the food chain is best protected by the individuals and corporations who are part of it. Food corporations should never rely on the government as the first line of defense, but always consider themselves the first line. They will be ground zero for any attack, whatever its nature.
Planners of robust food defense programs have to consider all probabilities, leveraging resources in the order from most likely (disgruntled employees) to less likely (terrorist adversaries) to even less likely (nation states). Could the scenario in The Sun article ever actually occur? Well yes, it is not totally out of the realm of possibility, but certainly skirts the edge of impossible.
Rather than worrying about what might happen, food defense managers should invest their time in thinking and planning for what is most probable and likely. Planning has to then go the next step to actually doing security and defenses, rather than just talking about them. Security is an investment, not a cost. There are no guarantees in life, but probability favors those who are prepared.
Robert A. Norton, Ph.D., is chair of the Auburn University Food System Institute’s Food and Water Defense Working Group ( Website: aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense). He is a long-time consultant to the U.S. military, federal and state law enforcement agencies, and is editor of Bob Norton’s Food Defense Blog (aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense/blog/). He can be reached at nortora@auburn.edu or by phone at 334.844.7562.
DISCLAIMER:  Dr. Norton and production of this article were supported by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and the Hatch program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The article represents the personal opinion of Dr. Norton and does not reflect official policy or statutory related opinion of the Federal Government, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and/or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dozens on school trip sent to hospitals; norovirus suspected
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/04/dozens-on-school-trip-sent-to-hospitals-norovirus-suspected/#.WsrCTs-6zct
By News Desk (Apr 3, 2018)
Four dozen British teens and three adults ended up in hospitals in Washington D.C. this past weekend during a school trip that began in New York City.
Although all of the students and adults were not exhibiting symptoms, at least a dozen were so sick with classic food poisoning symptoms that public officials in the nation’s capital decided to send the entire group to hospitals as a precautionary move, according to multiple U.S. and British media reports.
Some public health officials speculated that the illnesses could be caused by the highly contagious norovirus. Most of the British visitors, from Crookhorn College in Waterlooville, were released from hospitals without treatment. The entire group was booked into the Harrington Hotel in Washington D.C. Most had returned to their rooms there by Monday.
Hotel managers and Washington D.C. emergency officials said members of the group were already sick when they arrived at the Harrington.
A mother of one of the teenagers on the trip told The Daily Mail that the group was scheduled to fly back home tonight, arriving in England on Wednesday morning. That return trip could be delayed, the mother told the British paper. She said her daughter collapsed and has been in the hospital on IV fluids, unable to eat.
Norovirus is extremely contagious and can be spread through foods, beverages, personal contact, and contact with contaminated surfaces such as tables and fixtures in bathrooms. It usually hits within a few hours to a couple of days after exposure. Classic symptoms are severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can quickly dehydrate infected people.

Vulto Creamery shut down because owner did not ‘understand’
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/04/vulto-creamery-shut-down-because-owner-did-not-understand/#.WsrCb8-6zct
By Dan Flynn (Apr 2, 2018)
Investigation into deadly Listeria outbreak shows company knew cheese plant was contaminated
A federal court has shut down the Walton, NY, creamery that last year was the source of a multistate listeriosis outbreak that infected eight people in four states with listeriosis, resulting in two deaths.
In a civil action, U.S. District Court Judge Brenda Sannes permanently enjoined Vulto Creamery LLC and its owner Johannes H. Vulto from any further manufacturing or distribution of food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found Vulto’s ready-to-eat cheeses are adulterated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono).
New court documents say that in the aftermath of the deadly outbreak, federal officials came to the conclusion that Vulto lacked the knowledge and understanding to make corrections and become compliant with legal requirements.
Vulto admitted there was much he did not understand, including the significance of environmental sampling, positive results or the need for a root cause investigation.  He offered only “several minor corrective actions.”
“L. mono is a serious health threat that can prove fatal,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Consumers should be able to trust that the food they buy is safe, and we will continue working with FDA to take action against manufacturers that employ substandard practices.”
At FDA’s request, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed for the permanent injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on March 19. The judge signed the order on March 30, and DOJ announced the action on today, April 2.
“The presence of this dangerous bacteria at a cheese manufacturing facility in Upstate New York is of grave concern,” said Grant C. Jaquith, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. “We will continue to use all available tools to ensure that our food supply is safe and violations of laws protecting public health are addressed.”
Vulto Creamery’s soft raw milk cheese was responsible for last year’s only multistate outbreak of listeriosis in the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Five of the eight ill people in the outbreak were New York residents. A Florida resident became sick after eating the cheese during a visit to New York. The outbreak involved one resident each in Connecticut and Vermont, and those were the two that died.
When Vulto Creamery was identified as the source of the listeriosis outbreak,  the recalls began. At FDA’s urging, Vulto first agreed to recall its Ouleout cheese on March 3, 2017. Four days later on March 7, 2017, Vulto expanded the recall to include all soft and semi-soft cheese. After further discussion with FDA, all Vulto cheese products were added to the recall on March 11, 2017. It further agreed on March 17, 2017, to destroy all cheese in its inventory or that was returned in the recall, and did so on April 5, 2017.
The new court documents shed new light on the outbreak investigation, including the many violations FDA found during its March 2017 inspection of the Vulto Creamery.
Investigators found the Vulto employees did not wash their lower or upper arms before submerging them in whey to stir and break up in-process cheese curds. One of those employees had multiple cuts and abrasions on his arms. Black mold was also found in various places in the cheese factory.
Other violations found by FDA included:
•Failure to manufacture and store foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms and contamination.
•Ouleout raw milk cheese from two different lots was analyzed and found to be positive for L. mono.
•Failure to perform microbial testing where necessary to identify sanitation failures and possible food contamination, as required.
•Vulto test records show that they conducted environmental sampling only 20 times between July 28, 2014, and Feb. 19, 2017, and that 54 out of 198 swabs taken from various locations throughout the manufacturing facility, including food contact and non-food contact surfaces, tested positive for Listeria.
•Vulto did not conduct an investigation to identify the species of Listeria and failed to recognize its source or point of entry/harborage at the facility.
•Additionally, Vulto did not conduct microbial testing of finished products after finding positive Listeria on food contact surfaces to confirm that the products were not contaminated with the organism detected by the environmental testing program
•Failure to use a procedure for equipment and utensil cleaning and sanitizing that has been shown to provide adequate treatment.
•Vulto repeatedly found Listeria throughout the facility, even after re-cleaning and re-sanitizing.
•Failure to store cleaned and sanitized portable equipment in a location and manner which protects food-contact surfaces from contamination.
•Clean, sanitized wood boards, used to hold RTE cheeses, were stored in the facility’s attic with exposed insulation and other debris.
•Failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination of food and food-contact surfaces with microorganisms and foreign substances.
•Wooden boards used for aging are not appropriately cleaned and sanitized. The boards have uneven surfaces which allow for the collection o f moisture and debris and are a potential harborage area for filth and microorganisms. These wooden boards come in direct contact with Vultro aging RTE cheese product and are used for other cheese products.
Failure to construct the plant in such a manner as to prevent drip and condensate from contaminating food and food-contact surfaces, as required. Specifically, condensation was noted dripping from the horizontal stainless steel cheese press bar directly onto the draining table below, on which molded cheese products are placed to drain whey. Dripping condensate in the processing environment can potentially facilitate the movement of pathogens and cause product contamination.
•Failure to maintain physical facilities in repair and in a sanitary condition sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated, as required.  For example, there was a heavy buildup of rust in multiple locations, including on white painted vertical support bars that hold cheese presses in place. These bars are located directly over a draining table, and rust flakes were on the top surface of the drain table where molds of cheese are set to drain. The rust was also on a painted white metal storage shelf used to store cheese molds, other equipment, and utensils, and on a stainless steel storage shelf used to hold boxes of wrapped finished cheese products. Also, there was a substantial buildup of black mold in multiple locations in the facility, including the cement walls in the manufacturing room and washroom with which cleaning brushes and storage racks come into direct contact. The concrete floors in the manufacturing and cheese aging rooms were cracked and pitted, with moisture accumulated in the cracks and pits.
•Failure to operate fans and other air-blowing equipment in a manner that minimizes the potential for contaminating food and food-contact surface. A fan in the attic, used to dry wood boards used for cheese aging after the boards have been cleaned and sanitized, had dirt and dust debris buildup on its spinning arms and face.
•Failure to take adequate measures to exclude pests from the processing areas and protect against contamination of food by pests. Specifically, a long piece of sticky fly tape, densely populated with dead insects, was observed hanging directly over exposed, uncovered RTE cheeses in defendants’ cheese aging room
The consent decree entered by the court permanently enjoins the defendants from violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Under the order, the defendants may not manufacture or distribute food unless they comply with specific remedial measures set forth in the decree.
Most of the 18-page consent decree outlines requirements Vulto must follow for the creamery to get back in business. Among those, Vulto must hire a qualified independent expert to develop an effective sanitation control program to adequately control for the risk of L. mono. Before manufacturing or distributing any food, defendants must first receive FDA’s written determination that their manufacturing practices comply with the law.

 

 

 

 

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