The Future of Food Safety: A Year in Review
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/feature_article/the-future-of-food-safety-a-year-in-review/
By Mahni Ghorashi (Dec 24, 2018)
We started this Q&A series earlier this year with a clear vision—to gather the success stories, best practices, hurdles and achievements from the best in our industry. Our hope is that as the series expands and evolves, food safety professionals everywhere will be informed and inspired by what the future holds.
Over the course of the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing three such experts: Bob Baker, corporate food safety science and capability director at Mars, Inc, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, and Mike Robach, vice president, corporate food safety, quality & regulatory for Cargill.
I encourage you to read the interviews for their unique perspectives, but here are a few of the biggest insights that we can all take with us into 2019.
The Continued Rise of New Technologies
Mike Robach: I am very excited about the application of new technology to our food safety programs. In-line, real-time testing gives an opportunity to manage our processes and make immediate adjustments to assure process control. This allows us to prevent product that is out of control from reaching the marketplace.
Frank Yiannas: The emergence of blockchain technology has also enabled food system stakeholders to imagine being able to have full end-to-end traceability at the speed of thought. The ongoing U.S.-wide romaine lettuce E.coli outbreak showed us, once again, that our traditional paper-based food tracking system is no longer adequate for the 21st century. An ability to deliver accurate, real-time information about food, how it’s produced, and how it flows from farm to table is a game-changer for food safety.
Blockchain has the potential to shine a light on all actors in the food system. This enhanced transparency will result in greater accountability, and greater accountability will cause the food system to self-regulate and comply with the safe and sustainable practices that we all desire.
The Most Exciting Shifts
Baker: What’s encouraging is we’re seeing is a willingness to share information. At Mars we often bring together world experts from across the globe to focus on food safety challenges. We continue to see great levels of knowledge sharing and collaboration.
There are also new tools and new technologies being developed and applied. Something we’re excited about is a trial of portable ‘in-field’ DNA sequencing technology on one of our production lines in China. This is an approach that could, with automated sampling, reduce test times.
Yiannas: While there is no doubt that there are numerous new and emerging challenges in food safety, the many advancements being made should give us hope that we can create a safer, more efficient and sustainable food system.
There is progress being made on many fronts: Whole genome sequencing is becoming more accessible; new tools are being developed for fraud detection; and FSMA is introducing stringent public-health surveillance measures that have dramatic implications for U.S. retailers and suppliers and our import partners.
Most importantly, consumers are now overwhelmingly interested in transparency. People today are further removed from how food is grown, produced and transported than at any other time in human history. Plus, they increasingly mistrust food and food companies due to the food outbreaks and scares we have faced in recent years.
Recalls and the Role of Regulation
Robach: I think FSMA implementation is going okay right now. There’s still a long way to go, and I am always concerned about making sure investigators are applying the rules and regulations in a consistent manner. I see the intentional adulteration rule as an upcoming challenge. It is one thing to conduct a vulnerability assessment and adjust your programs based on the results. It’s another to develop and implement a program that will prevent intentional adulteration as you would to reduce or prevent microbiological contamination.
I believe that food safety management programs are constantly improving and that our food is as safe as it has ever been. However, we still have a lot of work to do. At GFSI, we are continually improving our benchmarking requirements and increasing transparency in the process. We have better public health reporting and our ever-improving analytical technology allows us to detect contaminants at lower and lower levels. The industry is working collaboratively to share best practices and promote harmonized food safety management systems throughout the supply chain.
Baker: At Mars, quality is our first principle and we take it seriously—if we believe that a recall needs to be made in order to ensure the safety of our consumers, then we will do it. We also share lessons from recalls across our business to ensure that we learn from every experience.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a safe place for businesses to share such insights with each other. So although we are seeing more collaboration in the field of food safety generally, critical knowledge and experience from recalls is not being shared more broadly, which may be having an impact.
Baker: The food safety challenges facing us all are complex and evolving. Water and environmental contaminants are areas that industry and regulators are also looking at, but all of these challenges will take time to address. It’s about capturing and ensuring visibility to the right insights and prioritizing key challenges that we can tackle together through collaboration and knowledge sharing.
We’re looking forward to continuing our quest in the new year and already have a few exciting experts lined up. Stay tuned!
Re-visiting 2018 food safety Op-Eds
Source : https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/12/re-visiting-2018-food-safety-op-eds/
By News Desk (Dec 23, 2018)
Editor’s note: Since its inception a decade ago, commentary in the from of guest opinion-editorial, or Op-Ed, content has been an important part of Food Safety News. Hundreds of contributors have found a place in Food Safety News for their voice when they’ve had something important to say about food safety. Through the Publisher’s Platform, Beach Beat, and the Letter from the Editor columns, Bill Marler, Coral Beach, and Dan Flynn have also used this space to share their more opinionated thoughts with our readers. In this way, we’ve served as the town square for the food safety community by having something to say and encouraging others to do the same. Here’s a sampling of excerpts, in no particular order, from the opinion columns we published during 2018.
Eschewing obfuscation on poultry slaughter line speed
By Brian Ronholm Jan. 13, 2018
The key to understanding the complexities in the debate over the line speed issue for poultry production is to recognize that there is a distinct difference between the line speed for slaughter and the line speed for processing in a facility. While slaughter line speed is currently limited to 140 birds per minute (bpm), except for certain facilities, there are no regulations that limit the line speed for processing itself where birds are cut up and turned into various products.
More intuitively, another key point is that the work performed by poultry processing line personnel is incredibly difficult and ensuring the safety of these workers is of paramount importance. It is the intersection of these elements that is vexing the debate over line speed.
Four letters spell out the most significant food safety change in the past 25 years
By Dr. Richard Raymond Nov. 21, 2018
To paraphrase Nancy Donley, then executive director of the organization now known as STOP Foodborne Illness, if you look long enough and hard enough when investigating an E. coli outbreak, you will eventually bump into a cow.
In conclusion, PFGE (testing) does not reduce contaminated food being delivered to our retailers and our door steps, but it can reduce the amount available for sale and consumption by much more quickly identifying a source and initiating a recall along with notifying consumers and public health leaders.
The downside is that large numbers of sickened consumers and industry names lead to headlines, while the previously isolated cases of foodborne illnesses with no link to the industry did not.
And I think this bad publicity is contributing to the increased demand from the public for a safer food supply, which led to the Food Safety Modernization Act. Whether that will actually be another major development in food safety remains to be seen, but Congress and FDA feel mighty good about it.
Yesterday’s uninformed habits are tomorrow’s known threats
By Phyllis Entis March 25, 2018
In the 50s and 60s, there was no effective method to detect norovirus. Illnesses that today are attributed to norovirus infections were written off as “stomach flu” instead.
Some of the bacterial pathogens common today, notably, shiga-toxin producing E. coli, including E. coli O157:H7, are relatively recent mutations. The earliest report in the literature of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak dates from 1983.
Large-scale production requires large-scale distribution networks, including transportation of liquid ingredients in tanker trucks. A Salmonella outbreak resulted from the transportation of pasteurized ice cream mix in a tanker that had previously carried liquid raw egg, and that hadn’t been sanitized between uses.
Climate change also has played a role. For example, shellfish are known to harbor Vibrio parahaemolyticus. However, this pathogen is cold-sensitive and was not a food safety hazard in the waters off the coast off Canada’s west coast in the past. With the rise in water temperatures, Vibrio parahaemolyticus has been found more frequently in shellfish harvested in those waters.
Triple play: ‘Pro-choice nutritionist’ calls out produce guides
By Toby Amidor April 10, 2018
As a nutritional professional, I am frequently asked questions regarding purchasing organic or conventional fruits and vegetables. I am also asked about the use of “shoppers’ guides” produced and promoted by consumer and environmental groups that advise on which produce to buy organic due to residue concerns.
My response is that I am a “Pro-Choice” shopping advocate, which is why I am not a fan of produce “shoppers’ guides.” Whether you purchase organic, conventional, ugly or local, buy your produce at a grocery store, food cooperative, online or a farmer’s market, I support doing whatever works best for you and your family. I just advise consumers to eat more fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life because it is my job to promote a nourishing, well balanced diet.
These “shoppers’ guides” are a disservice to consumers and confusing because they are not based upon sound science and are often in direct conflict. A quick review shows one guide advises consumers to buy only organic of a certain produce item due to supposed safety concerns, while another guide recommends making the exact opposite purchasing decision. What is a consumer to do?
‘Lettuce’ count the ways the feds have failed at food safety
By Dr. Richard Raymond April 24, 2018
Yes, let us count the ways the federal government has failed to keep us safe from a foodborne illness.
First is the current, growing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to precut romaine lettuce. As of April 19, 53 persons have been reported ill from this bug, involving 16 states, with 31 hospitalized.
That is a 60 percent hospitalization rate, almost twice the normal, so this bacterium is an especially virulent strain. Maybe it could be called a super bug?
And what have the Food and Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control and Prevention to assure our safety? They have advised throwing out any romaine lettuce grown in Arizona.
That is a pretty big safety net. Why not name the brand and the stores it was sold in?
Oh, right, proprietary, confidential corporate information (CCI). Protect the companies, not the public.
Egg farmers not defined by bad actors; industry is safe, clean
Guest Opinion by Ken Klippen, National Association of Egg Farmers president, May 30, 2018
Today’s opinion article (posted May 26, 2018) by Roy Costa RS, MS, entitled “Rose Acres Farms: Another Bad Actor, or a Deeper Problem” deserves a rebuttal from the nation’s egg farmers.
Costa served as an expert witness for Marler Clark LLP when the 2010 Quality Egg Salmonella enteritidis outbreak occurred. Egg farmers today are providing a safe, wholesome egg for consumers while caring for the chicken and environment, so the title of his article suggesting a “deeper problem” is being challenged in this rebuttal.
Unfinished business: Keeping the focus on food safety
By Michael Taylor on July 9, 2018
In just the past few months, outbreaks involving romaine lettuce, pre-cut melons and Honey Smacks cereal have reminded us that the work to more effectively prevent foodborne illness is far from complete. People are still getting sick and dying, and markets are still being disrupted. Make no mistake, the commitment and effort are there among food safety professionals who work every day on farms, in factories and in retail settings to provide consumers safe food. And people at FDA and in state governments are working hard to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Beach Beat: Why wasn’t canal water tested months ago?
By Coral Beach June 29, 2018
If you’ve walked the Beach Beat with me you know how I feel about government workers: They make the world go ’round. …
What I don’t understand is why the canal water samples were not collected for testing until June 4-8. Yep. June 4-8.
Back on April 13, both FDA and CDC reported that romaine from the Yuma growing region was implicated in the outbreak.
“Epidemiologic evidence collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce is the likely source of this outbreak. Twenty-six (93%) of 28 people interviewed reported consuming romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started,” CDC reported and FDA referenced in their April 13 updates. “At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified. However, preliminary information indicates that the chopped romaine lettuce was from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.”
Maybe it’s just my calendar, but there were seven weeks of opportunity to test canal water — the most common source of irrigation water in the area — before the FDA collected samples. I doubt the rank and file investigators suggested that delay. Considering the fact that CDC scientists couldn’t start testing the canal water until they received it, their turnaround time for confirmed test results seems pretty darn quick.
But the question lingers. Why wasn’t the canal water tested sooner by government investigators?
FDA should choose public safety over corporate confidentiality
By Sharon Natanblut July 17, 2018
The FDA has an opportunity now to update its recall disclosure policy to provide consumers critical information they need and want to protect themselves during an outbreak. The agency can, and should, begin routinely identifying which retailers and individual store locations sold recalled food. This information will motivate consumers who have shopped in these stores to check their homes for recalled food and discard the food before anyone becomes ill.
That is the message that consumer groups, members of Congress, and others have been delivering to the FDA. Just last week, food safety lawyer Bill Marler wrote in his blog that “the time has come for the FDA to reassess what are considered “trade secrets” or “confidential corporate information” so that consumers can know which retailers have sold recalled foods.” He pointed out that the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has been routinely doing this for the past decade, “and the sky did not fall.”
Setting the record straight: USDA says your meat and poultry are safe to eat
By Carmen Rottenberg on August 29, 2018
You may have seen a Consumer Reports story claiming that the poultry and meat you purchase in the grocery store and feed your families could contain harmful drug residues. That is not true. This story is sensational and fear-based infotainment aimed at confusing shoppers with pseudoscience and scare tactics. Consumer Reports admits in their closing paragraph that the real agenda behind this piece is to convince Americans to eat less meat. Shame on Consumer Reports for attempting to advance a rhetoric that lacks scientific support or data, at the expense of American producers and the 9,000 food safety professionals who ensure the safety of meat and poultry in this country every day.
USDA has been ensuring the safety of meat and poultry since 1906, with inspectors, scientists, and experts making food safety determinations daily. FSIS has a rigorous drug residue testing program and has been conducting drug residue testing since 1958. When FSIS tests for residues, USDA inspectors collect meat and poultry samples at multiple points in the process, including in the final packages, before they are shipped to grocery stores. The samples are sent to FSIS labs, where we test for more than 200 veterinary drug and chemical residues as well as numerous harmful pathogens.
Our intensive testing process includes a preliminary test, or screening test, followed, when positive, by confirmatory testing. The screening instrument very often produces a response, which is why the agency completes the screening process, using controls and other evidence, to determine if the responses are confirmed and reproducible. The results of this initial screen, without the further testing layers, are the data that was released in error. FSIS scientists spoke with Consumer Reports multiple times to explain this information, but Consumer Reports scientists failed to evaluate all the scientific results and methods objectively.
Will the foodservice industry ever knock down it’s brick wall of denial?
By Francine L. Shaw on October 5, 2018
Day after day, I watch the list of foodborne illness casualties accumulate. As a food safety expert, I receive a ridiculous number of recall alerts and foodborne illness outbreak notices daily. And I watch in amazement as the food service industry continues to be in denial about our country’s serious, ongoing food safety problem. Things won’t get better until the industry admits there is a problem, and takes measureable steps to improve their food safety protocols.
In 2017, there were a total of 438 recalls, with the leading cause being the presence of undeclared allergens and mislabeled products. Nearly half the recalls contained known food allergens (i.e., wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, etc.) that were not listed on the product label – a serious (potentially deadly) issue for food-allergic individuals. Some misbranded products had serious errors on their labels. For example, the Food Industry Counsel reported one raw pork product was labeled as ready-to-eat (RTE) when it wasn’t cooked at all.
The second leading cause of recalls in 2017 was due to the possible presence of dangerous pathogens in RTE foods. Listeria monocytogenes was the number one pathogen found in recalled products, including hummus, protein bars, nuts, soup and waffles.
Romaine outbreak: Where should we go from here? Forward together
Editor’s note: Michael Taylor and Lauren Bush, co-chairs of the STOP Foodborne Illness board, combined efforts to write this column. Nov. 16
On Nov. 1, FDA issued its assessment of factors contributing to this year’s deadly outbreak of illness caused by contaminated romaine lettuce produced in the Yuma, Arizona growing region. This was the largest outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 infections in the United States since the spinach outbreak of 2006. Ninety-six people were hospitalized and five died.
In an accompanying letter to the leafy greens industry and state officials in Arizona and California, the Food and Drug Administration also issued a strong call to action, saying: “Bold action is needed to prevent future outbreaks, especially ones of this magnitude, and to restore consumer confidence in the safety of leafy greens available on the market.”
We emphatically agree. The question is what action and by whom. The key players are FDA, the states, the leafy green industry and food retailers – the businesses that directly link food producers with consumers. They all have roles to play. The cattle feeding industry must also be part of the conversation. Typically, multiple factors contribute to major outbreaks, but just as run-off from cattle grazing was implicated in the 2006 spinach outbreak, a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is implicated in the romaine outbreak due to the CAFO’s close proximity to irrigation canals and growing fields.
How Digital Checklists Drive Safer Employee Behaviors
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/signature-series/how-digital-checklists-drive-safer-employee-behaviors/
By ComplianceMate (Dec 21, 2018)
How Digital Checklists Drive Safer Employee Behaviors
Digital checklists and similar solutions may be the future of food safety in commercial kitchens, but food safety practices still rest in the hands of human workers.
That may give many restaurant managers and executives pause, given that employees can often be the weak link in the food safety chain. According to industry analysts at Alchemy Systems, over two-thirds (67 percent) of commercial kitchens say that not all of their employees adhere to their food safety programs. The main reasons include inadequate training and a lack of employee understanding of food safety practices.
Thankfully, implementing digital food safety solutions can help here too, by pushing—and, in some ways, forcing—employees to modify their behaviors in ways that make the food they prepare and serve safer.
First, digital checklists help workers become better at food safety.
Whether workers don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, or just plain aren’t doing it, basic food safety practices sometimes lapse. For example, an Environment Health Services study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “over half of those who cooked food did not usually use a thermometer to check if food was done.”
In a pencil-and-paper world, managers and executives have no way to pinpoint where—and with whom—such failures are occurring.
Enter digitization. With every entry on a digital solution stamped according to person, place, and time, it becomes a snap to zero in on problem areas and workers. With that information, restaurants can provide additional training as needed to ensure that every worker understands and complies with food safety practices.
Second, digital checklists help workers become better at their jobs.
Beyond triggering food safety actions with reminders, a digital checklist itself can incorporate feedback, visuals cues, and corrective prompts right into the app, so feedback can be instantaneous.
Is the employee about to miss the checklist? The system can send them or their manager an alert. Does the employee not know how to perform a check? The system can provide on-screen instructions, including visual images. Does the employee try to skip an item? The system won’t let them move forward. Is an entry out of spec? The system can prompt corrective actions (e.g., try re-stirring the soup to re-distribute heat, then temperature check again). Through this kind of repetitive education, the digital solution can drive consistent and appropriate behavior.
These features also mean that digital checklists can enable restaurants to be more cost-effective about how they utilize their workforce.
Specifically, at many restaurants, it’s the manager who conducts most checklists, because the checks may be too advanced or too important for an entry-level worker. But this pushes a mostly rote task onto one of the highest cost resources in the restaurant. With a well-designed digital food safety system that’s as simple as swiping and that incorporates instructions and prompts, lower-level staff can confidently complete checklists. That can turn even minimum wage workers into more cost-effective and resource-efficient members of the team.
Third, digital checklists help keep workers honest.
Doubts about employee integrity may be well-founded, particularly in a high-turnover industry where employee loyalty may be low. We’ve had customers whose employees would fill out checklists and temperature logs for the whole weekend on Friday. We’ve even witnessed employees scrambling to fill in and pre-date checklists when they heard that an executive or inspector was on the way.
A digital system provides controls against this sort of mischief. Employees can only access checklists within an appropriate time window, and their completion time is monitored to ensure they’re neither rushing through nor lingering too long. In short, digital checklists can virtually eliminate casual fraud (pencil whipping) that results from laziness.
Employees will change their behavior when they know they’re being observed or tracked. A study from Washington University looked at employee behavior at almost 400 U.S. restaurants and found that technology-based monitoring was associated with a 22 percent decrease in employee theft. This same principle applies to food safety. When employees know their actions are being recorded, they’re less likely to engage in fraudulent practices
Ultimately, digital food safety solutions can help catalyze changes in employee behaviors that benefit the restaurant’s food safety program.
By simultaneously making people accountable and making it easier than ever for staff to understand and correctly complete the food safety processes, digital checklists and similar solutions strengthen performance from workers who may be weak with food safety practices until they are equal to the best.
When working with pencil-and-paper checklists, you’re at the mercy of your workers. With digital solutions, every worker who uses the system becomes a consistent and reliable part of your food safety process.
ComplianceMate provides customized solutions to help foodservice businesses of every size meet safety compliance standards and improve operational efficiency.
Industry can no longer deny food safety vulnerability
Source : https://www.thepacker.com/article/industry-can-no-longer-deny-food-safety-vulnerability
By Tim York (Dec 21, 2018)
One of the great closing lines in a movie is from the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects.” The character called Verbal says, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
I thought of that memorable quote when we were in the midst of responding to the third food safety issue in the last 12 months tied to E. coli in romaine.
Too many companies and people pretend food safety problems in fresh produce don’t exist. Statistics are cited of how many servings of fresh produce are consumed absent known issues, and the relatively low incidence of illnesses. That’s like telling someone how many miles are flown in airplanes that don’t crash.
Statistics don’t matter if your produce is recalled, makes someone ill or causes death.
The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement LGMA program represents 98% of the leafy greens produced in California. It is a voluntary program informed by sound science, including research through a partnership with the Center for Produce Safety. While growers are not required to participate in LGMA, if they do commit, they are required to be compliant with the program requirements and be verified through government audits.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, should think that listeria, E. coli, salmonella, cyclospora, or another pathogen doesn’t possibly exist in their fields, on their machinery, or in their facility.
So far, one farm has been identified in Santa Barbara County by the Food and Drug Administration as a source of contaminated romaine. While I can’t speak about the practices on that individual farm, we do know this grower is not a participant in LGMA. Although LGMA cannot guarantee the safety of all leafy green crops, it does represent industry best practices and can be adjusted quickly to respond to new science. So why are only 98% of leafy greens represented? I can only speculate.
Perhaps a grower doesn’t believe all the metrics are needed, or believes their practices somehow prevent contamination. Or maybe the cost of program participation is deemed not worth the investment — but these arguments would be wrong.
In fact, while food safety programs like LGMA are voluntary for growers, they shouldn’t be for buyers. What buyer wants to buy product from a grower that isn’t publicly verified as following industry best practices? Beats me, but this buyer won’t compromise, and I encourage other buyers — both in retail and foodservice — to help enforce LGMA food safety practices by requiring their leafy greens suppliers to participate in the program.
It’s time for wishful thinking to be over, and the industry’s self-inflicted calls by the FDA for withdrawal of product to stop. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should think that listeria, E. coli, salmonella, cyclospora, or another pathogen doesn’t possibly exist in their fields, on their machinery, or in their facility.
The recent food safety outbreaks demonstrate we can no longer deny the existence of food safety vulnerabilities. Rather, we need to re-focus on an ongoing need to evaluate food safety practices. Joining LGMA, supporting research at the Center for Produce Safety and having a zero-tolerance policy on practices that could put consumers and our industry at risk is a good start.
Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA’s claims food in U.S. ‘among safest in world’ based on latest pesticide tests
Source : https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/12/usdas-claims-food-in-u-s-among-safest-in-world-based-on-lastest-pesticide-tests/
By News Desk (Dec 21, 2018)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture choose this week before Christmas to release pesticide data for 2017 upon which it declared the U.S. food supply is “among the safest in the world.”
USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary for 2017 shows more than 99 percent of the samples tested had pesticide residues well below benchmark levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2017, tests were conducted on fresh and processed foods including fruits and vegetables as well as honey, milk and bottled water.
AMS then partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on selected foods. For over 25 years, USDA has tested a variety of commodities including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products, and water.
USDA tests a wide variety of domestic and imported foods, with a strong focus on foods that are consumed by infants and children. EPA relies on PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to ensure that any pesticide residues in foods remain at levels that EPA has determined to be safe. USDA uses the data to help U.S. farmers improve agricultural practice and to enhance the department’s Integrated Pest Management Program.
The annual pesticide residue results are reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and EPA in monthly reports as testing takes place throughout the year. FDA and EPA are immediately notified if a PDP test discovers residue levels that could pose a public safety risk.
The 2017 data and summary can be found on the Pesticide Data Program page on the AMS website. Printed copies may be obtained by contacting the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Science and Technology Program, Monitoring Programs Division by email at email@example.com.
The pro-produce Alliance for Food and Farming warned the annual pesticide data will shortly be put to misuse.
“In the spring, consumers will be greeted with a very different message from activist groups who take this positive news from USDA and turn it into something, well, “dirty,” AFF said. “By manipulating and exaggerating the USDA PDP data, certain groups strive to cast doubt on the safety of favorite and more accessible fruits and veggies.
One of those “certain groups” is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has turned PDP data into its annual “Dirty Dozen” list since 2004.
“Fortunately, this tactic is losing traction and attention,” AFF says. “Among the reasons – peer-reviewed studies are showing that this negative and inaccurate messaging by activists results in low-income consumers stating they would be less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventional. Further, the science-based information found at safefruitsandveggies.com underscores the safety of all produce and the exceptional compliance level among farmers with the laws and regulations governing organic and conventional pesticide use.”
New Zealand unveils food safety campaign as Southern Hemisphere heads into summer
Source : https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/12/new-zealand-unveils-food-safety-campaign-as-southern-hemisphere-heads-into-summer/
By News Desk (Dec 20, 2018)
New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) has launched its summer food safety campaign. The focus is on preventing people getting food poisoning by urging the public to remember what the agency calls the 3Cs: clean, cook, chill.
Some foods, like raw meat, seafood, rice, and potato flakes, are more likely to carry harmful bacteria. Bryan Wilson, head of NZFS, said foodborne illness affects about 200,000 New Zealanders every year with around half of these cases occurring in the home. Campylobacter is the most common cause.
“Campylobacter bacteria occurs naturally in the gut of animals and birds, especially chickens. It can easily be spread around the kitchen from raw meat to surfaces and other foods, and it can make you very sick unless you use good food safety practices,” he said.
“The risk is greater in the summer months as the bacteria grows faster in the warmer weather. Another tip is that you shouldn’t wash raw poultry as this helps spread Campylobacter to the hands, clothes, other food, and contact surfaces. So no washing that Christmas turkey.”
As part of the clean advice, the agency said before preparing food and after handling raw meat:
Wash hands, chopping boards, dishes, and utensils in hot soapy water to kill and otherwise wash away bacteria and avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked food
Use a dishwasher or hot soapy water to wash dishes. Let dishes air dry rather than drying with a cloth towel
To wash hands use soap and warm running water, rubbing vigorously for 20 seconds, then rinse thoroughly
Always cover stored food – even in the fridge or cupboard. Cover food when eating outside, to keep out insects and bugs and use plastic film or foil to cover foods, or put into containers with tight-sealing lids.
Cooking requirements ensure food is cooked through to kill harmful bacteria:
Defrost frozen foods thoroughly, or they won’t cook properly in the middle. Defrost food in the fridge, or use the defrost setting on your microwave
Cook poultry, minced meats, and sausages right through. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures at the middle of the thickest part to make sure the internal temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius
Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within two hours. Cool hot food in small portions to speed cooling, then refrigerate in covered containers.
Reheat leftovers until they reach at least 75 degrees C and do not reheat them more than once.
Chill guidance to stop bacteria from growing in food:
Don’t leave food out at room temperature. Refrigerate cooked meat as soon as possible (within two hours) to stop bacteria multiplying. If in doubt – throw it out
Cool hot foods for up to 30 minutes before refrigerating to prevent raising the temperature of stored food
Keep the fridge clean, and wipe up spills immediately. And don’t overfill the fridge – this can mean some food isn’t kept cool
Separate and cover cooked and raw meat in the fridge and store raw chicken and parts below ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator
Meanwhile, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) is filming a frozen turkey defrosting in the fridge live on Facebook.
A turkey needs 10 to 12 hours per kilogram to fully defrost in the fridge meaning even a small bird of four kilograms will require nearly two full days to defrost before cooking. Do not defrost the turkey at room temperature. For more tips follow this link.
Dr. Jacqui McElhiney of FSS, said the live stream shows how long it can take to defrost turkey and the need to safely prepare and cook the Christmas meal.
“You should work out defrosting times in advance, so you know how much time to allow. If it’s still partially frozen, recommended cooking times won’t be long enough to cook it thoroughly. This means bacteria that cause food poisoning could survive the cooking process and make you ill,” she said.
How to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses from Occurring at your Organization
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/how-to-prevent-foodborne-illnesses-from-occurring-at-your-organization/
By Gwendolyn Capers-Wilson (Dec 18, 2018)
How to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses from Occurring at your Organization
Chipotle, once the darling of the fast food industry, has been experiencing a series of setbacks of late. At Chipotles financial heyday, the company was trading at a high of $742.23 in July of 2015, to $491.56 as of this writing. Is the lower stock price today reflective of their foodborne illness outbreaks?
My root cause analysis that seeks to identify the issues plaguing Chipotle begins with identifying the event (foodborne illness outbreaks), describing the end results (sick customers), contributing factors (company behavior), and then identifying the root causes.
The lack of proper training for line employees, failure to wash hands properly, vulnerable production processes during service, and questionable vendor management/oversight are what I have identified as root causes for the continued foodborne illness outbreaks at Chipotle and what may be the cause of the lower stock price that the company is dealing with today. All of these issues have combined for the perfect storm…sick customers, a lack of investor confidence, and the public wondering if they should give Chipotle another opportunity for their fast food dollars.
Looking back over Chipotles long history of foodborne illness outbreaks, I see that as far back as 2008, the Company had a number of foodborne illnesses occur across the United States, most notably in San Diego, CA.
Additional outbreaks included the following:
• Ohio, 2008, 500 people eating at a Kent State Chipotle reported getting sick
• California, 2008, 20 guests reported getting sick at Chipotle
• 2009, six states reported foodborne illnesses effecting 29
• Minnesota and California, 2015, over 161 reports of foodborne illnesses
• Massachusetts, 2015, 80 Boston College Students report getting sick
• 2017 Virginia 130 people were effected; possible norovirus outbreak
• Ohio, 2018, 700 guests report foodborne illnesses
So how did Chipotle address these food safety issues? Some of their food safety corrective measures included shifting some production normally done in-house to a centralized commissary for better safety control. They also have an alarm that goes off to remind employees to wash their hands. The sites undergo twice weekly visits from district managers, and processed vegetables are dipped into boiling water for at least 10 seconds to remove surface bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. A massive retraining effort was announced in August 2018 in response to the most recent foodborne illness outbreak. Chipotle also took a look at the vendors who supply all their locations with fresh produce, meat, poultry, and dairy products, and made changes if necessary. There was also a leadership change at the top in February 2018, when Steve Ells, founder and CEO since 1993 was replaced by Brian Niccol, former CEO of Taco Bell, deemed by his peers as a “turnaround expert.” On the surface, it looked like Chipotle made the appropriate changes in leadership and processes to address the continued occurrences of foodborne illnesses at the company. But were those changes enough?
Chipotle has been ranked #14 (Fast Food Segment) way behind its main competitors, Panera Bread (Ranked #11) and Taco Bell (Ranked #6). More importantly, this ranking appears to be a result of the many foodborne illness outbreaks, hence the struggle to regain consumer confidence has been a challenge. Apparently, Chipotle is still experiencing blow-back from the foodborne illnesses of the past, and they just don’t seem to be able to get a handle on food safety. So here we are, yet again with another, very public, foodborne illness outbreak at Chipotle. As of this writing, Chipotle has over 2,408 restaurants worldwide. It’s quite possible that the preventative/corrective measures were not enough, or were not sustainable overtime due to the sheer volume of locations that need to be monitored for food safety continuously requiring manpower and resources. Although Chipotle did not contribute to this article, I felt that perhaps a deep-dive into what I have identified as root causes will provide a starting point in identifying safety gaps in the existing food safety program at Chipotle. More importantly, a solid comprehensive and continuous food safety training program will empower line staff to recognize visual cues that could point to possible food safety breaches in their production environment. Here are the areas I believe Chipotle is the most vulnerable in terms of food safety.
Root Cause #1: Chipotle Employees
In a perfect world, any competent restaurant manager will tell anyone who will listen that food safety training should be on-going and continuous. However, turnover puts a serious dent in that very lofty ideal. As a matter of fact, according to Upserve Restaurant Insider and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the turnover rate in the fast food industry is 150% as of 2015, the highest since researchers began recording this data since 1995.” Factor in new technology and keeping employees off the mobile devices, and you have a perfect recipe for not making training a priority. Ask any fast food restaurant manager where training lines up in the never-ending list of daily responsibilities. Between opening and closing duties, cash handling/banking, register(s) reconciliation, receiving deliveries, placing orders to vendors, inventory control, physical plant maintenance (inside and out), preventive maintenance on big ticket items, transmitting weekly numbers to corporate, serving the customers, and any of the myriad duties that need to be performed daily, providing food safety training is a challenge for the best of managers. Now factor in turnover. You see where I am going here? Turnover, time, and technology are the biggest enemies of any organizations best intentions in terms of making food safety a priority. Restaurant professionals know that none of this is information is new. It’s just a day in the life of a restaurant manager…every day. So how is it that some fast food organizations do so much better than Chipotle when it comes to food safety? Although Chipotle’s process is much different than their competitors (everything is made to order according to customers’ requests), it may be a good idea to look at the “best practices” of its competitors and measure financial losses of foodborne illness outbreaks against spending company resources for foodborne illness prevention.
Root Cause #2 Proper Handwashing Procedures
According to the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, prevention starts by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and drying your hands on a disposable towel. Great start right? Well, the National Restaurant Association Servsafe Food Program really gives explicit directions on how to wash your hands to prevent the contamination of food, which leads to foodborne illness. By the way, Servsafe is the gold standard for food safety training certification nationwide. As for handwashing, Servsafe cites 12 instances in which restaurant employees should wash their hands before handling food. Most importantly, the temperature of the water for washing hands (with soapy water) should be at least 100 °F/38 °C. It’s also important to note that the use of a sanitizing solution is not a substitute for handwashing in a foodservice/restaurant environment.
Root Cause #3 Production for Service
In the Chipotle production for service system, are the hot foods being held in a steam table with the water temperature over 180 °F? Are the cold foods being held below 40 °F? How are the most vulnerable foods (the foods most susceptible to contamination) positioned appropriately on the assembly line? In terms of food safety, an organization must minimize and mitigate any opportunity for their customers to contact a foodborne illness. If that means revisiting a process and possibly changing what makes the organization unique in terms of a product, branding, or even a marketing strategy, that may be a price that has to be paid by the organization and considered as a cost of doing business. Simply put, placing customer safety (through investment of resources for training) above profits for investors. A long-term strategy for food safety will surely evidence itself in three ways: The customer service relationship between Chipotle and its customers will improve, and traffic may return if skeptical potential customers know the organization deems food safety priority. Second, corporate social responsibility, which is a big deal in the millennial and Gen Z worlds, can be exploited by a good public relations firm as Chipotle attempts to change negative public perceptions about food safety. Lastly, the true indicator of public perception: bottom-line results.
Root Cause #4 Chipotle Vendors
Vendors that supply products to Chipotle should be highly scrutinized. They should all be certified according to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, HACCP is a “management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards, from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.” Only vendors (who are usually third-party providers) that can meet those requirements should be considered. Site visits by the corporate purchasing team will keep them on their toes and can be a part of the company’s prevention and sustainability strategy. We have all heard of contaminated spinach, tomatoes, and lettuces that have made their way into the supply chain. Additionally, if Chipotle wants to source ingredients outside of the country, they have to understand that the food consumption requirements in this country are very rigorous. Inspect before you buy and visit the overseas plants and storage facilities to make sure they meet U.S. standards. Cost should not be the only consideration. There could be an opportunity to buy directly from farmers who grow the fresh produce used every day at Chipotle, who may be interested in entering into some sort of agreement with the organization, and who will give the organization greater control over its supply chain. This particular strategy will make investigations (if necessary) less cumbersome and complicated.
Chipotle should also consider the best practices of their competitors in terms of sustainability, and they should develop a productive collaborative approach with those involved with supply chain food safety.
The Chipotle line staff, the people who do the work every day, are the most important piece in the food safety agenda for the company and should be the major focus of any sustainable re-training effort if Chipotle is to reduce or eliminate foodborne illness outbreaks.
I’ve already touched on how tenuous it is for the in-house manager to navigate the day-to-day food safety concerns. Now factor in what should be continuous food safety training with call outs, employees coming to work sick (and possibly not being sent home), and not exercising proper hygiene (clean uniforms every day, daily showers removing your apron before visiting the restroom). These factors may be why these outbreaks keep happening to Chipotle and could happen to any organization that does not make food safety a priority. Going a step further, every single Chipotle employee from the top down should know the difference between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Every single Chipotle employee should know why children and the elderly are highly susceptible to foodborne illness. Every single Chipotle employee should know what anisakiasis is and what it can do to the human body if ingested. In other words, every single Chipotle employee should be Servsafe certified. Period. If your business is food, you should know how to serve food safely. Education about foodborne pathogens and the potential harm they can cause customers must be a priority in this corporate-wide re-training effort if it is to be successful.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, “the estimated cost of food safety incidents for the economy of the United States is around $7 billion per year which comes from notifying customers, removing food from shelves, and paying damages as a result of lawsuits.” Corporate resources from Chipotle would be better spent proactively developing and maintaining a safe food environment for its customers, rather than reacting to apparent lapses in food safety training, over and over again.
A foodborne illness can cause your kidneys to fail, affect your vision, cause paralysis, and may result in death. The long term effects of a foodborne illness could cause reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Guillian-Barre syndrome.
The net results of these outbreaks are a corporate image that keeps getting hammered, the loss of market share to its competitors, continuing to pay damages, and quite possibly endangering future profits for the company. There are already former Chipotle customers who will never return. A word of caution: If serving food is your business, make food safety a priority, or it will cost you.
Gwendolyn Capers-Wilson is a Hospitality Consultant and Event Planner with over 20 years in the Hospitality Industry. Her operational management experience with Marriott International, Aramark, Sodexo, and her Servsafe certification from the National Restaurant Association qualifies her as a subject matter expert on food safety. Gwendolyn has her M.B.A. from Johnson & Wales University with a concentration in hospitality and is currently the CEO of Capers-Wilson Hospitality Consultants.
Collaborative Spirit Drives Dairy’s Food Safety Commitment
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/december-2018january-2019/collaborative-spirit-drives-dairye28099s-food-safety-commitment/
By Scott Wallin
Collaborative Spirit Drives Dairy’s Food Safety Commitment
When Jeremy Travis chairs a meeting of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s food safety committee, he is not surprised by the collaboration in the room. Travis, vice president of quality and technical services at Hilmar Cheese Co., has recently taken the reins of the 16-member food safety committee that develops and shares best practices to continuously improve and advance dairy processing and manufacturing procedures.
“It’s a privilege to bring together experts from across the industry in a precompetitive forum,” he says. “The research and work that the committee engages in would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to do as individual companies.”
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was created 10 years ago by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), an organization that is funded by 40,000 U.S. dairy farmers and importers through the dairy checkoff. Dairy farmers pay 15 cents and dairy importers pay 7.5 cents for every hundred pounds of milk they sell or import into a generic dairy product promotion fund—the dairy checkoff—that DMI manages along with state and regional promotion groups. That money—with U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight—is used to fund programs aimed at promoting dairy consumption and protecting the good image of dairy farmers, dairy products, and the dairy industry.
Dairy farmer leadership of the checkoff saw an opportunity through the Innovation Center to unite the entire value chain around common goals and challenges, such as food safety, in a precompetitive setting.
Tim Stubbs, vice president of product research and food safety for DMI, manages the day-to-day priorities of the committee and its long-term goals. He sees the “convening power” of the Innovation Center up close.
“We have the top leaders and subject matter experts from across the dairy industry working together to solve problems and share solutions,” Stubbs says. “It’s like working with an all-star team.”
Commitment to Food Safety
Sharpening dairy’s food safety focus is not a new priority. In fact, the industry is built on decades of sharing through organizations such as the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc., and the International Association for Food Protection.
But the dairy industry also has seen the negative impact food safety issues have had on other categories, such as one of the worst in U.S. history involving the Peanut Corporation of America in 2008.
Dairy industry leaders, including Larry Jensen, who was president of Leprino Foods Company and chair of the Innovation Center at the time, and Mike Haddad, CEO and president of Schreiber Foods Inc. and current Innovation Center chair, wanted to make sure dairy heightened its food safety commitment as a result.
Committee member Edith Wilkin, vice president of food safety for Leprino, recalls Jensen saying the dairy industry needed to set aside its competitive interests and tackle food safety as a collective category. Jensen and Haddad felt strongly that food safety should never be used by a company as a competitive advantage and that a significant crisis could hurt everyone in the dairy category.
Together, they encouraged the Innovation Center to make food safety one of its unifying priorities.
“Larry was concerned that perhaps not as much attention or education was happening across the industry,” Wilkin says. “He began to talk with some of the CEOs who were part of the Innovation Center’s efforts, and they came away with the sense that we need to do something more intentioned in terms of training, education, best practices, and more outreach.”
Soon, that vision became a reality, and about a dozen leaders from different businesses left their competitive mindsets outside the doors of a Wisconsin hotel meeting room and huddled for the first time as a single industry. Wilkin remembers Tom Hedge, a former executive with Schreiber Foods, leading that first committee meeting and asking the room, “So, what kinds of problems are you seeing?”
His question was met with somewhat of a memorable thud.
“When you begin to talk about ‘here’s what I do sanitation-wise,’ those get very close to the vest and typically that’s not the type of information that is shared, even among friends,” she says. “It was awkward and difficult. However, the people we brought together were all in the quality food safety arena. Gradually, there was an opening up, which really helped.”
A Spirit of Collaboration
The Innovation Center is proving that a large, complex industry is stronger when it works with a collective spirit on important issues such as food safety. Led by CEOs and chairs of dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers, and associations, the Innovation Center provides a precompetitive forum for the dairy community to develop credible, industry-aligned tools and resources to advance U.S. Dairy’s long-standing commitment to social responsibility and continuous improvement (see “Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Food Safety Resources”).
More than 60 percent of U.S. milk production is represented by Innovation Center board members, including many of dairy’s biggest companies, such as Hilmar, Schreiber, Leprino, HP Hood, Land O’Lakes, Foremost Farms, Agri-Mark, Dean Foods, and Dairy Farmers of America.
Keeping cheese, fluid milk, dry ingredients, yogurt, and ice cream safe from pathogens has their full commitment. As a result, Wilkin says, the buy-in of that original food safety vision of “working as one” is today fully embraced.
“Some of the newer people who participate in the Innovation Center are somewhat shocked at how frank our conversations are,” she says. “We have a (dairy company) president who came from the soft drink industry and he said, ‘We didn’t talk to each other. I’m surprised at what dairy does through the Innovation Center.’
“It always amazes him. It amazes a lot of people.”
The committee follows several action platforms, including:
• Pathogen controls (Dairy Plant Food Safety and Supplier Food Safety Management workshops)
• Artisan/farmstead cheese food safety
• Pathogen control guidance documents (comprehensive Listeria guide issued; broader pathogen guide under development)
• Listeria research consortium
These committee members—Stubbs’s “all-stars”—are some of the dairy industry’s leading experts who focus on food safety for their respective organizations.
“These are people at the top of their field and they work for private companies,” Stubbs says. “The companies are fully committed to this effort and have given the committee access, for example, to the best pathogen experts in the world. Companies happily share the best sanitation experts, microbiologists, people with 30 years’ experience in equipment design, and other ‘internal’ experts for the greater good.”
The committee meets in-person twice a year and convenes for monthly calls. Stubbs says they share best practices, discuss workshops, and Listeria research. At the end of the call, they save time for open dialogue. This openness builds trust, and the sharing of best practices and insights, plus having access to an arsenal of experts with skill sets for any need, is what keeps the momentum going strong.
“As a company, we get to contribute, and when you give, you get to receive,” Travis says. “I used to be surprised by the collaboration, but you soon realize that we all live through a lot of the same things, and it’s easier to move faster when you understand them together. The research work we’re doing as a consortium would be a lot more expensive and complicated for us to do as individual companies.
“So, it’s really easy to align the Innovation Center work with my day job. I have a lot of regular interaction with the committee members and it keeps Hilmar from having to reinvent the wheel.”
Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Food Safety Resources
To strengthen manufacturing practices in all dairy processing facilities, advance science-based tools, and diminish food safety risks that could compromise the reputation of the U.S. dairy industry, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy provides workshops, tools, and guidance documents.
All materials are available at www.usdairy.com/foodsafety.
• Dairy Plant Food Safety Workshops – Design checklists, scientific reference materials, registration
• Dairy Supplier Food Safety Management Workshops – Risk assessment calculator, best practices guide, workshop registration
• Listeria Guidance for the U.S. Dairy Industry – Comprehensive guidance for manufacturers of all sizes, free online in English and Spanish: www.usdairy.com/foodsafety
• Spanish-Language Tools – Listeria guidance document, checklists, and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, examples available in Spanish
• Listeria Research Consortium
• Traceability Guidance
Listeria in the Crosshairs
One area the committee identified as needing an industrywide focus was Listeria monocytogenes. So, in 2015, the group created the Listeria Research Consortium that was built with funding from core dairy companies that chose to contribute and from another farmer-founded organization, National Dairy Council. To date, the consortium has raised more than $1 million and funded nine projects aimed at:
• Listeria controls in products and in the plant environment
• Listeria virulence research
• Surface-ripened and fresh cheeses
The Listeria control guidance document was another activity of the team. The guide, published in 2015 and revised in 2017, offers a comprehensive approach to controlling Listeria in the dairy industry. It was authored by 13 industry experts and reviewed by academic and government experts. Last year, the materials were translated into Spanish. It is available for free download at www.usdairy.com/foodsafety.
The Innovation Center’s ability to leverage processors’ expertise and best practices allows it to share broadly through several training workshops. Two trainings that deliver an effective impact are the Dairy Plant Food Safety Workshop and the Supplier Food Safety Management Workshop.
The Dairy Plant Food Safety Workshops are 2-day, hands-on sessions designed to cover best practices and uniform approaches to in-plant pathogen control programs. Thirty-eight sessions have taken place since 2011, and more than 2,000 professionals have attended.
The Supplier Food Safety Management Workshops focus on how to build a supplier quality program and mitigate risk from materials and services. These also are 2-day interactive workshops that reach an audience of quality, supplier quality, and purchasing professionals. Thirteen sessions since 2011 have provided risk identification and mitigation tools to more than 200 people.
While it’s dairy’s largest companies driving commitments such as these, Stubbs says committee members have a collective ability to look well beyond themselves. In fact, smaller artisan/farmstead cheesemakers also benefit from the Innovation Center’s heavyweights. The mindset is that companies of all sizes suffer when consumer confidence is lost, no matter who has an issue.
While artisanal and farmstead cheesemakers account for only a small percentage of U.S. production volume, the number of companies is increasing, multiplying the potential for risk. Stubbs said there are about 1,000 cheesemakers devoted to meeting this growing consumer demand, and it’s why the Innovation Center formed the Artisan Food Safety Advisory Team (see “Resources for Artisanal and Farmstead Cheesemakers”).
The Innovation Center conducted 21 training sessions from 2012 to 2016, reaching 750 artisan/farmstead cheesemakers and regulators. To make the materials more accessible, the Innovation Center partnered with North Carolina State University (NCSU), the American Cheese Society (ACS), and others to build an interactive online version of the course.
The course—“Food Safety for Artisan/Farmstead Cheesemakers”—includes five interactive segments focused on the importance of food safety, food safety hazards, preventive controls, regulatory considerations, and product/environmental monitoring. Additional training guides and resources are available at www.safecheesemaking.org, which is hosted by the ACS, and there is also in-person outreach to help companies write their own food safety plan. The commitment to the artisan community extends to research efforts as well.
“There was uniform agreement that the number one focus needed to be artisan dairy,” Stubbs says. “This is where the vulnerabilities are, but those [artisan] companies don’t have the same resources. There would not be much research funding for queso fresco or Brie because companies who make them are not big enough to pay for it. So, we steered much of our research funding to Hispanic-style and surface-ripened cheeses for two reasons: One, we have seen outbreaks historically in this category. Two, if you can help these products, it helps most of the rest because high-moisture, neutral pH cheeses are the hardest nuts to crack.”
Travis says it’s a commitment that is well worth the investment from Innovation Center members.
“We all have learned that when smaller players stub their toe and have an issue, the whole industry is affected,” he says. “We don’t just focus on a truly competitive mindset, where as long as we don’t have a problem, there isn’t a problem. If anyone has a problem, the whole industry has a problem.”
Resources for Artisanal and Farmstead Cheesemakers
To support the rapidly growing artisan dairy community, the Artisan Food Safety Advisory Team was formed to enhance food safety and pathogen control with clear, easily accessible resources and training.
• Food Safety Basics for Artisan Cheesemakers – Online food safety course through North Carolina State University, accessible anytime from anywhere: www.usdairy.com/artisan
• Safe Cheesemaking Hub – Centralized food safety links for cheesemakers powered by the American Cheese Society: www.safecheesemaking.org
• Hands-on Food Safety Coaching – Work sessions to help artisan and farmstead producers develop/improve their food safety plan: dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/programs/artisan-dairy-food-safety-coaching
• Ice Cream – Food safety hub and online class coming soon
• Support Hotline – E-mail support for artisan and farmstead producers: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Innovation Center has surrounded itself with experts beyond those from dairy companies. It has built many relationships across the world of academia, including those through the National Dairy Foods Research Centers. This program encompasses the resources and skills of a network of universities divided into six regional groups across the U.S.
Since 1987, the dairy centers have received financial support from dairy farmers and processors to collaborate with organizations such as the Innovation Center. Each center has its own proficiencies, such as the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center at Cornell University, which is a go-to source for food safety.
Dr. Sam Alcaine, a professor at Cornell’s Department of Food Science, is part of the Innovation Center’s artisan efforts and conducts research. He works with the Innovation Center and companies to help them understand the latest research and findings, which are always evolving.
“The challenge in the processing and ingredients environment is what we didn’t know before,” he says. “Twenty years ago, we didn’t quite know about Listeria and now we know about it and that requires different practices to be put into place.”
Alcaine has led workshops for dairy companies and their employees across the org chart, “from the executives on down to the linemen,” he says.
Much of his outreach centers on helping smaller companies understand and follow the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law in 2011. FSMA provides the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate how foods are grown, harvested, and processed.
In October 2017, Alcaine, with the Innovation Center, NCSU, and the University of Connecticut, secured a 3-year, $400,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This provided the resources to conduct FSMA-focused food safety plan writing and coaching sessions nationwide. The target of this effort is artisanal cheese, ice cream, and other small dairy manufacturers. Alcaine, with regional extension help, examines their food safety plan and provides coaching where vulnerabilities exist.
“Even before this grant, we realized there were gaps,” Alcaine says. “We then wrote this grant with the idea of bringing in food safety experts from academia and large companies, so we could sit with the artisans and help them understand a food safety plan and see the risks and understand what they need to put in place. A lot of times, these are one- or two-person operations and they’re wearing a lot of hats and it’s easy to drop the ball.”
In addition to the Innovation Center-coordinated classes, Alcaine’s outreach stretches to medium-size companies, where he performs audits to help them identify weaknesses.
“It’s really important when you understand there are problems that could impact everybody,” he says. “If we all have a ‘we’re in this together’ mentality, that drives funding for the science to figure out where the problems are and then develop solutions. And it’s not just for the dairy industry. A lot of the learnings we discover are applicable to other foods.”
When Stubbs reflects on the committee’s highlights over the last several years, the Listeria work bubbles to the top of tangible results for him. Yet, he offers a bigger-picture perspective. It’s the idea that people from competing companies have found common ground and camaraderie through the Innovation Center.
He never takes the uniqueness of it for granted.
“It’s pretty neat that 30 companies have been very active in food safety work, and they give us their top subject matter experts,” he says. “They let us have them 8, 9, sometimes 12 days a year, and when I talk to those individuals, they love doing it.
“We’re providing an outlet for sharing and collaboration that people are eager to do. It’s an opportunity that is safe and their companies support. It’s amazing how many volunteers we have and how deep they go and how much they work. It’s the power of getting all those great minds together.”
Travis has experienced an unexpected benefit from being involved with the group. He sees people from his company who have blossomed professionally by having a platform through the Innovation Center.
“Once you get them out of their plants, out of their offices, and get them in front of their peers doing a presentation or trying to convince someone that a different approach is better, you begin to impact professional development,” he says. “And that’s something that you hadn’t even thought about.
“I have seen a lot of people really put on a lot of polish as they have gone through the Innovation Center programs. That’s a nice benefit that we sometimes don’t talk about.”
Wilkin’s extensive knowledge base and strong voice have created a mentoring presence among her Innovation Center peers.
“I have Edith on speed dial,” Travis says, probably only half-kiddingly.
Wilkin, too, has a list of food safety accomplishments that she is proud of. There’s the Listeria Research Consortium…the various workshops...the thrill of discovering new knowledge together…helping the artisans…the best practices and guidance documents…the engagement with regulatory officials and academia…and so on.
“Are all of these things a surprise to me?” she asks. “I guess in thinking about being in a hotel meeting room in Green Bay, Wisconsin, way back when, none of us thought we’d get to this point and in pretty short order. We did our first pilot workshop in 2011, and a mere 7 years later, look where we are today with all these moving parts.
“When you think about the resources companies put into doing this sort of thing at a time when people are short on help, have too much work going on, and are dealing with competitive pressures—we’ve stayed committed to doing all of this together. That gives you a very warm feeling about the dairy industry as a whole.”
Scott Wallin is vice president of industry media relations and issues management at Dairy Management Inc.
Food Safety focus in New York
Source : https://www.producebluebook.com/2018/12/18/food-safety-focus-in-new-york/
By producebluebook.com (Dec 18, 2018)
Food safety is always at the forefront for any business dealing in food, especially highly perishable fruits and vegetables in New York.
With additional Food Safety Modernization Act rules going into effect, it’s even more top of mind for the merchants at Hunts Point.
Compliance has been a huge undertaking for everyone, but, after the trials and tribulations, some are truly pleased with the results.
“We’re proudly operating out of an SQF-certified facility, which is one of the highest food safety certifications,” says Stefanie Katzman, executive manager for fourth generation S. Katzman Produce Inc. “The SQF certification was something we worked hard at and is a great accomplishment for our entire Katzman team.”
Fres Co LLC has been working through its own food safety initiative, to receive Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point certification.
“This is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards,” says Charlie J. DiMaggio, president of Fres Co. “Our employees are both eager and excited to master the new regulations, which they will integrate into their daily work regimens.”
Adding HACCP certification only enhances the company’s commitment to food safety and its customers, DiMaggio says: “Fres Co prides itself on implementing safety measures to ensure a safe and quality product is delivered 100% of the time.”
This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.
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