Shipments of Foreign Fresh Fruit Recalled in 18 States
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/shipments-of-foreign-fresh-fruit-recalled-in-18-states/
By Staff (Jan 28, 2019)
Shipments of Foreign Fresh Fruit Recalled in 18 States
Fresh peaches, nectarines, and plums shipped across the U.S. are being recalled due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recall notice indicates that the country of origin for a portion of the fresh produce is Chile.
The company issuing the recall is Yonkers, NY-based Jac. Vandenberg, Inc. According to the company’s website, they receive in excess of 12 million boxes of premium quality fresh produce each year from 11 different countries spanning 6 continents.
The recall includes:
1,727 cartons of fresh peaches
1,207 cartons of fresh nectarines
365 cartons of fresh plums
The fruits were distributed to retailers in 18 states.
Produce recalled: Nectarines, peaches, plums
States affected: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
Produce recalled: Nectarines
States affected: California
Retailer: Fairway Market
Produce recalled: Nectarines, peaches
States affected: New York
Produce recalled: Peaches
States affected: Maine
Retailer: Market Basket
Produce recalled: Nectarines, peaches
States affected: Massachusetts
Produce recalled: Nectarines, peaches
States affected: Nectarines in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia; peaches in Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia)
The recall was the result of a routine sampling program by the packing house which revealed that the finished products contained Listeria bacteria. The company has ceased the distribution of the product as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Jac. Vandenberg continue their investigation as to what caused the problem.
No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this recall.
Mastering the challenge of food safety in this era of globalization
Source : https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/78333/safety-globalisation/
By .newfoodmagazine.com (Jan 24, 2019)
With food safety a continuing priority in this era of globalisation, leaders are looking at how we can ensure it is handled as seamlessly as possible, from farm to fork.
The Director-General of the Swedish food authority Livsmedelsverket, Dr Annica Sohlström, and the President of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Professor Andreas Hensel, agreed on close cooperation in future in the field of food safety.
The cooperation agreement was signed at Livsmedelsverket’s head office in Uppsala. The main focus of the cooperation lies in the development and further development of food analysis methods, in particular screening and standard methods for detecting contaminants.
“Against the backdrop of increasingly globalised trading in fish and seafood, for example, we need easy-to-use routine methods for detecting marine biotoxins which will stand up in court,” said Professor Hensel when signing the cooperation agreement.
The BfR and Livsmedelsverket will also be collaborating to develop strategies to minimise antimicrobial resistance in livestock and to support risk communication through graphic information instruments.
Accordingly, the Swedish experts showed great interest in the BfR risk profiles prepared by the BfR in the course of mostly complex opinions, the goal of which is to illustrate the health risks of foods and consumer articles at a glance and in a manner understandable to non-professionals. With the Risk Thermometer, an instrument has been developed at Livsmedelsverket which allows the risk assessor to evaluate and classify the risks of the substances contained in foods comparatively and categorise them according to their relevance for the consumer.
Within the scope of the cooperation, the BfR will examine the extent to which the Risk Thermometer is suitable as an instrument to contribute towards a more precise and valid presentation of the risks in a risk profile.
Other thematic areas which it will be possible to deal with jointly in future are to be identified at specialised conferences involving scientists of both institutions. The exchange of experiences and knowledge among experts and corresponding workshops on individual specialised issues are intended to deepen cooperation in future.
Computer program aids food safety experts with pathogen testing
Source : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190124124747.htm
By Cornell University (Jan 24, 2019)
An innovative computer program could be a big help for food safety professionals working to keep production facilities free of food-borne pathogens.
Cornell University scientists have developed a computer program, Environmental Monitoring With an Agent-Based Model of Listeria (EnABLe), to simulate the most likely locations in a processing facility where the deadly food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes might be found. Food safety managers may then test those areas for the bacteria's presence, adding an important tool to prevent food contamination and human exposure to the pathogen through tainted food
The computer model, which is described in the Jan. 24 issue of Scientific Reports, has the potential to be modified for a wide range of microbes and locations.
"The goal is to build a decision-support tool for control of any pathogen in any complex environment," said Renata Ivanek, associate professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences and senior author of the paper. The study was funded by the Frozen Food Foundation through a grant to Martin Wiedmann, professor of food science, who is also a co-author of the paper.
The researchers, including first author Claire Zoellner, a postdoctoral research associate in Ivanek's lab, want to eventually apply the framework to identifying contamination from pathogens that cause hospital-acquired infections in veterinary hospitals or E. coli bacteria in fruit and vegetable processing plants.
Food safety professionals at processing facilities keep regular schedules for pathogen testing. They rely on their own expertise and knowledge of the building to determine where to swab for samples.
"Whenever we have an environment that is complex, we always have to rely on expert opinion and general rules for this system, or this company, but what we're trying to offer is a way to make this more quantitative and systematic by creating this digital reality," Ivanek said.
For the system to work, Zoellner, Ivanek and colleagues entered all relevant data into the model -- including historical perspectives, expert feedback, details of the equipment used and its cleaning schedule, the jobs people do, and materials and people who enter from outside the facility.
"A computer model like EnABLe connects those data to help answer questions related to changes in contamination risks, potential sources of contamination and approaches for risk mitigation and management," Zoellner said.
"A single person could never keep track of all that information, but if we run this model on a computer, we can have in one iteration a distribution of Listeria across equipment after one week. And every time you run it, it will be different and collectively predict a range of possible outcomes," Ivanek said.
The paper describes a model system that traces Listeria species on equipment and surfaces in a cold-smoked salmon facility. Simulations revealed contamination dynamics and risks for Listeria contamination on equipment surfaces. Furthermore, the insights gained from seeing patterns in the areas where Listeria is predicted can inform the design of food processing plants and Listeria-monitoring programs. In the future, the model will be applied to frozen food facilities.
Food-borne Listeria monocytogenes infects about 1,600 people in the U.S. each year with flu-like symptoms, with about one in five of those infections ending in death.
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Can Silicon Valley save food safety? Maybe, but not with online reviews alone
Source : https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/01/can-silicon-valley-save-food-safety-maybe-but-not-with-online-reviews-alone/
By Guest Contributor (Jan 23, 2019)
An emerging body of scholarship argues that machine learning and artificial intelligence can solve food safety enforcement. By mining tweets and Yelp reviews, health departments can target inspections more effectively. With much fanfare, health departments in Boston, New York City, Las Vegas and Chicago have experimented with using social media to send allocate enforcement resources to restaurants predicted to be non-compliant. As the Atlantic put it, predictive policing means “Yelp might clean up the restaurant industry.” Yelp’s CEO immodestly proclaimed, “Online reviews could beat ‘gold standard’ healthcare measures.”
Yet one of the biggest questions about the rise of artificial intelligence is about its potential to exacerbate bias. Kate Crawford provocatively described it as “Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem” in the New York Times. For instance, when Boston introduced its StreetBump app to detect potholes using smartphone sensors, municipal resources were disproportionately deployed to wealthier areas, where smartphone penetration was higher.
Food safety poses the same risk of blind spots when health departments start using social media data. The reason is twofold. First, the typical incubation period for foodborne illnesses is days, not hours. The most common mistake is to attribute food poisoning to the last meal eaten. As Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler puts it, “If you don’t have stool or blood culture, it is virtually impossible” to attribute food poisoning. Second, scientific uncertainty is a recipe for preconceptions. As Slate’s Andrew Simmons wrote, “When Yelpers puke, they tend to blame restaurants that serve ‘ethnic food.’” In the frank discussions that characterize David Chang’s Ugly Delicious show, Serena Dai discusses these false preconceptions of Asian food as “dirty and gross.”
Our research examines recent proposals for mining consumer complaints and tests for presence of such bias. We show that machine learning in food safety — as currently practiced — does indeed fall prey to that blind spot. We study over 77,000 New York City health inspections merged with 311 call complaints for food poisoning from 2010-17 and over 13,000 Seattle-King County health inspections with 152,000 Yelp reviews from 2006-13. The findings are simple: Asian establishments are systematically more likely to be subject to complaints, given the same food safety inspection score. Even when Asian and non-Asian establishments receive identical ratings by food safety inspectors, individuals are more likely to complain about Asian establishments.
It is unlikely that customers are more astute than full-time food safety inspectors in identifying food risk. Customers observe the dining room, but food risk comes largely from the kitchen. Indeed, one academic study showed that customer complaints were negatively correlated with critical violations. One need look no further than the texts of Yelp reviews to see signs of bias. One reviewer: “I usually have such a difficult time digesting Chinese food, however, the food here was different. It was edible and it was good . . . I had been looking for a place that served 1. Americanizedish chinese food and 2. didn’t make me feel sick.” Another put it more plainly: “I expect all restaurants in Chinatown to be dirty.”
What is to be done? As in other parts of the economy, there is much to be gained by leveraging Silicon Valley’s insights in food safety.
First, health departments, firms, and food producers should assess the possibility for unexpected bias. Google engineering attempts to identify food poisoning based on search history and smartphone location, for instance, may have the same perverse effects of StreetBump, shifting public resources to wealthier locales.
Second, engineers should assess methods for “de-biasing,” although our work also highlights that these may have limited applicability.
Third, if social media platforms seek to play a role in food safety, they might require more structured and epidemiologically grounded input on symptoms, timing, and dietary histories.
Last, a more general solution is to craft partnerships with academic institutions, who can help independently assess the validity, reliability, and blind spots of naive deployment of new technology. Given the scientific uncertainty, much more work needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of food safety enforcement.
But, private bias should not find a backdoor to public enforcement.
About the authors:
Kristen M. Altenburger, A.M, is a Ph.D. candidate in Computational Social Science in the Management Science & Engineering Department at Stanford University. Her research focuses on developing statistical methods for social network data.
Daniel E. Ho is the William Benjamin Scott and Luna M. Scott Professor of Law, Professor (by courtesy) of Political Science, and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University. He has written widely on food safety enforcement issues, based in part on collaborative work with Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Editor’s note: Attorney Bill Marler is a founding partner of Marler Clark LLP and publisher of Food Safety News.
New Canadian Food-Safety Law Could Spell Trouble for Small Producers
Source : https://reason.com/archives/2019/01/19/new-canadian-food-safety-law-could-spell
By Baylen Linnekin (Jan 19, 2019)
Small producers are already feeling the pain of Canada's new food safety law.
Earlier this week, Canada rolled out sweeping new food regulations, adopted under a law dubbed the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). The regulations will be phased in over a period of several years.
The SFCA, which became law in 2012, is intended to prevent foodborne illness and allow for more efficient recalls of unsafe food. The law establishes new requirements for licensing, preventative controls, and traceability for food imports and foods shipped or sold across territorial and provincial boundaries. It also combines several formerly disparate laws—ones pertaining to food labeling and packaging, meat inspection, seafood inspection, and agricultural products—under one umbrella.
Some commentators have likened SFCA to America's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), noting, for example, that FSMA (reviled by me and others) and SFCA share "similar themes" and "common aspects." These similarities are enough that SFCA has been labeled Canada's "Own FSMA." Still, given that SFCA includes oversight of meat inspection—which is regulated in the United States by the USDA, rather than the FDA—the SFCA's food-safety oversight far exceeds that of FSMA.
Notably, rates of foodborne illness in Canada—where one in eight people fall ill from foodborne illness each year— are lower than those in the United States, where one in six are impacted.
Some view SFCA with optimism, particularly because its streamlines several existing laws and regulations.
"The primary rationale for SFCA is to unite a bizarre constellation of acts and regulations under one legislative and regulatory roof," says Glenford Jameson, a leading Canadian food lawyer (and fellow Alvvays fan) in Toronto, in an email to me this week. "In Canada, we have a single enforcement body—the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)—and that body had been working with a patchwork of legislation that had at least four different definitions of what a label is, to say nothing of inspection powers, enforcement continuums, and the like."
That harmonizing and streamlining of laws and regulations will be good for Canadian food businesses and for importers, including those in the U.S., says Jameson. Indeed, national and provincial Canadian laws have long been seen as a key barrier to success for domestic and foreign food companies wanting to do business in the country. In theory, SFCA should help grease the skids of trade. That's one reason large Canadian food producers, which helped draft SFCA, are generally pleased with the regulations.
But some small farmers and food producers worry SFCA is just another tangle of red tape. And they're concerned about the law's impact on their bottom line.
SFCA rules have already forced one award-winning cheesemaker, That Dutchman's Cheese Farm in Nova Scotia, to do away with shipments to other provinces. That's because an exemption that had allowed for shipments from one province to another no longer exists under the new rules.
Owner Willem van den Hoek told Global News last week that the change, coupled with burdensome new paperwork and testing requirements for obtaining a national license, would probably mean he'll have to lay off staff.
"What we lose in sales is somebody's job, basically," van den Hoek said.
Some New Brunswick food producers are expressing similar concerns.
The CBC spoke to Kent Coates, who owns Nature's Route Farm in New Brunswick, which has sold produce in Nova Scotia but can no longer do so—at least until he obtains a federal license. Coates says he worries that complying with the law will mean having to hire staff to work in the fields while he navigates paperwork and other new regulatory requirements.
This "obviously adds cost[s] to our process because every moment that I spend doing the administration stuff just to be able to sell my food is time that I'm not spending taking care of my crops," Coates says. "So I have to replace that with staff that take care of my crops."
Other potential downsides of the law, according to Jameson, include the subjective authority and leeway it provides both to regulators and inspectors.
And then there's the question of whether SFCA will make food safer in Canada. One of my leading beefs with FSMA, after all, is that the law wasn't designed to reduce foodborne illness. SFCA may suffer from the same flaw.
"[W]ithout increasing the amount of resources available to the CFIA for implementation, observation, and enforcement," Jameson says of SFCA, which he says doesn't increase resource allocations, "it's hard to believe that this framework will actually lead to safer food outcomes for Canadians."
It's unclear at this point what impact SFCA will have, particularly on small producers. If it forces small businesses like Nature's Route Farm in New Brunswick and That Dutchman's Cheese Farm in Nova Scotia to slash business, then the law will prove to be a dismal failure. But if SFCA is successful, it could serve as a model for the United States, where, as I've detailed, various presidential administrations have toyed with the (potentially good) idea of merging the USDA's and FDA's dueling and overlapping food-safety oversight authority under one regulatory umbrella.
Lyzette Lamondin, who heads food-safety efforts at CFIA, is exceedingly optimistic about SFCA. She says the new food-safety regulations are as lean as can be. Lamondin insists "there's nothing in there that isn't absolutely necessary and warranted for food safety.
Time may tell. But if small farmers' complaints about the new rules are any indication, the clock is already ticking.
To Solve Contaminated Food Crises, Information Management Is an Unsung Hero for the Food Supply Chain
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/to-solve-contaminated-food-crises-information-management-is-an-unsung-hero-for-the-food-supply-chain/
By Shakirul Alom (Jan 14, 2019)
To Solve Contaminated Food Crises, Information Management Is an Unsung Hero for the Food Supply Chain
Each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people in the United States alone get sick from contaminated food, and data from its Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System displays the alarming trend of outbreaks steadily increasing since 2001. As a result of this impact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates associated illnesses tend to cost the economy more than $15.6 billion annually.
Following the introduction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, it became increasingly important for food manufacturers and distributors to proactively ensure contaminants in the food supply are prevented. These types of regulations continue to undergo updates to ensure the purity of the food supply, such as FSMA’s new guidance on food defense and adulteration, as well as the President’s proposal to consolidate federal food safety under USDA.
Despite these stringent efforts, new food contaminations seem to happen every few weeks. To date, 19 outbreaks of Salmonella and Escherichia coli in 2018 have impacted fresh and packaged foods, the economy, and ultimately, lives. In addition, allergens remain a leading cause for market withdrawals.
A common point of these contaminations stems from the distribution chain, identified post-outbreak through a comprehensive record review. So, if regulations on the front-end of the food supply can’t identify food contamination before it gets distributed to consumers, what can be done? The answer is surprisingly simple—food suppliers must ensure they have an information management system in place that can comprehensively and easily track all records on the back-end.
Intelligent information management is especially crucial for food manufacturers and distributors to maintain high-quality products—as well as a good reputation and track record of trust with suppliers and customers.
Case in Point
At Farbest Brands, we’ve held this track record with our global network for more than 60 years. Our strategy to ensure food safety and quality is no different than any other organization in this industry—it’s crucial for any supplier and customer to frequently endure mandatory qualification processes. Part of this process involves a thorough review of documentation—including product specifications, nutritional information, risk assessments, sensitized ingredients, product labels, and safety data sheets.
These resources must be readily available, especially depending on the amount and type of documents needed based on a supplier’s risk level. After all, food manufacturers and distributors aren’t only in the business of food ingredients—we’re also in the business of information management to maintain our core principles of quality, truth, and service.
Throughout the industry, it’s not uncommon to track documents and business processes manually in a spreadsheet, with files saved across multiple network folders. Remember, contamination stems from the distribution chain. If documents, resources, and processes aren’t easily accessible and referenceable, the challenges of ensuring food safety increase significantly.
At Farbest, we realized a more automated system was needed to manage the increase in the amount of documentation needed to meet FSMA’s standards, as well as future standards with regard to food safety and quality. To solve this challenge, we identified workflow management as the most important element to ensuring quality products. This meant several crucial questions needed to be answered, including:
• Could any document be found easily, regardless of where it’s stored?
• Could it protect sensitive information while being readily accessible to the right people at the right time?
• Can critical supplier qualification tasks be defined in a workflow, preventing the approval of a supplier until a complete evaluation has been performed?
• Can these review tasks be set to recur at defined intervals, to ensure that the supply chain is periodically (and thoroughly) reviewed?
With an intelligent information management solution implemented throughout our quality, documentation and product management departments, we’ve been able to process requests much faster by gaining visibility to the process. There is now no need for us to maintain a separate spreadsheet on the process; we’re able to get all requested, up-to-date information available into our customers’ hands. For expiring documents, we have visibility into when they expire, and can take a proactive approach to renewing the information.
While workflow was our primary focus, other important information management elements weren’t—and should never be—neglected, including security, automation, and reducing regulatory risk. These details can make or break your customer and suppliers’ trust and should be carefully considered when thinking through organizing one’s resources.
In short, you may be wondering, “Is proper information management the answer to preventing future food contamination?” While most recalls are a result of poor food safety practices that occur in the distribution chain, it’s difficult to say it’ll be fully stymied, especially following the food preparation phase. However, every food processing organization has the option to do its due diligence to protect the population from devastating nationwide foodborne illnesses. By implementing an intelligent information management system on the back-end to proactively and automatically handle time- and information-sensitive documents for suppliers and customers, we’d all be one step closer to saving the food industry, economy, and, most importantly, lives each year.
Shakirul Alom in the Quality Assurance & Compliance manager for Farbest Brands.
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.
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