FDA Releases its Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food
Source : https://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/fda-releases-its-strategy-for-the-safety-of-imported-food/
By QA Staff Edited (Mar 4, 2019)
Agency outlines multi-layer approach to ensuring that food imports are safe.
In February, FDA released its “Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food” outlining the agency’s comprehensive approach to helping ensure the safety of food imported into the United States.
The U.S. imports about 15 percent of its overall food supply from more than 200 countries or territories, with 13.8 million food shipments in 2018. In 2019, between 14 and 15 million shipments of imported food are expected to enter the United States. Other countries supply approximately 55 percent of fresh fruit, 32 percent of vegetables and 94 percent of seafood consumed in this country.
While FDA states that the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world and significant food safety advances are being made, a preventable level of foodborne illness continues to occur – arising from both domestically produced and imported food. For imported food, the volume and variety of imports and the complexity of global supply chains make food safety a challenging issue to address. Further complicating the issue, some exporting countries may have food safety systems different from that of the U.S. and differing levels of regulatory capacity.
Under provisions of the U.S. law contained in the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, importers of food products intended for introduction into U.S. interstate commerce are responsible for ensuring that the products are safe, sanitary, and labeled according to U.S. requirements. (All imported food is considered to be interstate commerce.)
FDA is not authorized under the law to approve, certify, license, or otherwise sanction individual food importers, products, labels, or shipments. Importers can import foods into the U.S. without prior sanction by FDA, as long as the facilities that produce, store, or otherwise handle the products are registered with FDA, and prior notice of incoming shipments is provided to FDA.
Imported food products are subject to FDA inspection when offered for import at U.S. ports of entry. FDA may detain shipments of products offered for import if the shipments are found not to be in compliance with U.S. requirements. Both imported and domestically-produced foods must meet the same legal requirements in the U.S.
The new FDA strategy document describes how the agency is integrating new import oversight tools with existing tools to help ensure that imported food is safe for consumers in the United States.
Scotland reports Campylobacter infections up, Salmonella cases down
Source : https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/02/scotland-reports-campylobacter-infections-up-salmonella-cases-down/
By News Desk (Feb 28, 2019)
Campylobacter increased but Salmonella decreased in 2018, according to figures from Health Protection Scotland (HPS).
A total of 6,096 laboratory reports of Campylobacter were received by HPS last year, which was an increase of 301 (5.2 percent) compared to 2017 when 5,795 isolates were recorded. It is the second consecutive year Campylobacter has increased following a decline in 2015 and 2016.
The Scottish Salmonella, Shigella and Clostridium difficile Reference Laboratory (SSSCDRL) reported 751 cases of human non-typhoidal Salmonella to HPS last year, representing a 10 percent decrease on the 840 infections in 2017 and 839 in 2016.
In Scotland, the overall rate of Campylobacter in 2018 was 112.8 reports per 100,000 population, compared to 107.2 reports per 100,000 population in 2017. Despite the increase in 2018, it remains below the peak of 6,636 reports in 2014.
Amongst children and young adults, rates are higher in children under five years of age and for adults, rates are highest in those aged 50 years and older. Overall rates are higher in males, with 126.1 reports per 100,000 population compared to 101.4 reports per 100,000 population for females but the reasons for this are unknown.
In 2018 no general outbreaks, which are defined as affecting more than one household, of Campylobacter were reported to ObSurv, which is the surveillance system for all general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease in Scotland.
The last general outbreak of Campylobacter reported to ObSurv was in 2014. Since ObSurv was established in 1996 there have been 35 general outbreaks from the pathogen.
Salmonella cases decline
For Salmonella, the two most common serotypes were Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium, which accounted for 55 percent of all Salmonella isolates reported in 2018.
Salmonella Enteritidis remains the most common serotype, with 275 reports, an increase of 11 percent on the 247 in 2017.
Salmonella Typhimurium decreased by 24 percent, with 139 reports compared to 183 in 2017 and 128 in 2016. This remains the second most common serotype accounting for 19 percent of cases followed by the Newport, Infantis, and Agona serotypes.
Higher rates of infection were observed in children younger than 5 years old compared with older children. Overall rates were slightly higher in males than females, 14.1 compared to 13.7 respectively, per 100,000 population.
In 2018, there were six general outbreaks of Salmonella reported to ObSurv. Four were part of United Kingdom outbreaks. The total for 2018 was down from the eight outbreaks in 2017.
Guidance on raw milk cheese
Meanwhile, the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) has endorsed guidance on the production of cheese from unpasteurized milk.
The guidance was produced by the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee’s Joint Specialist Cheese and Risky Foods Short-Life working group and is for use during inspection and enforcement of food safety controls applied by cheesemakers producing cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
It is focused on controlling microbiological risks in the production of artisan cheeses from unpasteurized milk, specifically Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) including E. coli O157 and applies to all sites producing cheese from unpasteurized milk from cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) previously published a report to help improve safety for artisan producers making cheese from unpasteurized milk.
Food safety basics: 5 ways to prevent food-borne diseases and infections
Source : https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/food-safety-basics-5-ways-to-prevent-food-borne-diseases-and-infections/373406
By timesnownews (Feb 27, 2019)
New Delhi: According to a report published by TOI, unsafe food costs India a whopping $15 billion in a year, which though is way low than $28 billion last year, it is still a very high amount of money to be spent on food-borne diseases.
Food-borne diseases are diseases spread due to unhygienic, unsafe food that may contain germs or chemicals that can cause illness. Food-borne diseases can cause symptoms like cramping, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Though most of the problems are treatable, some may cause complications especially if you already have other health conditions. The best way to stay safe from food-borne diseases is to prevent them. READ - Diet tips for students: Three best foods to eat to sharpen memory and boost performance during exams
Keep it clean
The first step to ensuring that the food you eat is safe is to keep everything clean – storage boxes of food ingredients, kitchen counters and also your hands while you cook them. Making sure the utensils do not have any dish soap left on them. When everything is clean, the chances of getting infections due to germs reduce considerably.
Keep it segregated
Keeping food segregated is extremely important to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when germs or bacteria from one food item, unclean hands or any other sources are transferred to ready-to-eat foods. Storing raw meat and fish in different bags and keeping them on a different side of the shopping cart when in the grocery store can help in avoiding food-borne diseases. READ - Weight loss: THIS is the healthiest snack you can eat on a weight loss diet
Keep it cooked
Properly cooked food can help in avoiding food-borne diseases. Properly cooked food helps in killing germs and keeping diseases away. Every food item has a different temperature to which it should be cooked and a food thermometer can help in measuring it.
Keep it cool
You must not leave food outside at room temperature for longer than two hours. This can cause a prompt growth of bacteria in the food. Storing food in the refrigerator is a good idea, however, you should not consume food that has been sitting in the fridge for too long.
Keep it safe
Using safe, clean water and raw materials can help in keeping food-borne diseases away. Fresh fruits, vegetables and clean treated water should be used for cooking. You must wash all vegetables thoroughly before cooking them to remove any dirt or germs on them. Always check the expiry date of packaged food before consuming it.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.
FDA Plans to Modernize Oversight of Imported Food
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2019/fda-modernize-oversight-imported-food/
By News Desk( Feb 26, 2019)
The FDA’s Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas are announcing a new strategy to modernizing government oversight of imported food. This country imports about 15% of its food supply from more than 200 countries or territories around the world. Other countries supply 32% of our fresh vegetables, 55% of fresh fruit, and 94% of our seafood.
And there have been quite a few food poisoning outbreaks linked to imported food in the past few years. Last year, a Salmonella Concord outbreak was linked to tahini imported from Israel. In 2017, a Salmonella outbreak linked to papayas imported from Mexico sickened at least 255 people with nine different strains of the pathogen. And in 2016, almost a thousand people were sickened across the country with Salmonella Poona infections linked to imported cucumbers. A study published in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2017 found that outbreaks linked to imported foods are increasing.
The supply chain that imported foods travel is complex and complicated. One ingredient that is used in many different foods can contaminate thousands of pounds of food products that are shipped all over the country.
So the FDA is introducing a new imported food safety strategy to try to meet these challenges. The government wants top meet four goals: “preventing food safety problems in the foreign supply chain prior to entry into the U.S.; effectively detecting and refusing entry of unsafe foods at U.S. borders; responding quickly when the FDA learns of unsafe imported foods; and measuring our progress to ensure that our imported food safety program remains effective and efficient.”
First, any food that is imported into this country must meet U.S. standards for inspection. Importers must be verified, using the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs final rule.
At the border, FDA must enhance and refine its import screening and entry review processes. Only about 2% of the foods that come into this country are physically inspected. The government also wants to improve testing methodologies and maximize the benefit from state partners.
When an outbreak occurs, or if a food is found to be contaminated after import, the FDA must make sure their response is effective. Using information-sharing opportunities will help them prepare for unsafe imported food.
Finally, the agency wants to develop a comprehensive global inventory of food facilities and farms around the world and assess the oversight applied to those places.
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Sanitary Design Considerations in Choosing a Fluid Heater
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/signature-series/sanitary-design-considerations-in-choosing-a-fluid-heater/
By JP Rivera (Feb 26, 2019)
Sanitary Design Considerations in Choosing a Fluid Heater
Fluid heaters are widely used in the food processing industry for heating water and other fluids, primarily for sanitization and cleaning purposes. Because the final product being produced is intended for human consumption, great care must be taken to ensure that the fluid being heated does not harbor any pathogens or microorganisms that could cause illness.
There are several important design considerations when engineering a fluid heater for use in food processing. The first and most important goal is to eliminate possible locations in the heater where contamination could occur and pathogens could grow. The second objective is to engineer a heater that is designed for efficient clean-in-place (CIP) operations when the heater is being used in production.
Preventing contamination in the fluid heater boils down to two simple goals. First, the path of the fluid through the heater must be engineered to eliminate possible locations where contaminants could accumulate. Threaded connections between wetted parts of the heater, for example, provide ideal locations for possible contamination and pathogen growth. Using non-threaded fittings, then—such as a tri-clamp design—eliminate these sources for potential contamination. Many of the heaters available on the market claim that they use sanitary connections, but most still utilize a threaded or flanged connection from the heater element to the housing. This approach does not result in a true sanitary design. Instead, tri-clamps need to be used for all connection points in the heater. This is important because any location in the heater that comes into contact with the process fluid is a potential contamination point if not properly designed.
Another possible location for contaminants to accumulate is in “dead legs” in the fluid flow path. Dead legs are bends in the process piping where stagnant water can be found. The fluid flow path through the heater, then, should be as straight as possible. Water stagnation can lead to bacteria growth and inadequate sanitary conditions.
Finally, the surface finish of the fluid heater’s wetted parts must be taken into consideration. The ideal fluid heater used in food processing applications should have as smooth a finish as possible. Rough surface finishes can provide locations for contaminants to hide and hamper the efficiency of the heater’s operation as well. Electropolished and passivated 316L stainless steel is an ideal material for use in both food processing and biopharmaceutical manufacturing applications, as it has an extraordinarily smooth surface that is nearly impervious to corrosion
Most food processing equipment requires regular cleaning, and so engineering a sanitary fluid heater for CIP efficiency is the second major goal. The heater should be designed for complete system drainability, so that all cleaning fluids can be completely purged from the heater following CIP operations. An efficient means of accomplishing this is to put the heater input on the bottom of the heater, allowing for gravity draining after the CIP process is complete.
Figure 1. The Heateflex Sanitary-Design In-Line Fluid Heater
The final consideration in designing a sanitary heater for food processing applications is fluid temperature control. In order to get consistent results, maintaining a precisely-regulated fluid temperature is important in both food processing operations and CIP cycles as well. The sanitary fluid heater engineered by Heateflex uses an electrically-heated coil inside the heater housing to ensure a consistently-regulated heat output. In contrast, many of the fluid heaters used in food processing applications are steam-powered. Fluid temperatures in steam-powered heaters can fluctuate more than those in electrically-powered heaters, leading to inconsistent process results.
In summary, consider both contamination control and operational efficiency when designing a sanitary fluid heater for use in food processing applications. The Heateflex sanitary design fluid heater, shown in Figure 1, was engineered with these objectives in mind. The patented sanitary design allows Heateflex to offer a true sanitary design, with zero threaded fittings, zero “dead legs” in the fluid path, and complete system drain-ability to prevent particle entrapment and possible microbial growth. The heater is available in multiple voltages, and in outputs ranging from 12 kW to 24 kW.
JP Rivera is Heateflex Corporation's director of U.S. sales.With over 12 years of sales experience, JP manages the Heateflex sales and marketing teams. Under his guidance, the team works to provide Heateflex customers with exceptional service and support. JP’s knowledge of the company’s products and customer requirements help to provide Heateflex customers with a precise solution to meet their strategic requirements. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Rethinking the Future of Food Recalls
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2019/rethinking-the-future-of-food-recalls/
By William K. Hallman, Ph.D., and Cara L. Cuite, Ph.D.
Rethinking the Future of Food Recalls
Food recalls are an important tool that can be used to protect the public from exposures to potentially unsafe products. Yet, carrying out an effective recall presents obvious challenges. There are the logistical difficulties involved with the accurate identification, efficient retrieval, and appropriate disposal of potentially contaminated food products. There are also substantial legal, regulatory, financial, and reputational issues with which to contend.
However, once products have been sold to the public, the most significant challenge involves getting individual consumers to look for, correctly recognize, and discard or return food products that might make them ill. Convincing individuals to act appropriately in response to a food recall often requires food companies, retailers, government agencies, and consumer groups to interact with consumers in unique and consequential ways that are atypical in their normal course of business. Getting recalled foods out of the hands of consumers requires a different set of strategies than those that put them there in the first place. A recall is not food marketing in reverse.
Persuading consumers to act in response to a food recall is not easy. Ten years ago, we conducted a nationally representative survey of American consumers to assess their awareness and knowledge of food recalls and to understand their attitudes and responses to them. We found that more than 90 percent of Americans viewed recalls as essential to protecting public health and saving lives. More than 80 percent said they paid attention to news reports about recalls, and a similar percentage reported that they told others about food recalls when they heard about one. Yet, while most people believe that food recalls are important, only about 6 in 10 reported that they had ever looked for a recalled food in their homes, and only 1 in 10 said that they had ever found one.
Much has changed in the intervening decade, including more rapid and widespread dissemination of information about recalled foods through the internet and social media. Detailed information about recalls, market withdrawals, consumer advisories, and health and safety alerts is now widely available through foodsafety.gov and recalls.gov, and through the individual U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) websites devoted to these issues. The public can also learn about these notices by following these agencies on social media and having these notices automatically emailed to them. Food companies and some retailers are also using their own web pages to share detailed information about recalled products and what consumers should do if they find them.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 7 in 10 American adults now uses social media to view and share news content, opinions, and other information. Both FDA and USDA share recall information via social media, as do many companies. Food marketers are well aware of the utility of social media, with most major companies actively using it to court customers, to encourage them to follow and share information about the company’s brands, and to influence consumer purchase intentions. They are also cognizant of the rapidity with which social media can significantly damage the reputation of a product, brand, or company when something goes wrong, or is simply rumored to have gone wrong.
Yet, despite the enhanced ability to access information about recalled food products over the last 10 years, consumer responses to food recalls have not kept pace. In our August 2018 survey of American consumers, we found that about 7 in 10 now say they have looked for a recalled food product at some point (up from 6 in 10), while about 2 in 10 report that they believe that they have found a recalled product in their homes (up from 1 in 10). While this represents progress, it is clear that the food industry, government, and consumer groups need to do more to help people respond appropriately to food recalls. So, what can we do?
Ideally, we would eliminate the necessity to recall food products altogether. Food recalls are expensive, disruptive, and are meant to be a public health measure of last resort, not a first line of defense. However, eliminating food recalls in the near term is unlikely. In fact, advances in technology, including whole-genome sequencing, have enabled more rapid and precise characterizations of the pathogens involved in foodborne illness outbreaks, which makes it more likely that outbreaks will be identified and affected foods recalled.
Food companies are also paying greater attention to food safety, instituting tighter controls over the sourcing of their ingredients and manufacturing processes. Many have comprehensive internal testing and quality control systems designed to detect allergens, pathogens, and physical contaminants. Many have also become more aggressive in ordering voluntary recalls and product withdrawals as precautionary measures intended to prevent their customers from coming into contact with potentially adulterated products. They have realized that while a recall may be damaging to a brand or a commodity in the short term, it is far worse to be associated with a foodborne problem that sickens, hospitalizes, or results in customer deaths.
Given that food recalls will remain a critical means to protect consumer health well into the future, we need to improve their efficacy. We can do so by being more strategic in designing recall messages, beginning with an understanding that these are significantly different from other messages that we send to consumers about food. We can also be more effective through a more comprehensive understanding of how consumers react to food recalls and by taking advantage of advances in technology.
Food Recall Communications Are Different
Effective food recalls involve successfully alerting the public about the potential hazards associated with specific food products, ensuring that people are able to recognize which products are involved and which are not, and motivating them to look for, find, and appropriately discard or return the affected products rather than consuming them. The stakes are high, as failure at any point in this process can result in people getting sick, or dying.
Therefore, these messages must be designed to be broad enough to reach everyone who may be affected, including those who already have the food in their homes and those who might purchase a recalled food still in the marketplace. At the same time, these warnings must be specific enough that consumers can recognize when they are personally affected by the recall. They must contain enough details to enable consumers to identify which products have been recalled, allowing consumers to differentiate these from similar products that are unaffected. They must also include specific instructions to consumers about how to properly dispose of or return products that are affected.
Recall warnings must be sufficiently strong to demand consumer attention, motivating people to look for potentially affected products and to take appropriate actions if they find them. They should prompt people to share accurate information about the recall with others, spreading and drawing attention to the news, and should therefore be social media-ready to facilitate this.
At the same time, these alerts must not unnecessarily frighten people or cause them to avoid products that are not part of the recall. In fact, communicating about a food recall requires persuading consumers that only the specific packages of the product they were originally induced to purchase may be unsafe for them to eat. Then, after the underlying cause for the recall has been corrected, those same consumers need to be convinced that the product is safe after it returns to the market.
Understanding Consumer Responses to Recalls
Unfortunately, as our research has shown, even when they achieve the right balance of urgency, specificity, detail, and instruction, simply issuing food recall warnings is not enough to protect public health. Providing information to people is usually necessary, but not sufficient, to motivate them to respond appropriately to a recall.
After more than a dozen years of studying public responses to recalls and advisories, we have found that many consumers do hear about them and that they do pay attention. Some follow the advice given and look for, find, and discard or return products that have been listed as being recalled. Many also share this information with others via social media, drawing additional public attention to the recall. Some also visit the websites of the companies involved in the recall, seeking additional information, which they may also share.
Yet, some consumers remain unaware of recalls that affect them because they never see the warning information, while others are aware of the recall but ignore it because they don’t recognize the products being recalled or believe that they own them. Some hear about the recall, and intend to look for the affected products, but never do so, or they look for the products but cannot identify them.
When they involve a single product, or a small but complete list of products that quickly becomes available and does not change, recalls can be relatively straightforward. In contrast, expanding recalls, especially those which ultimately impact dozens or hundreds of products, are significantly more complicated. In these cases, some consumers learn of the initial recall notice and look for affected products but are unaware of the subsequent notices or ignore them, believing that they have already taken action.
Our research has also shown that some consumers respond to recalls in ways that are particularly imprudent. Some who are fully aware of a recall simply decide to disregard it, consuming the recalled product despite being warned not to do so. Why? Some do it because they believe that the warning is “overblown.” Some are certain that they can make a potentially contaminated product safe to eat by cooking or washing it, while others believe they are immune to foodborne illnesses. Finally, after discovering that they have already partially consumed a recalled product, some people decide that since they didn’t get sick, it is safe to eat whatever remains.
At the other extreme, some consumers are hypercautious. Some adopt a “better safe than sorry” strategy, discarding any product resembling those that have been recalled. This often includes discarding all packages of the products named in the recall, regardless of whether they match the date or lot codes subject to recall. Some avoid or discard products that are not part of a recall but were manufactured by the same company. Others avoid similar products made by other companies that were not recalled. Some report avoiding products or commodities that have been the subject of a recall for months or even years after an outbreak of foodborne illness has ended.
Doing a better job at motivating consumers to act appropriately requires increasing consumer awareness of recalls, increasing their relevance to individual consumers, their ability to identify affected products, and their motivation to properly dispose of them, each of which is discussed in turn below.
Increasing the effectiveness of recalls begins with improving consumer awareness. People cannot take action if they don’t know that they need to do so. Unfortunately, recall announcements must compete with the other information encountered by consumers every day.
Our data suggest that consumers are most likely to be aware of recalls that are covered by the traditional news media. Even if people learn about a recall through social media, the origin of the news is most often a story that was covered in the mainstream news. Unfortunately, national news outlets typically only provide extensive coverage of “newsworthy” recalls. A review of recent headlines suggests that these typically involve a foodborne illness outbreak resulting in a significant number of illnesses or deaths, the recall of a large quantity of food or of multiple products, or of especially popular or well-known products. Other kinds of food recalls rarely receive the same kind of coverage, making it much less likely that consumers will become aware of them. As a result, companies have to work much harder to publicize these smaller, less prominent recalls, which often involve products sold within local or regional markets.
Other challenges exist as well. In addition to notifying retailers of a recall and working with them to remove affected products from their shelves and warehouses, food manufacturers and distributors often work with “brick and mortar” stores to post recall notices at the point of sale. This has often involved posting written notices near the shelves that have been emptied of the affected product and printing recall messages onto customer receipts or on coupon slips. In fact, some participants in our studies have indicated that they don’t pay attention to news about recalls because they implicitly trust their grocery store not to sell recalled food products.
However, consumers increasingly purchase food products online and have them shipped directly to their homes, bypassing local retailers. These sales often involve small online vendors or third-party resellers operating through larger e-commerce sites. Food manufacturers and distributors often have little or no relationship with these retailers, and as a result, they don’t receive direct notices of a recall. Many of these small online retailers also lack the personnel, training, and inventory systems necessary to appropriately identify and withdraw recalled products from sale online. As a result, consumers have reported instances of recalled food products being shipped to them by online retailers.
Consumer awareness of recalls is also hampered by the fact that consumer advisories, warnings, and recall notices are typically written in English. USDA also routinely translates the recall and public health alert information it posts on its website into Spanish; however, FDA (which has responsibility for 80% of the food supply in the U.S.) does not, nor do many companies whose products are recalled.
While Spanish is the second-most-often spoken language in the U.S., there are millions of Americans who speak languages other than English and Spanish, and who (based on self-reported Census data) speak English “not at all” or “not well.” Moreover, there are many Americans who cannot read English or Spanish, making written notices inaccessible to them.
Getting consumers to act appropriately in response to a food recall only begins with making them aware that a problem exists with a product. For consumers to pay attention and to act, they must also believe that the products affected are relevant to them. Yet, in many ways, the greater availability of food recall information through traditional media, on the internet, and through social media has actually made it more difficult for consumers to focus on the products that are pertinent to them.
The primary goal of food recall communications is to broadcast warning information as rapidly and as widely as possible to protect public health. However, the reality is that the majority of recalls simply aren’t applicable to most people. Many involve food products that are produced in small quantities or sold in limited areas. Others involve more widely distributed products but apply only to those packages bearing specific lot numbers or “best by” dates. Others are for products with limited shelf lives that are likely to have already been consumed or discarded by the time a recall notice is issued. In addition, more than half of the recalls of FDA-regulated products in 2018 involved undeclared allergens, which are potentially life threatening to those who are allergic to them. This is critical information that needs to be widely disseminated; however, many who are unaffected by these allergens are likely to view the information as meant for others.
This means that the large majority of food recall notices are not relevant to most of the people who hear about them. Repeated exposure to irrelevant information can be fatiguing and can result in people ignoring recall information altogether. It can also result in a sense that food recalls are something that other people have to worry about. In fact, our research has shown that more than a third of Americans think that, compared with other people like them, they are personally less likely to have purchased a food that had been recalled.
This “optimistic bias” is reinforced by personal experience. Most people who report having looked for a recalled food product say they’ve never found one. This view that recalls apply to others and not to themselves may also be reinforced by the vague language in the press releases that accompany announcements of product recalls. These typically call on unidentified “consumers who may have purchased these products,” urging them to return “those products” to an ambiguous “place of purchase” or to discard them.
Recent efforts by USDA and FDA to publicize the names and locations of retailers (or consignees) known to have received recalled products may reduce the ambiguity of where these products have been sold, helping consumers decide whether a recall is relevant to them. However, the ability of food manufacturers and distributors to quickly and precisely identify the consignees of their products remains a significant challenge.
One way to increase the awareness and relevance of recalls is to provide personalized recall messages to consumers who are known to have purchased potentially affected products. Some retailers already provide this service to their customers, using email, phone, and text messages to alert people when something they have previously purchased is subject to a recall. Although there are costs to the retailers who do this, our research indicates that most consumers value this service and that it may increase customer trust and loyalty to those retailers.
Providing this kind of targeted, personalized recall information obviously requires that retailers be able to accurately track and connect consumers with their purchases. Many do this through information provided by consumers when they register for and use voluntary “loyalty card” programs or through membership cards required by some retailers. However, the idea that retailers are keeping track of their purchases (and quite likely sharing this information with other companies) has raised privacy concerns among consumers who would prefer that some, or all, of their purchases remain anonymous. In addition, consumers don’t always use their loyalty cards or keep the contact information they supply to retailers up to date. Some purposely provide false information, believing that it will help protect their privacy or prevent unwanted solicitations from marketers. This has led some retailers to be concerned about potential liability issues that might arise because of their inability to successfully contact every customer known to have purchased a recalled product. Some also worry that customers will come to rely on personal notifications and will ignore other sources of information about recalls. In addition, some consumers have come to expect that any retailer who has their contact information will alert them when they have purchased a recalled product.
For consumers to take the time to look for recalled products in their homes, they also have to be convinced that the consequences of consuming the product are serious enough to demand action on their part. However, our studies (and those of others) have found that most Americans have a tenuous grasp of the causes and consequences of foodborne illness. We have found that people generally underestimate the incidence of foodborne illness and are unable to identify particularly vulnerable groups. Most Americans also don’t recognize the symptoms of foodborne illness, and most don’t believe that they have personally experienced it.
Two of our national surveys included questions about eating recalled food products. In both surveys, about 1 in 10 Americans reported that they had eaten a food they thought had been recalled, and nearly all reported having done so without adverse consequence. Unfortunately, disregarding warnings and eating a recalled product without perceived ill effects can be self-reinforcing and may lead to an underestimation of the consequences of consuming recalled products in the future.
The notices of recalls, market withdrawals, safety, and public health alerts posted by both FDA and USDA on their websites do include information about the common symptoms and consequences of the illness that may be caused by a pathogen associated with a product. The consistent inclusion of this information in notices, press releases, and other communications can help educate consumers about these pathogens and the consequences of foodborne illnesses, and can reinforce the need to take warning messages about them seriously.
Unfortunately, many of these notices undermine their own messages by including statements that “No illnesses have been reported to date.” While this may be true, it does not preclude illnesses being reported in the future and may unintentionally communicate the idea that despite being recalled, the product is most likely harmless. Similarly, informing consumers that a products is being recalled “out of an abundance of caution” may send the message that there is little likelihood that there are serious problems with the product.
Once consumers become aware of a food recall and are convinced of its personal relevance and that the consequences are worth taking action to avoid, they must also be able to identify the affected products. Both FDA and USDA recall announcements include relevant details such as container sizes, UPC codes, lot/batch numbers, use/best/sell by dates, as well as pictures of the products being recalled. However, product labels are primarily designed to help sell foods, not to facilitate their recall, and the lot numbers, production codes, and dates on products are often printed in nonobvious places and in difficult-to-read typefaces and sizes.
The fundamental problem with food recalls is that they require individual consumers to recognize that they own a recalled product with a food safety problem serious enough to warrant their attention and action. However, the current process is both inefficient and susceptible to failure. It ultimately relies on the right information somehow reaching the right consumers at the right time, who are then able to use that information to identify the right products.
In the current system, information is also designed to flow primarily in one direction: from the company issuing the recall to the consumer. Companies declare to consumers, “This product may be unsafe, you may have it in your home, here is how to identify it, go look for it right now, and throw it out if you find it.”
Unfortunately, the system is not well set up for consumers to ask “Has this particular product been recalled?” To answer the question, it is possible to conduct a keyword search of recall notices through foodsafety.gov and USDA and FDA web pages, although UPC codes can’t be used as search terms.
If the keyword search results in a positive match, it is necessary to click on each individual recall notice to locate the detailed lot, date, or other information necessary to identify whether a specific package of the product has been recalled. As a result, answering the question “Has this been recalled?” for a single product is cumbersome and time-consuming. Screening an entire cabinet full of products is impractical. Evaluating all of the foods donated to a community food pantry is impossible.
What is needed is the ability to directly connect UPC codes or QR (Quick Response) codes to recall information. According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of Americans now have smartphones, including more than 90 percent of those ages 18–49. Existing smartphone applications can scan product UPC codes and automatically search for price information. UPC information is also routinely supplied to FDA and USDA as part of recall notices and is used by manufacturers to help retailers remove recalled food products from their shelves. Thus, it should be possible to maintain a consumer-searchable database of the UPC codes of recalled food products that could be accessed through a smartphone app.
Food companies are also increasingly using scannable QR codes to directly connect consumers to discounts, marketing information, social media sites, and other web-based content. Some companies have incorporated QR codes into their blockchain traceability efforts, enabling consumers to track products from “seed to plate.” Companies participating in the SmartLabel™ Transparency Initiative are also using QR codes to connect consumers to product nutrition facts, ingredient, allergen, and other information. Consumers can scan a QR code on a product and be taken directly to its relevant webpage at Smartlabel.org. Connecting QR codes to accessible recall information should be a logical next step.
Recognizing that a recall is not food marketing in reverse is a first step to making recall communications more effective. Designing communications that increase awareness and relevance while conveying consequences and providing enough information for consumers to identify the affected products can increase the likelihood that consumers respond appropriately. Technology has changed how consumers become aware of recalls and how they identify what is relevant. We now have additional technology that can be harnessed to help consumers identify whether their food has been recalled. It may be time to use it.
Scan the QR code or click on the link for free downloads of Rutgers’s research on food recalls.
William K. Hallman, Ph.D., is a professor and Chair of the Department of Human Ecology and is a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Cara L. Cuite, Ph.D., is an Assistant Extension Specialist in the Department of Human Ecology and a member of the graduate faculties of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Graduate School of Education, and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.
What the Food Supply Chain Can Learn from Pharma
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/signature-series/what-the-food-supply-chain-can-learn-from-pharma/
By Gisli Herjolfsson (Feb 25, 2018)
What the Food Supply Chain Can Learn from Pharma
The lines between the pharmaceutical cold chain and temperature controlled foods have varied widely, although, in recent years, the lines have become blurred with the rise of stricter food safety regulations, including the U.S.'s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the rise of nutraceuticals and cannabis-based products. A result of these trends is that the need for stricter standardization and controls has emerged. Although they are considered separate industries, the food and beverage sector and pharmaceuticals are in actuality similar in a number of aspects and each can learn a lot from one another.
With the increase and complexity of the global supply chain, the pharmaceutical cold chain and temperature-controlled shipping for the food industry have seen substantial growth over the last few years. It is no coincidence that the food industry is now beginning to look to pharma for guidance on best practices. The pharmaceutical industry has nearly 30 years of experience in managing complex control processes of the kind needed now in adjacent markets, so it provides a valuable reference point.
Pharmaceutical and life sciences cold chains require storage of life-saving medicines, vaccines, and other products in temperature-controlled packaging and must be maintained within strict temperature boundaries. Only a few years ago, the pharmaceutical cold-chain meant products requiring storage at 2–8 °C. Increasingly, products today must be shipped at controlled ambient temperature (15–25 °C), or at extremely cold temperatures such as -20 °C, and in even lower cryogenic temperatures such as -180 °C.
Similarly, temperature control is a critical food safety element, as it helps to prevent foodborne diseases and outbreaks that can result in public health issues. Fresh produce must be kept at 0–16 °C or colder, while frozen and deep-frozen foods must generally be kept at 0 to -25 °C or colder. In this sense, temperature control is necessary in both of these industries.
There are a number of takeaways that the food supply chain can glean from the pharmaceutical sector.
Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been heavily regulated and compliance-driven, as there are strict requirements governing the manufacturing, processing, and storage of temperature-sensitive products. Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and life sciences products must ensure that shippers they are working with are complying with the global industry standards and recommendations, such as The World Health Organization, The International Safe Transit Association, as well as the strict GxP global quality assurance and health standards.
More recently enacted track-and-trace requirements, including the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in the U.S. and its EU equivalent, the Europe the Falsified Medicines Directive, are placing an even greater onus on pharmaceuticals and logistics enterprises to ensure a secure and efficient supply chain. Together, these requirements and guidelines have pushed global pharmaceutical enterprises to streamline and tighten their end-to-end supply chains.
Manufacturers of temperature-sensitive packaging, traceability, and monitoring solutions can assist customers in meeting these strict regulatory requirements and optimizing their supply chain by providing a range of thermal tests and validation processes to ensure success across all shipment lanes—air, road, and sea.
Although food shipments do not have to comply with the same regulatory requirements, temperature control is a critical food safety consideration by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over the last several years, the FDA has proposed seven foundational rules to implement FSMA, including Sanitary Transportation, which among other requirements, demands that those who transport food with a need for temperature control to ensure the maintenance of transportation cold chain during operations.
Many expect maintaining food quality and integrity in the cold supply chain to come under increasing scrutiny. Looking to the highly regulated pharmaceutical cold chain provides those looking to ship temperature-controlled food and beverage products an example of how to operate within FSMA regulations.
Prevention of Temperature Excursions
Preventing material temperature deviations is one of the most common objectives pharmaceutical enterprises look at when working with packaging and technology manufacturers in the industry, as well as logistics providers. Temperature substantially impacts many considerations because, when it comes to transporting temperature-sensitive medicines, vaccines, active pharmaceutical ingredients, biologics, and clinical trial samples, temperature excursions mean the difference between success and failure, product integrity and product waste, profit and loss, and can directly affect patient safety.
Although payload size and value may differ, there is a common denominator in the food industry regarding temperature excursions and their direct impact on safety and margins. When evaluating the cold chain, it's similarly important to consider packaging, lane optimization, logistics providers, and the technology used to ensure the successful transport of products. Issues with any of these cold chain components can lead to product loss or safety issues.
Cost considerations and improved margins are a common consideration in both the food and pharmaceutical sectors. In the pharmaceutical space, enterprises are increasingly viewing their supply chains as a competitive differentiator rather than as a cost center, and are looking for ways to optimize and streamline their processes and logistics. Evaluating and standardizing cold chain practices is one way to monitor a business's efficiency. Risk mitigation through technology is a central component of driving down costs and minimizing the resources needed to run an efficient and effective cold chain.
Reusable cold chain solutions can drive down costs and drive sustainability efforts while reducing the time spent on shipment review by providing data earlier on in the review process and enabling businesses to manage their shipments by exception. These solutions are preconditioned to meet the strict health and safety standards, which are equal to or greater than those in place in the food industry.
Knowing immediately not only about a temperature or other environmental deviation but where it happened is valuable information for quality teams operating in the pharmaceutical sector. Real-time and continuously available data from today's technology enables these specialists to access information earlier in the shipment process and prevent product delays due to lengthy investigation cycles. The pharmaceutical industry is shifting towards a manage-by-exception modality, where only shipments requiring review are flagged, thereby automating the quality review process.
Quality and safety leaders in the food sector, once they are armed with data and insights, are able to illuminate the blind spots and discover the improvements that are needed.
Aside from risk mitigation and resource savings, continual monitoring technology is building data that is enabling pharmaceutical enterprises to optimize their global supply chains. Over time, businesses gain a treasure trove of predictive and actionable insights that can help drive better decision making and drive sustainability efforts. By understanding the impact of time, temperature, location, and other variables through continual monitoring, traceability, and gathering insights, food leaders gain similarly supply chain visibility and that can help them protect and maintain products from farm to fork.
While the pharmaceutical enterprises spend, on average, approximately 18 percent of annual revenue on R&D, when it comes to technology adoption, the industry has lagged behind other industries. Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) adoption has taken off in the last few years, and pharma enterprises are now beginning to realize the value in having access to real-time temperature and produce movement traceability data. This is one area in which pharmaceutical businesses might learn from the food sector, and where technology has been largely driven by consumer demand. The future of analytics and insights, predictive and prescriptive data, and fully digitalized cold chains will only help these sectors go further as they become mission-critical for both industries.
While the nuances of the life sciences and food industry cold chains may differ, the food industry can similarly address compliance and standardization, prevention of temperature excursions, costs, and innovation.
The labor and cost-saving techniques the pharmaceutical industry has embraced should now be considered by adjacent sectors including the food and beverage industry, as organizations there prepare to meet growing regulatory demands without taking resources away from their core business priorities.
Gisli Herjolfsson is CEO of Controlant, a developer of real-time visibility solutions and services for the digitally connected, temperature-controlled supply chain.
How to keep food safe during and after a power outage
Source : https://www.manitoulin.ca/how-to-keep-food-safe-during-and-after-a-power-outage/
By Press Release (Feb 25, 2019)
As a result of recent severe weather conditions, several communities have been affected by power outages. Public Health Sudbury & Districts is offering the following food safety tips to affected residents.
During a power outage avoid opening refrigerators and freezers unless absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 48 hours, while a freezer that is half full will keep food frozen for about 24 hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately 4 hours.
If a power outage is expected to last for a long period of time, consider taking your food to a nearby friend or family member’s house that is unaffected by the power outage to keep it cold.
After a power outage, carefully inspect all hazardous food items. Do not consume any food you think might not be safe.
Discard any food items in the refrigerator or freezer that have come in contact with raw meat juices.
Discard perishable foods such as milk and milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish and shellfish that have been unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Discard any food with an unusual odour or texture.
Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat as long as the food still contains ice crystals or is at or below 4°C.
If a food storage area is flooded, only undamaged, commercially-prepared foods in sealed, unopened, airtight, waterproof cans, jars, or waterproof pouches are entirely safe to use. However, these cans, jars or pouches must be carefully inspected, cleaned, and disinfected before use.
Keep in mind that food contaminated with bacteria might not look or smell spoiled—when in doubt, throw it out!
For more information on what to do with your food during and after an emergency, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website on Food Safety in an Emergency, or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 464 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200) to speak to a public health inspector.
FSAI Now Using New DNA Technology to Identify Food Ingredients
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fsai-now-using-dna-technology-to-identify-food-ingredients/
By Staff (Feb 25, 2019)
FSAI Now Using New DNA Technology to Identify Food Ingredients
This month, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) disclosed that it now has a new scanning tool that can identify the entire DNA content of a food.
A statement released by FSAI says that The analytical scanner tool can “proactively identify all the ingredients and their biological sources in a food.” Now, Irish food regulators believe they can thwart instances of food fraud and easily identify foods that have been improperly labeled.
The way the tool works is that it compares actual ingredients in a food--ingredients identified by their DNA profile--versus the ingredients that are displayed on the label. The relatively new DNA sequencing technology is known as next-generation sequencing.
“It is now possible to scan the entire DNA content of a food without any prior knowledge or suspicion of what may or may not be present in that food,” says the statement.
The tool has been successfully used on 45 plant-based foods and food supplements from Irish health food shops and supermarkets.
FSAI tested 14 food products with the scanner tool. One contained undeclared mustard at “significant levels.” Mustard is considered an allergenic ingredient under EU and Irish food law. In another product, oregano actually contained DNA from two undeclared plant species. In yet another product, the plant species declared on the food label was not detected at all during the DNA scanning process. FSAI is investigating all of these cases.
“Even with the restriction of having to target the DNA of certain plant or animal species in previous studies, the FSAI has been able to detect food allergens and GMOs, and demonstrate the mislabelling of fish products. Of course targeted DNA analysis was also the method used by the FSAI in discovering horsemeat in beef products, which ultimately brought the global awareness of food fraud to a new level,” says Pat O’Mahony, chief specialist, Food Science and Technology, FSAI.
“Our two-year project has proved that next-generation sequencing has the capacity to screen a variety of plant-based foods for the presence of undeclared plant species. It is important to understand that any results of the initial scan will always need to be corroborated by more established analytical techniques. Being able to scan the entire DNA content of a food means that it will be difficult to substitute or hide an ingredient of biological origin without it being detected. The plan is that in the future, the FSAI will apply the same technology for the screening of meat, poultry, and fish products,” says O’Mahony.
Going forward, FSAI hopes to use the same DNA technology to screen meat, poultry, and fish products.
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