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FSIS Reflects on 2021, Points to Progress in Transparency, More Collaboration

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Just as FDA recently called out its 2021 achievements, USDA’s FSIS is highlighting its efforts from last year. In a news release issued last week, the agency pointed to several areas of progress, including:

  • Stronger moves to reduce Salmonella illnesses from poultry products. The initiative seeks more innovative methods for pathogen control.
  • Supporting small and very small plants via trying to take the cost burden off these establishments. The agency lowered overtime and holiday inspection fees for small establishments by 30% and by 75% for very small establishments.
  • Proposed rulemaking related to the labeling of meat and poultry products that are comprised of or contain cultured cells from animals.
  • Review of “Product of USA” labeling.
  • Collaboration with public health partners that include the FDA and CDC. The agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enable more efficient use of resources.

A full review of the FSIS 2021 highlights are available on the agency’s website.

FDA

Highlights of FDA’s 2021 Achievements in Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

At the end of his reflection on FDA’s 2021 accomplishments in the food realm, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas stated that he believes collaboration will enable industry to “bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in this decade”. It would be a significant milestone, and in his latest FDA Voices blog, Yiannas reviewed a host of FDA achievements that bring his statement much closer to a reality:

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock gives of full report on the agency’s work in the “FDA 2021 Year in Review: Working For You”.

Compare this year’s review with that of 2020, where Yiannas reflected on the agency’s Food Program achievements during the first year of the pandemic and the 10-year anniversary of FSMA.

Alert

New Physical Security Guidance Seeks to Provide Risk-Based Food Defense Insights to the Food and Beverage Industry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Alert

The ASIS Food Defense and Agriculture Community (FDASC) released a recently developed resource and is currently seeking contributions and feedback to ensure that all perspectives are considered and represented. The document, “Physical Security Guidance for the Food and Beverage Industry to Improve Food Defense Outcomes” was developed through a partnership of food defense professionals, intending to provide a “security lens” to help the food and beverage industry consider these risk-based mitigation strategies.

Comments and feedback on the document are welcome by February 15, 2022. Please return comments to Frank Pisciotta (Business Protection Specialists) and/or Rich Widup (Reckitt).

When providing comments on the guidance document draft, please specify the following:

  • Page number
  • Line # start and line # end
  • Observation on current content
  • Proposed resolution
  • Reference (if applicable)

In addition, FDASC will be hosting an upcoming session to discuss comments received prior to January 28, 2022. If you are interested in providing comments or joining the working session on February 1, 2022, please contact ASIS FDASC Chairman Frank Pisciotta or vice-chair Jason Bashura.

The ASIS FDASC plans to talk through the Physical Security guidance during a future Food Defense Consortium meeting that will be convened during the next Food Safety Consortium. More information on these events is forthcoming. More information about the Food Defense Consortium can be found in Food Safety Tech’s Food Defense Resource Center.

 

About ASIS International

Founded in 1955, ASIS International is a global community of security professionals, educators, and 11 practitioners, all of whom has a role in the protection of assets – people, property, and/or information. Our members represent virtually every industry in the public and private sectors, and organizations of all 14 sizes. From entry-level managers to Chief Security Officers (CSOs) to CEOs, from security veterans to 15 consultants and those transitioning from law enforcement or the military, the ASIS community is global and 16 diverse.

About the Food Defense Consortium

The Food Defense Consortium is a voluntary, collaborative opportunity for Food and Beverage (F&B) Industry & non-government organizations (NGOs) to communicate in an Anti-trust environment to advocate for F&B industry perspectives pertaining to developing and sharing Food Defense best practices and helping firms to gain insights to aid in compliance with the FSMA Intentional Adulteration (IA) Rule.

FDA

FDA Releases Report on Salmonella Outbreak in Packaged Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has released a report on the multiagency investigation of a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with packaged salad greens grown in a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operation. The outbreak, which occurred between June and August 2021, resulted in 31 reported illnesses and four hospitalizations. It is also believed to be the first of its kind associated with leafy greens grown in a CEA facility.

No “conclusive” root cause was found, but the FDA did pinpoint the outbreak strain of Salmonella to a stormwater retention basin located next to the CEA farm. The investigation did not, however, find that this was the definitive source of contamination of the leafy greens. The agency also identified certain conditions, factors and practices that could lead to contamination, including the pond water used, growth media storage methods, water management practices and overall sanitation practices.

In the report, the FDA listed eight requirements and recommendations that apply to hydroponic facilities using CEA, including implementing effective sanitation procedures and sampling plans, conducting pre- and post-harvest sampling and testing of food, water and the physical environment, implementing procedures that are effective in rapidly cooling and cold-holding harvested leafy greens after harvest, and ensuring all growing pond water is safe and of sanitary quality.

The eight-page Investigation Report: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Packaged Leafy Greens Implicated in the Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium During the Summer of 2021 is available on FDA’s website.

CDC, FDA, USDA logos

IFSAC to Continue Focus on Finding Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) has published its 2022–2023 Interim Strategic Plan, placing continued emphasis on foodborne illness source attribution for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter. Over the next year, IFSAC will address several short-term goals surrounding improvement of methods to evaluate and identify foodborne illness source attribution through the use of outbreak and non-outbreak-associated disease data, and continued collaboration with external partners in an effort to boost data access and capabilities. The group will be targeting several efforts in the coming year, including:

  • Analysis of trends related to foodborne disease outbreak-associated illnesses over the past two decades, with a subsequent peer-reviewed journal article that reveals results.
  • Development and improvement of machine-learning methods used to predict food sources of illnesses that have an unknown source. WGS will be used to compare Salmonella isolates of known and unknown sources.
  • Collaboration with FoodNet when assessing key food sources for sporadic Salmonella Enteritidis and Campylobacter illnesses. The group will develop case-control studies using specific FoodNet data.

Formed in 2011, IFSAC is a partnership between FDA, FSIS and the CDC that seeks to strengthen federal interagency efforts and maximize use of food safety data collection, analysis and use. During 2022–2023, IFSAC will publish its yearly reports on foodborne illness source attribution for the previously mentioned priority pathogens.

Food Safety in 2022: Sustainability, Supply Chain Issues, Consumer Preferences and Technology at the Forefront

By Maria Fontanazza
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The ongoing pandemic, food fraud, food insecurity, supply chain disruptions and shortages, maintaining and fostering a robust food safety culture, and foodborne illness outbreaks kept the food industry very busy last year. Looking ahead to 2022, these challenges will continue, but many food companies are becoming better at forecasting and course correcting. During a recent interview with Food Safety Tech, Waylon Sharp, vice president and chief operating officer at Bureau Veritas, discussed trends affecting food safety this year, along with how companies should respond to incoming challenges.

Waylon Sharp, Bureau Veritas
Waylon Sharp leads North American food and agriculture testing, inspection and certification operations at Bureau Veritas.

Food Safety Tech: What challenges did food companies face in 2021 and how can they apply their lessons learned in the new year?

Waylon Sharp: Supply chain disruptions were a big challenge for food companies in 2021, as much of the North American food system is reliant on production or raw materials from international locations. This theme will continue into 2022, as logistics become more costly and challenging from a labor perspective, food companies will naturally gravitate to exploring alternatives. This shift in supply will increase the need for verification of product quality and safety of new suppliers. In addition to, or alternatively, some producers may choose more local options to reduce delays and increase stability of supply.

FST: What are the key trends impacting food safety in 2022?

Sharp: This year we’ll see food safety impacted by sustainability, consumer preferences and health and wellness:

  • Sustainability: Connecting with a purpose will be a key driver for both attracting new customers and enticing top talent to join food organizations. All aspects are critical, including sourcing raw materials, the packaging used, and minimizing the CO2 footprint in production and logistics. Consequently, I suspect there will be bad actors that see the advantage of appearing to be responsible but not doing what they say. Services that hold these organizations accountable will likely continue to grow.
  • Consumer Preferences: Migration to hyper-local, community supporting businesses can be directly correlated to the COVID financial fallout. Buying local helps support the areas we reside in, and this trend will likely persist. The feel-good support should also result in fresher product with less supply chain challenges for consumers.
  • Health & Wellness: Sustainable, plant-based products are expanding in prevalence. Traditional meat alternatives witnessed an increase in volume and new entrants such as seafood alternatives also grew in consumer acceptance. I expect more to launch in 2022 to meet the rising demand for healthy and environmentally conscious alternatives.

FST: What technologies will play a role in helping food companies tackle their biggest hurdles this year?

Sharp: Technology will continue to play an important role in the industry this year. Additional automation and digital tools to manufacture, assess food quality and safety, and distribute food are all likely to grow. Staffing challenges will continue to impact those highly manual production environments and the more work that can be performed without human intervention will gain favor over labor-intensive functions. In addition, remote audits and inspections allow for an experienced individual to assess a situation without traveling and being present on-site to limit human contact.

Coronavirus

Omnicron Disrupting Food Supply Chain, Impacting Grocery Stores

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Coronavirus

Year three of the pandemic is pushing industries to the limit, as the highly contagious omnicron variant is resulting in even more severe labor shortages that are impacting all angles of business. The food industry is no exception. The food supply chain has already been significant impacted by COVID-19, resulting in empty grocery store shelves. Last year, BSI’s Jim Yarbrough and Neil Coole wrote an article for Food Safety Tech about the fact that COVID-19’s Impact on the Food Industry Reaches Far Beyond Supermarket Shelves. Now eight months later, the omnicron variant is further disrupting food operations, with a considerable amount of the workforce being sidelined with the virus.

“The entire food-at-home supply chain is being impaired by deeper labor shortages than anticipated—this much seems clear to us—and it’s only a question of how bad the impact is,” stated JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman in an article by The Wall Street Journal.

Companies such as Conagra Brands, Inc. are struggling to keep up with consumer demand while also maintaining that food safety and quality is of the utmost importance. The company has stated that inflation could be even worse than initially expected as a result of higher costs for proteins, transportation, dairy and resin, which could all translate to higher price tags for consumers. “The word of the year this year is perseverance,” the company’s CEO Sean Connolly stated.

FDA

FDA Publishes Public Dashboard from Reportable Food Registry for Easier Analysis of Agency Data

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has published an interactive Reportable Food Registry (RFR) Data Dashboard to provide faster access to better data about hazards and dangerous food products. Called FDA-TRACK, the new RFR will be published annually, and contains 10 years of data (from September 2009–2019), encompassing 28 commodities and 20 food safety hazards. Users can interact with data points in an effort to obtain customized information. They can also change the graphs and charts, and view trends based on commodities, hazards and time frames.

The interactive dashboard provides more “access and transparency with state and local partners who use the data to better [their] workplan and determine how to target their own sampling assignments to concerns that are more common in their area, allows industry to educate themselves on trends and identify areas were additional good manufacturing practices and preventive controls could better prevent future outbreaks or contamination in their products; and offers a robust data set to researchers and others who are interested in studying the safety of our food system,” according to a CFSAN update.

The RFR was established by Congress to help FDA more effectively track patterns of food and feed adulteration. “Overall, this will be a more efficient, less resource-intensive process for FDA to provide data,” the agency stated.

When a company uncovers a food product that is hazardous, it must submit an RFR to the FDA using the electronic portal. This year the agency will launch a project that allows companies to export RFR data from their own business systems or from third party applications directly into the portal.

Kroger Ground Beef, recall

14 Tons of Ground Beef Recalled Due to Possible E. Coli Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef, recall

Following third-party lab testing that revealed a positive E. coli O157:H7 sample, Oregon-based Interstate Meat Dist, Inc. is recalling 28,356 pounds of ground beef products. The products were shipped to retail locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, according to a USDA FSIS announcement, and have bear establishment number “EST. 965” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

“The issue was reported to FSIS after a retail package of ground beef was purchased and submitted to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis and the sample tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. FSIS conducted an assessment of the third-party laboratory’s accreditation and methodologies and determined the results were actionable.” – FSIS, USDA

The USDA posted images of labels and product details related to the Class I recall, which have been distributed to Wal-Mart, WinCo, Kroger and Albertsons.

Recall

FDA Continues Investigation of Listeria Outbreak in Packaged Salad

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

— UPDATE — January 12, 2022

Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. has now issued a voluntary recall of Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Springfield, OH (product ID lot code “W” and “Best if Used By” date December 22, 2021–January 9, 2022) and Soledad, CA production facilities containing iceberg lettuce.

–END UPDATE —

The FDA and CDC are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes illnesses linked to Fresh Express Packaged Salad and Dole Packaged Salad.

Last month Dole Fresh Vegetables issued a voluntary recall for salads processed at its facilities in Bessemer City, NC and Yuma, AZ due to the health risk. The company also temporarily suspended operations at both facilities. The brand names in which the salads were sold under include Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise and Simply Nature. The products have “Best if Used By” dates between November 30, 2021 and January 8, 2022.

The agencies’ investigation of Fresh Express Packaged Salad resulted in the company stopping production at its Streamwood, IL facility. It also initiated a recall of certain varieties of its branded and private-label salads that were produced at this facility.

The FDA’s investigation into the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to both Dole and Fresh Express is ongoing. Thus far, no deaths linked to the outbreak have been reported.