FSMA Brief: Industry Challenged by Training and Produce Safety Rule

By Maria Fontanazza
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With several FSMA compliance dates now in effect, much of the focus is on where companies need help. According to Kathy Gombas, former deputy director at CFSAN, the industry is struggling with FSMA training. Many companies don’t understand the FSMA rule exemptions and supply chain requirements, and they just don’t know where to start. “Industry needs affordable and timely resources,” said Gombas during a panel discussion at the Food Safety Summit earlier this month. “There are a lot of tools out there, but they’re costly.”

Efforts are underway to address these challenges. FDA has issued more than a dozen guidance documents pertaining to the rule. In addition, tools such as model plans and templates can help companies with their food safety plans, and the agency is almost ready to publish a web-based food safety plan builder that will be freely accessible on FDA’s website, according to Gombas. Several sources of technical assistance are available, including state and trade associations, academia, and the technical assistance network (TAN). However, when companies have inquiries, the key is to provide them with a response in a timely manner, said Gombas.

The Produce Safety rule is another hot spot for hurdles. Although 90% of it aligns with Good Agricultural Practices that have been in place for more than a decade, industry’s response to the rule remains one of fear and confusion, said David Gombas, former vice president of technical services for the United Fresh Produce Association. “Water testing is probably the most complicated aspect of the regulation,” he said. The rule calls for testing procedures that many produce companies never had to conduct before. Some testing must be done within a certain period of time, and the lower number of testing labs in rural areas of the United States will pose a problem for some producers, warned David Gombas.

There is also confusion among producers regarding whether they should follow the Produce Safety Rule or the Preventive Controls rule, which could significantly impact the steps they must take to be in compliance of either rule. To further complicate matters, Gombas pointed out that many foreign suppliers aren’t even aware that they have to be in compliance with the rule. Finally, the Produce Rule does provide a lot of room for flexibility, so Gombas predicts much of the responsibility will fall on the agency inspectors and how they expect rule to be met.

 

Hot dog recall

Recall: Metal May Have Contaminated 210,000 Pounds of Hot Dogs

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hot dog recall

Following three complaints of metal objects found in product packages, John Morrell and Co. has recalled about 210,606 pounds of ready-to-eat hot dog products. The following franks subject to the Class II recall were distributed to retail locations nationwide and produced on January 26, 2017: 14-oz sealed film packages containing Nathans Skinless 8 Beef Franks (use by date of August 19, 2017) and 16-oz sealed film packages of Curtis Beef Master Beef Franks (use by date June 15, 2017).

Thus far there have been no reports of adverse reactions or injury as a result of consuming these products.

Indicon Gel, biofilm

Spray Gel Detects Biofilm on Surfaces

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Indicon Gel, biofilm

The food processing environment is ripe with hot spots where biofilm can hide. A rapid biological hygiene indicator in the form of a spray gel has been developed to provide companies with a visual indication of biofilm on a surface. Once the gel makes contact with biofilm it produces foam within two minutes. Manufactured by Sterilex, Indicon Gel does not require mixing and is appropriate for seek-and-destroy missions. It enables detection of microorganisms that include Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella on both large surfaces as well as niches that cannot be accessed by a swab.

Fast Facts about Biofilm

FoodLogiQ Recall Response, SaaS

New Technology Helps Companies Respond to Recalls Faster

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FoodLogiQ Recall Response, SaaS

A recent survey found that many consumers expect a recall to be resolved within one to two days. Today one company released a product touted as the first real-time software as a service (SaaS) platform for managing recall and stock withdrawal with the goal of helping food companies respond to recalls faster.

Recall + Response, launched by FoodLogiQ, allows food companies to implement a targeted recall strategy across the supply chain and track the progress of the recall. An automated communications function (via phone, email and text) sends notifications that can accelerate the delivery of information throughout the supply chain during a recall. The platform can initiate stock withdrawals and recalls, as well as mock recalls. Its features include withdrawal templates that the user can define and create to prepare for recalls and stock withdrawals, and a mock recall feature to test the recall readiness of a user’s supply chain. It also has an automatic escalation function if no action is taken by a location or no contact is made in a specific timeframe.

FSMA, Food Safety Tech, FDA

FDA Releases New Guidance on Foreign Supplier Verification Program

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FSMA, Food Safety Tech, FDA

With the first FSVP compliance rule just two weeks away, FDA has published a new guidance to help importers that are subject to the rule. “Guidance for Industry: Compliance with Providing an Acceptable Unique Facility Identifier for the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs Regulation” specifically provides information on the following:

  • How an organization identifies itself as an importer of food at entry into the United States
  • Requirement to provide a unique facility identifier that is acceptable by FDA
  • Information on what to do if the importer cannot obtain a Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System number in time for the compliance date

FDA also identified the importers that fall under the May 30, 2017 compliance date. The foreign supplier would fall into one of the following categories:

  • The supplier will not be covered by the FSMA PC or Produce Safety rules
  • The supplier is subject to the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule and is not a small business, qualified facility or subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance
  • The supplier is subject to CGMP requirements in the FSMA Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule and is not a small business or qualified facility

For importers that are unsure as to whether they are required to comply with the FSVP rule, the agency released a one-page chart, “Am I Subject to FSVP?”, along with a fact sheet about the final rule and the requirements under it, compliance dates and additional information.

American beef

USDA Announces American Beef to Return to Chinese Market

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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American beef

Today U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue praised a trade agreement reached between the United States and China that is allowing the return of America beef to the Chinese market for the first time in 13 years. The ban has been in place since 2003 following a case of mad cow disease. However, China’s domestic cattle population is not keeping up with the increased consumer demand.

“This is tremendous news for the American beef industry, the agriculture community, and the U.S. economy in general.  We will once again have access to the enormous Chinese market, with a strong and growing middle class, which had been closed to our ranchers for a long, long time.  I commend the persistence of President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. Trade Representative’s officials, and our own USDA professionals.  I also thank our Chinese counterparts, who worked so hard to get this agreement into place.  When the Chinese people taste our high-quality U.S. beef, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll want more of it.” – Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Under the trade agreement, cooked Chinese poultry may be imported into the United States once issues related to safety and hygiene are addressed.

Imports

Panama Canal Expansion Helps Boost Produce Imports

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Imports

Following the expansion of the Panama Canal, a massive construction project that intended to double the cargo capacity of the canal, U.S. ports on the East Coast are enjoying an import boom. In Philadelphia, the Parker Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia (ranked the 12th nationwide) experienced a 28% bump in April alone.

Over the past year, the Philadelphia port has brought in additional imports of fresh produce from several companies, including Walmart, according to The Inquirer. Since last summer, Mediterranean Shipping Co. has been shipping grapes, blueberries and other fruits from Chile, Peru and Ecuador to Philadelphia on a weekly basis. The company’s cargo ships are the largest to ever have sailed up the Delaware River. Fyffes, a European fresh produce company, began delivering bananas, plantains and pineapples from Costa Rica, Columbia and Guatemala in January.

Scott Gottlieb, FDA

Scott Gottlieb Confirmed to Lead FDA

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Scott Gottlieb, FDA

Yesterday Scott Gottlieb, M.D., President Trump’s nominee who has been criticized for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, was confirmed by the Senate to lead FDA as its next commissioner. The vote was 57 to 42.

Gottlieb has extensive experience in healthcare and has been outspoke about the long approval process, along with the Medicare coverage process. However, he has not been vocal about food safety issues, so his impact on the food industry remains to be seen.

He previously served as deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs during the George W. Bush administration and was most recently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a venture fund that invests in life sciences, medical technology and healthcare services.

Food Fraud

Mitigating Food Fraud Is Complex, But Not Impossible

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Fraud

Nearly 10% of the food supply is affected by food fraud, yet many food companies are not well equipped to deal with the problem, according to a survey cited by SSAFE at USP’s recent Food Fraud Mitigation Hands-on Workshop. Nearly 40% of companies said it is easy for fraudsters to fake their food products and about one-third named gaps in supply chain transparency as a fraud vulnerability problem. In addition, about one third of respondents were unaware of whether their suppliers have been part of a criminal offense.

How secure is your supply chain? Learn how to mitigate these risks at the Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5-6, 2017

Food fraud is defined as the intentional misrepresentation of the true identity or contents of a food ingredient or product for economic gain, said Janet Balson, senior food safety consultant at USP. In many cases, adulteration cannot be detected by visual inspection alone. Companies must look at the susceptibility of certain ingredients and products (common targets include olive oil, honey, milk, chicken, tea, spices and fish), potential economic gain, and vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Since only a small amount of fraud cases are detected, it is important to conduct a thorough vulnerability assessment that examines the supply chain, QA methods, testing frequency, audits, supplier history, and historical, geo-political and economic factors, and from there, a multi-disciplinary team can develop an appropriate control plan based on the level of risk.

Food companies can leverage several tools (they also work in a complementary fashion) to identify and assess potential hazards in ingredients and products, including EMAlert, USP’s Food Fraud Database 2.0 and SSAFE’s Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment tool. Arcchana Patil, senior manager of food safety & defense, QRC at The Hershey Company and Samantha Cooper, manager of food safety & quality assurance at GMA compared several of these platforms, offering a few tips on their capabilities and how companies can make the best use of the tools.

  • USP Food Fraud Database 2.0: Contains almost 7,000 food fraud records and allows searching of records by ingredient. Helps in the process of evaluating food fraud vulnerability. Its customizable dashboard and search function update users on new records. The platform also provides automated analytics tools. The tool is best used by subject matter experts, a group or by food fraud and food defense teams.
  • EMAlert: A real-time predictive model for economically motivated adulteration that quantitatively analyzes vulnerability for a group of ingredients based on weights given by users. Commodity data for each attribute is continuously updated. It provides a good platform for commodity scanning for sourcing and procurement teams. The tool is best used by subject matter experts, a group or by food fraud and food defense teams.
  • SSAFE Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment: Available in 10 languages, it provides a good starting point for companies to assess their vulnerability at an ingredient, product, brand, facility, country or company-wide level. It identifies vulnerabilities to enable mitigation, but it does not offer mitigation techniques. The tool can be applied throughout the supply chain, from feed and primary production to manufacturing and catering. It can be used by different segments of the supply chain, along with corporate, but it is best used by cross-functional teams in quality, lab, procurement, legal and manufacturing.
  • World Factbook of Food: With more than 130 foods and 75 country profiles, the Factbook data is curated from a variety of sources to assist in risk assessment. The repository of food and country profile contains product uses, consumption, production and trade information, along with population, economy, climate and governance.
  • Food Adulteration Incidents Registry: Containing more than 550 unique incidents of food fraud and intentional adulteration, the registry provides verified event information to support vulnerability assessments. The platform uses a repository of open data records.

The shortage of food due to climate, environmental and political changes will put further pressure on the availability of certain ingredients and is likely to cause an uptick in food fraud. However, there are more tools than ever before to help companies deal with this problem, but the key is to try to stay one step ahead. As the speakers and attendees at the USP workshop reflected on the issue, they shared their predictions on where they see food fraud headed in the near term:

  • Companies will need to use technology to push further into their supply chains (i.e., tier two or three) where there is a higher risk.
  • The implementation of blockchain technology will make it more difficult for fraudsters to fake data, especially with processed foods.
  • The food industry will be able to learn from other industries that have counterfeiting issues, such as the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Use of smarter complementary tools that fight food fraud will help companies better mitigate risks and intervene more swiftly.
Aunt Jemima frozen French Toast recall

Pinnacle Foods Drops Certain Aunt Jemima Products Amidst Listeria Recall

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Aunt Jemima frozen French Toast recall

On May 5, Pinnacle Foods, Inc. announced a voluntary recall of all Aunt Jemima Frozen Pancakes, Frozen Waffles and Frozen French Toast Slices due to concerns over Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The products were distributed across the United States (and one product in Mexico) but no illnesses have been reported. Two additional products—Aunt Jemima French Toast & Sausage and Hungry Man Selects Chicken & Waffles—were recalled in conjunction with the USDA.

In a press release posted today by Pinnacle Foods, the company announced that it will exit certain “low low-margin and non-strategic” Aunt Jemima frozen breakfast products: Frozen waffles, French toast slices and pancakes. “The decision to exit these products now was the appropriate action for Pinnacle,” said company CEO Mark Clouse in the release. “It is consistent with our plans to enhance the on-going margin of the Company and focus our efforts and investments on more profitable growth opportunities longer term.  While the timing of this exit was accelerated by the voluntary recall we initiated last week, these items are low-margin, non-strategic SKUs that we expected to exit at some point in the foreseeable future.” The company will continue to market its mini pancakes, French toast sticks, breakfast entrees and Griddle Poppers.