Tag Archives: contamination

High processing pas

HPP: Achieve High Standards of Food Safety Without Compromising Food Quality

By Mark Duffy
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High processing pas

As food companies analyze and modify their production processes to ensure FSMA compliance, many are finding that traditional food processing technologies aren’t ideally suiting their needs. Conventional pasteurization technologies like heat pasteurization have been relied on to protect the safety of the food supply over the years, but they aren’t without their downsides. For example, sometimes they negatively impact the flavor, texture, nutrients and color of food products. Additionally, many traditional food processing methods require chemical additives to be integrated to preserve quality and taste. In a market where consumers are more frequently appreciating, if not demanding, cleaner labels with simple ingredients, these solutions are often becoming less attractive options for some companies.

This new demand for a higher level of food safety combined with an emphasis on food quality has led some producers of refrigerated foods to turn to an increasingly popular alternative: High pressure processing.

How HPP Works

High pressure processing, or HPP, is an effective technique that uses pressure rather than heat or chemicals to disable pathogens in food. After packaging, food products composed of some degree of water activity (Aw) are placed into a machine that applies incredibly intense water pressure to food—sometimes as much as 87,000 psi.

High pressure processing
How high pressure processing works. Graphic courtesy of Universal Pasteurization & Universal Cold Storage

This process interrupts the cellular function of the microorganisms both on the surface and deep within the food and can serve as a critical control point (CCP) in a HACCP program. Research studies on a wide range of refrigerated food products and categories confirm that HPP technology inactivates vegetative bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, and Campylobacter as well as yeasts and molds. Additionally, because pressure is applied after the food is packaged, HPP drastically reduces any chance of recontamination.

Besides its food safety benefits, HPP offers food producers added benefits over traditional methods. Because the pressure inactivates spoilage organisms along with pathogens, many foods see a substantial increase in shelf life after undergoing HPP, sometimes even twice as long. Processors use this shelf-life extension to increase their distribution reach and reduce food waste.

In a recent survey, 57% of respondents in the food and beverage industry characterized their companies’ use of HPP as substantial or growing. Survey respondents also scored HPP’s ability to make food safer by eliminating pathogens above a 4 on a 5-point scale, one of the highest of any food processing technology.

However, HPP isn’t right for every product. It isn’t effective on some enzymes and bacterial spores, like Clostridium botulinum. Producers need to tap into other techniques to address concerns not affected by HPP. The process also requires foods to be packaged in fairly flexible packaging to allow for an even application of pressure. Glass bottles or particularly hard plastics will not be suitable.

HPP can also be daunting to implement for some companies. Purchasing an HPP machine is a major investment, typically seven-figures, without factoring in specific facility requirements or staffing needs. In the same survey of food and beverage producers, the most commonly cited concerns had nothing to do with the efficacy or value of the technology, but rather with the cost of purchasing and staffing the equipment.

For businesses that don’t want to make that kind of capital expenditure commitment but want to take advantage of high pressure processing, HPP outsourcing providers offer a more affordable solution. These companies own and operate HPP machines on behalf of clients. That way, food brands don’t have to purchase expensive HPP machines and regularly maintain their own equipment.

Is HPP right for you? The answer and the nuances are highly variable, but HPP is a fast-growing food preservation technology offering many benefits, including food safety benefits, across a broad product spectrum.

strawberries

The 2017 Dirty Dozen List Unveiled: How Contaminated Is Produce?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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strawberries

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its “Dirty Dozen”, a list of 12 produce items that contain the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the organization analyzed tests conducted by the USDA, finding that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of produce were contaminated with one or more pesticide residues, which remained even after the produce were washed (and peeled, in some instances). 178 pesticides and pesticide breakdown products were found on the samples that the USDA researchers analyzed.

“New federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that is banned from use on food crops in Europe.” – EWG

For the following items that made this year’s list, EWG recommends always buying organic. Each food tested positive for several different pesticide residues, along with having higher concentrations of pesticides compared to other produce.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

EWG also released a Clean 15 list, produce that was found to have “relatively few” pesticides and a low concentration of residue.

However, there are groups that dispute EWG’s list, because the ranking of produce has been found to have a negative effect on the consumption of produce, whether conventional or organic, especially among low-income consumers. “EWG’s list has been discredited by scientists, it is not based upon risk and has now been shown to potentially discourage consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) in a press release. She referred to analysis conducted by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program, which found that a child could eat excessive amounts of produce daily without any negative consequences from the pesticide residues. “For strawberries, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues,” Thorne said. AFF also lists some of the regulations regarding pesticide use [http://safefruitsandveggies.com/regulations/organic] on its website.

I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, recall

Latest Count: 16 Ill, 8 Hospitalized in E. Coli Outbreak Linked to SoyNut Butter

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, recall

According to the latest numbers from the CDC, 16 people have been infected with E. coli O157:H7 after reportedly consuming I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter. 14 of the 16 people infected in the multi-state outbreak are younger than 18 years old; 8 people have been hospitalized, five of which developed hemolytic uremic syndrome; and no deaths have been reported.

Yesterday The SoyNut Butter Co. expanded its recall to all varieties I.M Healthy Soynut Butters and Healthy Granola products.

“Epidemiologic evidence indicates that I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter is a likely source of this outbreak. I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.” – CDC

Illnesses began on January 4, 2017 and continued to February 21, 2017. The CDC notes that it can take two to three weeks for a person to become ill, thus any illnesses that occurred after February 13 may not be reported yet. The center is advising consumers to throw out all of the recalled products and that childcare centers, schools and institutions refrain from serving these products.

Listeria

How One Company Eliminated Listeria Using Chlorine Dioxide Gas

By Kevin Lorcheim
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Listeria

The previous article discussed the various decontamination options available to eliminate Listeria. It was explained why the physical properties of gaseous chlorine dioxide make it so effective. This article focuses on one company’s use of chlorine dioxide gas decontamination for both contamination response and for preventive control.

The summer of 2015 saw multiple ice cream manufacturers affected by Listeria monocytogenes. The ice cream facility detailed in this article never had a supply outage, but ceased production for a short amount of time in order to investigate and correct their contamination. After a plant-wide review of procedures, workflows, equipment design and product testing, multiple corrective actions were put into place to eliminate Listeria from the facility and help prevent it from returning. One such corrective action was to decontaminate the production area and cold storage rooms using chlorine dioxide gas. This process took place after the rest of the corrective actions, so as to decontaminate the entire facility immediately before production was set to resume.

Responsive Decontamination

The initial decontamination was in response to the Listeria monocytogenes found at various locations throughout the facility. A food safety investigation and microbiological review took place to find the source of the contamination within the facility in order to create a corrective action plan in place. Listeria was found in a number of locations including the dairy brick flooring that ran throughout the production area. A decision was made to replace the flooring, among other equipment upgrades and procedural changes in order to provide a safer food manufacturing environment once production resumed. Once the lengthy repair and upgrade list was completed, the chlorine dioxide gas decontamination was initiated.

The facility in question was approximately 620,000 cubic feet in volume, spanning multiple rooms as well as a tank alley located on a different floor. The timeline to complete the decontamination was 2.5 days. The first half-day consisted of safety training, a plant orientation tour, a meeting with plant supervisors, and the unpacking of equipment. The second day involved the setup of all equipment, which included chlorine dioxide gas generators, air distribution blowers, and a chlorine dioxide gas concentration monitor. Gas injection tubing was run from the chlorine dioxide gas generators throughout the facility to approximately 30 locations within the production area. The injection points were selected to aid its natural gaseous distribution by placing them apart from one another. Gas sample tubing was run to various points throughout the facility in locations away from the injection locations to sample gas concentrations furthest away from injection points where concentrations would be higher. Sample locations were also placed in locations known to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes to provide a more complete record of treatment for those locations. In total, 14 sample locations were selected between plant supervisors and the decontamination team. Throughout the entire decontamination, the gas concentration monitor would be used to continuously pull samples from those locations to monitor the concentration of chlorine dioxide gas and ensure that the proper dosage is reached.

As a final means of process control, 61 biological indicators were brought to validate that the decontamination process was effective at achieving a 6-log sporicidal reduction. 60 would be placed at various challenging locations within the facility, while one would be randomly selected to act as a positive control that would not be exposed to chlorine dioxide gas. Biological indicators provide a reliable method to validate decontamination, as they are produced in a laboratory to be highly consistent and contain more than a million bacterial spores impregnated on a paper substrate and wrapped in a Tyvek pouch. Bacterial spores are considered to be the hardest microorganism to kill, so validating that the process was able to kill all million spores on the biological indicator in effect also proves the process was able to eliminate Listeria from surfaces. The biological indicators were placed at locations known to be positive for Listeria, as well as other hard-to-reach locations such as the interior of production equipment, underneath equipment and inside some piping systems.

In order to prepare the facility for decontamination, all doors, air handling systems, and penetrations into the space were sealed off to keep the gas within the production area. After a safety sweep for personnel, the decontamination was performed to eliminate Listeria from all locations within the production area.

Click page 2 to continue reading.

Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Tech Spotlight: How Chipotle Fights Norovirus

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Watch another video: Antimicrobial Technology Mitigates Pathogen Risk Throughout the Supply ChainChipotle was plagued with several foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015. Norovirus was one of them. As part of the company’s commitment to addressing its food safety issues, it enlisted the help of technology from Pure Bioscience. In the following video, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, explains how and where Chipotle is using the Pure Hard Surface technology in its establishments to mitigate the risk of norovirus.

Is Your Condensation Under Control?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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“Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities” is available on-demand Little beads of water on overhead surfaces can cause big problems. Remember the Listeria contamination that affected Blue Bell Creameries? FDA investigators spotted condensation dripping right into food and food contact surfaces. In a response to an FDA Form 483, Blue Bell wrote “As part of our internal review, we are extensively reconfiguring lines and equipment to eliminate the potential for condensation forming on pipes above processing equipment”.

Condensation can form on overhead surfaces during sanitation processes, which poses potentially serious issues. During an upcoming webinar, “Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities”, experts from the University of Nebraska, Maple Leaf Foods, General Mills, Smithfield Foods, and 3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory will discuss tips on how to manage condensation, along with the challenges associated with condensation.

Peas, UV light

Controlling and Mitigating Pathogens Throughout Production

By Troy Smith
1 Comment
Peas, UV light
Sampling
Product sampling

As the enforcement of rules, regulations and inspections get underway at food production facilities, we are faced with maintaining production rates while looking for infinitesimal pathogens and cleaning to non-detectible levels. This clearly sets demand on the plant for new and creative methods to control and mitigate pathogens pre-production, during production and post production.

As this occurs, the term clean takes on new meaning: What is clean, and how clean is clean? Swab and plate counts are now critically important. What method is used at the plant, who is testing, what sampling procedure is used, and how do we use the results? As we look at the process from start to finish, we must keep several key questions in mind: What are harboring points in the process, and what are the touch-point considerations to the product? Let’s review the overall processing progression through the factory (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Figure 1. The progression of processing of a food product through a facility.

Now consider micro pathogen contamination to the product, as we look deeper in the process for contamination or critical control points as used in successful HACCP plans. Consider contamination and how it may travel or contact food product. It is understood through study and research of both pathogens and plant operations that contamination may be introduced to the plant by the front door, back door, pallet, product, or by a person. In many cases, each of these considerations leads to uncontrolled environments that create uncontrolled measurements throughout, which lead to cleaning procedures based on time rather than science. This is certainly not to say that creating a preventive maintenance schedule based on a calendar is a bad thing. Rather, the message is to consider a deeper look at the pathogens and how they live and replicate. From the regulatory and control measures this should be a clear message of what food-to-pathogen considerations should be taken at the plant level as well as measurement methods and acceptable levels (which is not an easy answer, as each product and environment can change this answer). A good example to consider is public schools and children. Health organizations work to help the schooling system understand what immunizations children should have based on the current health risk tolerance levels. In food production, the consideration is similar in an everchanging environment. As we see contamination levels change the methods, techniques and solutions to proper food production must account for the pathogens of concern.

Contamination, Risk tolerance, Opportunity for Growth

Contamination, risk tolerance, and opportunity for growth are the considerations when looking at a plant design or a plant modification. Modification to modernization should be a top-of-mind critical quality control measure. If there are a few things we know, it is how to produce food at high rates of speed, measure and value production rates, and delays or failures can be measured by equipment and personnel performance. In the case of quality control, we must review, comprehend, and protect process risk. From a management or non-technical viewpoint, quality control can be very difficult to understand. When discussing pathogens, our concerns are not visible to the human eye—we are beyond a dirty surface, weare looking at risk tolerance based on pathogen growth in logarithmic measurement. When combining quality control and production, the measurement control and mitigation measures complement the effort. The use of quality control is expected and should coordinate with production to ensure the product is produced at the expected quality level.

Sprouts

FDA’s Draft Guidance Aims to Help Keep Sprouts Contamination Free

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Sprouts

Between 1996 and 2016, sprouts have been responsible to 46 outbreaks in the United States, which has led to nearly 2500 illnesses and three deaths, according to FDA. They have presented a consistent challenge to operators, because sprouts are most often produced in conditions that are ideal for bacteria growth.

Today FDA issued a draft guidance to assist sprout operators in complying with the FSMA Produce Rule, which requires “covered sprout operations take measures to prevent the introduction of dangerous microbes into seeds or beans used for sprouting, test spent sprout irrigation water (or, in some cases, in-process sprouts) for the presence of certain pathogens, test the growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment for the presence of the Listeria species or Listeria monocytogenes, and take corrective actions when needed.”

Large sprout operators must comply with the Produce Rule (applicable provisions) by January 26. Small business must comply by January 26, 2018 and very small businesses by January 28, 2019.

The draft guidance, Compliance with and Recommendations for Implementation of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption for Sprout Operations, is open for comment for the next 180 days.

University of Surrey, Food scare diagram

New Food Scare Categorization to Help Tackle Compromises in Supply Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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University of Surrey, Food scare diagram

Attend the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREThe global complexity of the food supply chain is only increasing the amount of adverse issues that can occur. In an effort to help the industry mitigate the various risk factors and reduce the incidence of food scares, researchers from UK-based University of Surrey have developed a new system for classifying these “food scares” across the food chain. In a recent report, Food scares: a comprehensive categorization, published in the British Food Journal, a food scare is defined as “the response to a food incident (real or perceived) that causes a sudden disruption to the food supply chain and to food consumption patterns.” The term also takes into consideration consumer distrust in the food supply chain.

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“With food scares becoming more frequent, it is important that we have a categorization system which enables efficient development of strategies to tackle such compromises to our food supply,” said report co-author Professor Angela Druckman from the University of Surrey in a press release.

“A food scare is the response to a food incident (real or perceived) that causes a sudden disruption to the food supply chain and to food consumption patterns.”

The researchers created a diagram (see Figure 1) that categorizes food scares by physical indicators such as chemical, physical or biological contamination and origin such as intentional deception, transparency and awareness issues.

University of Surrey, Food scare diagram
Figure 1. Categorization of food scare diagram. Courtesy of the University of Surrey

The authors note the importance of identifying the cause of contamination (as seen in the diagram), as the “method through which contamination occurs is key in devising food scare prevention strategies.”

ConAgra Subsidiary Slapped with Largest Criminal Fine Ever in Food Safety Case

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Earlier this week ConAgra Grocery Products, LLC, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, Inc., was sentenced to pay $11.2 million after pleading guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge related to shipping peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella. The $8 million criminal fine and forfeiture of $3.2 million in assets is the largest fine ever paid in a food safety case, according to the Department of Justice.

“This case demonstrates companies – both large and small – must be vigilant about food safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in a release.  “We rely every day on food processors and handlers to meet the high standards required to keep our food free of harmful contamination.”

Stephen Ostroff, 2016 Food Safety Consortium
WATCH THE VIDEO: Stephen Ostroff, M.D., FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine discussed the agency’s take on criminal liability at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium

ConAgra admitted that it introduced contaminated Peter Pan and private label peanut butter into interstate commerce (produced and shipped from the company’s facility in Sylvester, Georgia) during an outbreak of Salmonellosis in 2006. The company also admitted that it had been previously aware of the risk of Salmonella contamination in peanut butter dating back to 2004. Among the culprits of the contamination (as identified by company employees) were an old peanut roaster that did not uniformly heat the raw peanuts, a sugar silo damaged by a storm, and a leaky roof that permitted moisture to enter the facility, followed by airflow that may have pushed the contamination throughout the plant.

The company tried to address some of the issues, but the DOJ stated that ConAgra did not fully correct the situation until after the 2006–2007 outbreak.  “While ConAgra did take corrective action eventually, by failing to timely recognize and rectify the problem of salmonella contamination, this company damaged the health of both public consumers and of the agricultural industry overall.  I commend my staff, that of the Consumer Protection Branch of the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the investigators of the FDA, for the excellent work by all in bringing this incident to this conclusion and I hope that it will serve as a reminder to others in the industry of the high cost of failing to protect the public that relies on them to properly meet this responsibility.”

Watch Out, DOJ and FDA Prioritizing Prosecution