Tag Archives: Focus Article

Dole Organic Lettuce

Dole Recalls Limited Amount of Organic Romaine Hearts

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Dole Organic Lettuce

Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of a limited number of cases of organic romaine lettuce hearts over E.coli contamination. The recalled products, Dole Organic Romaine Hearts 3pk, combined English/French packaging (with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20), and Wild Harvest Organic Romaine Hearts (with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20).

The products were harvested and packed nearly four weeks ago, according to the FDA release and were distributed in AZ, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND and VA. No illnesses have been reported.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Criminals in the Lab

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Testing methods, analysis
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Herbs and botanical ingredients are a common target for fraud, especially during times of increased demand, for example caused by COVID-19. The Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) published an article describing some of the fraudulent methods that are used to intentionally create false results. The paper explains how deliberately manipulated plant extracts can fool lab methods like gas chromatography or high-performance liquid chromatography to produce results which make the analyzed product look legitimate.

Resource

  1. Nutraceuticals World. (October 30, 2020). “BAPP Publishes Article Detailing Adulteration Schemes Used to Fool Laboratory Analytical Methods”.
magnifying glass

‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind?’ Researchers Explore Produce Distribution Centers as Contamination Sources

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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magnifying glass

When looking at possible sources of contamination, far less attention has been put on produce distribution centers (DCs). “I think the DCs are a little out of sight, out of mind,” said Laurel Dunn, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of food science & technology at the University of Georgia in a release from the Center for Produce Safety (CPS). “We have been so focused on foodborne outbreaks and what’s happening at the field level or packinghouse wash water and employees and hand hygiene.” As such, in an announcement from CPS, Dunn discusses a project that seeks to understand the contamination issues happening at the DC level, namely vented produce in breathable containers or stored in coolers. Examples of the items being examined are berries, tomatoes, and onions in mesh bags.

Dunn, along with researchers Laura K. Strawn, Ph.D. of Virginia Tech and Ben Chapman, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, are focusing on Listeria due to the fact that biofilms can thrive indoors and be difficult to eliminate. The research project, “Environmental microbial risks associated with vented produce in distribution centers”, began on January 1 but was slowed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far the researchers have collected samples from 11 DCs (they initially had a goal of sampling from at least 25 DCs), most of which was conducted before the pandemic. Due to travel restrictions, the researchers may only be able to get samples from operations east of the Mississippi River.

Depending on the outcome of the study, the researchers may also formulate written risk-reduction guidance for DCs. Based on the samples collected, Dunn anticipates they will be able to devise useful information to help DCs.

FDA

FDA’s New Outbreak Table an Effort Toward Earlier Transparency about Outbreaks

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has released an outbreak investigation table that aims to disseminate information about foodborne illness outbreaks right when the agency begins an investigation. The table, published by the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network, will be updated with important information before a public health advisory or food recall is issued.

“The outbreak investigation table is a demonstration of our continued commitment to more frequent and transparent communication with stakeholders and consumers about outbreaks we’re investigating,” said Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at FDA, in an agency statement. “We have already taken steps to release information early, in some cases prior to a specific food being linked to an outbreak, including in our recent communications on investigations into three ongoing E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks.”

As of November 18, the table listed seven outbreak investigations, only one of which identified a product linked to illnesses. Yiannas pointed out that during the early stages of an investigation, there may not be any action that a consumer can take—however, the tool is in line with the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, which commits to releasing outbreak information in the “earliest stages of an investigation”.

The FDA’s outbreak investigation table is available on the agency’s website.

Food Safety Consortium

2020 FSC Episode 11 Preview: Supply Chain Management

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium

This week’s episode of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series will address how food companies can navigate supply chain complexities. The following are highlights for Thursday’s session:

  • Disruptions in the Supply Chain and the Government Response, with Brian Ravitch and Benjamin England, FDA Imports
  • Food Safety Risks and the Cold Supply Chain, with Jeremy Schneider, Controlant
  • A panel discussion on the Third-Party Certification Program, moderated by Trish Wester, AFSAP and featuring Doriliz De Leon and Clinton Priestly of FDA
  • TechTalk on How Restaurant Brands International has Digital Transformed Its Supply Chain to Ensure Food Safety, Quality & Consistency, with Jim Hardeman, CMX

The event begins at 12 pm ET on Thursday, November 19. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! We look forward to your joining us virtually.

Alert

15 Food, Beverage and CPG Groups Implore President Trump for COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Alert

Last week 15 organizations within the food and beverage, agriculture, retail and consumer packaged goods industries penned a letter to President Trump requesting priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine once it is distributed.

“Our members have been on the front lines of the response to the pandemic by continuing operations and ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. Challenges have taxed the food supply chain over the past eight months, but the food, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail industries are resilient, and the supply chains have not broken,” the letter, which is posted on the United Fresh Produce Association’s website, states. “Once a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, it is imperative that we have a federally orchestrated vaccine distribution program and prioritization of vaccination among population groups.”

The letter was submitted by the following organizations and associations:

  • American Bakers Association
  • American Frozen Food Institute
  • Consumer Brands Association
  • FMI – The Food Industry Association
  • Global Cold Chain Alliance
  • International Dairy Foods Association
  • National Automatic Merchandising Association
  • National Confectioners Association
  • National Grocers Association
  • National Restaurant Association
  • North American Millers Association
  • North American Meat Institute
  • Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association
  • SNAC International
  • United Fresh

The letter also urges President Trump to activate the roadmap laid out in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations as soon as possible to facilitate “widespread and sustained acceptance of vaccinations.”

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Sticky Criminal Endeavor

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Honey Fraud, Bee
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database.
Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Honey harvest in Europe is predicted to be down by 40% in 2020. This disastrous harvest is caused by a combination of issues, including flood, draught and climate change in a variety of regions. One third of honey into the EU is imported, and cheap, sometimes fake imports are undercutting EU producers’ prices. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre states that at least 14% of honeys in the EU are adulterated. Two recent incidents of honey adulteration in Greece show that this is a serious problem and possibly an indication of more fraudulent activity to come.

Resources

  1. Askew, K. (November 9, 2020). “Honey producers stung by ‘worst harvest in decades’ call for crackdown on adulterated imports”. Food Navigator.
  2. Hellenic Food Authority. “Two cases of honey fraud in Greece.”
Tucson Tamale

USDA Issues Public Health Alert for Tamales Due to Potential Foreign Matter Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Tucson Tamale

Yesterday USDA’s FSIS issued a public health alert for ready-to-eat chicken and pork tamales because they contain recalled diced tomatoes in puree that have been recalled by the producer due to foreign matter contamination. The puree product is FDA regulated. The RTE tamales were produced by Tucson Tamale Wholesale Co., LLC between October 22 and November 9, 2020, and have the establishment number “EST. 45860” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were sold online and shipped for retail and restaurant distribution nationwide.

Tucson Tamale
Tucson Tamale recalled the above-pictured ready-to-eat tamales due to potential contamination with hard plastic.

Tucson Tamale uncovered the issue upon identifying pieces of hard plastic in the cans of diced tomatoes that they received from their ingredients supplier. FSIS is urging consumers who purchased the product to throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

Kari Hensien, RizePoint
FST Soapbox

7 Trends Expediting Modernization in Food Industry

By Kari Hensien
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Kari Hensien, RizePoint

For a long time, companies could effectively run food safety programs using only manual methods of quality management, such as pen, paper, spreadsheets and emails. Those practices have served the food industry well, but it was only a matter of time before food safety and quality management systems became mostly an exercise of technology.

Even before COVID-19, industry trends and government requirements (e.g., FSMA, the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety) were setting roadmaps for modernizing food safety and quality management with technology. Additionally, the food industry is thirsty for better performance, more insights and data-based decisions—all things that need more sophistication than manual systems.

As we continue through the throes of the pandemic, it’s abundantly clear that the tech-based future we were planning for five to ten years in the future is happening now. It’s both unavoidable and imperative for the food industry to quickly adapt to the new landscape in front of us. It’s as the CEO of Airbnb, Brain Chesky, recently said: Because of the pandemic, he had to make “10 years’ worth of decisions in 10 weeks.”

From my viewpoint, I see at least seven additional trends that are also expediting modernization in our industry.

1. A shift toward proactive mindset versus reactive habits. Always reacting to what’s happening around you is precarious and makes it difficult to mitigate risks, for you as well as your location employees. The benefits of being more strategic and prepared for different scenarios can shore up your foundation, making you more ready for crises at the corporate and location level. Gathering, combining and analyzing data with technology gives you more insights, so you can make data-based decisions quickly and with more confidence.

Kari Hensien, RizePoint Kari Hensien and Matt Regusci of Rizepoint will be participating in a Q&A with Dr. Darin Detwiler, Assistant Dean, Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, during the final episode of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series on December 17. 

2. Empowerment of employees to act as chief quality officers. This comes down to the difference between training employees versus coaching them. Giving employees rules (training) is one thing but showing them the reason why a rule exists (coaching) is another. In other words, when you add more coaching, you’re empowering employees to identify and act on the right thing to do for themselves—which is chief quality officer behavior.

It is important to reassure employees during coaching that honest assessments will result in managers’ support rather than punishment when things go wrong. When all employees proactively watch for quality and compliance issues and get the right support when bringing up these issues, you’re more likely to catch (and fix) small issues before they become huge liabilities.

3. An increase in virtual audits and self-assessments. I don’t believe the corporate audit will ever go away, but our customer data is showing a marked increase in location self-assessments and virtual audits before the pandemic, and even more since March.

Right now, these audit types are a necessary stopgap while the health and safety of auditors is in question. However, I’m also confident that virtual audits and self-assessments will continue to rise. The reason? These audits can start giving you a continuous view of food safety initiatives instead of a single point-in-time view.

Even though corporate audits are still part of best practices, shorter self-assessments and other evaluations can help you glean more data and gain more visibility on a continual basis, especially if you use technology to store and analyze your data in one place.

4. Continuous quality monitoring is overtaking point-in-time audits. Let’s expand on this trend. Manual processes may provide some valuable data, but it’s impossible to build real-time, integrated views into your business with only a yearly audit. It merely shows you a single (but important) point in time rather than what’s going on at each location right now. Additionally, since everyone is watching every employee at all store locations due to COVID-19, it is critical to have a checks and balances system to continually correct small issues and to find coaching opportunities.

Again, it’s virtually impossible to do this with paper checklists and email blasts because the daily-gathered data can easily be misfiled, deleted or otherwise lost. Many quality management software systems are built to integrate, store and analyze your data in a continuous manner.

5. Consolidation of multiple programs into single software solutions. As you think about updating your programs and systems from manual processes, it is important to remember that you don’t need a different solution for every activity. For example, you don’t necessarily have to invest in an auditing app, an analytics platform, and a document storage solution (and still probably manage many spreadsheets). There are many quality management software companies that have solutions built to combine and streamline all the activities you need to manage food safety or other quality management programs.

6. Innovations to share costs with suppliers. Budgets have not likely increased due to COVID-19, so investing in modernization may seem like a pipe dream. But many companies are offsetting their costs in a new way. They are requiring suppliers to use a specific software system to submit their qualifying documents, and then these companies are charging reasonable fees for suppliers’ use of the software.

Additionally, there more benefits to managing suppliers within your quality management system. First, it can streamline document collection and storage, and second, it gives you an opportunity to communicate and collaborate with your suppliers on a deeper level.

7. Standards bodies are accelerating plans to update requirements. As seen with GLOBAL.G.A.P. this year, some standards bodies are updating their digital submission requirements to streamline certification submissions as well as start building up sharable industry data so certification bodies can do their jobs better. Additionally, GLOBALG.A.P has already partnered with existing quality management software companies to make the integration and submission process even easier, and other standards bodies are sure to follow.

It’s clear to me that these trends are of a long-term nature, and each one requires updating manual food safety and quality programs to quality management system software solutions. Acting on these trends in any number will require modernization and digital transformation to have a lasting impact on your programs and your business. The mode of “just keeping the doors open” is not sustainable and will not last forever, so now is the time to start building a better food safety future.

Food Safety Consortium

2020 FSC Episode 10 Preview: Food Defense and the Insider Threat

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium

This week’s episode of the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series focuses on food defense and the insider threat. The following topics will be discussed during Thursday’s session:

  • Current events and external threats to food and agriculture
  • Case studies and lessons learned in food defense
  • Insider threat mitigation
  • Resources for food and beverage manufacturers
  • Featured speakers include Jason Bashura, PepsiCo (session moderator); April Bishop, Treehouse Foods; Ben Miller, The Acheson Group; Frank Pisciotta, BPS, Inc.; Joel Martin, Cargill; James Nasella, Tate & Lyle; Scott Mahloch, Cassandra Carter, and Kevin Spradlin, FBI; Rob Odell – National Insider Threat Task Force; Sarah Miller – Carnegie Mellon/CERT; Rebecca Morgan, Center for the Development of Security Excellence

The event begins at 12 pm ET on Thursday, November 12. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to 14 episodes of critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! We look forward to your joining us virtually.