Register for the webinar, “Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities | February 23, 2017, 1-2 pm ETLittle 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.
Learn more about mitigate risks in the supply chain by attending the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREEver heard of silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC)? The patented molecule is a new antimicrobial being used to kill potentially deadly pathogens in places from food processing facilities to restaurants. SDC is non-toxic and has an EPA toxicity rating of IV (the lowest category).
At the Food Safety Consortium last month, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, talked about how the technology his company developed can help the food industry control pathogens (including Listeria mitigation), along with its differentiating characteristics versus other disinfectants. He also gave a preview of the applications in which the company will pursue FDA and USDA approval this year.
It is critical that the heat transfer fluids (HTFs) used in the manufacturing sector are used appropriately and managed safely. Food-grade HTFs are highly refined petroleum mineral oils that are non-toxic, non-irritating and lack an odor. If a food grade HTF has been certified for use in food processing, it carries a HT-1 certificate (e.g., Globaltherm FG). Food-grade HTFs are commonly referred to as being non-fouling, which means that as they thermally degrade, they produce small carbon particles that are suspended in the HTF. This means the carbon formations are less sticky, thereby reducing the extent of adhesion to the internal surfaces of a HTF system. A recent report analyzed the test reports from HTF systems and showed carbon residue was lower for food-grade HTFs than mineral-based HTFs.1 This demonstrates the non-fouling nature of food-grade HTFs. The report recommended the independent assessment of HTFs to ensure food manufacturers and producers are using food-grade HTFs.
The HTF sector was estimated to be worth $2.8 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow by 6.8% over the next 5 years.2 Heat transfer refers to the transfer of thermal energy, and fluids are used to transfer heat energy from a heat source to processing equipment where heat is needed. This is a basic requirement in a wide variety of industrial processes, including the processing of foodstuffs such as crackers or any foods that come in a packet.
Food-grade HTFs are non-toxic, odorless and appear transparent like water, but they clearly should not be confused with water.1 Indeed, a food-grade HTF is a highly refined petroleum mineral oil and consists of a complex combination of hydrocarbons obtained from the intensive treatment of a petroleum fraction with sulphuric acid and oleum, by hydrogenation or by a combination of hydrogenation and acid treatment.
Food-grade HTFs are the most likely HTF to be used in the processing of foods provided they are judged to be safe for incidental contact with food. This certification is governed by two well-known bodies—the NSF and InS. In the case of the NSF, the components comprising a fluid are assessed for safety by a toxicologist and, if deemed safe, are awarded a HT-1 certification and can be used for incidental contact. In some cases the use of so-called food-grade HTFs is stipulated by insurers and food retailers, and certain manufacturers will be routinely audited to ensure that an appropriate HTF is being used in the processing of food. Another advantage of a HT-1 certification is that it is associated with fewer handling complaints than other fluids.
In the case of the United Kingdom, Global Heat Transfer, part of the Global Group of Companies, estimates that around 20% of all HTF systems are involved in the processing of food. The use of a food-grade HTF is recommended, but its use is not regulated. However, HTF leaks do occasionally occur. In 1998 more than 490,000 pounds of smoked boneless hams were recalled by Smithfield Foods after several customers reported a “bad taste” and “burning in their throat”, which lasted up to three hours.3 The cause was incidental contact with a non-food grade gear lubricant.
In the context of food processing, good manufacturing practice (GMP) prerequisites combined with the application of risk-based Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) according to Codex Alimentarius principles alongside first-, second- and third-party quality audits in the supply chain are used to ensure food is managed safely both during processing and when being distributed to the consumer. In addition, industrial insurers work closely with manufacturers to ensure commercial operations are adequately insured and as part of this process, may stipulate the use of a food-grade HTF and how it should be maintained.
There is no specific legislation to ensure that food grade HTFs are used in the processing of food, so it is the responsibility of the food business owner to ensure food safety throughout the supply chain and more pointedly to design plant, equipment and premises such as to protect against the accumulation of dirt, contact with toxic materials and the shedding of particles into food.
However, as outlined in the Smithfield Foods case, there is the potential for the food to come into contact with an HTF during processing. It is important to consider a few scenarios where a food may be contaminated with an HTF.
Scenario 1. The HTF may be managed by the manufacturer according to HACCP if directly involved in the processing of a product or by GMP prerequisites if the HTF forms part of the facility and services to the production line. Either system will not allow any amount of HTF to be present in food. In the event of incidental contact with food, the manufacturer may choose to dispose of all food. In this scenario, a mineral-based HTF may be used rather than a food-grade HTF.
Scenario 2. The HTF is managed according to the stipulations from the retailer. In this scenario the retailer may stipulate that a food-grade HTF is used. The HTF would be checked during auditing. However, this would be a paper-based audit, and so the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed.
Scenario 3. The insurer stipulates the use if a food-grade HTF. Like scenario 2, adoption would be assessed during audits of a facility and paper-based checks would be conducted. Like scenario 2, however, the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed. In this case the insurer may be more concerned with the safety of the system and may be more interested in the sampling reports and parameters, such as annual sampling frequency and flash point temperature of the HTF.
The gap highlighted in scenarios 2 and 3 is that a food-grade HTF would never actually be physically analyzed onsite. HTF sampling and chemical analysis is quick and easy to conduct, and can be conducted by professional companies without interrupting production.
This article makes the case for checking that non-fouling, NSF or InS certified food-grade heat transfer fluids are being used in food production. This can be achieved using independent sampling that can be conducted on-site as requested and shared with all stakeholders including the insurer, to show the HTF is being managed and that the HTF system is safe; the retailer, to demonstrate that an appropriate food-grade HTF is being used during the processing of food; and external auditors, to demonstrate that production is consumer safe.
Wright CI, Bembridge T, Picot E, Premel J, Food processing: the use of non-fouling food grade heat transfer fluids. Applied Thermal Engineering 2015: 84; 94-103.
Managers in food processing facilities are under more pressure than ever to get their product out the door quickly, but they cannot sacrifice safety. A new technology developed by 3M can help them quickly identify potential contamination in their facility, which can help them determine whether to stop production. The Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System is a handheld luminometer that was developed with the help of food manufacturing professionals in positions from plant floor operators to company executives.
“We involved customers throughout the development and design of the entire system to automate and streamline what is in many cases a tedious, manual process of selecting test points, assigning them daily, conducting tests, documenting results, managing sample plans, and developing quality improvement measures,” said Tom Dewey, 3M Food Safety global marketing manager in a press release.
The company made improvements to the device’s industrial design to make it more durable and user friendly. Other features include reengineered optical technology with photomultiplier detectors; upgraded software with a streamlined dashboard; and the capability to transfer data between the luminometer and the software via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
When you choose a new vendor to partner with you, the decision is always important. Every vendor plays a role in your business and bottom line.
Some vendors, like pest control providers, can protect your brand and even help boost your reputation in the industry. When you factor in everything your pest control program can affect, it’s clear that picking the right pest management provider is one of the most important vendor decisions you’ll have to make.
Consider how pest management can impact your audit scores, especially when you’re expected to be audit-ready at any time. The success of your third-party audit hinges on documentation, and the pest management portion can make all the difference in your score, accounting for up to 20%. FSMA requires food processing facilities to execute proactive pest control programs and documentation efforts that not only follow and but also implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base. Just one low score can cause your customers to lose trust in your business—and if they pull their support, you could see a major impact on your balance sheet.
The safety of your products and even the health of your employees are also at stake. Cockroaches and ants can pick up and transfer harmful bacteria. Flies can spread disease-causing organisms when they land—and they land frequently, it can lead to them leaving their traces in an abundance of places.
Then there are rodents, which can also cause serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats and mice are known to spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, as well as more than 35 diseases worldwide, such as Hantavirus.
A Blueprint for Success
From its impact on audit scores to its role in abating health concerns to brand protection, pest control should be a priority for any food processing facility. There are several best practices to follow, most of them falling under the umbrella of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the preferred proactive pest management practice in the food processing business, and it can help meet and exceed the requirements of industry auditors.
IPM programs are ongoing, comprehensive and well-documented, focusing on risk-based preventive strategies like sanitation and facility maintenance to help prevent pest activity. They’re also customizable based on your property and the pests you face.
It’s essential to find the right, licensed and experienced pest management professional who will partner with you and your staff to implement a customized IPM program for your facility and help keep pest problems away. When starting your search for a pest management partner, be sure to ask about IPM. One-size-fits-all pest management solutions are simply not effective, so look for a provider who can tailor an IPM program specifically to your needs.
When searching for a pest management partner, look for one that stands out with the following guidelines.
Talk to your peers. If you’re looking for pest management recommendations, start by talking to your industry colleagues about the successes—or challenges—they’ve had with their vendors. If you’re a member of a larger network or GPO, you may have a preferred provider in which to start your search.
Start with an inspection. Once you have a list of options to check out, it’s time to put them to the test. As IPM programs are customizable, insist that your prospects inspect your facility to determine the challenges you face and the services you need.
Get the details in writing. Remember, FSMA requires written risk-based preventive food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions and results. With this in mind, your pest management professional should thoroughly document any service visits and corrective actions.
Documenting your pest management plan does more than fulfill the FSMA requirement. The best pest management providers will document their every move, using the information to determine pest trends, which can aid in decisions about how to best manage pest activity going forward. These records should be kept on-site for any surprise audits.
Ask for audit help. In addition to documentation, your pest management professional should work with you to ensure all documents are in proper order and audit-ready at any time. Look for a provider that can help you prepare for the third-party auditor and food safety standards with which your facility is required to comply, and even provide on-site support the day of your audit.
Think about your entire staff. One of the most overlooked variables when choosing a pest management provider isn’t how the company works in your facility, it’s how it works with your staff. For your new pest management program to be effective, your staff has to buy in—and your new provider can help.
Your employees play an important role in reporting pest sightings and keeping your facility clean. With this in mind, make sure to ask about resources that your pest management professional can offer your staff. Many offer staff training and educational resources like tip sheets and checklists, and often at no extra cost.
Add accountability, establish thresholds. You may pick an outstanding pest management partner, but ideal results won’t happen overnight. Depending on your facility, creating a pest-free environment can be difficult, even with the best of help.
Progress is achievable and quantifiable when you have pest thresholds. Thresholds dictate how much and what kind of pest activity is acceptable before corrective actions need to be taken, and they are best set by working with your pest control professional because several factors can come into play.
Older facilities or buildings in environments more conducive to pest activity, such as areas near water, locales in warm environments or heavily wooded spaces, may face more pest pressures than newer establishments. Your pest management professional may want to counter these challenges with exclusion recommendations that can include extensive building maintenance and repairs.
If you’re in a newer building and don’t currently battle any present pest issues, it may be perfectly reasonable to move forward with a “one pest is one too many” threshold. To make sure your program stays this effective, your provider may need to adjust tactics of your IPM program over time.
Even with a sound IPM plan, however, if you are currently battling pests like cockroaches, flies or ants, reaching your threshold goals will take time. Work with your pest management provider to create a timeline for steady and reasonable improvement.
Once you choose a pest management partner, keep the lines of communication open and establish roles for everyone involved. Set benchmarks for your pest management program and specific times throughout the year to evaluate the program’s success and areas of improvement with your provider.
Keep all of this in mind, and you can help build a solid, long-lasting partnership. As a result, pest sightings can fall as your audit scores rise.
With the heat of summer quickly upon us, food processors should take measures to keep their facilities free of pests that can both harm workers and lead to contamination.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, a time when we can look forward to more relaxing days sitting by the pool, just enjoying life. But the season also welcomes the unwelcome: more bugs and other little critters. It is during this time of year that food processers should be extra vigilant about inspecting their facilities to ensure that pests do not become a problem.
While small in size, mosquitoes can be big in nuisance. Ron Harrison, Ph.D., director of technical services at Orkin, LLC, offers a few steps that companies should take to prepare for the season to both protect workers from potentially serious disease transmission such as West Nile Virus or chikungunya virus, and keep mosquitoes from contaminating a food processing facility.
1. Inspection. Conduct a thorough survey of the perimeter or outside of your building. Have your pest control professional or entomologist look for the presence of natural breeding sites and how they can be eliminated. For example, if there is standing water, how can it be drained? Can it be moved as opposed to remain standing? Growth regulators can also be used to inhibit the developing larvae.
2. Secure your building. Make sure all screens are in place and that your heating and air system is in proper working order. Check the pressure of your building. If you have positive air pressure with a door open, it pushes air out; if you have negative air pressure, it sucks air in, so a mosquito or any type of bug could be sitting on the outside and get sucked inside.
3. Use residual products. Mosquitos can be blown in from long distances. Using good residual products on vegetation and shrubs on the outside of your building can help reduce the population. In addition, make sure any dense landscaping is pruned to reduce the harboring sites where mosquitoes might live.
Harrison adds that the prevalence of mosquitos tends to be worse based on the location of a facility. This is where making sure your building is tightly sealed, from the cracks to the positive air pressure in entranceways, is important. “The biggest reason we struggle is that the building or processing plant is built in a swampy area, which is a haven for bugs,” he says. Other factors, including the color of the building (light-colored buildings) and the presence of excessive lighting, can attract more insects.
Now is the time for food processing facility managers to take action and inspect their facility. “Mosquitos are just now starting. In another two or three weeks, it’s going to get serious,” says Harrison. “Preventative activity means that later on in the season when they are bad, your processing plant won’t have problems because you took proactive steps.”