Building a supply chain verification program can be a complicated task. In the following exclusive video with Doug Marshall, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Eurofins, we learn the top questions that should be asking their suppliers during the process. Marshall also gives his perspective on the integration of data into the supply chain and how it can mitigate risk, along with where he’s sees the future of food safety testing headed.
EDGARTOWN, MA, Jan. 18, 2019 – Innovative Publishing Co., the publisher of Food Safety Tech and organizer of the Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo, has announced a partnership with the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation. Angela Anandappa, Ph.D., director of the organization, will also be joining the Food Safety Tech and Food Safety Consortium Advisory Board. As part of this role, Anandappa will be a key resource on topics related to sanitation and will serve as chairperson for the Sanitation track at the Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo, ensuring the presentations are relevant, accurate and balanced.
“The collaboration with Angela Anandappa and the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation is a significant enhancement to the Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo,” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Co., Inc. and director of the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo. “Angela brings a wealth of experience in food safety and molecular diagnostics, especially in her role developing programs that tackle hygienic design and sanitation issues.”
As a partner organization, members of the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation will also receive a discount to attend the Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo in October.
“I look forward to working with Rick and his team at Food Safety Tech and the Consortium event to help industry further understand the issues we face in sanitation, the advances necessary for success and how we can share best practices,” said Anandappa, who is also a research assistant professor with the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
About Food Safety Tech
Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.
About the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo
The Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo is a premier educational and networking event for food safety solutions. Attracting the most influential minds in food safety, the Consortium enables attendees to engage conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting edge solutions, explore diverse educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in an ever-changing, global food safety market. This year’s event takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL.
About the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation
The Alliance for Advance Sanitation’s research, extension and teaching activities engage university of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty and address the needs and interests of the private sector partners. The overall goal of these activities is to develop improved sanitation practices that can be implemented by the food processing and affiliated industries. The Alliance’s mission is to create a safer food supply through advanced sanitation approaches and practices.
It’s that time of year again! As we prepare to put together another informative and insightful Food Safety Consortium, we are requesting abstracts for presentation content. This year’s event takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL.
Before submitting an abstract, here are some things to keep in mind:
This year’s breakouts will feature
1) Cleaning & Sanitation
2) Food Safety Testing
3) Food Safety Management
The abstract should be about 300 words
Presentations will be judged on educational value
Don’t submit a sales pitch!
Presentation time is about 45 minutes—this includes a 10-15 Q&A session
The jury is still out on how (and if) blockchain can contribute to a safer food supply. Whether or not there is a clear understanding of the technology, and its potential and pitfalls, is up for debate as well. “What is blockchain? This is the number one question that people have,” said Darin Detwiler, director, regulatory affairs of food and food industry at Northeastern University, who led a panel of experts as they deliberated over this hot topic during the 2018 Food Safety Consortium.
“Blockchain levels the playing field where we can connect people, resources and organizations in ways we’ve never done before to harness new ways of extracting value,” said Nigel Gopie, global marketing leader, IBM Food Trust at IBM.
What Is Blockchain?
Gopie provided an introductory definition of blockchain: Simply put, it is a series of blocks of information attached together. Each block is a box of information that stores data elements, and this data could be almost anything. Each block has a digital fingerprint associated with it; this fingerprint allows you to know that the block is unique and can attach to other blocks. When new blocks come into the chain, each block has a new fingerprint—one that is unique to that block and of the block before it. This allows the connection to happen, and enables visibility into the origin of each block.
Blockchain enables one book of business and provides three important benefits, said Gopie:
Distributed ledger with one version of truth throughout the network
Data is immutable
Although blockchain can help to start the process of solving food issues surrounding safety, freshness, reduced waste and sustainability, the technology is only the foundation. A series of other components are important as well, said Gopie, and the following are some insights that the expert panel shared during their discussion.
Can Blockchain Actually Impact Food Safety?
Jorge Hernandez, chief food safety officer at Wholesome International: “To me, it’s a fantastic new technology that would allow the food industry to do a much better job of finding, from seed to fork, all of the processes and things that happen to that product. And in the future, [it] allows us to identify problems first and solve [them]. My problem is it being sold to companies…and not able to deliver on the promise… It bothers me that we are looking at a future that may or may not be there.”
Angela Fernandez, vice president, retail grocery & foodservice at GS1 US: “We’ve been working on traceability and transparency for over a decade—you have to be capturing the data needed, [and] we’re still working on getting it right. We’re just not there yet. I think it’s a great place for us to strive to go towards, but we’re still early in the stages of accepting it as a community.”
David Howard, vice president of corporate strategy at Pavocoin: “Blockchain itself is simply a technology. We’re all here because we’re just trying figure out what application we can use in business. Blockchain is a technology that can help all of you improve operational efficiencies for your bottom line.”
Is Blockchain a Barrier or a Fast Lane to Heightened Liability Concerns?
Shawn Stevens, food industry lawyer and founder of Food Industry Counsel, LLC: “I think the starting point is to ask ourselves what makes food unsafe. It’s a lack of transparency…What blockchain can do is illuminate entire segments of the industry…From a reactive standpoint, blockchain can help us identify a problem [and] solve it. From a preventive standpoint, if I have access to all this information regarding attributes and quality of supplier, I can make better decisions that protect my company.”
“We want to know more and be better informed. Once you know more, you better react and do something. If you’re getting this line of sight and you don’t react to it, that’s what exposes you to liability.”
Darin Detwiler, director, regulatory affairs of food and food industry at Northeastern University: “We need to look at the balance between the reactive use of blockchain and the proactive use.”
What Barriers Does Industry Need to Anticipate?
Fernandez: “The barrier of the standards and interoperability piece—that’s a big question our community is asking us. Scalability… standards are vital…I think that opens up a different discussion when talking about private versus public blockchain.”
Hernandez: “What is my ROI? The issue I have with blockchain is not only the investment in my organization, but I have to bring my entire supply chain with me if I want to get any benefit. There’s a good value proposition, but it requires you to get everyone on board. When you’re a large organization, it’s probably not that hard to do. But a small organization like mine where my suppliers are an Amish community that sells us cheese, that’s a huge mountain to climb. They don’t have the background [or] the technology, and even if they wanted to do it, it’s a big change for them. You’re asking me to make a change in my relationship with my suppliers.”
“Take a look at it from the business continuity [perspective]. What are the changes you’re going to have to make? And that changes that have to be made by everyone who works with you? We should not stay static. We should continue to look for things. If this is the technology that is going to move us forward, let’s start getting prepared.”
This year’s multistate outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce affected 210 people, killing five. Although the outbreak was officially declared over by the end of June, questions still remain as to the exact source. Given the widespread nature of the outbreak and the speed with which illnesses occurred, there are many lessons to be learned from the case.
During last week’s annual Food Safety Consortium, industry stakeholders from the FDA, CDC and produce associations gathered to discuss agency action upon learning of the outbreak and where there is room for improvement.
The investigation began in April 2018 when the New Jersey Department of Health contacted the CDC about a cluster of E.coli O157:H7 illnesses from people who said they ate salads at various locations of the same restaurant chain. Three days later, the agency was able to confirm eight O157 isolates from six states with the same patterns using PulseNet. And five days after that, the CDC posted a notice on its website about the investigation of 17 cases across seven states.
“We knew right away that this was going to get bad and that it would get bad quickly,” said Matthew Wise, deputy branch chief for outbreak response at the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch of the CDC. “We saw illnesses ramp up quickly.” He added that the agency saw a lot of illness subclusters, all with romaine lettuce as the common ingredient.
The epidemiological evidence clearly indicated chopped romaine lettuce, and it appeared that all the affected romaine was coming from the Yuma, Arizona growing region, noted Stic Harris, director of the Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation Network at FDA. But then things got even more confusing, as an Alaskan correctional facility was also investigating a cluster of cases. This allowed the agency to trace the source directly back to Harrison Farms as the sole supplier to the correctional facility. However, as the multi-agency investigation continued, they uncovered that the source was not just one farm. “There were three dozen farms in the Yuma region that supplied romaine lettuce,” said Harris, adding that we may never know which exact farm, and even if it was one farm, that was the source of the outbreak.
During June, July and August, the FDA sent a multidisciplinary team of 16-18 people to conduct an environmental assessment of the affected area. Upon taking 111 samples, they found 13 different Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains, but only three matched the strain of the outbreak. Water from 14 locations, including discharge, reservoir and canal water, was also tested. The environmental assessment found pervasive contamination in the water. But here was the big problem, said Harris: “There was no smoking gun. We don’t know how the E.coli got into the water, and we don’t know how the water got onto the lettuce.” He added that additional research is needed, and that government and non-government work must continue to identify the source.
There are several challenges associated with the complexity of this type of produce outbreak, said Harris and Wise:
The production lot information disappears at the point of service
Having a commingled product hinders traceback
Records present a challenge because agencies try to look at each company and their individual records, and every company has their own way of doing things—this takes time
The breadth of the impacted area—trying to do an environmental assessment for that area was staggering work
People who eat lettuce eat it often
Many people don’t remember what type of lettuce they ate
The product has a short shelf life
Communication: The packaging isn’t transparent on where it’s grown
Scott Horsfall, CEO, California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, chimed in on the challenges posed by the complexity of the outbreak. “If you compare these numbers with the 2016 spinach outbreak…they’re very similar [in the] total number of illnesses [and] number of states involved. But in [the spinach outbreak], it led to a specific farm. What we saw this time was very different.”
When it comes to food safety compliance, learning lessons the hard way is never a good practice. Violations, non-compliance and documentation mishaps put a major damper on your business. From delays in production to the dreaded recall, these mistakes can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way. See our Case Studies and learn how companies are avoiding these costly mistakes with TraceGains.
One of the large successes in dealing with the outbreak is that the agencies issued public warnings quickly, said Wise. The produce industry also came together to form the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force. In addition, FDA is expanding its sampling for the coming harvests, according to Harris. “I think that in terms of the speed of the environmental assessment, we need to be quicker with that. We apparently hadn’t done one in quite a long time at FDA,” he said.
Harris and Wise also stressed that for industry to work more effectively together, they need to work with the FDA and CDC before there is an outbreak.
“This outbreak was a frustrating experience for all of us,” said Horsfall. “We have to communicate more and better when we can. And as an industry, stop these outbreaks from happening.”
“Everything changes; nothing remains without change.” It’s the Buddha quote that Stephen Ostroff, M.D., FDA deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine, used to kick off his plenary presentation at this year’s Food Safety Consortium. Yet “there is one thing that is stubbornly resistant to change,” he commented, and that’s foodborne illness. The incidence of culture-confirmed human infections hasn’t improved, and it can be seen in the number of cases reported through CDC’s FoodNet system. Why?
Ostroff has a few theories. First, there are much better diagnostics and surveillance systems in place versus 10 or 20 years ago. “Those improvements in finding the cases may be masking improvements that have occurred,” he said. Second, looking at the data from the big picture perspective may mask positive sub-trends. “We are actually doing better,” Ostroff said. “Within the data, there is some good news and some bad news.”
Ostroff also proposed that emerging food safety risks are having an impact on the rates of foodborne illness, including new trends that are altering the food landscape. The global food supply is more diverse than ever. In addition, the change in consumer preferences and eating patterns may lead to gravitation towards higher risk foods that are improperly handled. Other areas of risk include new methods of food delivery (i.e., e-commerce—Ostroff added that within a few years, up to 20% of our food will be delivered to our homes.). The final risk he touched on was new food types, such as synthetic foods (i.e., synthetic meat). “Nobody is quite familiar with the potential hazards associated with those foods,” he said.
Over the past year, a new administration has come into place, along with a new FDA commissioner. In addition, compliance dates for six out of the seven foundational rules are now in effect (the compliance date for the Intentional Adulteration rule is July 2019). Although the new administration is focused on reducing the regulatory burden, it doesn’t appear to be impacting FSMA requirements. “To date we have no requests to change or delay FSMA requirements,” said Ostroff. “And that’s very good news.”
Third-party certification program. In June FDA launched a website through which organizations could apply to be recognized as an accredited body. Ostroff said the response and interest related to the program has been “overwhelming”, with hundred of entities visiting the agency’s website to learn more.
Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP). The agency anticipates that the application window will open January 2018 (however, Ostroff hinted that it may be delayed a bit). October 2018 is the projected start of the first benefit period.
FSMA Fixes. “There have been quirky issues that ended up in the FSMA regulations either because of the way FSMA was written by Congress or because of the way the regulations ended up,” said Ostroff, who added that the most problematic “quirk” is the intersection of whether an entity must comply with the Preventive Controls rule or the Produce Safety rule, and it all comes down to the farm definition. As a result, the agency extended compliance dates for a number of situations, one of which involves the agricultural water provision (January 2022 for large farms, January 2023 for small farms, and January 2024 for very small farms). Related to this provision, FDA is looking to reducing the regulatory burden but will keep standards in the lab analytic methods, frequency of testing and determination of water quality.
Training. The FDA has been partnering with many entities around the world to implement FSMA training both for industry and regulators. More than 50,000 people have been trained for the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule and more than 5000 have been trained for the animal food rule.
Inspection. At last year’s Food Safety Consortium, there was a lot of chatter about agency enforcement and inspection. Although Ostroff didn’t touch on enforcement, he provided a few figures on inspection activity for fiscal year 2017:
Preventive Controls for Human Food
Modernized CGMPs: 720
Preventive controls: 165 (46 outside of the United States)
Last month, I spoke in Santiago, Chile at the Inofood Conference. I spoke about the impact of foodborne illness in the lives of individuals and families.
I showed photos of little Reese who died two years ago and talked about how Stop Foodborne Illness works with the food industry to drive home the importance of food safety and the consequences of foodborne illness. Together, we work to raise awareness, create and sustain strong food safety cultures and to promote the importance of food safety.
Deirdre Schlunegger will be speaking as part of a panel of experts during the Food Safety: Past, Present & Future Plenary Session during the Food Safety Consortium, November 29th at 4:00pm.
I was in good company with Frank Yiannas as he spoke of food safety culture and his book was even translated into Spanish for this conference. Tim Jackson from Driscoll’s and DeAnn Benesh from 3M addressed technical issues related to food safety and many others spoke. Food Safety representatives from Chile and around the globe were very interested and are dedicated to the topic and practice.
I am proud that we are among the nonprofit, behavioral and scientific experts and making a difference as food safety culture, tools, data and interventions improve. I have already been contacted to see if the video, which I showed in Spanish, can be used throughout Chile in the coming months.
Just a few days following his conference, I was in Greenbelt Maryland attending the JIFSAN (Joint Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition) Conference and Advisory meeting as I serve on the Advisory Council. The topic was Risk Analysis Tools and Data and it was a fascinating two days. Again, professionals who teach and share food safety knowledge around the world gathered to share vision, tools and practices.
The 5th Annual Food Safety Consortium conference will take place November 28 through December 1st and we will be there! We continue to see a strong drive and desire to improve food safety and we need to continue to press until the estimated number of people who die each year from foodborne illness diminishes significantly from 3,000 towards zero. No one should die from nourishing their body with food.
As we reflect back on 2017, food recalls continued to dominate our headlines even after the implementation of FSMA. Our industry has taken corrective actions to limit risk. We want to protect consumers as well as our brands, limiting the financial and reputational damage that a recall can inflict on a company. We, along with consumers, are also more aware and in tune with the news due to social media and the 24-hour news cycle. It may appear that there are more recalls, but I would argue that the industry is more proactive and more accountable by submitting itself to voluntary recalls. Without a doubt, the food industry is under increased pressure.
Looking forward to 2018, we are reminded that it was 25 years since the E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box. It was a monumental turning point in food safety that sparked the industry to modernize and examine processes. Since then, the food industry as a whole has come a long way. During my 16 years at GS1 US, working on programs such as the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, I saw food companies embrace global standards to increase efficiencies and build a foundation for traceability and supply chain visibility. Now adding Blockchain, Smart Labels, and IoT data to the technology mix will continue to advance the modernization of the food industry.
The good news for our industry is that consumers are patronizing companies that are embracing transparency as a strategic business strategy and these are the companies who are winning the market share as a result.
As stewards of our industry, we will always review our processes, continue to train and educate our employees and adopt better ways of guarding the supply chain. One way to become better at protecting the food chain and the public is exchanging ideas with our peers. We are stronger together.
That is why I am excited to bring together a diverse group of industry leaders for this year’s Food Safety Consortium to discuss this very topic. Titled, Is Your Food Chain Recall Ready?, I will be joined on Thursday, November 30th at 2:30pm CST by Jessica Jones, sr. specialist of Supplier Quality & Safety at Chick-Fil-A; Barbara Hullick, senior director of Food Safety at Produce Alliance and Bryan Cohn, vice president of Operations at Seal the Seasons.
During this panel session, we will discuss:
Best practices for FSMA compliance before, during and after a recall.
Best practices to execute precise, data-driven and timely recalls and stock withdrawals.
Establish and execute a process for escalation and post-recall audit reporting.
Work and communicate with suppliers and distributors on “what if” scenarios and what they can expect when quality issues arise.
Create a food safety culture which works in concert with legal, marketing and other internal teams.
I hope you will join us in person at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel for the entire conference but if not, join us virtually! Registration details can be found on the Food Safety Consortium website.
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