Tag Archives: food safety

2019 Food Safety Consortium, Glenn Black, CFSAN, FDA

Say What? Perspectives We Heard at the 2019 Food Safety Consortium

By Maria Fontanazza
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2019 Food Safety Consortium, Glenn Black, CFSAN, FDA

Last week’s seventh annual Food Safety Consortium brought together a variety of industry experts to discuss key topics around regulation, compliance, leadership, testing, foodborne illness, food defense and more. The following are just a few sound bytes from what we heard at the event. (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Food Safety Consortium, Frank Yiannas, FDA “The food system today, while it’s still impressive, it still has one Achilles heel—lack of traceability and transparency.” – Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy & response, FDA. Read the full article on Yiannas’ keynote session

“A typical food company only has about 5% visibility into known supply chain threats.” – Ron Stakland, senior business development, FoodChain ID, Inc.

“For most of us, our supply chain is a big black hole. Why are we so fearful of technology? Is it the implementation itself? What if technology could help us solve some of those perennial problems? There are resources available to help us get there.” – ¬ Jeremy Schneider, business development director, food safety and quality assurance, Controlant

“The records tell the story of how well the facility is being managed. It’s the first thing the regulators are going to look at.” – Glenn Black, Ph.D., associate director for research, CFSAN, FDA, on validation considerations and regulations for processing technologies in the food industry 2019 Food Safety Consortium, Glenn Black, CFSAN, FDA

“We’ll see more robotics enter the food space.” – Gina Nicholson Kramer, executive director, Savour Food Safety International

Melody Ge, Corvium, 2019 Food Safety Consortium “Changes are happening; you can choose to face it or ignore it. We’re at least 10 years behind on technology. Automation/technology is not a new term in aerospace, etc., but to us [the food industry], it is. We will get there.” – Melody Ge, head of compliance, Corvium, Inc., on how industry should prepare for the data-driven transformation occurring in the smarter era of food safety

It’s okay to risk and fail, but how are going to remediate that with your employee? The more learners practice in different scenarios, the less they rely on specific examples. [They] become more adept with dealing with decision making.” – Kathryn Birmingham, Ph.D., VP for research and development, ImEpik, on employee training

“As a contract lab with the vision of testing for foodborne viruses for about 10 years—it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that we had the test kits to turn that into a reality. We also didn’t have a reference method.” – Erin Crowley, chief scientific officer, Q Laboratories, on the viral landscape of testing in the food industry

“You have to be strong and you have to believe in yourself before you get into any situation—especially as a food safety professional.” – Al Baroudi, Ph.D., vice president of quality assurance and food safety at The Cheesecake Factory, on what it takes to earn respect as a food safety professional Jorge Hernandez, Al Baroudi, Ph.D., 2019 Food Safety Consortium

“’See something, say something’ is likely not enough. We recommend that companies develop a formal detection program that includes management buy-in, HR and governance, and policy documents, formal training and an awareness program…While FDA focuses on the insider threat, we feel that using a broader mitigation approach works best.” – R. Spencer Lane, senior security advisor, Business Protection Specialists, Inc. on lessons learned from food defense intentional adulteration vulnerability assessments

“Food safety is a profession, a vocation, [and] a way of life.” – Bob Pudlock, president of Gulf Stream Search

Deirdre Schlunegger, Stop Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

The Food Safety Culture Conversation

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, Stop Foodborne Illness

I learn and remember visually and I was recently thinking about the food safety world and culture; how the fabric of the culture is woven together with people who care about people. After all, that is what it comes down to, people who cultivate, grow, harvest, produce, distribute, deliver, store, prepare, serve and eat safe food. When there is a breakdown of the weave, people become ill and some die, families are devastated, business fails and trust is broken. The system fails.

It really comes down to each weaver, regardless of the level of responsibility performing their duty, knowing that they are the link between health and illness, success and failure, life and death. So, the question is how do we make sure that each person who comes in contact with food products is thoroughly educated, truly understands the impact and has a breadth of awareness of the importance of food safety?

Many companies are admirably deeply invested in food safety training. Organizations share food safety tips about safe food practices, including Stop Foodborne Illness. Stop Foodborne Illness employees and volunteers bring the stories of foodborne illness to light each time we speak, are present at conferences, participate in food safety trainings, deliver video messages and send out newsletters. We work with those impacted and pair them with others who have experienced the same thing and offer them an outlet to share their stories.

What more can we do? 3000 people in the US die each year, 128,000 are hospitalized and 48 million become ill. The numbers are much too high. Let’s keep the food safety culture conversation going and improvement in training and practices and ideas flowing. Here is one such story to start the conversation.

Tressa, Chloe, and Luke


Roslyn Stone

The Changing Landscape of a Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response

By Roslyn Stone, MPH
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Roslyn Stone

Recent high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks appear to have an enduring impact for the entire industry – from when and how health departments respond to alleged illness to how a single tweet wreaks havoc. The bar for when a comprehensive response is required is lower and the extent and nature of the required response has changed.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Health departments are receiving more complaints from consumers. Although much of this is believed to be related to the high-profile outbreaks, some are a result of health department websites making it easier to report illness. A few years ago, guest illness reporting required calling the health department during business hours, working your way through complex voicemail options until you reached a recorded line to leave a message about your illness. Today, most health departments in large cities and many in smaller counties, have simple on line reporting systems available 24/7. So when someone isn’t feeling well at midnight, and is sure it’s from the last thing they ate, they go online and report the illness.

Health departments are now more often following up on single reports of illness and reports of illness that are inconsistent with most foodborne illness incubation periods. This is creating a large burden for already short-staffed departments, but in response to what the public now expects. In the past, they might have replied to the ill guest and explained that they’d received no other reports, that most foodborne illness has a longer incubation period and refer the illness to personal physicians if a follow up is clinically appropriate. But today, we’re finding many health departments dispatching inspectors for even a single complaint that doesn’t appear consistent with incubation periods for that meal.

There’s increasing pressure on health departments to go public with illness events – even if the illness is no longer ongoing or creating a public health risk. The foodborne illness legal community has made it clear that they believe the public has the right to know about any and every foodborne illness. And some health departments are responding to that pressure – without their being an on-going public health risk; which would have been the trigger in the past.

Guest complaints about illness are occurring more frequently. Every single one of our clients is reporting an on-going uptick in guest reports of illness. We’re not clear if it’s that consumers are more aware of illness, more concerned or more likely to associate it with a restaurant or food service provider. But the entire industry is seeing an increase in guest reports of illness. And every guest assumes it was the last meal they ate.

How you handle any guest complaint about illness is even more critical than it was a few months ago. Here’s why: if you don’t’ respond to the guest quickly and listen with authentic empathy, that guest is far more likely than ever before to tweet about you, write a bad review, post on social media or contact the media. You need to act quickly and it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend or holiday. Waiting until Monday morning is not an option.

Noro season is year-round now… it’s no longer the winter vomiting disease like it is called in some places. Noro virus outbreaks continued in California (and elsewhere) until after the school year ended. We need to be alert to Noro all of the time.

Fourth of July
Fourth of July was an unusually quiet day in the restaurant, quieter than anticipated (meaning more prep done than needed). The next day, two employees called out sick. A day later, two guests (small parties) called the restaurant reporting illness and later that day, two more larger parties emailed their reports of illness through the corporate website. It took another 24 hours to match these multiple illness reports through three different channels. It didn’t trigger a full-blown response and implementation of the noro sanitizing protocol.
THE FINAL TALLY: 40+ guests reporting sickness and nearly half of the staff.
THE LESSON: Coordination of reporting mechanisms so that you see a potential problem and respond at the earliest point when you can have the greatest impact in minimizing risk.

Employees continue to work sick. There are so many reasons that employees work sick and it has little or nothing to do with paid sick time. They work sick because they’re not very sick, they don’t understand that any gastrointestinal upset may be a sign of foodborne illness, they don’t want to disappoint their manager or they don’t want to let their team down. They’re working sick for altruistic reasons without understanding the potential ramifications. We have a long way to go in educating managers and employees about what “sick” looks like, what can happen from working sick and why we need to work together long term to change this set of behaviors.

Employee Exclusion Policies need to be revisited. Someone is shedding the Noro virus for twenty-four hours prior to become symptomatic and then at very high levels for three days after symptoms end. Sick employees need to be excluded for much longer than they currently are in most restaurants and food service establishments to control Noro outbreaks.

Employee Illness on Days Off are as critical to crisis prevention and response as illness on work days. You need to know if an employee was sick on a scheduled work day or on a day off. As we discussed previously, they were shedding the Noro virus before they got sick and for days after. Your illness response plan needs to include a very robust tool for employee illness reporting – one that is as easy to use seven days a week and raises an alert to management when there are two or more sick employees.

It’s time to redraft and recommunicate the definition of a potential crisis in your organization. In the past, we previously used the following definitions of what defined a potential crisis for a restaurant or foodservice group:

  • Two or more employee illness reports (for same time period and symptoms)
  • Two or more guest complaints (from different parties for same time period)
  • One confirmed employee illness (with a communicable disease)

Your new definition must be broader and reflect the lower trigger points for action. It may include one guest complaint from a large party, illness in a neighboring school, social media buzz about illness from your location and / or a health inspection in response to a guest complaint of alleged illness.

The takeaway: the lessons learned continue to evolve and new ones emerge with each new outbreak. Making sure we identify and share these lessons across the industry and your organization is critical for being prepared to first identify and then quickly respond to the next threat that comes your way.

Question mark

Hiring and Training, Understanding FSMA Remain Big Industry Challenges

By Maria Fontanazza
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Question mark

A new industry survey is highlighting several issues facing food safety and quality assurance professionals, from employee retention to understanding the final FSMA rules. The 2016 Annual TraceGains Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) Professional Survey digs into the top priorities (FSMA compliance, audit readiness, supplier relationship management, etc.) of professionals and sheds light on some of the current challenges that companies are facing, especially in the area of compliance, FSMA readiness and supplier documentation.

“We’re seeing a recipe for stress in the food and beverage industry: Take one-part low margins, blend in one-part increased government regulation, one-part unannounced audits, one-part increasing customer demands, and one-part manual paperwork,” says Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains. “Mix well, bake on high, then spread thinly with a limited pool of FSQA professionals.”

Anthony Arocha, TraceGains
Anthony Arocha, customer success consultant at TraceGains

Nearly 500 FSQA professionals participated in the survey. In a two-part Q&A with TraceGains, Anthony Arocha (customer success consultant), Rajan Gupta (vice president of customer success), and Jason Ulrich (customer success manager) explain what the results mean in to the broader industry.

Food Safety Tech: Were there any surprises with this year’s survey?

Anthony Arocha: FSMA compliance is across the board a top priority with staffing/training as one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. I would say this is a huge opportunity for automation to help reduce the risk and long-term costs incurred by the increasing demand for accurate documentation.

22% and 19% cited training and staffing respectively as a big challenge. Graphic courtesy of TraceGains.
22% and 19% cited training and staffing respectively as a big challenge. Graphic courtesy of TraceGains.

Rajan Gupta: I do not think there are any surprises but a very strong restatement that FSQA staff is difficult to hire/retain due to limited individual growth, low salaries, inadequate training, incentives, etc. All of these lead to the fact that most food companies look at food safety and quality as a nuisance that they must deal with versus as a function that is a necessity or a requirement with adequate funding.

Rajan Gupta, TraceGains
Rajan Gupta, vice president of customer success, TraceGains

FST: With FSMA being a top priority among survey respondents, are you finding that companies are concerned about any of the rules in particular?

Arocha: Honestly, it seems that most folks are trying very hard to get a handle on all the new rules and what their responsibility is for compliance. Not sure they have gotten to the point of having just one or two main concerns yet. There is more emphasis on creating strong relationships with the downstream and upstream customers and suppliers than ever before. Some of the rules seem vague, which will require an operation to be prepared to support how they meet a particular requirement or may be potentially exempt from it. These have been some of the concerns that seem to be popping up most.

Survey Question: What, if anything, hinders your company’s ability to on-board, recruit, and retain skilled FSQA staff? (Graphic courtesy of TraceGains)
Jason Ulrich, TraceGains
Jason Ulrich, customer success manager, TraceGains

Gupta: The main theme that we hear from our customers is that there is confusion. Companies have had to deal with many requirements in the past, some of which conflict each other. I think lack of a thorough understanding of food safety within an organization is a key limiting factor to truly determine what is needed at each organization to meet FSMA guidelines.

Jason Ulrich: Companies are concerned about FSMA. Most are concerned with FSMA as a whole. Many have taken steps to educate themselves, but the law is vague, especially for companies that are in multiple areas of food manufacturing.

Part two of the discussion will explore supplier documentation and automation.

Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
From the Editor’s Desk

Who Will Carry the Food Safety Torch?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

Each and every business in the food industry is facing a growing and daunting task: not just succession planning but also preparing for what could be an absence of qualified millennials entering the food safety profession.

At this year’s IAFP conference, the concern over professional development in this industry was at the forefront. “If we’re going to fill our shoes, where are the shoes walking?” asked Brian Bedard, executive director of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Science and Education Foundation. “How do we get young people excited about this profession? What are the programs we can get involved in to expose young people to this at a very young age?”

The question of how we are going to find passionate people to work in the food safety space, especially regarding the recruitment and training of millennials, is a big one. We need to make sure we are prepared to have the resources that will help build future success in food safety. In order to recruit those resources, we need to create more enthusiasm surrounding the field and make it a profession that people aspire to be a part of when they “grow up”.

“If we’re talking about the future…we need to get to the core of where people are making their life decisions and not waiting,” said Bedard. Yes, we need people with a Masters of Science degree in food science or nutrition, or expertise in microbiology and the like, but we also need people who know how a manufacturing or processing plant operates; we need people with knowledge about sanitary engineering and sanitary design, pointed out Bedard. With the changing landscape that we will experience with FSMA implementation, do you think we are armed with the resources to handle this paradigm shift as we look to the future?

Are we being proactive enough? How is your company working to invigorate the younger generation to become involved in this industry?  

RFID tags on drying marijuana flowers

Marijuana Edibles: Update on a Rapidly Developing Market

By Aaron G. Biros
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RFID tags on drying marijuana flowers

A lot has changed since last year’s article, “Marijuana Edibles: A Regulatory Nightmare.” Marijuana has since catapulted into mainstream thinking via activism, state decriminalization, and medical reforms while investors and banks are beginning to trust the market more, further legitimizing the nascent industry. According to an article from the Washington Post, Colorado’s legal marijuana industry reached $700 million in 2014 and is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2016.

Innovators are beginning to analyze trends on a national level, looking toward federal rescheduling of the drug as a catalyst for more state reforms and wider legalization measures. Federal legalization is in the back of many minds, as the introduction of pivotal state and federal legislative reforms promises more access to banking services, medical research, and more state independence.

While a black market mentality remains prevalent, widespread state reforms, increased venture capital investment, and further legitimization of an industry with less barriers of entry have fostered a perceived reduction in risk. States like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado that have already legalized marijuana for recreational and medical sales are beginning to implement strict packaging rules, requirements for traceability, QA programs, testing and laboratory monitoring requirements, and other regulations that would suggest FDA oversight down the road.

marijuana buds drying in racks biotrackthc
Dried marijuana buds curing with RFID tags as part of the traceability system of BiotrackTHC

State regulatory bodies such as the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) have matured and expanded their oversight to include certifications and requirements for lab testing and analysis. Marijuana testing facilities can now be certified by the MED to test for residual solvents, poisons or toxins, harmful chemicals, dangerous molds, mildew or filth, harmful microbials such as E. coli or Salmonella, pesticides, and THC levels and Cannabinoid potency.

According to an article from theCannabist.com, edible marijuana took 45% of the market share in 2014 and continues to grow, proving that food manufacturers and processors will gain a bigger share of the market.

BioTrackTHC develops a seed-to-sale traceability system that is the state-mandated reporting system used by any business that touches the plant in compliance with Washington’s i502 regulations (The company also won the contract bid for New Mexico’s and New York’s state-run traceability systems). “From day one, all retail products under i502, including infused edibles, must have laboratory-submitted passing test results and data in the traceability system before it can be unlocked for shipment to retailers,” says Patrick Vo, CEO of BioTrackTHC.

RFID tags on drying marijuana flowers
RFID tags on drying marijuana flowers, from BioTrackTHC

Regulations, especially those addressing traceability, are crucial for advancing the industry and fighting the black market, performing recalls, and improving product quality and safety. Vo adds, “As more states adopt a centralized traceability system, food safety will improve as we see the industry grow.”

“Most of the marijuana edibles producers we advise are working comfortably within their state health department regulations versus a year ago when they were struggling to implement routine compliance,” says Stephen Goldner, CEO of Regulatory Affairs Associates.  “But there is a long way to go to make this new marketplace meet the standards routinely met by US food producers in other markets such as nutritional supplements and medical foods.”

Many edible producers are sadly mistaken to ignore FDA labeling and production regulations just because the producer only ships within their own state, according to Goldner. “Whenever FDA has found label or food safety violations of products, whether they are food, drugs or any other product, it has always acted quickly to seize the product, inspect the producer and insist that violative labeling or production practices be remedied,” he says, adding that it won’t be surprising to see FDA start to “seize marijuana-infused food products that make drug claims, especially from the leading current producers” as a way for the agency to insert itself into the inspection and compliance process. “These companies need to have FDA food GMP’s solidly in place and properly documented,” says Goldner.

“Those who have experienced the most consistent and long term success in this industry are those who play above board, those who take the extra effort and make the investment in effort, time, and money to treat their business as if it was already federally legal and had to adhere to standards that other industries must follow,” says Vo. He agrees with the view held by many that long term planning is vital in this industry. “Those who have implemented best practices, QA programs, and traceability software will succeed in the long run, and the bad actors will eventually, by their own poor practices, be filtered out by regulatory and market forces.”

In the near future, the industry will look to other states in regulatory experiments on opposite sides of the spectrum. “New York, which legalized medical marijuana in 2014, is handing out 5 licenses to operate 4 dispensaries each, and allowing licensees to have a grow facility to supply their respective dispensaries. The Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health will have authority on licensing, testing, and medical requirements for patients seeking treatment with medical marijuana,” says R. David Marquez, who operates a Long Island law firm focusing on the cannabis industry.

New York is implementing very strict rules regarding cultivating and processing the plant. California, on the other side of the spectrum, already operates a somewhat loosely regulated medical marijuana market and has been doing so since 1996. The bill to legalize marijuana recreationally in the state is widely expected to pass vote and be implemented in 2016. This would open up an enormous market potential and contribute to the growth of the industry on a national level.

Because marijuana edibles are theoretically both a food and a drug, it is only appropriate that the FDA should look to regulate the industry in the future. In the meantime “Those who have invested the time and money in staying compliant now will be far ahead of the game tomorrow,” says Patrick Vo, who is looking toward federal legalization.

It seems that manufacturers and processors at the forefront of quality and safety testing will succeed in the long run.

Footnote: This is a regulatory update on the cannabis industry with an emphasis on edible marijuana. CannabisIndustryJournal.com, the newest publication, will be launched in September of this year. CannabisIndustryJournal.com will educate the marketplace covering news, technology, business trends, safety, quality, and the regulatory environment, aiding in the advancement of an informed and safe market for the global cannabis industry. Stay tuned for more!

Deirdre Schlunegger, STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Join the Club

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, STOP Foodborne Illness
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness 

What is the Food Safety Culture Club and what does it mean?  Long before it was trending, STOP Foodborne Illness was talking about and cultivating food safety culture. We intimately know and share the compelling reasons, along with the “Why” behind food safety. Statistics without stories are not compelling. By hearing the stories and seeing the faces of those who have been ill or who have lost loved ones, the reason for a food safety culture is remembered—and these memories may translate into everyday food safety practices. Everyone has a role in food safety but for some, the only role was to become ill.  Think about cantaloupe, peanut butter, ice cream, pre-washed greens, candy apples and more.

Why should you care?  We are all consumers; we all have children, parents, friends and loved ones who we do not want to become ill from a preventable illness. No one wants for individuals to contract a foodborne illness.

So here we are, on a journey towards creating strong food safety culture in the lives of business leaders, the food industry, employees handling food, and in our schools and homes. I recently attended several conferences that had themes and program titles related to “A Food Safety Culture”. We know it is critical for leaders to embrace the culture, model safe and best practices, and we know it is important to share the reasons why.

In this column, I will talk about summer food safety, back to school food safety, the importance of hand washing, and many other Food Safety Culture Club topics.  

You are a significant contributor in keeping food safe; you make a difference.

STOP Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne illness by advocating for sound public policy, building public awareness, and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. Contact STOP Foodborne Illness if you are interested in having one of the staff members or board members speak at your training.

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

World Health Day Shines Spotlight on Food Safety

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

Drawing attention to the fierce urgency to advance overall food safety and reduce the devastating impact of food borne illnesses around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) dedicated the 2015 World Health Day to Food Safety. To support these efforts, the Laureate International Universities hosted a special webinar as part of its annual activities to mark World Health Day. During the webinar, Constance Shumba, a public health faculty at the University of Roehampton (London) and I explored the potential impact of FSMA on the global food supply with a case study on how the people and government of Uganda are advancing food safety in the sub-Saharan African country.

Globally, more than 2.2 million people, most of whom are children, die of foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases annually. In the United States alone, the CDC estimates that 48 million people become ill from food borne diseases each year. About 128,000 of these individuals are hospitalized, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. The overall annual U.S. economic burden due to food borne illnesses is estimated to cost $77.7 billion.

These grim statistics illustrate the necessity to overhaul the outdated U.S. food safety system. FSMA is the most significant statutory change to both human and animal food safety in more than 70 years (since the passage of the Food Safety & Cosmetic Act of 1938). It is a radical shift from FDA’s previously reactive approach to a more robust, proactive scientific and risk-based prevention-oriented system. When fully implemented in 2016, the most important impact of FSMA will be to ensure that contaminated foods as well as those containing unwholesome or adulterated ingredients never reach retailers and consumers. Interestingly, FSMA may also positively affect the global food supply chain as it drives the improvement of food safety practices around the world, especially in countries that export food and food products to the United States.

Several provisions of FSMA will affect food exporters to the United States both in terms of reshaping their local food safety policies to align with the new law and the resulting improvement in food safety practices. Some of the areas of potential impact include:

  • Foreign Supplier Verification Program
  • Effective Traceability and Recall Program
  • Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) System
  • Documentation and Record Keeping Inspections
  • Sanitary Transportation Rule for Human and Animal Foods
  • Produce Safety Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.

Notably, regulatory agencies of major U.S. trading partners are in the process of updating their food safety laws to ensure that local food productions remain in compliance with FSMA. Canada, Mexico, China and Australia are among the countries that are proactively working with their U.S. counterparts to ensure compliance and uninterrupted food exports to U.S. markets. Overall, it will be easier for developed economies with fairly robust food safety regulatory policies to upgrade and catch up with the new FSMA requirements.

Developing nations will be the hardest hit, as an extensive overhaul may be required to meet FSMA regulations. In the face of poor infrastructures, these countries may struggle when upgrading their systems to achieve compliance and maintain a certain level of trade relations with the United States, not just in raw materials or unprocessed food and food products, but also in valued-added food exports. Despite these challenges, these countries are motivated to remain trusted U.S. food-trading partners and will most likely improve their food safety policies and practices, thus helping to make the global food supply safer.

Uganda is an example of a developing country that is making serious efforts to improve its food safety policies and programs. The country is working on its Food and Drug Act of 1964 and its subsequent Drug Act of 1993 to develop a modern and unified National Food Safety Law. To make the global food supply safer through FSMA, the United States must collaborate with its trading partners around the world in building and upgrading their food safety systems. This would be beneficial to U.S. companies doing business in foreign countries either in terms of manufacturing their own private food labels or simply in assisting local industries in these countries in growing, processing and packaging food and food products destined for the U.S. market. It would also help these countries upgrade their food safety laws, improve export capabilities, and balance trade with the United States, consequently making food safer for their own citizens.

During the webinar we also emphasized the need to focus on the family kitchen in improving food safety practices around the world, using the five WHO key principles to a safer quality food:

  • Keep clean—engage in proper washing of hands and food contact surfaces
  • Cook food thoroughly to the required temperatures
  • Separate raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods to avoid cross-contamination
  • Keep food at safe temperatures to ensure that hot food remains hot and cold food remains cold at all times
  • Use safe water and raw materials to avoid cross-contamination

We all agreed that the culture of food safety must start in the home and at a very early stage in life and from there, spread to our schools, and public and private institutions. Food companies must do all that is necessary to uphold the integrity of the highly profitable food industry by delivering safe quality food to their customers. Overall, the global food supply chain will be made safer with a considerable reduction in food borne illnesses, and chemical or physical adulteration of foods.

The webinar referenced in this column, “From Farm to Fork – A Public Health Perspective”, can be found on the Walden University (Minneapolis) website.

Okenu is also affiliated with Walden University as a contributing professor in public health

Poll: Food Manufacturers Challenged with Limited Resources, FSMA, Staff Training, and Information Overload

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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In the age of increasingly fewer resources and less time, companies are challenged to effectively train staff and meet ever-changing regulatory requirements, while successfully managing their suppliers and customer expectations.

In its annual Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) Professional Survey, TraceGains polled professionals in food manufacturing, processing and distribution on their top priorities, challenges and predictions for 2015.  “Quality isn’t suffering, but not having enough resources—which typically means money, leads to non-optimal staffing—does have a negative effect on the workforce,” says Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains. Nowacki tells Food Safety Tech how companies are managing these challenges.

Food Safety Tech: How are companies managing the lack of resources? Is it negatively affecting how they operate from a safety and quality perspective?

Gary Nowacki: People have to work more hours or do more jobs. They often cannot advance in their careers because there is no skill redundancy, and [they] cannot do much of the proactive work they’d rather be performing to help their company excel. This is especially true as the number of audits has increased rather than decreased as has been promised, which command a strong resource commitment from a limited pool.
FST: How are firms preparing for the changing regulatory and compliance requirements, especially regarding final FSMA rules?

Nowacki: We’ve seen two approaches prevail: Being extremely proactive now or purposely waiting until the last minute to push off any potential expenses associated with compliance. The lengthy rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act hasn’t helped spurn companies into action. Considering that food processing and manufacturing is a very low-margin business, it is understandable that many companies wish to have full clarity before committing the required resources. We haven’t found anyone who does not wish to be complying with FSMA—there is great respect for the purpose of the law, and all companies that we have encountered practice food safety first.

Credit: 2015 Annual TraceGains FSQA Professional Survey
Credit: 2015 Annual TraceGains FSQA Professional Survey


FST: How is information overload affecting how companies operate? What advice can you offer firms?

Nowacki: Information overload goes hand-in-hand with limited resources. Ever-increasing upstream requirements, be they regulatory or industry driven, command ever-increasing downstream requirements. This, coupled with the fact that most organizations still operate in siloed departments, puts increasing strain on data collection, analysis, and retention requirements. Automation, specifically software-based automation, can help companies accomplish more, but we don’t advocate “with less”.

Further, automation can help break down those department and information silos, as decisions can then be easily made from shared data. One of the things we often sense first is that automation is expected to replace people—that has been very true globally in manufacturing—so there is a great deal of fear or uncertainty involved. Our experience has been that automation helps the limited human resources be more productive and, more importantly, more proactive. Automation helps move people from clerical, error-prone tasks to higher-level and more strategically important tasks, as the overwhelming amounts of data are being handled digitally.

FDA Advises Egg Safety for Easter

FDA estimates that 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. While there are regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs safely.

EggsSafetyMarch2015Fresh eggs must be handled carefully to avoid the possibility of foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning.” Even eggs with clean, uncracked shells may occasionally contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause an intestinal infection.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage. But consumers play a key role in preventing illness associated with eggs. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs — or foods that contain them — safely. Follow these safe handling tips to help protect yourself and your family.

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella, the name of a group of bacteria, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the United States. Salmonella germs have been known to cause illness for over 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist named Salmon, for whom they are named.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days and most people get better without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated quickly with antibiotics. Certain people are at greater risk for severe illness and include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

Safe Handling Instructions

To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella — by in-shell pasteurization, for example — are not required to carry safe handling instructions.

Buy Right

You can help keep eggs safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store. Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case. Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked. Refrigerate promptly. Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.

Keep Everything Clean

Cleaning counter before preparing any food, remember that cleanliness is key! Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.

Cook Thoroughly

Thorough cooking is perhaps the most important step in making sure eggs are safe. Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F (72°C). Use a food thermometer to be sure. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served — Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream are two examples — use either shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products. Treated shell eggs are available from a growing number of retailers and are clearly labeled, while pasteurized egg products are widely available.

Serve Safely

Bacteria can multiply in temperatures from 40°F (5°C) to 140°F (60°C), so it’s very important to serve foods safely. Serve cooked eggs and egg-containing foods immediately after cooking. For buffet-style serving, hot egg dishes should be kept hot, and cold egg dishes kept cold. Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving. Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.

Store Properly

Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking. Use frozen eggs within 1 year. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can also be frozen by themselves. Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within 3 to 4 days. When refrigerating a large amount of a hot eggcontaining leftover, divide it into several shallow containers so it will cool quickly.

On The Road

Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold. Don’t put the cooler in the trunk — carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car. If taking cooked eggs to work or school, pack them with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

Source: FDA.gov