The FDA has announced two upcoming webinars for food manufacturers and industry stakeholders. On Friday, October 21, 2022, at 1:00 pm ET, the FDA will provide an overview of its proposed rule to update the definition of “healthy” nutrient content claims for food products. The “healthy” claim acts as a quick signal on food package labels to identify foods that will help consumers build healthy eating patterns.
The FDA has proposed changes to the definition of “healthy” to align with current nutrition science, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and the updated Nutrition Facts label. The guidance also includes the agency’s intent to exercise enforcement discretion with respect to the implied nutrient content claim “healthy” for foods that have a fat profile of predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but do not meet the regulatory definition of “low fat,” and on foods that contain at least 10% of the daily value (DV) per reference amount customarily consumed of potassium or vitamin D.
- Janesia Robbs, Communications and Public Engagement Staff, FDA CFSAN
- Dr. Claudine Kavanaugh, Director, Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling (ONFL), FDA CFSAN
- Dr. Sarah Gebauer, Nutritionist, Nutrition Science Review Branch, ONFL, FDA CFSAN
- Vincent DeJesus, Nutritionist, Nutrition Assessment & Evaluation Branch, ONFL, FDA CFSAN
Registration is required. Register here.
On Wednesday, October 26, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET, the FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit public health organization, will be host their fifth collaborative webinar, titled “Rewards and Recognition Programs.” Guest speakers will share their experiences in establishing rewards programs that drive positive food safety culture. Speakers include:
- Shawn Fear, Director of Quality, Conagra Brands
- Danielle Richardson, Director of Food Safety, Conagra Brands
- Lone Jespersen, Principal and Founder, Cultivate, SA
- Donald Prater, Associate Commissioner for Imported Food Safety, FDA
- Conrad Choiniere, PhD, Director of the Office of Analytics and Outreach, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)
- Vanessa Coffman, Director, Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness, Stop Foodborne Illness
Those who would like to attend the webinar can register here.
Intertek Alchemy, which offers training for manufacturing and food processing industries, has released the findings of its seventh annual Global Food Safety Training Survey, developed to assess food safety training practices
More than 2,000 industry professionals representing more than 3,000 food production facilities worldwide responded to the survey. Their responses highlighted some of the significant challenges and contradictions of current food safety training practices, and provided insight into strategies to help overcome these challenges.
For example, 88% of respondents believe that their companies provide adequate levels of food safety training to drive consistent and appropriate food safety behaviors. Yet only 40% of their employees follow food safety programs on the manufacturing floor.
Additional key findings from the survey include:
- 81% of respondents agreed that their companies understand what it takes to build and sustain a strong food safety culture, and 40% of companies use a food safety culture audit/assessment to measure sustained food safety behaviors. But, only 22% of respondents strongly agree that their employees have the authority to take action when food safety is compromised.
- 80% of respondents believe they would be more productive if their employees consistently adhered to their training programs. However, only 19% of companies are increasing their budget for food safety training and only 18% plan to add new training technologies next year.
When looking at practices that improve food safety outcomes, responses revealed that:
- Tailoring training to specific job roles increases the likelihood from 22% to 82% that a frontline employee will halt production when necessary to prevent a food safety incident
- Highly motivated employees are over two times more likely to consistently adhere to food safety protocols on the floor.
- 78% of companies with a mature upskilling programs reported having highly motivated employees, compared to 43% for companies without an upskilling program.
When asked to share, “What are you organization’s biggest food safety training challenges?” nearly 50% cited scheduling time for training, followed by staff turnover and bad practices or misinformation passed from one employee to another.
One of the most significant changes in this year’s survey was how food safety training is delivered. The use of e-learning tools nearly doubled in the past two years (37% in 2020 to 63% in 2022).
“This year’s Global Food Safety Training Report presents some eye-catching findings, providing a comprehensive look into what food manufacturers can do to improve food safety training outcomes,” said Intertek Alchemy President Darrin Harkness. “We’re proud to sponsor the research that provides clear, data-driven answers on how they can make their food safety programs even stronger. Together we can work to ensure a safe and sustainable global food supply with a shared goal of reducing foodborne illnesses and eliminating costly recalls.”
The Global Food Safety Training Survey is sponsored by Intertek Alchemy and Campden BRI, in partnership with BRCGS, BSI, Cultivate, SGS, Safe Quality Food Institute and TSI.
A complimentary copy of the research paper, “Why Some Training Programs Succeed Where Others Fail,” is available for download here.
Listeria monocytogenes is a ubiquitous pathogen with a high mortality rate that can become persistent in the retail food environment, says Janet Buffer, MPH, of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Ohio State University. During her presentation “Listeria monocytogenes and sanitation in the retail environment,” at the “Food Safety Hazards Series” virtual event, she discussed areas in retail food service environments most likely to harbor the pathogen as well as the best-proven methods to reduce the prevalence of listeria in your facility.
View the full “Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Listeria” virtual conference on demand.
Areas that are more likely to harbor listeria monocytogenes in the retail food environment include:
- Cracks and crevices in the floor
- The floor/wall juncture, especially under sinks
- On touchpoints of cooler handles and deli slicers
- In front of deep fryers
- In front of deli slicers and on slicer blades
- Sink interiors
- Areas where raw chicken is stored or transported
“Listeria monocytogenes is hardy. It tolerates salt, grows in cold environments and is moderately resistant to acids,” said Buffer. “It is also ubiquitous. We find it in soil, water, silage, manure and sewage. We bring it in on our shoes. We can carry it on our clothes, and it can become a persistent pathogen in our retail spaces.”
A recent study by Briana C. Britton, et al, published in Food Control Journal, identified the most effective sanitation and customer service strategies correlated with lower listeria prevalence in retail delicatessens. These include:
- When the deli is cleaned two-to-three hours/day
- Changing gloves after touching nonfood surfaces
- Keeping sanitation records
- Using foam to clean and sanitize
“All chemicals work and all work very well,” said Buffer. “But, they must be used at the correct concentrations and they will require some elbow grease.”
Inga Hansen is the new managing editor of Food Safety Tech. She has more than 20 years’ experience in business-to-business healthcare media. Inga previously served as executive editor of MedEsthetics magazine and associate editor of Dialysis & Transplantation.
“Inga will be a strong addition to our team and will be responsible for growing our delivery of original in-depth reporting on important industry issues, helping curate content for our virtual and live conferences, develop and expand our Advisory Board and expand our reach on social media,” says Rick Biros, president and publisher of Innovative Publishing.
“The safety and integrity of our food from farm to table is vital to our communities. Rick Biros and Food Safety Tech have been integral resources for the professionals who grow, produce, package, serve and regulate our food. I am excited to help continue Food Safety Tech’s mission in providing the knowledge, education and forums for collaboration that support their work,” said Hansen.
About Food Safety Tech: Food Safety Tech is a digital media community for food industry professionals interested in food safety and quality. We inform, educate and connect food manufacturers and processors, retail & food service, food laboratories, growers, suppliers and vendors, and regulatory agencies with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an environment that fosters safer food for consumers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has announced an audit of the FDA over its actions regarding the Abbott infant formula recall. The audit, announced on June 2, will “determine whether FDA followed the inspections and recall process for infant formula in accordance with Federal requirements.”
The OIG is specifically examining the FDA’s actions leading up to the infant formula recall at the Abbott facility in February 2022 to determine whether FDA followed applicable policies and procedures related to conducting inspections of the manufacturing facility and overseeing Abbott’s initiation of the infant formula recall.
The FDA released a timeline of its infant formula-related activities, showing that inspectors first became aware of issues including standing water and inadequate handwashing during a routine inspection at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility in September 2021—the same month that the FDA received the first consumer complaint report of Cronobacter illness in an infant from the Minnesota Department of Health.
One key area of frustration during Congressional hearings in May was the delay of action on a whistleblower report filed with the FDA Detroit District Office in October 2021. The complaint was not reviewed by FDA leadership until February 2002, “due to an isolated failure in FDA’s mailroom, likely due to COVID-19 staffing issues,” according to the FDA.
Additional inspections of the facility between January and March 2022 found “significant, fundamental sanitation, building and equipment issues.” Swabs taken during the inspections revealed six confirmed samples of Cronobacter. These findings led Abbott, on the recommendation of the FDA, to voluntarily cease production at the facility and recall potentially contaminated products. The contaminated formula has been linked to four hospitalizations and two deaths.
The OIG audit is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
Over the last 20 years, I have helped thousands of companies prepare for food safety audits. You can only imagine the plethora of questions that my team and I are asked by the food companies as they build their food safety programs. Many revolve around the basics of building an initial food safety plan. Here are the top five food safety plan questions I am asked regularly that I will address within this article:
- What are the foundations of a good food safety plan?
- Who should be involved in the process of building the food safety plan?
- Can I convert my HACCP Plan into a food safety plan?
- Are there resources and tools available to help build my food safety plan?
- Should I add food safety culture to my food safety plan?
What Are the Foundations of a Good Food Safety Plan?
FDA dictates that a food safety plan is a set of written documents that are based on food safety principles and incorporates:
- Hazard analysis
- Preventive controls
- Supply-chain programs
- Recall plan
- Written procedures to be followed for:
- Corrective actions
- Verification and validation
A food safety plan is developed for every individual facility based on the unique issues at each facility. For example, if a company has multiple processing plants processing the exact same product in multiple areas throughout the country, each facility will need their own unique plan. The reason for that is each facility may have different risks based on process flow layout, equipment used, suppliers and even employee and management cultures.
Each facility will have a separate HACCP plan detailing each chemical, biological and physical risk for the layout of the operation and equipment used. Recall plans will need to be created for each facility’s unique customers. Supplier monitoring will need to be developed for each facility’s unique suppliers.
Who Should be Involved in the Process of Building the Food Safety Plan?
Creating the team to build your food safety plan is one of the most important steps in the process and probably the most overlooked. Most teams I have seen include the QA and/or food safety person, the operations manager and the maintenance manager. This is too limited and often leads to risks being missed and processes that are either too simple or over complicated. A food safety team should have a member from each of the following departments:
- Food Safety/QA
- Crew or shift lead
- Executive management (preferably the CEO)
- A line worker or two
Why the CEO, a shift supervisor and line worker(s)? The CEO creates the company culture and should be funneling information down from the top. If the CEO is part of the team, the whole organization will see the importance of the food safety plan.
Line workers and crew leads are on the floor working the processes day in and out. They will be key to implementation of the plan. As processes are created, the line workers and crew chiefs can provide amazing insight on the processes and reporting tools that will be most effective on the floor. Having this information before implementation will save hours of time and minimize the risk of having to alter processes that don’t work in reality.
Can I Convert my HACCP Plan into a Food Safety Plan?
Many companies have a basic HACCP plan for their facilities. Often the question is, “Isn’t my HACCP plan a food safety plan?” The answer is yes and no. Basically, you can have an HACCP plan and not have a food safety plan, but you cannot have a food safety plan without an HACCP plan.
A food safety plan is more encompassing than an HACCP Plan. Looking at your facility floor plan and analyzing chemical, biological and physical risks is a key part of a food safety plan. The food safety plan adds another layer of monitoring for all risks and provides added processes for preventative controls, recalls and supplier monitoring.
Also, companies that have only an HACCP plan often have not been keeping that plan up to date with an all encompassing team described above. Once the new, more robust teams are created and they start building the food safety plan, many find they need to significantly alter their HACCP plans.
Are There Resources and Tools Available To Help Build My Food Safety Plan?
Luckily, we live in a technical world full of inexpensive or free tools. There are many very smart people that have services available to assist in creating a food safety plan as well. Here is a list of some free and low cost solutions:
- The FDA created a free solution, the “FDA Food Safety Plan Builder.” This solution walks you through the process of creating a food safety plan step-by-step.
- If you need a food safety plan for a specific GFSI Standard, walking through the individual check lists provided by the standards you choose will lead you to the creation of a food safety plan, albeit a very robust one.
- If you do not need full certification, building a food safety plan based on GFSI Global Markets is a great stepping stone and they have a free toolkit.
- There are many software tools that you can purchase. The pricing and features will vary based on the company. Google “Food Safety Plan Software” and you will see the many options available.
- Working with a consultant is a great option if you don’t have the time to learn the process of creating, building and implementing a food safety plan. There are many great and not so great consultants in the industry. If you decide to go this route make sure you interview at least three consultants and ask the following questions:
- “Are you going to coach us on how to own and maintain our food safety program or do you do everything on your own?” Many consultants think they “own” the programs they develop, as if they are proprietary systems. Some will charge you year after year to use their program. Avoid these consultants.
- “How long have you been consulting?”
- “May I talk with a couple of your past clients?” If they are unwilling to provide testimonials that may be a red flag.
Should I Add Food Safety Culture to My Food Safety Plan?
Recently, I wrote an article for FoodSafetyTech.com titled “The Costs Of Food Safety: Correction vs. Prevention,” and the opening sentence is “Every company that grows, produces, packs, processes, distributes and serves food has a food safety culture. In the food industry, when looking at food safety culture there are essentially two groups: The correction and the prevention groups.”
By starting the process of creating a food safety plan, you are already crossing the chasm into the “prevention group.” Adding elements of food safety employee training, recognition and food safety behavior management into your food safety plan and implementing those elements will alter your organization in some of the most positive ways.
Every food company has a food safety culture, some are toxic and others are refreshingly positive. If you have read this article to the end I assume you either have a positive food safety culture or would like to create one. Incorporating key teams members in your planning and taking advantage of the resources available will place you on the path to developing an effective food safety plan and a company culture that embraces food safety.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at 1:00 pm (ET) to discuss the recent draft guidance on lead action levels for juice. The draft guidance, titled “Action Levels for Lead in Juice; Draft Guidance for Industry,” issued in April provides action levels for lead in single-strength (ready to drink) apple juice and in other single-strength juices and juice blends.
These draft action levels support the agency’s broader effort to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods, and advance the FDA’s goals in the Closer to Zero action plan.
During the webinar the FDA will provide an overview of the draft guidance and additional information, as well as answer stakeholder questions.
Featured speakers include Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Dr. Conrad Choiniere, director of the Office of Analytics and Outreach, CFSAN, and Dr. Paul South, director of Division of Plant Products and Beverages, Office of Food Safety, CFSAN.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is participating with the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) to support the development of its new guidance on food fraud.
GFSI has been a longstanding partner of Codex and appears in the first draft guidelines of the Codex Guidance on Food Fraud as a key reference for its work on food fraud via its food fraud position.
GFSI notes that while there is some existing guidance that addresses fraudulent activities, there is a significant need for CCFICS, which deals with ‘horizontal’ issues, to develop definitions and update its guidance to better reflect current food fraud initiatives.
To support this work, Codex has created a dedicated working group, Chaired by the United States with co-chairs from China, the European Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United Kingdom. GFSI acts as an official observer to Codex, providing input and recommendations on this work through its GFSI Codex Working Group. The group, which currently consists of representatives from Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Danone, plays a key role in underpinning GFSI’s Benchmarking Requirements and reinforcing Codex’s mandate of valuing collaboration, inclusiveness, consensus building and transparency.
The group is also observing to help ensure this work does not reinvent the wheel, but identifies, collects and utilizes existing work from experts within the scientific and academic industries and regulatory community that have been working on this topic for the past decade.
In regard to the feedback provided on the Codex Guidance on Food Fraud, the GFSI Codex Working Group stressed:
- The importance of including industry as a key partner in managing food fraud
- The need for clarity around the roles of respective Codex committees in the prevention and detection of food fraud, specifically around analytical and testing guidance to prioritize the detection of food fraud (i.e. the role of CCMAS – Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling vs. the role of CCFICS in food fraud)
- The importance of collaboration between all relevant stakeholders to manage food safety risks in the event of genuine food fraud incidents
- The absolute need to include ‘feed for food producing animals’ in the scope of this work
- The view that existing food safety processes and networks provide a good basis for managing communication of food fraud incidents and share good practices
- To define numerous terms that are also being proposed, defined and considered with the development of agreed terms and conditions.
Codex is hoping to finish this work in 2024/2025. Between now and the last final draft, which is planned to be submitted for final approval to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, there will be multiple draft versions developed.
This week’s episode of the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series will examine The New Normal: COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the Food Industry. The following are highlights for this Thursday’s session:
- COVID & Manufacturing, with April Bishop, Treehouse Foods
- Impact of COVID-19 on Food Safety & Quality Teams, and Strategies for Moving Forward, with Jill Stuber, The Food Safety Coach
- The Intersection of COVID, Technology and Consumer Changes, with Darin Detwiler, Northeastern University
- COVID & Business Continuity Planning, with Douglas Marshall, Ph.D., Eurofins
- TechTalks from RizePoint and Bayer
This year’s event occurs as a Spring program and a Fall program. Haven’t registered? Follow this link to the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series, which provides access to all the episodes featuring critical industry insights from leading subject matter experts! Registration includes access to both the Spring and the Fall events. We look forward to your joining us virtually.