Tag Archives: prevention

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Invisible Invaders: How Tiny Beetles Destroy Stored Products

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Most likely, you’re going to do everything in your power to set up a proactive prevention plan to block out this virus. You’d probably want a new policy for inspecting incoming shipments. You’d probably want to add monitoring devices and install automated devices to ensure the virus is blocked out. And, you’d probably start checking the stored products you already have safely tucked away.

But instead of an imaginary virus, know that beetles can actually do this! Beetles, specifically those that fall into the category of stored product pests, actively seek out and feed on the types of goods that food processing facilities work so hard to protect. While some of these beetles prefer certain types of foods over others (grains are a pest favorite, for example) they’d love to find a home in your facility.

While it may seem like an invisible, pervasive virus is a far cry from some beetles running around your facility, know that this comparison isn’t a stretch. The beetles we’ll look at in this article are all four millimeters long or smaller, so it’s not going to be the type of pest that you happen to notice and can quickly remove. These types of beetles are known for their ability to stealthily invade stored products and feed, reproduce and survive right there in the product. If your first thought is, “well, I’ve never seen one of those,” then you need to inspect your products. And soon.

In fact, one study from the University of Wisconsin and the USDA found that “stored product pests can damage, contaminate, or consume as much as 10% of the total food produced in the U.S. alone, while in developing countries that rate has been estimated at 50% or more.”

Stored product pests are prevalent. And beetles are some of the most common we find in the United States, with multiple different species plaguing food processing and storage facilities. Because the most common species vary from region to region, it often takes the insight of a trained pest management professional to correctly identify one of these pests.

That said, let’s dive in a little deeper on just a few of these beetles to better understand what attracts them and how they operate to get to your stored product.

Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles

Similar in appearance and in their habits, cigarette and drugstore beetles are two common beetles found in food processing facilities. Generally, about two to three millimeters in length, these light brown bugs are tough to spot and a pain to remove if not detected quickly.

Both beetles are known for their ability to chew into stored products and penetrate through some packaging. Once inside, they feed and spread to other nearby food sources over time. And when it comes time to reproduce, both species of beetle will lay eggs directly on or in food products. The larvae then go on to spend most of their young lives thriving while surrounded by a consistent food source until they reach adulthood. At that point, the infestation is going to spread to neighboring products and the population will start to increase at an accelerating rate.

Despite their naming, both beetles eat a variety of foods including cereal, coffee beans, spices, rice, dried fruits, animal-based products and pet food. If there are any small holes in packaging—even cardboard—it’s possible that cigarette or drugstore beetles are present.

Flour Beetles

Reddish-brown in color and about three to four millimeters in length, flour beetles are longer, narrower beetles than the cigarette and drugstore beetles. Flour beetles are so small, it usually takes a magnifying glass to tell the difference between the different species (red and confused).

Another one of the common pests found in stored products, flour beetles can live for nearly a year and deposit hundreds of eggs in that time span. Once they find a way to wriggle themselves into packaging, flour beetles contaminate goods with shed skin and frass (bug poop!). If allowed to feed and thrive for too long, they’ll go from product to product and infest an entire room full of goods. Everything they’ve infested will be unfit to eat and will have to be thrown out, which can prove costly.

The good news (if you can call it that) when it comes to flour beetles is that they’re a bit pickier than other stored product pests. They typically feed on the broken bits and dust from grain that collect in bags of grains, flour, cereal and pasta.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

These beetles thrive in the cracks and crevices in foods, wedging their flat bodies through miniscule gaps. Ranging about two to three millimeters in length, these long, thin beetles usually get into products when they’re being transported. Often, the pests are brought indoors unknowingly, where they begin to spread their influence. One tainted item can lead to a massive infestation down the road.

These grain beetles are also known to cause mold problems due to moisture buildup. Frankly, beetle-laden products often wind up having moisture buildup and mold, which can attract other pests to the scene if allowed to persist. In their adult form, sawtoothed grain beetles are known to travel quite a bit, so it’s possible you may spot them on the floor or in cracks and crevices near food storage areas.

The food preference for sawtoothed grain beetles is a little different from the previous two groups of invasive beetles, as they prefer to feed on food items like birdseed, cereal, chocolate, dried fruit, flour, pasta, pet food, nuts, tobacco and yeast.

Proactive IPM and Prevention Tips

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the signs that stored product beetles might be present at your facility, let’s discuss the many things you can do to proactively prevent them.

First and foremost, a variety of tactics should be incorporated as part of your Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Under FSMA regulations, this is something every facility should have at this point. It emphasizes a proactive approach to pest management, which is something you’ll need to implement immediately if you want to decrease the risk of a costly pest infestation.

So, let’s look at some specific things you and your pest management professional can implement.

Initially, closely inspect the facility and set up an ongoing plan to inspect incoming shipments for signs of stored product pests like live insects, webbing on products and damaged kernels. FSMA mandates that considerations for your supply chain are in place, so talk to your supply chain partners about inspecting all incoming and outgoing shipments to ensure pest issues can be identified promptly and traced back to the source.

You should also use monitoring devices to help you keep a pulse on pest populations around the facility, which is especially helpful for larger buildings and warehouses. Pheromone traps are especially helpful when monitoring for stored product pests and can help you detect any of the invasive beetle species mentioned previously. Other tools like fly lights and glue traps can help you track other pest trends over time. Once placed, monitoring devices will offer insight as to which areas in your facility are most at-risk for pest problems. Then, you can work on improving the exclusion and sanitation tactics in those areas to reduce the risk of invasive pests.

Also, use temperature as a tactic. These beetles (and other stored product pests) cannot live in extreme temperatures. The fact is that most stored product insects can’t develop below 15o C (60o F). While this isn’t an option for all facilities, even fans and lower humidity can help.

Finally, create a sanitation schedule. This should involve as many staff members as possible and include daily, weekly and monthly duties. Perhaps most importantly, clean up product spills immediately and watch for damp or wet spots that may encourage mold. While it’s impossible to clean up everything, the more you limit the amount and access to food, the lower the chances of insects detecting and pursuing those food sources.

So, be proactive in protecting your stored products from beetles! They’ll prove costly if allowed to destroy and contaminate product, so don’t wait to improve your food safety plan. This threat is worse than an imaginary virus, because it’s very, very real.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Not-So-Fantastic Pests and Where to Find Them

By Chelle Hartzer
No Comments
Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Although no two food processing facilities face the exact same pest pressure, there are a few common pests you’re likely to spot. Depending on the type of pests in the surrounding area, different spaces in a building will be more at-risk for an infestation. Pests will feed on and contaminate product, and get into equipment, if undeterred. And considering many pests can be a potential health and safety threat, prevention is important to help protect your bottom line.

Instead of reacting to pest issues, adjust your integrated pest management (IPM) program to take a proactive approach to preventing the following six common pests.

Rodents

Some of the most clever and resilient creatures in the pest world, rodents are a versatile threat to food products. Usually brown or gray, mice and rats can compress their bodies to fit through holes and gaps the size of a dime and a quarter, respectively. Once inside, they reproduce rapidly. A single rat or mouse can produce more than 32 offspring per year. In addition, they can use their sharp teeth to gnaw through packaging and leave urine and feces droppings everywhere they go. All of this makes them an absolute terror once indoors. They’re smart enough to know hiding from humans is their best option, and they’ll even learn from unsuccessful trapping attempts.

Cockroaches

These notorious crawling insects are contaminators, too. Roaches love to get into dirty areas and run all over food contact surfaces, equipment and products, potentially dropping off disease-inducing pathogens on everything they touch. Cockroaches can fit through tiny gaps by flattening their bodies, making them tough (but not impossible!) to keep out. They tend to avoid coming out in the open during daytime hours, as they prefer to hide in the dark. If you spot one running around during the day, then it may be a sign of a larger infestation behind the scenes.

Flies

When flies detect a potential food source, they’re going to head straight for it. Stringent sanitation is the best way to minimize attractants, and keeping doors and other openings closed can help, too. Preventing flies is important, because they’re twice as filthy as cockroaches. In fact, more than 100 pathogens are associated with the housefly alone. These pathogens are transferred when the fly lands on a surface, contaminating the area. If flies are a threat, you should have fly lights placed strategically to reduce the population and monitor where they’re coming from.

Indian Meal Moths

This tiny insect feeds on a wide range of raw and finished goods, and leaves behind frass (insect droppings) that that can lead to major loss of products. If you don’t see the pest itself, which can be reddish-brown and silver-grey in color, you may notice the silk webbing spun by larvae. When someone notices this, immediate action is necessary, as it means the moths are reproducing and may be spreading amongst products in close proximity.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

Unable to penetrate most packaging, sawtoothed grain beetles hunt for holes in packaging, which can be one millimeter in diameter, and lay eggs near the opening. Larvae then squeeze through the hole once hatched and begin feeding on product! Although they prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate and oatmeal, they’ll feed on just about anything they can get into. About three millimeters in length, these beetles love moldy, damp conditions, so minimize those attractants as much as possible.

Ants

Everybody has seen or been around ants before, but are you aware that they carry bacteria on their bodies capable of contaminating food? What starts with a few foragers can escalate quickly, as ants leave behind an invisible chemical trail leading other ants straight to a food source. Ants will feed on just about anything depending on the species, so identification is key. Generally only a few millimeters in length and ranging in color from black to red, ants can establish colonies under a building’s foundation, on lawns or in out-of-sight locations indoors.

Watch Out for High-Risk Areas

Understanding the biology of pests helps us to understand what they’re looking for and where they’re most likely to be hiding. Generally speaking, pests are attracted to places able to provide them with the three things they need to survive: Food, water and shelter.

Food doesn’t necessarily mean actual food products of course, as some pests—like cockroaches, flies and ants—will feed on any organic matter they can find. Remember, that includes garbage!

But taking out the trash and ensuring dumpsters are far away from the building aren’t the only ways to reduce pests. Quite the contrary, pests have a myriad of different hiding spots that should be checked by facility staff and a pest management professional regularly.

For starters, don’t overlook the break room. It’s easy to forget to take out the trash, which should be done at least daily depending on waste output. Break rooms also frequently have sinks with drains where food buildup can cause odors that are attractive to pests. Drain flies love this! Wipe down countertops and sweep/vacuum/mop daily to ensure larger food crumbs and debris are taken care of, and make sure your staff knows to clean up any spills immediately. Don’t forget those vending machines—when was the last time they were moved and cleaned underneath and behind?

Equipment can be a hot spot for pests, too. Insects, especially stored product pests, will hide beneath and behind heavy machinery. Pests don’t want to be exposed out in the open, so they’ll hide in small gaps and crevices. And if there is food waste or moisture present, watch out! Those attractants will prove irresistible if allowed to linger for too long, so make sure your cleaning schedule includes sanitation in and around equipment. Never overlook those hard-to-reach areas, or pests will make you pay.

Speaking of hard-to-reach areas, walls are often popular harborage areas for pests. Rodents are perhaps the most dangerous, as they pose a health and safety threat to employees and can contaminate product. Worse still, wiring in walls looks like roots to rodents. They’ll often chew through and create sparks—a potential fire hazard. Rodents are just one of many pests happy to live in your walls, so contact a professional if you notice activity.

Even once food is produced, packaged and stored, pests are still a threat! Stored product pests, like the Indian meal moth and sawtoothed grain beetle, can get into packaged products and live in it. They’ll feed and contaminate the product, then move onto the next, proving costly when large batches have to be thrown out. Thankfully, there are monitoring devices like pheromone traps to help identify where these begin to pop up, but again, you’ll want a professional’s help to ensure these tools are effective.

Don’t wait for pest sightings to occur before taking action. The best approach to pest prevention is a proactive one, and there’s not an insect or animal alive who can outsmart a trained pest management professional. Lingering issues will prove costly with time, as a product infestation or plant shutdown would be a painful hit on your business’s bottom line. Instead, create a plan that accounts for these pests and high-risk areas around your building, and you’ll be able to rest easier knowing you’re prepared for pest invaders.

FDA

FDA Revises Draft Guidance for Listeria Control in RTE Foods

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
FDA

Any food facility that manufactures, processes, packs or holds ready-to-eat (RTE) foods should view FDA’s update on its draft guidance, Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods. Consistent with FSMA, the draft focuses on prevention, and includes best practices and FSIS’s seek-and-destroy approach. Other recommendations include controls involving personnel, cleaning and maintenance of equipment, sanitation, treatments that kill Lm, and formulations that prevent Lm from growing during food storage (occurring between production and consumption).

“This guidance is not directed to processors of RTE foods that receive a listericidal control measure applied to the food in the final package, or applied to the food just prior to packaging in a system that adequately shields the product and food contact surfaces of the packaging from contamination from the food processing environment.” – FDA

The agency will begin accepting comments on January 17.

University of Surrey, Food scare diagram

New Food Scare Categorization to Help Tackle Compromises in Supply Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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University of Surrey, Food scare diagram

Attend the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREThe global complexity of the food supply chain is only increasing the amount of adverse issues that can occur. In an effort to help the industry mitigate the various risk factors and reduce the incidence of food scares, researchers from UK-based University of Surrey have developed a new system for classifying these “food scares” across the food chain. In a recent report, Food scares: a comprehensive categorization, published in the British Food Journal, a food scare is defined as “the response to a food incident (real or perceived) that causes a sudden disruption to the food supply chain and to food consumption patterns.” The term also takes into consideration consumer distrust in the food supply chain.

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“With food scares becoming more frequent, it is important that we have a categorization system which enables efficient development of strategies to tackle such compromises to our food supply,” said report co-author Professor Angela Druckman from the University of Surrey in a press release.

“A food scare is the response to a food incident (real or perceived) that causes a sudden disruption to the food supply chain and to food consumption patterns.”

The researchers created a diagram (see Figure 1) that categorizes food scares by physical indicators such as chemical, physical or biological contamination and origin such as intentional deception, transparency and awareness issues.

University of Surrey, Food scare diagram
Figure 1. Categorization of food scare diagram. Courtesy of the University of Surrey

The authors note the importance of identifying the cause of contamination (as seen in the diagram), as the “method through which contamination occurs is key in devising food scare prevention strategies.”

No recall

Top 3 Reasons For Food Recalls

By Chris Bekermeier
3 Comments
No recall

Recalls are an inevitable reality of working in the food industry. Indeed, hardly a day goes by without one food company or another announcing a recall. According to the USDA, 150 food products were recalled in 2015. From large national brands like Tyson Foods and McCormick to smaller local manufacturers, no food company is immune from recalls.

Recovering from the sometimes devastatingly expensive recall process can be difficult, so it’s obviously best to avoid problems whenever possible. Understanding the top three reasons for food recalls is the first step toward greatly reducing how frequently they affect your food company.

1. Cross Contamination

Many food manufacturers process multiple products in a single factory. This can lead to cross-contamination issues involving foods to which people are commonly allergic, namely milk, wheat, soy and peanuts. Because cross contamination is sometimes unavoidable, manufacturers are permitted to sell cross-contaminated food, provided the potential contaminants are declared as allergens on the label. According to the USDA’s report, undeclared allergens accounted for 58 of the 150 food recalls in 2015, and milk has been identified as the number one offender.

How to Prevent Cross Contamination. Food is often contaminated because machinery isn’t properly cleaned between uses. Therefore, the most effective way to prevent it is to thoroughly clean equipment after processing food that contains common allergens. Visually inspecting the equipment following cleaning is important, but unseen residue can linger.

To overcome this, in-plant allergen testing of equipment, post cleaning, is recommended. Some tests utilize quick, non-allergen-specific colorimetric tests to identify sugars, proteins and other indicators that an allergen is present. More expensive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kits are more sophisticated and may be a better choice if cross contamination plagues your food manufacturing plant.

  • Other tips to prevent a recall caused by allergen contamination include:
  • Establishing spill-cleanup protocols
  • Training personnel on allergen management
  • Designing equipment with sanitary principles in mind, including self-draining equipment, smooth edges and rounded corners
  • Carefully inspecting product labels for accuracy

2. Pathogens

Recalls from pathogen-contaminated products are highly damaging because they affect all consumers, not just those with specific allergies. ListeriaE. coli and Salmonella are the most common—resulting in a combined 17 food recalls in 2015, according to the USDA’s report. Several foods have been identified as being most at risk for carrying these pathogens:

  • Deli meats, soft cheeses and other foods that usually aren’t cooked
  • Poultry, eggs, undercooked beef, and unpasteurized milk or juice
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish
  • Home-canned foods with low-acid content — including asparagus, corn, green beans and beets

How to Prevent Pathogens. As with avoiding cross contamination, the best way to prevent a pathogen outbreak is to implement hygienic manufacturing practices. Four specific techniques apply here:

  • Separate raw products from cooked/ready-to-eat products. Your efforts should even go as far as separating employees who work in each area. They should use divided washing facilities, locker rooms and cafeterias.
  • Control the temperature and moisture level to reduce bacteria and mold growth. Anywhere condensation forms or moisture is left to pool, micro-organisms can potentially grow and create a contamination issue. Ventilation and air conditioning can help tremendously with this, as can air dryers used to sap moisture from steamy air.
  • Implement pest-control techniques. Rats, flies and cockroaches are significant carriers of ListeriaSalmonella, Vibrio cholera and other bacteria. Effective pest-control techniques include disposing of garbage properly, sealing pest entry points, and using air curtains and screens to keep flies out.
  • Choose durable, easily cleanable equipment for your manufacturing plant and wash all surfaces regularly. Mold and bacteria can start growing within a matter of hours, so keeping surfaces clean is essential. Proper hygiene among plant personnel is critical as well.

3. Physical Contamination

When non-food items are found in food products, a recall is inevitable. Metal, plastic, wood and even insect body parts are examples of physical contaminants. Food is also considered physically contaminated if it’s chemically or biologically tainted. According to a Food Standards Agency report, of the 107 physical contamination incidents in 2012, the most common malefactors were metal (37), pests (23) and plastic/glass (10 each).

How to Prevent Physical Contamination. Foreign objects often enter food products when malfunctioning equipment or human error breaks down the production process. Safeguards such as X-ray scanning, metal detection and filtration/sieving processes help catch foreign objects before they’re shipped, but these aren’t foolproof methods. You should also only work with trustworthy suppliers and take the time to examine raw materials before using them.

The general public expects food manufacturers to produce safe, untainted food. By following these tips, you help uphold your brand and avoid the expensive, reputation-damaging effects of food recalls.

Gina Kramer
Food Safety Think Tank

Technology Enables More Effective Handwashing

By Gina R. Nicholson-Kramer
2 Comments
Gina Kramer

At the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, Gina Kramer will be moderating the Listeria Detection & Control Workshop | December 7–8 | Schaumburg, IL | LEARN MOREOn October 15, Global Handwashing Day was observed by millions of people in more than 100 countries. The point of the day is to heighten awareness around the importance of handwashing, which is a critical part of preventing sickness and spreading germs.

sanitimer
The SaniTimer

As food safety professionals, proper handwashing is a critical part of prevention as well.  Ensuring that employees understand and execute on the practice is essential to preventing product contamination and protecting consumers.

I would like to introduce you to a new handwashing tool for the food industry, the SaniTimer. A chef who is passionate about food safety performance by food employees developed this innovation. I love this new product and its practical application to food safety and public health in assisting in proper food employee behavior.

I encourage you to watch the video, and please share your thoughts about the technology.

FSMA

FDA Revises Food Safety Standards for State Regulatory Programs

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FSMA

FDA issued revisions to the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards (MFRPS), which are food safety standards for state regulatory programs that oversee facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold foods. Updates have been made to the standards, along with newly defined terms, and new sections and appendices.

Currently 43 state programs are enrolled in MFRPS, which aims to provide an integrated national risk-based food safety system. Ten standards make up the regulatory program standards; elements include program’s regulatory foundation, staff training, inspection, quality assurance, food defense preparedness and response, foodborne illness and incident investigation, enforcement, education and outreach, resource management, laboratory resources, and program assessment, according to FDA.

“The MFRPS establish a uniform basis for measuring and improving the performance of prevention, intervention, and response activities of manufactured food regulatory programs in the United States,” according to an agency release. The MFRPS promotes stronger partnerships between FDA and state programs, offering dedicated staff to work with program staff, provides opportunities to apply for funding to assist in implementation efforts, offers tools to help companies build a quality management system in order to measure and enhance performance and accountability, and aims to promote internal program consistency.

The 118-page document is available for download on FDA’s website.

Dave Shumaker, GoJo
Retail Food Safety Forum

Navigating the Complexities of Common Foodborne Illnesses

By Dave Shumaker
2 Comments
Dave Shumaker, GoJo

Did you know there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses? And while that number may seem daunting, especially when one in six Americans become ill from consuming contaminated foods or beverages each year, there are a few foodborne germs that are responsible for the majority of illness outbreaks, according to the CDC.1 What are these illnesses? What are their symptoms? What can you do to help reduce the risk of an outbreak happening at your restaurant?

The CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And of these numbers, there are two common illnesses that stand out—norovirus and Salmonella. In fact, these two pathogens account for nearly 70% of all foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States.

Norovirus

Norovirus is responsible for 58% of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses and nearly half of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to known agents.2 Of these instances, most norovirus outbreaks occur in a food service setting, particularly restaurants.

Oftentimes, infected employees are the cause of these types of outbreaks. For example, individuals who are exhibiting symptoms come to work and contaminate food by touching either ready-to-eat foods or food-contact surfaces with their bare hands, which can lead to cross contamination.

Norovirus spreads easily and quickly, so people can contract it by not only by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, but also from having direct contact with individuals who are infected with the virus or touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them as well. In addition, norovirus outbreaks can also occur from foods that are contaminated at their source.2

In this video about Norovirus, I discuss the actions you can take, which includes practicing good hand hygiene, to reduce the risk of a norovirus outbreak negatively impacting your restaurant.

Salmonella

Each year in the United States, Salmonella is responsible for 1 million foodborne illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.3 In fact, the pathogen accounts for 11% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.

People become infected with Salmonella by either eating contaminated food that has not been properly cooked or has been contaminated after preparation.4 Salmonella is often found in raw food products that come from animals such as eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products.

While Salmonella is fairly common, measures can be taken to help reduce the risk of infection, such as through proper cooking and holding temperatures. In addition, proper disinfection and sanitization of food contact surfaces (i.e., countertops and cutting boards) helps reduce the risk of cross contamination. Practicing good hand hygiene before eating, and before and after preparing food can also help prevent the spread of this bacterium.

No one ever thinks their restaurant will fall victim to a foodborne illness outbreak, but it can happen and these outbreaks are more common than you may think. It is critical for you to share information about foodborne pathogens and prevention with your staff. This type of education and training can have a significant benefit to your restaurant.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/php/illness-outbreaks.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella. Accessed May 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/
  4. Vermont Department of Health. Salmonella. Accessed May 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/salmonella/Salmonella.aspx
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Changes in Culture

By Deirdre Schlunegger
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Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States results from either a management system failure or human error. This supports our belief that all foodborne illnesses are preventable. With the introduction of FSMA, prevention has become a significant focus in the battle to eliminate foodborne illness.

STOP Foodborne Illness is collaborating with Intrinsic Leadership, LLC to offer a Food Safety Leadership program. The primary objective of this program is to equip leaders with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and sustain a culture of prevention relative to food safety.

Successful prevention requires more than just the introduction of new knowledge and skills for workers. Success requires the consistent and ongoing application of those skills.

We know that training can provide knowledge and skill. However, the most significant predictor of long-term success is the extent to which frontline managers actively support behavioral changes within the employee base. Experience shows that transforming an organization to produce superior results is much more than training programs, process improvement or new technology. While each of these elements are important, sustainable improvement occurs when we are able to shift the way people think about the business in a way that drives them to consistently act different then they did in the past. The role of leadership is to:

  • Frame the business opportunity in a way that inspires employees to seek a better outcome
  • Relentlessly pursue management system improvement
  • Represent, support and encourage a culture that aligns with improvement opportunities

Stories are powerful reminders and provide the “why” behind food safety.  Below are two such stories.

Raw Milk – E. coli 0157:H7

It is the stories that create the urgency behind the importance of food safety.  Christopher’s story is heart breaking—yet, he was one of the lucky ones, as he recovered from his illness.

Cheese – Listeria

Allison survived as well but had a rough entry into the world, as she was diagnosed with Listeriosis shortly after birth.

 

Fritz Kriete
FST Soapbox

5 Ways Food Companies Can Protect Themselves And Customers

By Fritz Kriete
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Fritz Kriete

While illnesses linked to Chipotle restaurants are grabbing headlines, the federal government recently took steps to improve how manufacturers and packagers process and handle food. Last year FDA released several final FSMA rules, giving food companies a roadmap for ensuring food safety. The proactive approach of the regulations can help companies avoid the hazards that lead to disease and allergen contaminations, and even legal troubles. Indeed, unsafe food handling can carry costly consequences from both a financial standpoint as well as in lives lost or harmed.

In 2011, the good intentions of a family-owned cantaloupe company produced tragic results. The company, seeking more natural melons, followed a consultant’s advice and discontinued the chlorine rinse used to wash off contaminants. A Listeria outbreak followed, killing 33 people and hospitalizing 147 more. Although prosecution is rare in foodborne disease outbreaks, the company owners were sentenced to probation, home detention, community service, and $150,000 each in restitution.

A more egregious case occurred in September 2015, when the former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America was convicted of knowingly shipping Salmonella-tainted peanut butter, which had caused an outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds more. Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

The new regulations require companies to undertake hazard analyses of their production, along with remedial steps. This scrutiny leads to the creation of a written plan that details the controls to prevent contamination and establish a schedule for periodic testing. This analysis and control system is called the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP.

Adherence to regulations doesn’t necessarily protect a company from liability, but not adhering can sound a company’s death knell when there’s a problem. The following are five ways in which companies can protect themselves:

  1. Put food safety first. The company culture must revolve around it. The message that the HACCP plan is to be followed must be relayed to all levels of the organization. Otherwise, companies can face severe consequences, based on the question, “Did the company behave badly enough to face strong punitive damages?”
  2. Concentrate on internal communications. In many cases, food recalls happen because of a breakdown in the communication process.
  3. Hire accredited consultants. Make sure that your consultants are qualified and have been accredited by an appropriate body such as the International HACCP Alliance or The Seafood HACCP Alliance.
  4. Don’t overlook supplied products. Suppliers should adhere to strict contamination-prevention protocols, but don’t assume they follow guidelines completely or have flawless processes.  Your contracts with them should require that they periodically audit their facilities and share the audit results with you.
  5. Label clearly. Packaging language might state that a product is manufactured in facilities that also process allergens such as peanuts and tree nuts. These types of warnings allow consumers to make up their own minds. It is also a reminder that HACCP plans must address prevention of cross-contamination (i.e., putting cleaning protocols in place if products with and without allergens are processed on the same equipment).

Many problems involve internal slip-ups or problems with supplied ingredients that allow contaminated food to reach consumers. If the contamination becomes known—and it often is not, when victims don’t equate their illnesses with tainted food—the businesses involved often face strict liability, meaning they carry some blame even if they didn’t act in a negligent manner and cause the problem directly.

Keep in mind that liability isn’t the only consequence of non-compliance. A recall or outbreak can damage the reputation of the company and the product. The cantaloupe tragedy sent sales of the melons plummeting, even in states not linked to the outbreak.

To minimize the hit on sales, a recall team should be in place, with a plan modeled on crisis management principles. Team members should come from all divisions of the company, including transportation and distribution to track down products, and communications to manage messaging. Legal counsel should be on board to advise on the ramifications.

When it comes to foodborne outbreaks, it’s a matter of taking classic prevention and preparation steps. Do everything you can to keep it from happening, but be ready just in case it does.