Tag Archives: produce

FoodLogiQ

Markon Selects FoodLogiQ Product for Global Supply Chain Visibility

FoodLogiQ

FoodLogiQ has announced that Markon has selected its FoodLogiQ Connect Manage + Monitor product for global supply chain visibility and streamlined supplier management. “We vetted several systems providers and felt that FoodLogiQ was best positioned to help us manage data and dramatically increase efficiencies. With hundreds of suppliers, and thousands of farms, a robust system is necessary for us to maintain our industry-leading food programs,” said Markon President Tim York in a press release.

According to, managing hundreds of growers and dozens of processing plants is a massive undertaking that requires more than just manual tracking methods like spreadsheets and paper documents. Markon needed a technology solution to provide a global view of their supplier quality management, and they needed greater transparency across the company’s supply chain..

Markon will use the FoodLogiQ Connect’s Manage + Monitor to:

  • Centralize supplier documentation to achieve corporate food safety standards, implement corrective actions, support supplier verification, and manage required recordkeeping
  • Track and report on food safety across their supply chain and address issues with suppliers directly to drive compliance
  • Leverage data-driven reporting to help leadership make informed decisions about supplier performance and expiring documents

Read the full press release about Markon’s adoption of the FoodLogiQ platform.

magnifying glass

FDA Report on E. Coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce Points to “Significant” Finding of Strain in Sediment of Water Reservoir

By Maria Fontanazza
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magnifying glass

The November 2018 outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce caused 62 illnesses across 16 states. The FDA zeroed in on the Central Coast growing regions of northern and Central California as being responsible for the contamination. The outbreak was declared over on January 9 and yesterday FDA released the report, “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E.Coli O157:H7”, which provides an overview of the investigation.

The report states that a sediment sample coming from an on-farm water reservoir in Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County, California) tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Although this particular farm was identified in several legs of the Fall 2018 traceback investigations that occurred in the United States and Canada, as well as being a possible supplier of romaine lettuce in the 2017 traceback investigations, the FDA said that the farm is not the single source of the outbreak, as there is “insufficient evidence”. The traceback suggests that the contaminated lettuce could have come from several farms, because not all tracebacks led to the farm on which the contaminated sediment was found.

“The finding of the outbreak strain in the sediment of the water reservoir is significant, as studies have shown that generic E. coli can survive in sediments much longer than in the overlying water. It’s possible that the outbreak strain may have been present in the on-farm water reservoir for some months or even years before the investigation team collected the positive sample. It is also possible that the outbreak strain may have been repeatedly introduced into the reservoir from an unknown source,” stated FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas in a press announcement.

(left to right) Stic Harris, FDA; Matt Wise, CDC; Dan Sutton, Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange; Scott Horsfall, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement discuss the first E.coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce during a panel at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium. Read the article about the discussion.

Although the exact route of contamination cannot be confirmed, the FDA hypothesizes that it could have occurred through the use of agricultural water from an open reservoir, which has increased potential for contamination.

The investigation teams also found evidence of “extensive” wild animal activity and animal burrows near the contaminated reservoir, as well as adjacent land use for animal grazing, all of which could have contributed to the contamination.

Although FDA did not directly name the farm in the report, it provided a link about the recall that was initiated by the farm, Adam Bros. Farming, Inc., in December.

Considering the significant effect that the past two E.coli outbreaks involving romaine lettuce have had on both the public as well as the produce industry, FDA made several recommendations on preventive measures that leafy greens growers and industry can take to avoid such pathogenic contamination, including:

For growers:

  • Assessing growing operations to ensure they are in line with compliance to FSMA and good agricultural practices
  • Making sure that any agricultural water that comes into direct contact with the harvestable portion of the crop, food contact surfaces and harvest equipment is safe and sanitary
  • Address and mitigate risks associated with agricultural water contamination that can occur as a result of intrusion by wild animals
  • Address and mitigate risks associated with the use of land near or adjacent to agricultural water sources that can lead to contamination
  • Conduct root cause analysis whenever a foodborne pathogen is identified in the growing environment, agricultural inputs like water or soil, raw agricultural commodities, or “fresh-cut” ready-to-eat produce

For the broader industry:

  • The development of real-time procedures that enable rapid examination of the potential scope, source and route of contamination
  • All leafy green products should have the ability to be traced back to the source in real time, and information include harvest date. In November, FDA requested voluntary labeling [https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/cdc-alert-do-not-eat-romaine-lettuce-throw-it-out/] to help consumers identify products affected during an outbreak
  • The adoption of best practices in supply chain traceability

Resources

  1. FDA report: “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E.Coli O157:H7”
  2. FDA statement from Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas
  3.  FDA investigation of source of E.coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce
FDA

Routine Produce Inspections to Start in Spring, FDA Offering Compliance Support

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

After FDA delayed product inspections under FSMA to further prepare industry and ensure there was enough training and education, the agency is reminding farmers and other stakeholders in the produce industry that there are resources available to help them in preparing for the routine inspections—for large farms, these will start in the spring. The inspections will be conducted to verify compliance with the Produce Safety rule.

Resources include the FDA’s produce safety inspections page on its website to serve as a central resource for industry and state partners during the inspection preparation process and the draft guidance, “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption”.

An FDA Voices blog by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas and Associate Commissioner of Regulatory Affairs Melinda Plaisier also discussed how the agency has been supporting industry work to comply with the rule, including:

  • Granting 46 states and one territory with more than $85 million through the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program to aid in the development of state produce safety systems that offer education, outreach and technical assistance
  • With partners, supporting the training of more than 31,000 produce farmers globally on the Produce Safety rule requirements
  • The sharing of expertise via the FDA’s Produce Safety Network
  • With partners, the creation of a new inspection form that gives farms feedback and observations that occurred during the inspection, regardless of whether non-compliance issues were found, in an effort to help explain what they’re looking at and how observations apply to the produce rule
Kevin Payne, Zest Labs
FST Soapbox

2019 Food Safety and Transparency Trends

By Kevin Payne
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Kevin Payne, Zest Labs

When it comes to addressing food safety, did the industry really make any progress in 2018? In 2019, what new approaches or technologies can be successfully applied to prevent problems before they occur and minimize the consumer risk, minimize the market impact, and speed up the identification, isolation and recall of contaminated products?

Field-packed produce offers a unique challenge to the fresh food supply chain, as it is not processed and is not required to adhere to an FDA mandated HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) process. It has been a challenge for field-packed produce suppliers to proactively identify or prevent contaminated produce from entering the supply chain. As a result, during serious contamination incidents, the reaction is to pull and destroy all suspect product from store shelves and supply chain. Due to the lack of data isolating the source of the contamination, this is the safest approach, but it’s costing the industry millions of dollars. Ultimately, our inability to prevent or quickly isolate these events causes confusion among consumers who don’t know who to trust or what is safe to eat, resulting in a prolonged market impact.

In response to the latest E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce, the industry has proposed a voluntary item-level label that reflects the harvest location and date, to help identify safe product to the consumer. At best, this is a stop-gap solution, as it burdens the consumer to identify safe product.

I work in the fresh produce supply chain industry. When I go to the grocery store, I examine the produce, noting the brand and various other factors. I was aware of the romaine problem and the voluntary labeling program, so I knew what to look for. But I’m an exception. Most consumers don’t know romaine lettuce is grown during the summer and fall in northern California and further south during the winter in regions that include Arizona and Mexico. Most consumers don’t know what the “safe date” for harvest really means—nor should they be required to know this information. They look to the industry to manage this. If we buy a car or microwave oven that is found to be unsafe, the manufacturer and the government are responsible for identifying the problem and recalling the product. Yet, in the produce industry, that responsibility seems to be moving to the retailer and consumer.

It’s an unfair burden, as the retailer and consumer do not have the necessary information to make a definitive judgement regarding food safety. The responsibility needs to be shared across the entire fresh food supply chain. Records about the produce need to be shared and maintained from harvest to retail.

Will 2019 be the year that we realize we can address this challenge proactively to improve the safety of our fresh food?

We need a new approach that leverages innovative technology to provide a more reliable solution. For example, irrigation water is often identified as a culprit in spreading bacteria. Yet even with regular testing of irrigation water, the results do not currently guarantee food safety. We see emerging technology that will make regular testing more reliable, accurate and affordable to facilitate more proactive management of the water supply. This will be a critical part of an overall solution for proactive produce food safety.

Blockchain technology has been hailed as a savior of food safety and traceability. Early in 2018, it was all the rage, as various sources claimed that, by using blockchain, recall times could be cut from days or weeks to seconds. But was this an oversimplification? Perhaps so, as this early hype faded by the middle of the year amidst the various food safety outbreaks that went unresolved. Then last August, Gartner, a  market analyst firm, declared that blockchain had moved into the “trough of disillusionment” on its 2018 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies as a result of over-hyped expectations. The firm predicts that the technology may reach the “plateau of productivity” within the next decade. Can we wait another 10 years before being able to benefit from it? Should we?

We expect that blockchain trials will continue in 2019. But, while blockchain has shown promise in terms of being a secure and immutable data exchange, questions remain. What data about the produce will be entered into the blockchain? How is that data collected? Is the data validated? Bad, inaccurate or incomplete data makes blockchain relatively useless, or worse, as it undermines a trusted platform. Further, without broad agreement and adoption of data collection, blockchain can’t be successful.

For proactive management of food safety, we will also need to address both forward and backward supply chain traceability. One of the challenges realized from recent outbreaks is that it takes time to figure out what is happening. Identifying the source of the illness/outbreak isn’t easy. Once we identify a source (or multiple sources) of the contamination, blockchain—assuming that all of the necessary data has been collected—only helps to more quickly trace back produce to its origin. But, for growers, quickly understanding where all product shipped from a specific location or date is just as critical in understanding and minimizing consumer impact. Tracing product forward enables a grower to proactively inform retailers and restaurants that their product should be recalled.

Blockchain currently does not directly support this forward tracing, but can be augmented to do so. But blockchain can maintain a food safety data item, or items, that could quickly and reliably communicate product status at the pallet-level, providing instant food safety status to the current product owner, even if they didn’t have direct contact with the grower. As such, a hybrid blockchain approach, as espoused by ChainLink Research, is optimal for forward and backward traceability.

Equally important, we need to fully digitize the supply chain to enable blockchain. To make comprehensive data collection feasible, we need to automate data collection by utilizing IoT sensors at the pallet level, to properly reflect how distribution takes place through the supply chain. We need reliable data collection to properly reflect the location and condition of product distributed through a multi-tier distribution network. That level of product data visibility enables proactive management for food safety as well as quality and freshness— well beyond the current trailer-level monitoring that only monitors transit temperatures with no benefit to managing food safety. Effective data capture will define the next generation of fresh food management, as it embraces proactive food safety, quality and freshness management.

Goals for This Year

For 2019, our goals should be to embrace new approaches and technology that:

  1. Identify food contamination at its source and prevent contaminated food from ever entering the supply chain. We need to focus on developing new technologies that make this feasible and cost effective.
  2. Accurately and consistently track product condition and authenticity of fresh produce from the time it is harvested until it is delivered. IoT sensors and proactive fresh food supply chain management solutions provide this capability.
  3.  Make it cost-effective and practical for growers, suppliers and grocers to use solutions to improve the entire fresh food supply chain. If we make the process burdensome or without a reasonable ROI, implementation will lag, and the problems will persist. But if we demonstrate that these solutions offer value across the fresh food supply chain—through reduced waste and improved operational efficiency—growers, suppliers, shippers and grocers will embrace them.
Recall

Recalls from Kellogg Company and Del Monte due to Salmonella and Cyclospora

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

Kellogg Company announced a voluntary recall of Honey Smacks cereal (15.3 oz and 23 oz) after it was uncovered there may be a presence of Salmonella. The products were distributed national wide as well as in Costa Rica, Guatamala, Mexico, the Caribbean, Guam, Tahiti and Saipan. The issue was uncovered after FDA and CDC were contacted regarding reported illnesses—at that point Kellogg initiated an investigation with the third-party manufacturer of Honey Smacks. The products have a Best If Used by Date of June 14, 2018 through June 14, 2019.

Following a potential link to a cluster of illnesses related to Cyclospora contamination, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. initiated a voluntary recall of 6 oz., 12 oz. and 28 oz. vegetable trays containing fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots, and dill dip sold to certain retailers in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin).

The products were distributed to Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod, and have a “Best By” date of June 17 or earlier.

Recall

Agroson’s Recalls Nearly 2500 Boxes of Maradol Papayas

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

Agroson’s LLC is taking precautionary measures and has recalled 2483 boxes of Maradol Papaya Cavi Brand over Salmonella concerns. The papayas were grown and packed by Carica de Campeche—and other brands that have bought from this farm tested positive for Salmonella. Although no illnesses have been reported, the company initial the recall after FDA notified it about these other brands testing positive.

The papayas (carton codes 3044, 3045 and 3050) were distributed to wholesalers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut between July 16 and July 19, and were sold until July 31, 2017.

Freshtex Produce of Alamo, TX also announced a voluntary recall of its “Valery” brand Maradol Papayas grown and packed by Carica de Campeche.

Following one death, Grande Produce recalled its Caribeña brand Maradol papayas more than a week ago.

Imports

Panama Canal Expansion Helps Boost Produce Imports

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Imports

Following the expansion of the Panama Canal, a massive construction project that intended to double the cargo capacity of the canal, U.S. ports on the East Coast are enjoying an import boom. In Philadelphia, the Parker Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia (ranked the 12th nationwide) experienced a 28% bump in April alone.

Over the past year, the Philadelphia port has brought in additional imports of fresh produce from several companies, including Walmart, according to The Inquirer. Since last summer, Mediterranean Shipping Co. has been shipping grapes, blueberries and other fruits from Chile, Peru and Ecuador to Philadelphia on a weekly basis. The company’s cargo ships are the largest to ever have sailed up the Delaware River. Fyffes, a European fresh produce company, began delivering bananas, plantains and pineapples from Costa Rica, Columbia and Guatemala in January.

strawberries

The 2017 Dirty Dozen List Unveiled: How Contaminated Is Produce?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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strawberries

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its “Dirty Dozen”, a list of 12 produce items that contain the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the organization analyzed tests conducted by the USDA, finding that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of produce were contaminated with one or more pesticide residues, which remained even after the produce were washed (and peeled, in some instances). 178 pesticides and pesticide breakdown products were found on the samples that the USDA researchers analyzed.

“New federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that is banned from use on food crops in Europe.” – EWG

For the following items that made this year’s list, EWG recommends always buying organic. Each food tested positive for several different pesticide residues, along with having higher concentrations of pesticides compared to other produce.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

EWG also released a Clean 15 list, produce that was found to have “relatively few” pesticides and a low concentration of residue.

However, there are groups that dispute EWG’s list, because the ranking of produce has been found to have a negative effect on the consumption of produce, whether conventional or organic, especially among low-income consumers. “EWG’s list has been discredited by scientists, it is not based upon risk and has now been shown to potentially discourage consumption of healthy and safe organic and conventional fruits and vegetables,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) in a press release. She referred to analysis conducted by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program, which found that a child could eat excessive amounts of produce daily without any negative consequences from the pesticide residues. “For strawberries, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from pesticide residues,” Thorne said. AFF also lists some of the regulations regarding pesticide use [http://safefruitsandveggies.com/regulations/organic] on its website.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Supplier Accountability Focus of Latest Protest Against Chipotle

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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International Brotherhood of Teamsters

The labor union International Brotherhood of Teamsters has been holding nationwide protests at Chipotle locations this month, taking issue with one of the restaurant chain’s suppliers. The supplier at the focus of the demonstrations is California-based produce company Taylor Farms, which supplies tomatoes and peppers to Chipotle, according to Teamsters.

“Over the past five years, Taylor Farms has had more than 20 food recalls for problems such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli. In November 2015, Taylor Farms products containing celery and sold at Costco and other retail outlets were recalled for possible E. coli 0157:H7 contamination,” according to a Teamster news release. “At Taylor Farms’ plant in Tracy, Calif., the company has also committed safety and health violations and violations of laws that protect workers’ rights. Recently, the company settled extensive labor rights violations that involved payments of $267,000 to illegally terminated workers and a required posting in which the company promises to never again violate a long list of employee rights.”

The Teamsters protested at 12 Chipotle locations across the country, following 30 previous protests at Chipotle over the past several months.

Teamster Vice President Rome Aloise points the finger at Chipotle for allowing Taylor Farms to “have a total disregard for consumers’ and workers’ health and safety, as well as workers’ rights,” he said. “Chipotle claims to serve ‘Food With Integrity’, but where’s the integrity when it turns a blind eye to its supplier’s behavior? Chipotle must not cut and run – which would hurt Taylor Farms workers – it must carry out its social responsibility and demand Taylor Farms treat workers fairly and with respect.”

Taylor Farms has not released a statement addressing the protests.

Eva Almenar, MSU

Packaging Technique Could Help Produce Last Longer

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Eva Almenar, MSU
Eva Almenar, MSU
Eva Almenar and a team of researchers at Michigan State University may have found a way to make packaged produce last longer. (Image courtesy of University of Michigan)

Michigan State University (MSU) may have come up with a way to make packaged vegetables last much longer. After conducting an extensive evaluation of current techniques, researchers at MSU found that combining a package’s atmosphere of elevated carbon dioxide and reduced oxygen with a sanitizing treatment of sodium hydrochlorite could help ready-to-use onions last two weeks in a package (meaning that they were acceptable for purchase at this point). The results of the research, which was partially funded by USDA, were featured in an issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

“We focused on ready-to-use onions, which have grown to become one of the five most commonly sold vegetables in the last decade,” said Eva Almenar, MSU AgBioResearch scientist in a news release. “Of all the variations that we tested, this one reduced microbial growth, respiration and discoloration, and preserved the desired aroma.”

The packaging technique could have potential use with other vegetables as well. Almenar is also investigating gas composition packaging and containers made from renewable sources.