The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has launched a new feature on its website that enables software developers to access data on recalls and public health alerts through an application programming interface (API), allowing the public to access critical and timely public health information.
Currently, FSIS issues recall communications to alert consumers of potential food safety issues related to FSIS-regulated products. The API will act as a bridge, allowing software developers to leverage FSIS recall data to create new products for consumers or incorporate them into existing digital services and mobile apps. The agency’s recall and public health alert information continues to be publicly available through the FSIS website, Twitter, FoodSafety.gov, an RSS feed, and annual recall data summaries.
“Transparency, innovation, and collaboration are essential to public health,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban. “By opening critical data through public APIs, third-party software developers will be able to expand the reach of our information among American consumers far beyond what FSIS could do on its own.”
Since January 2020, FSIS has migrated several applications from on-premises legacy software to cloud systems, including the FSIS public website in 2021. The cloud-based infrastructure for the website laid the foundation to build out the recall API. In addition to recall data, FSIS is working on APIs for other critical datasets.
For more information on how to use the FSIS’ recall API and other developer resources, visit the API webpage.
The FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) is hosting a free hybrid public meeting entitled “Modernizing Food and Drug Administration Recalls Listening Session” on September 29, 2023, from 9:00am-5:00pm ET.
Join the discussion on “Recalls Trends, Regulation and Lessons Learned,” a Panel Discussion with FDA at the Food Safety Consortium, October 16-18
The listening session will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to share information and feedback about topics related to recall modernization, for FDA-regulated products. The FDA is inviting comments from all interested stakeholders and has identified the following examples of topic categories of the type of information the agency is interested in obtaining:
General recall preparations / contingency planning
Creating successful recall strategies, including methods to reach underserved communities
Initiating a recall
Strategies for public warning, including press releases, social media, and other communication tools
Increasing efficiency and effectiveness of recall information exchange
Ensuring effective recalls
Terminating a recall
Strategies for reducing recall recurrence for similar situations
The meeting will be held at the FDA White Oak Campus, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Bldg. 31, Rm. 1503A (the Great Room), Silver Spring, MD 20993. Virtual registration is also available.
Food safety and quality professionals attending the 2023 Food Safety Consortium can gain up to 20 NEHA-recognized continuing education (CE) credits, while taking advantage of two days of high-level panel discussions and professional networking, “boots on the ground” education on the mitigation, regulation and control of key Food Safety Hazards, and their choice from four pre-conference workshops.
The Consortium will take place October 16-18 at the Hilton Parsippany in Parsippany, New Jersey, and feature leading industry professionals as well as high-level members of the FDA and USDA. Session highlights include:
Anti-Food Fraud Tactics for the Entire Supply Chain
Food Safety Culture: Creating a “Speak Up” Culture
This year’s Food Safety Consortium is co-located with the Food Defense Consortium and Cannabis Quality Conference. The Consortium’s two-day program is recognized by NEHA (National Environmental Health Association) for 12.0 Continuing Education (CE) Hours. If you participate in one of the Pre-Conference Workshops or Trainings and attend the conference (a total of three days), you can gain 20 NEHA CE Hours (or up to 26 with the auditor training program).
Pre-Conference Workshops (held on Monday, October 16) include:
Food Safety Culture Design Workshop, presented by the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention in collaboration with Sage Media, will guide food industry professionals through the necessary steps to create an actionable food safety culture strategy.
CP-FS Credential Review Course. The Certified Professional – Food Safety (CP-FS) credential is the gold standard for those working in retail food safety, including cannabis edibles. Earning your CP-FS demonstrates your commitment to the health and well-being of your customers and shows the public you take their safety seriously.
Food Safety Auditor Training. This four-part series is designed to provide the knowledge, behaviors and technical skills attributed to a competent food safety auditor. The series includes three virtual 2-hour presentations conducted by a live instructor. These sessions are recorded and available for additional self-paced study for less experienced participants, while experienced auditors can refresh their understanding of auditing fundamentals before advancing to the more complex skills and critical thinking behaviors needed to audit high risk products. The course culminates with a full day of in-person instruction (Monday, Oct. 16) on advanced topics such as potential conflicts of interest, enhanced conflict resolution techniques and providing tips in advanced written communication skills to support the delivery of comprehensive audit reports.
The Seed to Sale Safety Workshop. Led by four veterans of cannabis quality and safety, this pre-conference workshop offers participants an interactive and engaging opportunity to learn about the novel seed-to-sale safety considerations associated with cannabis edibles. Participants will achieve an understanding of cannabis hazard analysis, learn the principles of cannabis edible GMPs, apply food safety best practices, identify risks in marketing and labeling and apply the fundamentals of state and federal regulatory compliance.
The FDA has issued a letter to developers and manufacturers of new plant varieties who intend to transfer genes for proteins that are food allergens (including allergens from foods identified as major food allergens) into new plant varieties used for food. The purpose of the letter is to remind them of the relevant legal requirements for these products, which may include adding a gene for an allergenic animal protein to a new plant variety to provide a non-animal source of the protein for use as an ingredient in another food.
While the agency noted that it is not aware of any foods currently in the U.S. market derived from these types of new plant varieties, it is aware of research and development in this area.
The FDA is asking developers to consider the food safety risks posed by such allergens and plan early in development to manage those risks, including the potential for recalls due to undeclared allergens.
“We are specifically reminding those developers who are now exploring development of these types of plant varieties of their responsibility for food safety. In particular, we are reminding them to consider the allergenicity issues related to their products, and how they would be stewarded from production to manufacturing to consumption so that they do not inadvertently or unexpectedly enter the food supply,” the FDA stated. “We are also reminding them that they need to be properly labeled when intentionally part of the food supply.”
To reduce risk to consumers as well as the risk of recalls, the FDA is encouraging developers of new plant varieties to consult with the agency through its voluntary premarket consultation program for foods from new plant varieties prior to marketing.
Are you ready to share your knowledge, experience or research with fellow food safety and quality assurance professionals? Food Safety Tech is requesting abstracts for the 11th Annual Food Safety Consortium, which will take place October 16-18, 2023, at the Hilton in Parsippany, New Jersey.
We are accepting abstracts for educational presentations, panel discussions and Posters for a new Poster Session. All abstracts, which are due by March 31, will be judged based on the educational value.
Presented by Food Safety Tech, the Food Safety Consortium is a business-to-business conference that brings together food safety and quality assurance professionals for education, networking and discussion geared toward solving the key challenges facing the food safety industry today.
In addition to two full days of high-level panel discussions, this year’s program will include a second Food Safety Hazards track. These “Boots on the Ground” sessions build on the success of Food Safety Tech’s virtual Food Safety Hazards program by providing two days of education on the detection, mitigation, control and regulation of key pathogen, pest, chemical and physical food hazards.
Also new this year is a strategic co-location with the Cannabis Quality Conference, as well as several pre-conference workshops to be held on October 16, including:
Advanced Listeria Workshop
Food Safety Recalls Workshop
Food Safety Auditor Re-certification Training
Infused Products Workshop
Registration Opening Soon!
“We are bringing two great conferences together under one roof,” says Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing and director of the Food Safety Consortium. “The Food Safety Consortium will continue its strategic meeting of the minds format, but we are complementing that with the practical, boots-on-the-ground Food Safety Hazards track. Co-location with the CQC allows attendees to take advantage of additional education on product testing and quality assurance in the burgeoning cannabis market, as well as preconference workshops delving into infused product safety and compliance that will appeal to both food safety and cannabis professionals.”
Foreign Object and Chemical Contamination of the food supply can lead to costly recalls, consumer injury and damage to a company’s reputation. In this virtual event we will hear from regulators, industry and academia about the key chemical and physical hazards facing the food industry and how to prevent and detect contamination in your supply chain and manufacturing facilities.
The FDA has posted an updated list of additional recalls related to the multistate outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg infections linked to certain Jif brand peanut butter products produced at the J.M. Smucker Company facility in Lexington, Kentucky.
The recalls are being conducted by companies that have used the peanut butter as an ingredient in the manufacturing of a new product or in repackaging the product. The recalls include:
Deskins Candies of Bluefield, West Virginia, is recalling the following 16 oz. products: Deskins Candies Peanut Butter Fudge, Deskins Candies Peanut Butter No-Bake, Deskins Candies Peanut Butter Pinwheel, and Deskins Candies Chocolate No-Bake
J.M. Smucker Company has voluntarily recalled Jif brand peanut butter products that have the lot code numbers between 1274425 – 2140425, only if the first seven digits end with 425 (manufactured in Lexington, KY).
Undeclared allergens continue to be a big cause of food recalls. For allergen management practices to be effective within food companies, there must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers, says Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Zhang discussed key concerns related to undeclared allergens in food as well as the research that Mars is conducting to improve allergen management.
Food Safety Tech: The presence of undeclared allergens continues to be a hazard in the food safety space. Specific to peanut detection, what challenges is the industry facing?
Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D.: As food materials become more varied and complicated, food allergen management becomes increasingly complex. Robust, accurate and sensitive detection methods are essential to ensure consumer safety as well as compliance with regulatory standards for allergens in the food supply chain.
When you look at the regulatory aspects, detection methods go hand in hand. Firstly, there is a need to ensure that current standard detection methods used in regulatory control of consumer goods are validated for a range of complex food matrices to ensure neither over- nor under-estimation of allergen content occurs within a food supply chain. This is important because underestimation of allergen poses a significant food safety hazard to consumers, while overestimation of allergen can result in unnecessary product recalls, driving up product costs and food waste.
Secondly, validation and monitoring of the effectiveness of cleaning and handling practices in areas of potential cross contamination with allergen containing materials depend on reliable and robust quantitative food allergen test methods for their success. The more robust the testing protocols, the more we can improve our understanding of the risks associated with cross contamination of food allergens, potentially reducing the frequency of accidental contamination events.
It is also important to note that whilst the most common cause of undeclared allergen in the global food supply chain is through accidental contamination in raw materials or finished products, this is not the only method by which undeclared allergen may be found in a product.
For example, peanut flour may be used in economically motivated adulteration (EMA) food fraud cases. In 2018 the European Commission estimated that the cost of food fraud for the global food industry is approximately €30 billion every year. Due to its high protein content, peanut flour has been used as a bulking agent to raise the overall protein content of e.g., wheat flour, thus raising the ‘quality’, and therefore price, of lower value goods. The ability to effectively quantify peanut traces within complex products therefore has the potential to enable consumers of food products to further trust the safety of the food they eat.
ELISA (Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is the method used most frequently for peanut allergen detection in the food manufacturing industry because of its sensitivity and ease of use. However, it has disadvantages in certain settings. It is not currently validated for complex food matrices, as it is believed that the effects of both food matrices and food processing could result in an underestimation of peanut concentrations in thermally processed foods, leading to false negatives, as well as overestimation in complex food matrices, leading to false positives which are a potential food safety hazard to consumers.
Food Safety Tech: Tell us about the research that the Mars Global Food Safety Center is doing to help the industry with effective methods for peanut quantification.
Zhang: At the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) we believe that everyone has the right to safe food and that we have a responsibility to generate and share insights to help solve for global food safety challenges. We also know we can’t tackle these alone, which is why we collaborate with external partners. One of our focus areas is advancing understanding and knowledge sharing in peanut allergen detection. As part of that work, we are exploring methods of improving food safety via the development of advanced analytical methods to detect peanut allergen content, in the hopes that it will enable the food industry to expand on current preventative management protocols, including early detection methodologies, for faster response to future food allergen contamination events.
As part of our latest published research, we investigated the accuracy and sensitivity of ELISA-based test methods on raw and cooked wheat flour, wheat flour-salt and wheat flour-salt-oil matrices, which are common ingredients in the food industry. 10 ppm peanut was doped into each matrix during sample preparation. Recovery testing demonstrated that in all matrices the current industry standard ELISA method overestimated results with recoveries ranging from 49.6 to 68.6 ppm.
These findings prompted the development of a new confirmatory method based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) for peanut quantification. When subjected to the same validation testing programme the HPLC-MS/MS technique was demonstrably more accurate and sensitive, with a limit of quantification of 0.3 ppm and the detected peanut concentration ranging from 6.8 to 12.8 ppm for samples doped with 10 ppm peanut.
This work is a first step in the development of a new standard method for peanut detection in complex food matrices and could ultimately inform safer manufacturing Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) processes across global supply chains to help ensure safe food for all.
Food Safety Tech: What projects are researchers at the Center working on to enhance allergen management as a whole?
Zhang: A successful allergen management program depends on rigorous control of allergenic foods and ingredients from all other products and ingredients at every step of the food production process, from raw material development to the delivery of final products. This means that for allergen management practices to be effective, they must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers.
At the Mars GFSC, we take a precompetitive approach to research, knowledge sharing and collaborations—this means we openly share insights and expertise to help ensure safe food for all. This is important in driving forward innovations, helping unlock solutions that may not have previously been possible.
We have shared our latest work both through an open access publication in Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A but also directly with regulatory bodies such as the FDA in the hopes of advancing knowledge in both food safety risk management and allergen management in complex flour-based media within global supply chains. In addition to this, this research contributes to a wider Food Safety Best Practice whitepaper focused on food allergen risk management currently under draft by the Mars GFSC, which will be published in collaboration with Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center and the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST) later this year.
We believe that global collaborations such as this are essential to improving food allergen management and mitigating food safety risks. Communication, training and knowledge sharing are core principles of the Mars GFSC and as such form a large part of our ongoing activities in this space. For example, we have hosted Food Allergen Management workshops in collaboration with Danone and Romer Labs focused on helping to raise awareness of current and future food allergen trends. At one such event in 2019, 100 participants from 16 food companies came together to promote food allergen management in the industry and ensure that the next generation of food integrity testing capability is relevant, practical, and directly applicable to the real-world problems experienced by manufacturers and processors throughout the supply chain.
Representatives of the Mars GFSC have also shared our insights externally at a number of international conferences as well as during a Food Enterprise Food Allergen Management Seminar on topics including effective allergen management procedures, our guiding principles for allergen managements at Mars, and shared our approach to encourage and share knowledge with other manufactures in this area.
We continue to support requests for technical insights, for example providing insights during a global consultation session on General Principles for Labeling of Prepackaged Food. This resulted in the addition of characterization requirements for possible allergenic substances, promoting the use of a recognizable naming system in ingredient lists that contain allergen warnings.
Food Safety Tech: Can you comment on additional work your team is doing in the area of food fraud?
Zhang: Food allergen risk management forms only one part of our wider food integrity focus at the Mars GFSC. We are committed to helping ensure food authenticity in an increasingly complex, global food supply chain through collaboration with global partners to develop new and improved tools and analytical methods that help protect the integrity of raw materials and finished products.
We have collaborated with researchers at Michigan State University to develop a Food Fraud Prevention Cycle roadmap (Introducing the Food Fraud Prevention Cycle (FFPC): A dynamic information management and strategic roadmap) which answered questions such as how to detect food fraud, how to start a food fraud prevention program, what to do in terms of testing, how much testing is enough, and how to measure success. Our intention in publishing this research was that the adoption of a holistic and all-encompassing information management cycle will enable a globally harmonized approach and the continued sharing of best practices across industry partners.
More recently, we completed an international collaboration tackling rice adulteration together with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), Agilent Technologies, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA), and Zhejiang Yangtze Delta Institute of Tsinghua University (Yangtze Delta). This work successfully developed a two-tier testing program, capable of rapidly screening the geographical origins of rice within the global supply chain (Food Fingerprinting: Using a two-tiered approach to monitor and mitigate food fraud in rice). By developing a tiered system, we could ensure that manufacturers use the right techniques for the right occasion, to maximize the information available in investigating food fraud at the best value. As part of this work, we have helped develop hands-on training in Ghana and inform best practice guidance to help build the foundations of a strong food safety culture in rice authenticity across the global supply chain.
Today the FDA announced its budget request as part of the President’s 2023 fiscal year budget. Within the food sector, the agency is asking for $43 million for food safety modernization (including animal food safety) oversight—which includes efforts in continued implementation of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. The funding will also go towards improving preventative food safety practices, data sharing, predictive analytics and traceability, which will help the agency respond to outbreaks and recalls faster. “In partnership with states, the FDA will expand efforts to modernize, harmonize and transform the U.S. animal food inspection system to become more comprehensive and prevention oriented,” the FDA stated in an email release.
The FDA also requested $14 million in funding to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins in food. Last year the agency came under fire following a report released by Congress that stated there was an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food. In response, the FDA devised a “Closer to Zero” action plan with a goal of reducing the presence of dangerous metals in foods commonly consumed by babies and young children. “Additional funding and legislative proposals will focus specifically on better protecting mothers, infants and young children through contamination limits in food, product testing requirements, notification of anticipated significant interruptions in the supply of infant formula or essential medical foods, as well as modernization of dietary supplement regulation,” the FDA stated.
Under the FDA’s funding requests that serve its core operations, the agency asked for $68 million for data modernization and enhanced technologies, which includes improving infrastructure aligned to the food programs; and $24 million to optimize inspections, including increasing support for recruiting and training new FDA investigators.
The FY budget covers October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023.
FDA food recalls fell more than 11% and USDA recalls increased by just one recall in Q3. If this decreased activity continues, 2021 food recalls could fall to their lowest levels in more than a decade.
The drop in recalls is good news, but food companies remain challenged in maintaining and implementing effective employee training. “Health and safety risks related to the coronavirus, combined with labor shortages, mean that companies must double down on training, communication, and accountability, particularly in cases where employees have never worked in food manufacturing,” according to Sedgwick’s Q3 update on U.S. recalls. “All the right protocols and procedures can be in place, but without a skilled workforce and commitment to continuous improvement, no number of written policies and procedures will prove effective. Companies and their quality and safety teams must be ready, willing, and able to embrace new technologies and evolve with new regulatory guidance as the industry innovates.”
Prepared foods and produce were top categories for recalls, with 13 events each
Recalls affected 2.4 million units, a nearly 70% drop from Q2 (7.9 million units)
33% of recalls were Class I
Undeclared allergens was leading cause of recall, with milk being the main cause
Bacterial contamination came in second for amount of recalls at 25, followed by quality concerns at 11 recalls
USDA Recalls: Notable Numbers (Q3 2021)
Recalls increased from 12 to 13 events (quarter-over-quarter)
Number of pounds increased from 207,000 pounds to 10.7 million pounds (due to a single recall of ready-to-eat poultry products that affected almost 9 million pounds)
Bacterial contamination was the top cause of recalls—Listeria, Salmonella, and E.coli were the named pathogens of concern
Eight recalls were due to undeclared allergens
Poultry products the most impacted product category
In November alone, there were nine recalls as a result of foreign matter contamination. Learn more about the strategies companies should implement to prevent and detect foreign materials during Food Safety Tech’s upcoming virtual event, “Food Safety Hazards: Physical Hazards”. | Thursday, December 16 at 12 pm ET.
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