Any food facility that manufactures, processes, packs or holds ready-to-eat (RTE) foods should view FDA’s update on its draft guidance, Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods.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.
The recalls involving powdered milk continue to pile up.
Since December, more than a dozen products containing powdered milk have been recalled due to the risk of Salmonella, including mini eclairs and cream puffs, mac & cheese products, chocolate-covered pretzels, potato chips, seasonings and white peppermint Hostess Twinkies.
“FDA investigators observed residues on internal parts of the processing equipment after it had been cleaned by the company and water dripping from the ceiling onto food manufacturing equipment. In addition, environmental swabs collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on surfaces food came into contact with after being pasteurized.” – FDA news release
One of the biggest challenges facing today’s food processors is hygiene and effective sanitation. Manufacturers concerned about the impact of a recall are turning to a new system that converts alcohol into a non-flammable vapor, making it possible to sanitize surfaces that cannot be quickly sanitized by other methods.
This new system utilizes liquid carbon dioxide as a propellant to spray a fine alcohol mist. Using this process, oxygen is temporarily displaced by an envelope of rapidly expanding CO2 gas, rendering the vapor non-flammable. The patented technology, known as Non-flammable Alcohol Vapor in Carbon Dioxide (NAV-CO2), has recently stepped into the spotlight following the upswing of product recalls and outbreaks of foodborne illness across the nation.
“What makes NAV-CO2 technology unique is that it is non-corrosive, self-drying, and safe for food contact surfaces” says Robert Cook, of Biomist, Inc., the exclusive manufacturer of the technology. “The ease of use allows one person to effectively sanitize over 4000 square feet in less than two hours. The vapor penetrates into cracks and crevices where pathogens hide, and disinfects areas beyond physical reach. For example, you can sanitize the interior of an electrical panel or between keys of a keyboard and kill pathogens without corrosion. This can’t be accomplished with traditional sanitizing methods and chemicals.”
“Food processors are protecting their investments by utilizing Biomist systems” says Charles Carman, a quality assurance consultant who works with industry professionals. “Modern electronic packaging equipment is not compatible with corrosive sanitizers and wet-wash methods. Biomist systems sanitize the sensitive components without damaging them. Food processors recover the investment many times over in fewer service parts and reduced down-time.”
Meritech, manufacturer of the world’s only fully-automated, touch-free handwashing systems will be exhibiting at the 2016 Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, Illinois — with one of its automated handwashers onsite for attendees to experience the technology-based approach to employee hand hygiene. Meritech offers a full line of automated handwashing and footwear sanitizing systems, designed to meet increasingly stringent food safety standards and regulations.
All CleanTech automated handwashing systems deliver a consistent 12-second wash and rinse cycle, removing 99.98% of dangerous pathogens from hands. Meritech products use 75% less water, require less soap/sanitizer, and reduce discharge waste, compared to equivalent manual handwashing.
Listeria and Salmonella outbreaks are some of the biggest fears throughout the food industry. Effective employee hygiene at critical control points is necessary and Meritech offers the best guaranteed preventative measures through its automated systems. Effective, efficient footwear sanitizing, especially when combined with simultaneous handwashing, can reduce or eliminate the spread of these and other pathogens. Meritech’s automated handwasher with an optional footwear sanitizing pan guarantees clean hands and sanitized shoes in 12 seconds.
Meritech helps companies in a wide variety of markets, including food production, food service, theme parks, cruise lines and hospitals. All Meritech products are designed and manufactured in Golden, Colorado. The company ensures that your equipment is always effective by delivering best-in-class, proprietary chemicals and providing no charge, onsite scheduled calibration by its team of Service Engineers. Visit www.meritech.com to learn more.
Neogen recently received approval from the AOAC Research Institute for its rapid and accurate AccuPoint Advanced ATP Sanitation Verification System.
Neogen’s AccuPoint Advanced is the first sanitation verification system to receive an AOAC approval, and this approval follows a recent study by NSF International that showed AccuPoint Advanced exceeded the performance of competitive systems.
“Each time we receive a validation from an independent third party on any of our tests, it provides further assurance to the food production and processing industry that our tests perform as expected,” said Ed Bradley, Neogen’s vice president of Food Safety. “The performance of our AccuPoint Advanced system in recent independent evaluations by AOAC and NSF is very gratifying. We developed the product with the goal of creating a new sanitation verification system that is superior to anything else on the market.”
The results in the AOAC validation report (Performance Tested MethodSM 091601) provided evidence that AccuPoint Advanced produces consistent and reliable data for evaluating sanitation program effectiveness in food processing and food services facilities.
AccuPoint Advanced is an enhanced version of its earlier AccuPoint test system. Improvements with AccuPoint Advanced include: improved sampler chemistry to produce more consistent results with even greater sensitivity; an enhanced instrument to produce even faster results (less than 20 seconds); and advanced Data Manager software to easily streamline the testing process by creating test plans and syncing important data, while keeping a permanent record of sanitation test results.
AOAC International is a globally recognized, independent forum for finding appropriate science-based solutions through the development of microbiological and chemical standards. The Applied Research Center at NSF International is a not-for-profit global research group that provides product development support to manufacturers and developers of products in the food safety, agriculture, clinical and life science markets.
Food production facilities are facing greater scrutiny from both the public and the government to provide safe foods. FSMA is being rolled out now, with new regulations in place for large corporations, and compliance deadlines for small businesses coming up quickly. Coverage of food recalls is growing in the era of social media. Large fines and legal prosecution for food safety issues is becoming more commonplace. Improved detection methods are finding more organisms than ever before. Technologies such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) can be used to track organisms back to their source. PFGE essentially codes the DNA fingerprint of an organism. Using this technology, bacterial isolates can be recovered and compared between sick people, contaminated food, and the places where food is produced. Using the national laboratory network PulseNet, foodborne illness cases can be tracked back to the production facility or field where the contamination originated. With these newer technologies, it has been shown that some pathogens keep “coming back” to cause new outbreaks. In reality, it’s not that the same strain of microorganism came back, it’s that it was never fully eradicated from the facility in the first place. Advances in environmental monitoring and microbial sampling have brought to light the shortcomings of sanitation methods being used within the food industry. In order to keep up with the advances in environmental monitoring, sanitation programs must also evolve to mitigate the increased liability that FSMA is creating for food manufacturers.
Paul Lorcheim of ClorDiSys Solutions will be speaking on a panel of Listeria Detection & Control during the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, December 8 | LEARN MOREPersistent Bacteria
Bacteria and other microorganisms are able to survive long periods of time and become reintroduced to production facilities in a variety of ways. Sometimes construction or renovation within the facility causes contamination. In 2008, Malt-O-Meal recalled its unsweetened Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals after finding Salmonella Agona during routine testing of its production plant. Further testing confirmed that the Salmonella Agona found had the same PFGE pattern as an outbreak originating from the same facility 10 years earlier in 1998. This dormant period is one of the longest witnessed within the food industry. The Salmonella was found to be originating from the cement floor, which had been sealed over rather than fully eliminated. This strategy worked well until the contamination was forgotten and a renovation project required drilling into the floor. The construction agitated and released the pathogen back into the production area and eventually contaminated the cereal product. While accidental, the new food safety landscape looks to treat such recurring contaminations with harsher penalties.
One of the most discussed and documented cases of recurring contamination involves ConAgra’s Peter Pan peanut butter brand. In 2006 and 2007, batches of Peter Pan peanut butter produced in Sylvester, GA were contaminated with Salmonella and shipped out and sold to consumers nationwide. The resulting outbreak caused more than 700 reported cases of Salmonellosis with many more going unreported. Microbial sampling determined that the 2006 contamination resulted from the same strain of Salmonella Tennessee that was found in the plant and its finished product in 2004. While possible sources of the contamination were identified in 2004, the corrective actions were not all completed before the 2006–2007 outbreak occurred. Because of the circumstances surrounding the incomplete corrective actions, ConAgra was held liable for the contamination and outbreak. A settlement was reached in 2015, resulting in a guilty plea to charges of “the introduction into interstate commerce of adulterated food” and a $11.2 million penalty. The penalty included an $8 million criminal fine, which was the largest ever paid in a food safety case. While the problems at the Sylvester plant were more than just insufficient contamination control, the inability to fully eliminate Salmonella Tennessee from the facility after the 2004 outbreak directly led to the problems encountered in 2006 and beyond.
Many times, bacteria are able to survive simply because of limitations of the cleaning method utilized by the sanitation program. In order for any sanitation/decontamination method to work, every organism must be contacted by the chemical/agent, for the proper amount of time and at the correct concentration by an agent effective against that organism. Achieving those requirements is difficult for some sanitation methods and impossible for others. Common sanitation methods include steam, isopropyl alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds, peracetic acids, bleach and ozone, all of which have a limited ability to reach all surfaces within a space, and some are incapable of killing all microorganisms.
Liquids, fogs and mists all have difficulty achieving an even distribution throughout the area, with surfaces closer or easier to reach (i.e., the top or front of an item), receiving a higher dosage than surfaces further away or in hard-to-reach areas. Such hard-to-reach areas for common sanitation methods include the bottom, back or insides of items and equipment that don’t receive a “direct hit” from the decontaminant. Liquids, fogs and mists land on and stick to surfaces, which makes it harder for them to reach locations outside the line of sight from where they are injected or sprayed. Hard-to-reach areas also include ceilings, the tops of overhead piping lines, HVAC vents, cooling coils and other surfaces that are located at greater heights than the liquids, fogs and mists can reach due to gravitational effects on the heavy liquid and vapor molecules.
Another common but extreme hard-to-reach area includes any cracks and crevices within a facility. Although crevices are to be avoided within production facilities (and should be repaired if found), it is impossible to guarantee that there are no cracks or crevices within the production area at all. Liquid disinfectants and sterilant methods deal with surface tension, which prevents them from reaching deep into cracks. Vapor, mist and fog particles tend to clump together due to strong hydrogen bonding between molecules, which often leave them too large to fit into crevices. Figure 1 shows bacteria found in a scratch in a stainless steel surface after it had been wiped down with a liquid sterilant. The liquid sterilant was unable to reach into the scratch and kill/remove the bacteria. The bacteria were protected by the crevice created by the scratch, giving them a safe harbor location where they could replicate and potentially exit in the future to contaminate product itself.
Processing equipment and machinery in general contain many hard-to-reach areas, which challenge the routine cleaning process. In sanitation, “hard to reach” is synonymous with “hard to clean”. Figure 2 shows processing equipment from an ice cream manufacturing facility. Processing equipment cannot be manufactured to eliminate all hard-to-clean areas. As such, even with all the sanitary design considerations possible, it is impossible to have equipment that does not contain any hard-to-clean areas. While sanitary design is essential, additional steps must be taken to further reduce the possibility of contamination and the risk that comes along with it. This means that in order to improve one’s contamination control and risk management programs, improvements must also be made to the sanitation program and the methods of cleaning and decontamination used.
Chlorine Dioxide Gas
Food safety attorney Shawn K. Stevens recently wrote that “given the risk created by the FDA’s war on pathogens, food companies should invest in technologies to better control pathogens in the food processing environments.”1 One method that is able to overcome the inherent difficulties of reaching all pathogens within a food processing environment is chlorine dioxide gas (ClO2 gas). ClO2 gas is a proven sterilant capable of eliminating all viruses, bacteria, fungi, and spores. As a true gas, ClO2 gas follows the natural gas laws, which state that it fills the space it is contained within evenly and completely. The chlorine dioxide molecule is smaller than the smallest viruses and bacteria. Combined, this means that ClO2 gas is able to contact all surfaces within a space and penetrate into cracks further than pathogens can, allowing for the complete decontamination of all microorganisms with the space. It also does not leave residues, making it safe for the treatment of food contact surfaces. It has been used to decontaminate a growing number of food facilities for both contamination response and contamination prevention in order to ensure sterility after renovations, equipment installations and routine plant shutdowns.
“If food companies do not take extraordinary measures to identify Lm in their facilities, perform a comprehensive investigation to find the root cause or source, and then destroy and eliminate it completely, the pathogen will likely persist and, over time, intermittently contaminate their finished products,” wrote Stevens.1 Environmental monitoring and sampling programs have been improved in terms of both technology and technique to better achieve the goal of identifying Lm or other pathogens within a food production environment. The FDA will be aggressive in its environmental monitoring and sampling under the food safety guidelines required by FSMA. Food production facilities will be closely monitored and tracked using PulseNet, with contaminated product being traced back to their source. Recurring contamination by a persistent pathogen will be viewed more severely. While there are many reasons that pathogens can persist within a food manufacturing environment, insufficient cleaning and decontamination is the most common. Traditional cleaning methods are incapable of reaching all surfaces and crevices within a space. In order to eliminate the risk of pathogens re-contaminating a facility, the pathogens need to be fully eliminated from their source and harbor locations. ClO2 gas is a method capable of delivering guaranteed elimination of all pathogens to maintain a pathogen-free environment. With the new era of food safety upon us, ensuring a clean food production environment is more important than ever, and ClO2 gas is uniquely situated to help reduce the risk and liability provided by both the government and the public.
In the summer of 2015, multiple ice cream manufacturers were affected by Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Part two of this article will detail one such company that utilized ClO2 gas to eliminate Listeria from its facility.
Managers in food processing facilities are under more pressure than ever to get their product out the door quickly, but they cannot sacrifice safety. A new technology developed by 3M can help them quickly identify potential contamination in their facility, which can help them determine whether to stop production. The Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System is a handheld luminometer that was developed with the help of food manufacturing professionals in positions from plant floor operators to company executives.
“We involved customers throughout the development and design of the entire system to automate and streamline what is in many cases a tedious, manual process of selecting test points, assigning them daily, conducting tests, documenting results, managing sample plans, and developing quality improvement measures,” said Tom Dewey, 3M Food Safety global marketing manager in a press release.
The company made improvements to the device’s industrial design to make it more durable and user friendly. Other features include reengineered optical technology with photomultiplier detectors; upgraded software with a streamlined dashboard; and the capability to transfer data between the luminometer and the software via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
It hides in the crevices. Once it gets onto equipment, it can linger for years. It’s biofilm, a formation of bacteria that adheres to surfaces and can be quite difficult to eradicate. A host of microorganisms, including Listeria and Salmonella, are linked to biofilm contamination. The following are insights gathered from Dominique Blackman, general manager at Realzyme, LLC and Jeff Mitchell, vice president of food safety at Chemstar during Food Safety Tech’s recent Listeria Detection & Control Workshop.
Protected by multiple layers of polysaccharides
Acts as binding site for antimicrobials as well as a diffusion site, protecting bacteria within
Mechanisms of dispersal
Active: Releases cells based on environmental changes
Passive: Occurs as a result of shear or agitation (i.e., when doing deep cleans or moving equipment)
Transfer points in facility
Product contact points on equipment
Seams in walls/floor-wall junctures
Overhead vents and pipes
Causes a variety of problems within food manufacturing facilities, including:
Product contamination = Economic loss (i.e., as a result of recalls)
Reduced product shelf life (i.e., result of recurring contamination)
Reduced productivity, especially when equipment isn’t cleaned properly
Bacterial resistance to disinfection
Surface corrosion (the longer biofilm is in one place, the more time it has to damage equipment)
Successful removal requires complete penetration of extracellular polymeric substance without inactivating any sanitizer
More effective environmental monitoring and improved sanitation practices, along with databases such as PulseNet, are helping the industry find Listeria contamination. However, once detected, many processing facilities have difficulty removing the bacteria.
Next month Food Safety Tech is holding a Listeria Detection & Control Workshop to educate food industry professionals about how to integrate prevention and mitigation procedures into existing sanitation, operation and testing programs. The two-day workshop, which takes place May 31 – June 1 in St. Paul, MN, will cover the basics of controlling Listeria, along with the following topics:
Detecting and penetrating biofilm
How to build an effective environmental testing program
Producing reliable testing to detect and control Listeria
Sanitation departmental role in prevention, control and mitigation
Building a master sanitation schedule
Innovative Listeria mitigation programs
Gaps in proactive food safety programs
Hygienic equipment design
Industry speakers include:
John Besser, Ph.D., deputy chief, enteric disease laboratory branch, CDC
Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, Savour Food Safety International
Dominique Blackman, Realzyme
Janet Buffer, The Kroger Company
Ken Davenport, Ph.D., 3M Food Safety
Bert de Vegt, Micreos Food Safety
Joellen Feirtag, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Melinda Hayman, Ph.D., GMA
Sanja Illic, Ph.D., Ohio State University
Paul Lorcheim, ClorDiSys Solutions
Douglas Marshal, Ph.D., Eurofins Scientific
Jeff Mitchell, Chemstar
Megan Murn, Microbiologics
Robin Peterson, Micreos
Errol Raghubeer, Ph.D., Avure Technologies
The event takes place at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Workshop hours are Tuesday, May 31 from 11:00 am–6:00 pm and Wednesday, June 1 from 8:30 am–5:00 pm. For more information, visit the Listeria Detection & Control Workshop event website.
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