Training for on-farm fruit and vegetable operations in the Produce Safety Rule is proceeding. The FDA and state departments of agriculture are offering on-farm educational inspections prior to regulatory inspections in their “educate before we regulate” approach. With the emphasis placed on worker hygiene, soil amendments, wildlife & domestic animal intrusion and irrigation water testing; I wonder if we may be missing an important aspect in post-harvest handling. Sanitation of harvest and packing shed equipment is critical to ensure pathogens don’t become established in the equipment and serve as a source of contamination.
Are you experiencing shelf-life issues or increased numbers of Listeria findings in a Ready-to-Eat foods environment? If so, you may want to take a deep dive into your equipment.
Largely, as a consequence of Listeria control efforts, most of us have at least a basic knowledge of hygienic equipment design. In truth, though, we often find inadequacies in the design of the equipment in our facilities, which are magnified with age and/or inadequate maintenance. Couple this with the widespread use of high-pressure water hoses and their ability to drive product residue, microorganisms and water deep inside equipment, and you have all the components needed to create a microbial growth niche. Continue Reading
Hygienic zoning is a key critical preventive control that often does not get the attention that it deserves. The basic concept of hygienic zoning is to divide a food or feed manufacturing facility into defined areas based on food safety risks. This is commonly used to control microbiological risks but also for other segregation needs, such as allergen control, physical hazards or GMO versus non-GMO. Continue Reading
Sales of our new software, EnviroMap, have continued to grow over the last few years, and this growth has allowed me the opportunity to visit a number of our customers’ plants. I have visited plants that produce pet food, peanut butter, jelly, fresh vegetables, poultry and many more. These visits have given me the opportunity to speak directly with our EnviroMap users. I have seen firsthand how their sampling plans are improving over time and how they are using data that has been produced by EnviroMap to respond to contamination. Overall, I found it gratifying to see how the implementation and use of EnviroMap not only improves the operations by cutting cost, but also greatly enhances the overall productivity of the environmental programs. Corporate Quality teams were reporting how game-changing it was to be able to monitor, change and react to local environmental issues, whether at that particular plant or off-site. All of these factors make me proud of the significant contribution to food safety that EnviroMap is making. Continue Reading
For over 20 years, the food industry has been steadfast in our view of the role of sanitation in classical Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. Our experience with meat and poultry HACCP by way of the International HACCP Alliance and what came later with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) HACCP requirements solidified the supportive role of sanitation as a food safety prerequisite program. We have managed sanitation as a separate prerequisite program, and then used these programs to eliminate the need for sanitation critical control points. However, compliance with the Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food (PCHF) as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act requires a different approach in how we manage sanitation procedures that directly addresses a food safety hazard identified in the hazard analysis. Continue Reading
As an auditor for over 35 years, I have noticed most food facilities do not fully understand the fundamentals of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Many know about pest control, but they do not quite grasp the full power of establishing an effective IPM plan.
There are five steps for establishing an effective IPM plan: Continue Reading
Recently, significant changes have been made to how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts investigations of food manufacturing facilities. For starters, note that I did not say FDA inspections; they are now investigations. This change in semantics indicates a shift from a superficial “look around” a facility to diving into records and sometimes taking hundreds of environmental pathogen samples. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has prompted many of these changes, and has given the FDA increased power and access to records. The FDA is also now much more likely than in the past to involve the Department of Justice if there is any possibility of criminal intent. Along with this significant new regulatory authority, the industry has seen major leaps forward in microbial strain tracking technology, the most important being Next Generation Sequencing and its use for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). Continue Reading
Yeast and mold are organisms of great importance to the food industry. These two species are very different from bacteria, which are more commonly associated with foodborne illness. Hundreds of yeast and mold species have been isolated from foods and due to their ability to grow over a wide spectrum of environmental conditions very few foods are entirely safe from fungal spoilage. Continue Reading