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

Starting A Sensory Test 
Preparing to test your product with a target audience can be an exciting and scary feat. So, we’ve had our experts prepare the top three things you need to know so you’ll be prepared well in advance of reaching out for testing.

Determine Your Objective: Know What You Want
Objectives. What questions are you trying to answer about your product? If you are having trouble answering this question, speaking with a sensory scientist can help. We can help you determine if you are searching for information on customer preference, or differences between products, or possibly purchase intent. Continue Reading

Using Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to manage food safety in the dairy industry is not a new concept. Most dairy manufacturers have already implemented HACCP as a process to manage food safety in addition to regulatory requirements.

Although the FDA Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule is not required for Grade A dairies until September 2018, customers and retailers continue to require their suppliers to have an effective and operational HACCP Plan in place that is overseen by a trained individual. Additionally, Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes such as Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF) and British Retail Consortium (BRC) also require HACCP implementation overseen by a trained individual. Finally, global organizations, such as The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), continue to recognize HACCP (Codex HACCP) as a system which identifies, evaluates and controls hazards which are significant for food safety.  Continue Reading

If you are subject to the final rule, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF rule), then you should be aware of FDA’s new recommendations for controlling Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. Manufacturers, processors, packers and holders of RTE foods will benefit from an understanding of the strategies and recommendations described within the new draft guidance.

Released this month, the draft guidance sheds light on the agency’s thinking regarding effective strategies for controlling L. monocytogenes in RTE foods, including identifying the risks associated with raw materials and ingredients, listericidal process control, environmental monitoring, product testing, and the analysis of verification data trends. Continue Reading

Required under both the FDA and USDA-FSIS regulations, the Hazard Analysis is arguably the most important component of any food manufacturer’s food safety system. Unless identification of CCPs or Preventive Controls is based on a scientifically sound, properly-supported hazard analysis, hazards may not be adequately controlled. Since microbial hazards often represent the greatest potential food safety risk for food products, it’s critical to understand the microbiological profile of ingredients. This requires both general knowledge of hazards applicable to a particular ingredient and specific information on the ingredients sourced from your suppliers. Continue Reading

In 2016, various high profile recalls and minor scale recalls threatened the public safety of consumers across North America. Although it’s impossible to eliminate human error, and thus recalls entirely, it is paramount to understand the direct economic impact of recalls and related risks. Likewise, there are extensive efforts made by regulatory agencies to support food manufacturers as a supplement to the efforts your company should be making to ensure you remain off the recall lists in 2017. Continue Reading

Governmental agencies overseeing the food industry have traditionally had a love/hate relationship with the sector. With the advent of new regulations, this relationship is sure to face its share of future challenges as well. However, government agencies ultimately take responsibility for the public’s health, and they provide support to the industry to keep consumers safe. Some of the tools made available to the public, as well as food safety professionals, identify public health issues related to various etiologic agents.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide daily updates on food recall events, as well as recalls of dietary supplements. Additionally, a compilation of both FDA and USDA events is available to the public. In keeping up with the Joneses, apps and widgets also offer a way the food industry or consumers in general to stay informed. The information available from these sources includes the etiologic agent involved, product type and other important data. Continue Reading

Years ago, I was in a production facility, and a worker threw some trash into a barrel of product destined for a local pig farmer. The worker thought his actions were acceptable because of the common belief that pigs eat anything.

Over the years, many production facilities have taken products and by-products failing to meet finished product specifications and have sold them to “pig farmers” or other animal food companies. As I witnessed, sometimes employees would throw foreign material into the “pig food” or “animal food” container. Often, this product would be offered for “free” to farmers, as long as they picked it up frequently. Commonly, these containers on the back dock or in a walk-in refrigerator would not be labeled. Workers would throw trash in them because they were not trained about the risk of mixing trash with potential animal feed. Continue Reading