As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) moves forward with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation, food companies are beginning to realize the need for effective environmental monitoring procedures to minimize microbial cross-contamination and allergen cross-contact. In developing the Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food, the FDA revised the antiquated Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) once contained in 21 CFR Part 110 and now published in 21 CFR Part 117. In doing so, the FDA has been very specific in addressing environmental contamination in the revised GMPs and in the new Preventive Control regulations. 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
We are constantly challenged to do more with less: trim the fat, reduce costs, eliminate the scrap, etc. Simply look at your environmental monitoring program; the amount of time and money organizations spend clinging to manual, paper-based systems may surprise you.
The process at 30,000 feet doesn’t seem very complicated: sample your sites/locations, send the samples to the lab, receive the results, and report the findings. No problem, right?
It’s not until we examine the individual steps of the process that we discover the waste. Continue Reading
The practice of whole genome sequencing (WGS) has received a great deal of attention in the food industry and among industry trade associations in recent years. Whole genome sequencing is a process that uses laboratory methods to determine or map the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome. Each microorganism has a unique genetic fingerprint that can be identified and traced using WGS. Continue Reading
Back in 1999, I started contributing as a developer and instructor for the “Advanced Listeria monocytogenes Intervention and Control Workshop,” presented by the American Meat Institute, which is now called the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). During the first few meetings, I took great interest in learning how each of the major US meat and poultry Ready-to-eat (RTE) manufacturers were conducting their Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMPs). A pledge by industry executives to keep food safety a non-competitive issue enabled open sharing, which brought some intense discussions as we worked towards a consensus of what constituted the true best practices for EMPs. This open forum, combined with a close collaborative interaction with the USDA- FSIS, allowed the US RTE meat and poultry industry to make tremendous strides in reducing the risk of L. monocytogenes. Continue Reading
Several years ago, I attended the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual meeting, representing our new EnviroMap Software Solution. We spent almost five years developing a comprehensive product that would allow us to manage environmental sampling plans for food plants. Prior to that, we developed Laboratory Information Software solutions for food and energy labs for over ten years. From that experience, we recognized an emerging market for a comprehensive cost effective software tool to manage environmental sampling. This combined with the pending regulations of the new Food Safety Modernization Act made us certain that we had the ideal opportunity for our new software, EnviroMap. 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
A picture taken in the early 1980s shows me at age 3 eating dog treats out of my grandparents’ food pantry. I think back on that picture and recognize how things have changed in the last 30+ years when it comes to Food Safety, most recently for the Pet Food Industry. Environmental Monitoring or Product Testing Programs rarely existed back then, and the few that did exist lacked planning. If I had gotten sick from consuming contaminated pet food, my parents or doctors would never have assumed eating dog food/treats caused it. Continue Reading