Archive for the ‘Food Safety’ Category

How Cargill is staying ahead of the food safety curve

March 17th, 2018

The rapid pace of advancement in food safety technologies are going to add to the pressures food and beverage manufacturers are currently under, said Mike Robach, vice-president of food safety, quality and regulatory affairs for Cargill, Minneapolis. Mr. Robach spoke Jan. 22 during an education session at the Dairy Forum, which is hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association and taking place this week in Palm Desert.

While such emerging technologies as whole genome sequencing, blockchain and data analytics may present challenges, they also may create opportunities, he said.

“At Cargill we operate 1,500 food production plants in over 70 countries,” Mr. Robach said. “Our supply chain is really a network. And on top of it we have the increased complexity of governments and regulatory oversight, transparency and consumer trust.”

It is within that framework that Cargill is working with the emerging new technologies. Because of the specificity of whole genome sequencing, for example, regulators can link outbreaks to specific products more rapidly.

“Disease detection is becoming much more sophisticated,” Mr. Robach said. “I can tell you from personal experience that two illnesses can be considered a cluster and trigger a recall.

“New pathogens are emerging, and those never associated with certain commodities are now being linked. What about E. coli and dairy? It won’t grow in a freezer, but it will survive. What about wheat flour? Who would have thought?”

The opportunity for Cargill is how the company is using whole genome sequencing to its benefit.

“It (whole genome sequencing) allows us to trace the ecology of microorganisms from the farm through processing,” he said. “We do carcass mapping in our meat plants; we are doing mapping of our flour operations. It is extremely valuable information to have to understand your critical control points.”

The challenge is regulators think it is a great technology as well. Mr. Robach said what needs to be understood is identification of a pathogen in a plant does not imply a link to a food safety incidence.

“They still have to have the epidemiology,” he said. “They have to have the link between the patient and the food.

“What we are finding with whole genome sequencing is some of these unique organisms aren’t really unique. Now, when they (regulators) have gotten a look at the longer sequences, they are finding organisms they thought were different are actually the same.”



Food Safety ,

EU Bans Use of Artificial Sweeteners in Dietetic Bakery Products

February 24th, 2018
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As a result of the EU’s new rules on dietetic foods, applicable since July 2016, a whole range of products carrying dietetic suitability statements needed to be re-labeled and/or reformulated. In addition, Commission Regulation 2018/97, published on January 23, 2018, bans the use of artificial sweeteners in fine bakery products aimed at people with special dietary needs. It is applied starting February 13, 2018 but products already on the market can be sold until stocks are exhausted.

This came as a result of the EU’s new rules on dietetic foods, applicable since July 2016 and, in addition, Commission Regulation 2018/97, published on January 23, 2018, bans the use of artificial sweeteners in fine bakery products aimed at people with special dietary needs.

It becomes applicable on February 13, 2018 but products already on the market can be sold until stocks are exhausted.

Commission Regulation 2018/97 removes the category “fine bakery products for special nutritional uses” from the food additives regulation, which means that the following sweeteners may no longer be used in bakery products in the EU:

– E 950 Acesulfame K

– E 951 Aspartame

– E 952 Cyclamic acid and its Na and Ca salts

– E 954 Saccharin and its Na, K and Ca salts

– E 955 Sucralose

– E 959 Neohesperidine DC

– E 961 Neotame – E 962 Salt of aspartame-acesulfame

– E 969 Advantame

The EU’s Food for Specific Groups (FSG) regulation 609/2013, adopted in 2013, became applicable in July 2016. It abolished the concept of “dietetic food” by repealing Directive 2009/39, which set out general rules for “food for particular nutritional uses.” In addition, Regulation 2018/97 removes dietetic fine bakery wares from the additives regulation.

The scope of the FSG regulation 609/2013 is limited to infant and follow-on formula, processed cereal-based and other baby food, food for special medical purposes and total diet replacement for weight control. Products no longer falling within the scope of this regulation, such as dietetic fine bakery products, are regarded as regular food and must comply with existing EU legislation on labeling and nutrition and health claims.

Products Affected a Commission report on foods for diabetics, published in 2008, concluded that there are no scientific grounds for developing specific compositional requirements for this category of foods because diabetics can choose a healthy diet from normal foods. This means that food for diabetics are excluded from the scope of the FSG regulation 609/2013.

By removing the category “fine bakery goods for special nutritional uses” from the additives regulation, the use of the aforementioned artificial sweeteners is no longer allowed in any “fine bakery products” including low-calorie and reduced-sugar bakery products. Bakery products with “energy-reduced” or “with no added sugars” claims, must comply with the criteria set out in the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims regulation 1924/2006.

The new Regulation foresaw that two reports should be prepared by the Commission in order to analyze the need to establish special rules for: young-child formula (the so called “growing-up milks”) and food intended for sportspeople.



Bakery, Food Safety, Ingredients ,

The science that leads to Codex food safety standards

August 12th, 2017
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Two officers illustrated for the Codex Alimentarius Commission, during its 40th session, the way FAO and WHO work together to provide the scientific advice on which Codex food safety standards are based. Markus Lipp, Senior Food Safety and Quality Officer, FAO, and Angelika Tritscher, Coordinator Risk Assessment and Management, WHO, described the process that the various international risk assessment bodies, led by the two UN organizations, employ to deliver the scientific advice requested by Codex Committees as the basis for the preparation of standards. This process involves the publication of a call for data, seeking experts, conducting risk assessments and objectively arriving at conclusions.

“Standards need to be based on science in order to have weight and evidence behind them, and to be implemented by governments and food chain operators”, said Lipp, emphasizing that the latest methodologies are always used as well as harmonized with those of other agencies.

Support from Codex Members

“The risk assessments are only as strong as the data available”, said Tritscher, who called on Codex Members to take an active role in identifying sources for scientific evidence and experts to be part of the groups tasked with conducting the assessments. “We need you to help increase not only financial resources to fund the Joint FAO/WHO Scientific Advice Programme but also to distribute calls for data and experts,” she said.

The assessment bodies look at microbiological and chemical compounds in food. They determine how much of a contaminant, food additive, veterinary drug residue or pesticide residue is acceptable by taking into account both how much is found in the food (based on good production practices) and how much of the food is consumed.

Technical Committees

Requests for scientific advice come from Codex technical committees before drafting specific standards. These requests are addressed by the respective international risk assessment bodies:

  • Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultations on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA)
  • Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) (dealing also with food contaminants, naturally occurring toxins, and residues of veterinary drugs in food)
  • Joint FAO/WHO Meetings on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)
  • Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Nutrition (JEMNU)

When the compound or request in question does not fall under the competence of any of these committees or rapid advice is necessary, such as for the melamine event in 2008 or after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, ad hoc expert meetings are held.

Publicly available

When the assessment bodies have concluded their meetings, their decisions are publicly available at no cost on the FAO and WHO websites in the form of detailed monographs or concise reports. Brief summaries of the main conclusions are often issued shortly after the meetings, to rapidly disseminate the key outcomes.

Source: FAO


Food Safety, Unespecified

EU-China Food Safety Project Ramps Up Fight Against Fraud

July 1st, 2017
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The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast will lead one of the world’s largest food safety projects across Europe and China. The European Horizon 2020 program and Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) program have been awarded €10 million (US$11.2 million) towards an EU-China partnership to improve food safety and tackle food fraud.

The EU-China-Safe project will involve key players in the food industry, research organizations and Governments across two of the world’s largest trading areas.

Food fraud manifests itself in many ways, from horse meat labeled and sold as beef like the scandal in Europe in 2013, to illicit oil which saw slaughterhouse waste and sewage used in cooking oil, known as the 2014 ‘gutter oil’ scandal in China.

EU-China-Safe will reduce food fraud and improve food safety through focusing on improving food legislation, food inspection and increasing access to information across both continents.

State-of-the-art technologies including a virtual laboratory will create a unique space to share and demonstrate best practice. The use of innovative technologies will result in improved detection of adulteration of food products as well as increased traceability and transparency of global supply chains.

“We are delighted that The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University will lead this important project, bringing together key stakeholders in the global food system across two of the world’s largest trading markets,” says Professor Elliott, Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s and project co-ordinator.

Professor Yongning Wu, Chief Scientist from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, co-ordinator of the Chinese efforts in the project, added: “The EU-China-Safe partnership between our two trading regions is of immense importance to help deliver safe and genuine food to all citizens.”

“Working together across China and the EU will enable us to identify where food fraud is happening, address the root causes and thereby enable us to improve food safety standards for all our citizens.”

Reported instances of food fraud are on the increase and occur on a global scale, worth an estimated US$52 billion globally each year. Food fraud is a global issue demanding a global response. The increasingly complex global food supply network increases the risks of serious food borne illness.

“This project will tackle these highly connected issues in a way that will serve to better protect several billion people. There is a pressing need to act internationally in response to emerging threats to food safety and fraud. Working together as a coalition of 33 partners to share knowledge and maximize our technologies will empower the food industry to provide safer, authentic food and will boost consumers’ confidence and ultimately facilitate the expansion of EU-China trade,” adds Professor Elliott.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is the only university in Hong Kong to participate in this significant food safety initiative. PolyU is glad to bring its cutting-edge food safety innovations and technologies to the international arena, by working together with 32 partners in EU and China, two of the world’s largest economies.

Through its pioneering research, its various technology development and collaborative research platforms established, as well as the university’s long-term engagement with the industry, government, research institutes and non-profit-organizations, PolyU will continue to contribute towards the advancement of global food safety in collaboration with stakeholders.

The partnership is made up of 33 partners, including 15 in the EU and 18 in China.

Barcode Technology

Meanwhile a smart universal tool based on a simplified DNA barcoding technique combined with nanotechnology enables food authentication with the naked eye – answering the question “Is the food on the shelf really that what is written on the label?”

Through the journal Angewandte Chemie, Italian scientists have introduced a simplified assay coined NanoTracer. Combining DNA barcoding with nanotechnology, it requires neither expensive tools nor extremely skilled personnel, but just the naked eye to identify a color change.

The DNA barcoding technology identifies an organism by a short unique DNA sequence, the “barcode”. This barcode used for animal species, and therefore for meat products, is the sequence of a gene of mitochodria, which are cell organelles. Its sequence tells the examiner if the product on the shelf contains exactly the species that is declared on the label, not a substituted or a diluted one.

However, DNA barcoding requires elaborate procedures and takes time. Therefore, Pier Paolo Pompa at the Italian Institute of Technology IIT, Genoa, and his colleagues from University of Milano-Bicocca (M. Labra), Italy, have developed a much simpler version of the test, termed NanoTracer, which requires fewer and cheaper reagents, scarce instrumentation, and features a simple color change as its output.

Its main concept is the reduction of the long barcode regions to short subregions, in which the species nevertheless show enough divergence.

Shorter sequences have the advantage that even DNA can be identified that is no longer intact, as it happens in finished foods. The short sequences are then amplified by a polymerase chain reaction process. This step includes the second innovation.

“Our assay includes a universal sequence, which serves to prime the aggregation of (universal) DNA-functionalized gold nanoparticles, with consequent red-to-violet color change.” Or, in other words, if the sample DNA sequence matches that of the simplified barcode primers, the respective DNA segment is amplified, and the added nanogold agent aggregates, turning the test solution’s color from red to violet,” says the author.

Using their assay, the scientists tested European perch, which is often substituted by cheaper fish species, and saffron powder, a high-value spice, which is frequently diluted with other herbs.

Both products were distinctly identified with NanoTracer, and the presence of substitutes or cheaper diluents was detected.

As the authors point out, their simplified assay is rapid (it takes less than three hours) and sensitive, uses raw food material, is parallelizable, involves simple low-cost technology and materials, and therefore can be performed in decentralized simple laboratories at low cost.



Food Safety ,

Are you ready for FSMA?

July 1st, 2017
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Armed with clipboards, swabs and a keen eye, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has slowly begun assessing bakery operations across the country. Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), baking facilities will undergo inspections verifying that preventive controls are in place. And while being prepared for an unannounced inspection is at the top of many companies’ agendas, what should they expect when the investigators walk through the door?

Shawn Stevens, FDA consultant and attorney at FoodIndustry Counsel, LLC, said there are five enforcement priorities for the agency. These include critical review of food safety plans and verification records, extensive microbiological sampling, recall requirements for samples that test positive for pathogens exceeding FDA thresholds, comparing pathogens found in the facility against human isolates stored in the Centers for Disease Control’s PulseNet database, and initiating broader investigations — including criminal — of food companies whose products are found to have caused human illness.

With this in mind, bakers must ensure their records are up-to-date, staff is properly trained and preventive controls are established, all before investigators arrive.

For the record

Under FSMA, a company’s food safety plan should have been established in September 2016, but many bakeries are still struggling to develop an effective document that encapsulates its approach to identifying food safety hazards. It’s even harder to establish one that can be updated easily. Many facilities are creating overcomplicated plans, leaving room for questions they may not be able to answer during an inspection.

Len Heflich, former co-chair of the American Bakers Association (ABA)’s Food Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee (FTRAC) and current president of The Center for Food Integrity, witnessed this pattern within the field.

“The industry doesn’t grasp the concept of a food safety plan because FDA doesn’t spell it out — and we don’t want them to,” Mr. Heflich said. “We want to take the lead on this and define it ourselves.”

So, Mr. Heflich developed a model for food safety plans, which he shared with ABA members. The two-page report outlines the policies and programs that a facility should have in place and contains brief information about them. The policy and program specifications are then detailed in a separate document specific to plant processes and products. This model allows baking companies to break down the plan and detail how they manage, control and minimize risk.

Plant operators must also remember to update plans accordingly. In the report, “Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food: Draft Guidance for Industry,” the FDA expressed the plan must be reanalyzed at least every three years. This includes when changes are made to systems or equipment, when new information is discovered about potential hazards associated with the food or facility, when there is an unanticipated food safety problem, or when a preventive control, combination of preventive controls — or the plan itself — is ineffective.

“It’s an evergreen document and process,” said Rasma Zvaners, vice-president of regulatory and technical services at the ABA. “If you change something in your operations, revisit your food safety plan and update it accordingly. The food safety plan should not live on the bookshelf collecting dust.”

One of the biggest changes resulting from FSMA is the role recordkeeping will play in day-to-day operations and during inspections. Documentation is required to confirm that actions such as monitoring, verification, validation and more have taken place in the facility.

“In the age of FSMA, your records become the face of your company,” said Elizabeth Fawell, counsel at Hogan Lovells. “It is how you show FDA you are doing a good job, not just when the investigator is in the facility but also day in and day out. That’s why we continually advise people, ‘If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. And if it is documented, it happened just that way.’”

To ease the recordkeeping process, it is in a food manufacturer’s best interest to standardize the plan while allowing for specific details. This includes creating a method of documentation with the same format among forms while still recording all the necessary information. An area should also be designated for documents to be stored for easy access. Finally, a system should be in place that verifies documentation is completed clearly, as to avoid any gaps.

Karl Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager, General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, advised food processors to avoid creating overly complex procedures they will not follow through with.

“Trust but verify,” Mr. Thorson said. “Trust that your employees are doing it correctly but also have a program in place to check on them once in a while to make sure it was getting done right.”

Is your team ready?

 Participating in a mock inspection can be an effective method to determine whether your team is prepared for an unannounced inspection. AIB International’s latest field service, FDA Preparedness Inspection, simulates a FSMA-type investigation and determines if a facility’s regulatory policy is in line with requirements, if employees understand their company’s policy for handling regulatory inspections and if its food safety plan meets requirements.

Alicia Pulings, quality compliance manager at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Gonnella Baking Co., set up one of AIB’s FDA Preparedness Inspection knowing there were minor gaps in the facility’s FSMA compliance process but still confident in her group’s abilities. With the exception of two key decision-makers, the visit was unannounced to its staff, including the plant manager.

“Even though it was a test inspection, I could sense our team’s uneasiness, and it reminded them that we need to be audit-ready at all times,” Ms. Pulings said.

When an AIB inspector began collecting swabs at the Gonnella plant, it was a big reveal for the staff. Ms. Pulings believed this was an eye-opener for employees, especially those who did not attend a FSMA training.

“Knowing FDA could collect swabs is new and important,” Ms. Pulings said. “We needed minor revisions to a few of our existing programs. During the inspection, we learned that FDA has granted an extension to one of our new programs that are in the process of being implemented — without this simulated inspection, we would not have known.”

Making sure an operation’s team also understands how to interact with investigators is crucial, as any of them can be pulled aside at any moment to discuss procedures in detail or to pull records. This may entail taking extra time to train employees on methodologies and educating them on the reasoning behind it.

“If people are going to do their job well, they have to understand why they’re doing it,” Mr. Thorson said. “We’ve got to do better at explaining processes. Whether it’s the employee on the floor operating and cleaning the line or the engineer building the system, everyone has to understand why we have the expectations we do: ‘Why do I need to clean to this level? Why are you swabbing it with that swab?’”

What to expect

Being prepared for an inspection means more than having preventive controls in place. Such preparation includes mapping out a process for when investigators arrive and understanding the actions they will take while conducting the inspection. In his checklist, Mr. Stevens outlined how operators can effectively navigate the process from beginning to end and appropriately respond to any FDA criticisms once the site visit concludes.

Before the inspection begins, Mr. Stevens advised teams determine which members will interact with FDA investigators, revisit where critical documents are stored and organized, and review topics employees can discuss with the agency. To ensure all measures are in place, perform a mock audit that includes all staff performing their specified roles. Undergoing this practice will help employees feel confident when interacting with investigators.

When FDA representatives arrive, they will ask to conduct an entrance meeting to detail how they plan to conduct the inspection, how long they anticipate it will last and the specific tasks they intend to accomplish. These typically include a facility inspection, records review and “swab-a-thon.”

During the inspection, the agent will tour the production, packing, distribution and storage locations searching for physical deficiencies and sanitation violations and conditions that allow bacteria to grow. Throughout the process, the investigator should be accompanied by a designated guide to observe and immediately document and respond to any concerns.

At the time of the records review, the FDA will have wide access to most documents within the organization. However, the agency is not entitled to review or copy any recipes or data pertaining to finances, pricing, research, sales or personnel, other than to ensure that the company’s employees have received training appropriate to their position and responsibilities. If the FDA requests copies of any records the company deems confidential, be sure to mark those records accordingly.

Once investigators enter the plant floor, they will collect approximately 100 to 200 microbiological samples from incoming ingredients, outgoing finished products and various environments within the facility. Staff charged with accompanying the inspection should carefully document the areas where samples are being collected. If any samples are positive, this information will be critical to determine the most appropriate response.

If the FDA collects finished product or processing line samples to test for the presence of Listeria MonocytogenesSalmonella or any other pathogens, that facility should hold back any products made from the same lot or batch until the results come back. If any are positive, and the product has been held, a recall will not be issued.

Once the inspection is complete, the investigator will conduct an exit interview and share the findings. If violations have been identified, the agency personnel will issue a Form 483, which details the specific issues. Although not required by law, a company is generally expected to provide a written response with the appropriate documentation within 15 business days. The FDA will not pursue further regulatory action if the response adequately addresses the agency’s concerns.

In some cases, the investigator may ask the company to consider a recall of certain products. Any recall decisions — and whether to announce it — should be made very carefully and only after consultation with legal counsel. Mr. Stevens noted that many companies have successfully convinced the FDA, based on the availability of supporting facts, forensic analysis and scientific data, that a recall is not needed or that the scope can be significantly limited.

A reflective approach

As inspections come and go, they create opportunities for the industry to unite and learn from one another’s triumphs and mistakes. Mr. Heflich noted that food safety should not be a competitive process. Fostering discussions amongst companies builds confidence within the field and may provide insights the FDA can use to modify guidelines and protocols.

Industry groups already have expressed interest in creating guidance documents on FSMA requirements with two goals in mind: providing a valuable resource for their members and developing industry standards that can become part of FDA guidance in the future. The agency laid out steps for industry associations interested in developing food guidance documents and stated it would provide technical advice and check for potential conflicts with federal regulations.

“FDA has listened to a lot of what we asked for,” Mr. Heflich said. “We asked to keep it simple, not prescriptive; tell us what we need to do but not how to do it. The industry needs the flexibility and the ownership.”

With that in mind, he urged bakers to get involved with industry associations and discuss issues with peers and competitors to ensure that the industry can guide and define regulations and protocols set forth by the FDA.



Food Safety ,

Food safety insecurity used as a hook against regulatory reform

April 15th, 2017
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Each side has just the congressional recess left to practice its hyperbole for the coming Senate fight over how regulations will be used across government. It’s going to get nasty. And confusing. The practice of giving the other side’s bill a dirty name is now a common tactic.

Since the Regulatory Accountability Act passed the House by a vote of 238-to-183 in January, the collection of consumer and environmental groups opposing the bill have taken to calling it the “Filthy Food Act.”

It’s far from certain, however, that the new Regulatory Accountability Act would translate  into  weakened federal food safety standards.  It is, after all, about how new regulations might be imposed, not about changes to any of the 47,661 rules put in place since 2001, including 1,062 “major new rules” that each cost the economy $100 million or more each year.

Since the 1970s, agencies have had to keep track of the costs and benefits of regulations and Government Accountability Office dutifully keeps track of all the data, which is a said to impose $2 trillion a year on the economy.

The new Regulatory Accounting Act would  put agencies through more hoops in the regulatory process.  More were added the 1980s, but it’s hard to say that slowed the process.   Congress likes leaving the details to the agencies.

The new Regulatory Accounting Act calls for more attention to the economic impact on small business, and calls for indirect and cumulative impacts of new regulation to be taken into account when new regulations are being proposed.

Agencies promulgating rules would be required to come up with alternatives to proposed rules to minimize any adverse economic impact or maximize any beneficially significant economic impact on small entities. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service, the agency landlords for most of the 640 million acres owned by the U.S. government,  are required to generate business –friendly alternatives in their own planning.

Current food safety rules were adopted after bipartisan approval of the Food Safety Modernization Act and a 5-year rule making process that FDA conducted with stakeholders, sometimes reversing directions to maintain consensus. Opponents of the Regulatory Accountability Act says the current food safety rules would not have survived “never-ending reviews and layers upon layers of wasteful Congressional and judicial red tape.”

However, there was Congressional involvement and judicial review, especially over deadline dates for the various rules.

Several consumer/environmental groups that are often involved in food safety issues have written several companies also often involved in food safety to persuade them to oppose the Regulatory Accountability Act when it comes to the Senate in May.

The “open letter” went out to Campbell Soup Company, Cargill, Coca-Cola, CVS Health, Domino’s Pizza, General Mills, PepsiCo, Target, Walmart, and Yum! Bands. “Food safety rules help reduce the risks posed by pathogens, additives, and pesticides,” says the letter. “But the “Filthy Food Act” passed by the House would create an unprecedented regulatory gauntlet through which no food safety rule or guidance could pass.”

Signing the letter were representatives of Food Policy Action, Food & Water Watch, Environmental Working Group, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Putting aside whether the new law would truly be a “regulatory gauntlet” for regulations, some significant elements are included.  One would repeal the so-called “Chevron” doctrine, so named for a 1984 Supreme Court case of Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. that gave deference to agency legal interpretations when their decisions are challenged.

Also billion dollar rules would not take effect until timely filed litigation challenging their promulgation is resolved.  It also beefs up the existing prohibition on federal agency lobbying for their own rules.

The consumer/environmental groups claim the new Regulatory Accountability Act “would require officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies to seek out the least costly, and not the most beneficial, regulatory approach to food safety problems…”

“Manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants generally take food safety serious, which is why they should not stand by while their trade associations dismantle the food safety system,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson. “Extremists like (White House chief strategist) Steve Bannon may sneer at what he calls the ‘administrative state,” but that’s generally what’s keeping E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria out of our food supply.”

Jacobson is inviting the food companies “to work cooperatively with us to defeat this reckless and irresponsible piece of legislation.”



Food Safety ,

Improving the sanitary design of packaging machinery

April 8th, 2017
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Once upon a time, an outbreak occurred, and the game was never the same. There probably isn’t a member of the baking industry who doesn’t remember the salmonella outbreak at Peanut Corp. of America. And Bill Kehrli, vice-president, sales and marketing, Cavanna Packaging Group, will never forget: Cavanna supplied around 30 packaging lines to a major North American bakery plant that received a tainted shipment of peanut butter.

“The plant shut down and basically tore apart the entire factory trying to clean it. Our equipment was in pieces,” Mr. Kehrli recalled. It took more than a dozen technicians to reassemble the equipment, and from that moment, the idea of “clean” for Cavanna — along with nearly every food production facility and equipment manufacturer in the country — changed forever.

“We partnered with our customers and attended seminars put on by the American Meat Institute about what it means to be clean and how to build equipment that’s sanitary design,” Mr. Kehrli said. “Today, we’re preaching the ‘Gospel of Sanitary Design.’ ”

In this Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) era, sanitary design is a top priority for the baking industry. “Food safety not only affects brand awareness and the health of end users, but it also influences overall equipment effectiveness,” said Kelly Meer, product manager, Bosch Packaging Technology. “In order to achieve higher production efficiency, reduce cleaning time and prevent product contamination, it is essential for bakers to invest in a hygienically designed packaging solution.”

The meaning of clean

There’s no disputing that every facet of bakery production has to be clean. But words such as clean and sanitary, while vital pieces of a baker’s lexicon, can often mean different things to different people. To make sure that packaging equipment meets sanitary design standards for both the baker and supplier, communication is crucial, and that should start at the training level.

“The same diligence a bakery puts into training staff to make the product should go into cleaning equipment and preparing it to run the next day,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing, Formost Fuji. “Identifying standards and understanding what ‘clean’ means is critical because ‘clean’ to one person might not mean the same thing to someone else.”

Mr. Kehrli echoed that sentiment. “Someone else’s definition of clean might not be my definition,” he said. “My definition of clean is that it’s spotless. You can swab it anywhere, and all the bacteria are killed. It goes beyond wiping something down with a damp rag or blowing with compressed air.”

Visibility is often the key to identifying a standard of clean. Remember the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it” — the same goes for confirming that it’s clean. “We design our equipment with guides that come off quickly without tools and decks that pivot out of the way so you can see underneath,” Mr. Gunnell said. “Not only do these features make the equipment easier to clean, but it also helps an operator see it’s clean as well. For example, if you don’t allow a deck to be removed, or at least pulled out of the way, an operator might think it’s clean, when in fact, there could be bacteria growing underneath.”

For food safety purposes, Bosch designs its packaging equipment so that stationary parts are below the process belt. “This ensures that products cannot become contaminated by dust and other residue, and it prevents parts from falling down and jeopardizing products or consumer health,” Mr. Meer observed. That said, Bosch’s packaging equipment’s observation windows, transparent casings and other accessibility features allow operators to inspect or clean it at any time.

Collaborative effort

After defining clean and identifying standards, the next critical issue is mapping out a plan. “Whether it’s processing or packaging equipment, the first question I always ask is, ‘What is our reason to clean?’” said Karl Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager for Minneapolis-based General Mills. “There has to be a reason to clean, and sometimes a better way to think of it is, ‘What would happen if I didn’t clean? What’s the impact to the system, the environment, the product?’ ”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a food safety or allergen issue. When bakers understand why a piece of packaging equipment needs to be cleaned, it’s much easier to move forward with design, an area where many bakeries are becoming more involved much earlier in the process. “Once I understand the ‘why,’ I can address it by marrying up the right design with the appropriate cleaning method,” Mr. Thorson said.

Mr. Gunnell encouraged bakers to take a more active role in the design process, something he’s seen trending in the past few years. “It’s been prevalent in the frozen food and meat industries, but we are now seeing more bakers asking to see the design of the conveyor and have a conversation about how it’s being built,” he said.

Increased collaboration is also happening at BluePrint Automation, according to Alan Beehler, director of applications. “Food safety professionals are getting more and more involved in the equipment design,” he said. “Every year, food safety concerns are becoming more elevated, and more of our customers are taking their involvement a step further.”

The sooner a bakery can start a sanitary design dialogue, the better. “Bakers should think about it up front — not after the new equipment is installed — right from the first stage,” Mr. Gunnell suggested. “Always ask the question, ‘How is this going to help me not only in production but also in sanitation?’ ”

Angela McDaniel, Formost Fuji sales and marketing coordinator, agreed. “It’s important for bakers to weigh the assessment of sanitary design from the beginning,” she said. “Trying to change it after the equipment has been built is not as cost-effective as going with sanitary design from the beginning.”

Matching method to need

It goes beyond just identifying what the standards are, especially in the packaging area where it might not be so black-and-white. Depending on the product and its specific characteristics, sanitary design for packaging equipment can range from wipe down to full washdown.

“It really depends on what ‘soil’ is going to be run on that system, and what concerns go along with that,” Mr. Thorson said. “What are the anticipated issues going forward? In packaging, if you anticipate having jam-ups, unsealed liners or major spillage or contamination of the line — which is a huge risk — then maybe you’ve got to design differently and go to the extreme of wet washdown.”

For Mr. Kehrli, washdown is more than the gold standard; it’s the standard. “If you’re going to clean the primary packaging equipment, then really clean it. The only way to fully do that is get in there and hit it with hoses and the right chemicals,” he said.

Washdown is also a core capability for BluePrint Automation, and Mr. Beehler pointed out its importance, especially for systems that have exposed product entering the packaging area. “We offer full washdown capable equipment using caustic foams and sanitizing solution that is corrosion resistant,” he said. The company’s sanitary design also minimizes nooks and crannies where crumbs, inclusions and other sanitary threats might hide. “All these areas are mechanically cleanable and also visible, and the equipment is constructed in a way that caustic foams and sanitizing solutions can be applied without damaging the equipment,” he said.

But — there’s always that “but” — some operations are not conducive to washdown packaging equipment, or they simply don’t need it. Mr. Thorson always considers the food safety need, wear on the equipment and also the cost of installation. He suggested a packaging line that only experiences minor spills might not require fully washdown capable equipment. He also emphasized the importance of planning ahead. “You have to think about what kind of flexibility you want for the future,” he said. “Will you possibly be running formulas in the future that would be more challenging to clean?”

Another important consideration for washdown is the environment itself. Oftentimes, the packaging area of an existing facility is not washdown-friendly. “It’s not just the equipment that needs to be sanitary design; the building needs to withstand washdown with drains in the floor,” Mr. Kehrli observed.

In a legacy building that’s been operating for decades, installing a washdown capable piece of equipment in an area that’s not conducive to it is counter-productive, especially for neighboring equipment that isn’t designed with the same capability. “In that case, when you spray the water, and the chemicals get in the air, it’s almost like raining inside the building, and that can potentially harm the other equipment,” Mr. Kehrli said.

Burford Corp. takes this into consideration with its tyers. Although its equipment does not come in contact with product, it’s compatible with other machines that are washdown-capable. “For a wet environment, we’ve made modifications to ensure that, while our machine isn’t washdown, it can be removed so that operators can wash in that area,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford. “All they have to do is roll our equipment off the line so the components that are in contact with product can be washed down.”

If not opting for washdown, there are still plenty of options. “Bakers are looking for sanitary design, even if not necessarily complete washdown,” Ms. McDaniel said. “As long as equipment meets the standards for sanitation, then removal of all the parts for proper cleaning becomes most important.” Formost’s sanitary design enables its packaging equipment to transform from a full machine into bare bones for complete sanitation.

When cleaning equipment, bakers understand that time is money … and downtime costs. To shorten downtime, redundancy helps. “Maybe I’ve got a belt for one product or another, or at least a clean set that can easily follow quick changeover principles and get into the next product run as soon as possible,” Mr. Thorson said. “Then I can do a detailed spot cleaning on the framework and things like that without doing a full-flood washdown.”

Bosch offers a second format set with its format parts carriage, according to Mr. Meer, allowing one set to be cleaned while the other is in use. “In a four-leg system, four operators just need two hours to change over the format parts and clean the entire system while critical parts are cleaned out of place,” he said, explaining that this helps bakers quickly resume production without the risk of allergen residues.

The allergen issue

Allergens are hard to control. It’s an issue that transcends individual areas of processing, and packaging can’t be discounted, either. When it comes to allergens, a proactive defense is best.

“It’s not unheard of on a packaging line to take many hours to pass an allergen clean,” Mr. Kehrli said. “For example, on a flowwrapping system for bars, operators can clean all the belts. Then, they go around with a swab and touch the different areas of equipment; if they find allergens on it, they can’t start up the line.”

When running products with very different formulas, Mr. Thorson advised bakers to consider everything with packaging design, especially when running products with allergens and non-allergens. “At minimum, you need to ensure that you can clean the product zone to the visibly clean standard,” he said. “If appropriate, you can follow up with analytical allergen testing (protein specific) of the surfaces and/or product.”

In areas such as secondary packaging where sanitary design is not as crucial, some bakeries rely on layout to address the allergen issue. “What we’ve done with certain customers is wall off processing and primary packaging and then have wrapped product go through a wall into secondary and tertiary packaging,” Mr. Kehrli said. “That creates an internal room that can handle washdown and an external room that does not require it.”

In the end, sanitary design should permeate every stage of bakery operations in some way. In a post-peanut-crisis, FSMA-driven world, it’s the new normal. “This should be the standard, not the goal,” Ms. McDaniel said.



Food Safety, Packaging , ,

Walmart Frozen Pizza Recalled Due to Possible Listeria Contamination

March 25th, 2017
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RBR Meat Company, Inc., a Vernon, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 21,220 pounds of frozen pizza product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The supreme frozen pizza item was produced on Feb. 23, 2017. The following product is subject to recall: [View Labels (PDF only)]

  • 50.6-oz. corrugated box containing 1 shrink wrapped 16” pizza labeled as “Marketside Extra Large Supreme Pizza,” with lot code 20547.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 1821” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail distribution centers in California, Nevada, Utah and Washington.

The problem was discovered during routine sampling by the firm. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Consumption of food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns. Less commonly, persons outside these risk groups are affected.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. Persons in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

Consumers who have purchased this product are urged not to consume it. This product should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at

FSIS advises all consumers to reheat ready-to-eat product until steaming hot.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Eunice Wu, QA Director, at (323) 826-2144 Ext. 190.

Source: Abasto


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Cookie dough maker linked to outbreak ceases production

February 11th, 2017
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Aspen Hills, Inc., a cookie dough manufacturer linked to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in Blue Bell Creameries products, has ceased production.

“After much consideration, our owners have decided to end their involvement in the company and are actively looking to wind up their affairs through a sale or other orderly disposition,” said Jon Austin, a spokesman for the Garner-based company. “While that process is under way, we have ceased production as of the end of December. Even so, we are committed to addressing any questions raised by the F.D.A. so that the agency can be assured that our commitment to the safety and wholesomeness of our products will not waver even as we exit the market. To that end, we have detailed for the agency the many changes to our procedures and practices we put in place in response to its oversight; we appreciate the partnership and professionalism of its personnel throughout this process.”

Blue Bell Creameries, Brenham, Texas, last September said it voluntarily was recalling certain ice cream products. Blue Bell identified the potential problem through internal testing and notified Aspen Hills, which then issued a voluntary recall of the products supplied to Blue Bell. In October, Blue Bell Creameries expanded the recall to all products made with cookie dough that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter dated Jan. 10 of this year to Aspen Hills that may be found here. The F.D.A. said it had inspected the company’s frozen cookie dough manufacturing facility from Sept. 27 through Oct. 6, 2016. Environmental samples collected from various areas in the facility found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. The F.D.A. investigators also observed “serious violations” of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulation for food.

“The presence of L. monocytogenes in your facility is significant because it demonstrates your cleaning and sanitation practices are inadequate to effectively control pathogens in your facility to prevent contamination of food,” the F.D.A. letter said. “Furthermore, L. monocytogenes found in the environment of your facility increases the risk of your finished product becoming contaminated.”

The F.D.A. letter acknowledged Aspen Hills took corrective actions after the F.D.A. presented its findings to the company. Aspen Hills hired a third-party laboratory and consultant group to conduct a review of operations and to make recommendations to changes in policy and procedures. It also included revising Standard Operating Procedures in the three areas of environmental pathogen monitoring, product sampling and testing, and cleaning and sanitizing facilities.

Aspen Hills conducted a voluntary recall of all lots of ready-to-eat cookie dough produced at the facility between June 8 and Sept. 30, 2016.

Thomas and Nancy Lundeen own Aspen Hills. The company’s facility had a daily production capacity of 180,000 lbs of product, which allowed the company to meet peak season needs of fund-raising, according to the company’s web site. Aspen Hills offered cookie dough in such varieties as chocolate chunk, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia and snickerdoodle. The company also offered such frozen items as cheesecake, cinnamon rolls and French bread pizza.



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FDA: to Redefine «Healthy» Claim for Food Labelling

October 8th, 2016
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has started a public process to redefine the «healthy» nutrient content claim for food labelling. Redefining «healthy» is part of an overall plan to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations and to encourage the development of healthier foods by the industry.

While FDA is considering how to redefine the term «healthy» as a nutrient content claim, food manufacturers can continue to use the term «healthy» on foods that meet the current regulatory definition. FDA is also issuing a guidance document stating that FDA does not intend to enforce the regulatory requirements for products that use the term if certain criteria described in the guidance document are met.

Public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved, as reflected by the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the updated Nutrition Facts label. For example, healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet. Also, the nutrients of public health concern that consumers aren’t getting enough of have changed. FDA is publishing a «request for information» to solicit public input as it redefines the term «healthy». In addition, the Agency is planning other public forums to receive additional public input.

Source: bakenet:eu


Food Safety ,