Lettuce Romaine healthy and safe!

If you are a vegetarian (and a food safety professional) like me, romaine lettuce and other salad items are in your refrigerator all the time. I stayed back from eating my fav lettuce over romaine outbreak in 2017 (November 2017 to January 2018) and earlier this year in 2018 (April to June). One would think in the midst of more than one romaine lettuce E Coli outbreak lawsuit, things would have gotten better?

After more than 200 illnesses and 5 deaths from the outbreak just this Spring and identifying the problem, we are safe now? I mean, at least farmers and harvesters are doing the right thing for food safety and QA, testing their crops, right? Think again!

There is another outbreak of E Coli O157:H7 linked to romaine lettuce. So far, 32 people are sick in 11 states. In addition, 18 people are sick in Canada. Illnesses started October 8, 2018 and ongoing.

I don’t know about you, but I am concerned about what to use in my salads.

What brands of romaine lettuce are contaminated?

The FDA has confirmed that they are conducting a trace-back investigation to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that made the confirmed cases sick.  FDA and many states are conducting lab analysis of romaine lettuce samples. Advisory alert from FDA and CDC ask that consumers do not eat any romaine lettuce because no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified. Thanks a lot for this scare!

I just brought romaine from my local grocery store, is it safe to eat?

Simple answer – No. And that is all romaine products – whether whole heads, in a package, mixed into a salad mix, or that Caesar salad bought from a restaurant. Stay away from that crispy green leafy stuff for now.

Are you sure romaine is to blame?

CDC and FDA report that epidemiologic evidence from the US and Canadian agencies indicates that romaine lettuce is a likely source of the outbreak.

How can I tell if my romaine lettuce is contaminated?

There is no way for you to know unless you are a scientist in a laboratory. Romaine contaminated with E Coli will look, taste, smell, and look the same as Romaine that is safe. My words for you: Throw it out.

How can this happen?

The last outbreak was linked to irrigation concerns. This one may have the same issue. We just don’t know at this time. Root vegetables and leafy vegetables are the most susceptible to contamination from the application of manure to the soil. The fecal matter (loaded with pathogens) from cattle, pigs, deer, dogs, and goats can be exposed to produce item that is grown in soil.

Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting the produce. Contamination in lettuce is also possible at the grocery store, in the refrigerator, or from counters and cutting boards through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood.

E coli can cause numerous illnesses because fruit and vegetables are shipped thousands of miles and are rarely cooked to a temperature that would kill E. coli.

Are the outbreaks all related?

CDC has confirmed that “Ill people in this outbreak were infected with E. coli bacteria with the same DNA fingerprint as the E. coli strain isolated from ill people in a 2017 outbreak linked to leafy greens in the US and to romaine lettuce in Canada. The current outbreak is not related to a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce.”

How do I know if I have E coli?

Symptoms show within 2 to 10 days after eating an E coli contaminated product. Signs of the infection: vomiting, nausea, watery (sometimes bloody) diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in some cases, fever. Urgent medical attention is recommended at any sign of the infection, especially if you have eaten romaine recently or are at high risk for foodborne illness.

E.coli strain known as STEC E. coli O157:H7 (referred to as O157:H7), is particularly virulent because of the toxin that is shed by the bacteria. The toxins can result in life-threatening hemolytic-uremic syndrome (known as HUS). This strain is potentially deadly to the elderly, young infants and children, and those with compromised immune systems.

Should I be concerned about HUS?

Yes. HUS is a potentially life-threatening complication affecting the kidneys because of a STEC E coli infection.  About 5 to 10% of those diagnosed with STEC E coli end up developing HUS.  People with HUS should be hospitalized; otherwise, they could experience kidney failure and other serious health problems.  In some cases, long-term damage to the kidneys and other organs can result in persistent or recurrent health concerns that can have a drastic effect on a patient for the remainder of their life.

As with E coli infections, one should seek immediate medical attention at the first sign of any of these symptoms. Early medical intervention can help reduce the risk of more severe illness and long-term complications.

So, if you were planning to serve healthy salads for your Thanksgiving gathering, you will need to make a run to your grocery store and fight for that last head of lettuce or the ready mixed bags – just make sure to not pick any romaine and please be civil and no fights…after all, we are in giving thanks mode.

 

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It’s the Noro season y’all

Laughter is the best medicine! Unless you have norovirus – vomiting is better medicine in that case. 🙂

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WHAT IS NOROVIRUS?

Typical season for the “stomach flu” “winter bug” occurs from November through April. We see illnesses occur outside of this timeframe with 80% of the outbreaks occurring between November and April. Norovirus infection causes acute gastroenteritis: nausea, frequent, sudden and occasionally violent vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Other symptoms include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle ache and fatigue. Symptom onset can be as soon as 12 hours after exposure, but more often 24 to 48 hours after ingesting the virus. The illness usually lasts one to two days. Most cases, recovery occurs without further complications unless the person is dehydrated.

  • Virus – very small in size and simple structure
  • Can NOT survive outside of a host
  • Human norovirus can’t be cultivated in labs
  • Virus surrogates are used for studies in labs and they do NOT always behave as Human Norovirus
  • Leading cause of Acute Gastroenteritis (worldwide)
  • 20 Mil cases in USA (per year)
  • 2/3 are from PERSON-TO-PERSON transmission, 1/3 are from FOODBORNE transmission
  • High Prevalence – Low Mortality
  • $65 Billion – Global cost
  • 5.5 Million cases per year in USA – Foodborne
  • Low infectious dose (100 or less particles required for illness)
  • High shedding rate – Million to Billion/gm (stool) and shedding may continue up to 2 weeks after symptoms

WHERE IS NORO?

  • Infected food handlers are responsible for 70% of reported outbreaks (cause is found)
  • Workers are using bare hands for Ready-to-eat foods – 50% of illnesses
  • Mainly at restaurants (64%) and catering/banquet events (17%)

WHY IS IT CHALLENGING?

  • After symptoms disappear, person can shed at a lower level for up to 2 weeks
  • Infected person can shed 1-8 million virus via vomit
  • Virus can be airborne several days beyond an incident or outbreak
  • Virus stays on infected and exposed person’s hands for several days
  • Stays on surfaces for days/week at room temp
  • Refrigeration/Freezing for weeks/months/years will not effect
  • Easily transferred – depends on moisture, type of surface, pressure
  • Highly infectious, Rapid and efficient spreading
  • Resistant to sanitizers, disinfectants, technology

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

  • Having a written plan and related tools, kits ready in your facility
  • Written and implanted employee health and illness policy – specific to the operation and easy to execute
  • Post incidence SOP in place – what to do when this happens?
  • All team members trained

Do you have a plan? Have you created and implemented a strong and executable employee health policy? What are you waiting for? Hopefully, not an outbreak from your facility…

BE WELL. (and if you are down with Noro; and work in a food facility – STAY HOME)

FBI Risk Factors and Intervention Strategies – FDA Study

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released findings today from the initial phase of a 10-year study that is evaluating trends in food preparation practices and employee behaviors that contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks in the retail setting.

You can read the 84-page document (link provided below) or read a quick summary here.

Background:

Foodborne illness remains a major public health concern in the United States. Foodborne diseases cause ~48 million illnesses and ~3000 deaths each year. Economic burden due to foodborne illness is estimated at $77 billion dollars (Scharff, 2012).

Restaurant industry is a major driver of food service and consumer demand for food away from home has led to increased spending in both fast food and full-service restaurants, with more than one million restaurant locations employing 14 million people. Per CDC studies, more than half of foodborne illness outbreaks that occur each year are associated with food from restaurants. Activities related to food handling and preparation practices were the most commonly reported contributing factors within restaurant-associated outbreaks by CDC.

Most regulatory food inspection programs monitor the following risk factors while conducting routine food safety inspections, and each factor necessitates specific food safety behaviors and practices.

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Improper food holding/time and temperature
  • Contaminated equipment/protection from contamination
  • Inadequate cooking
  • Food obtained from unsafe sources

FDA specialists collected inspection data in 2013-2014 for research – to be used as baseline for better intervention strategies, food safety practices – moving forward. This data collection period combined with current 2017-2018 and future (2021-2022) will be useful for identifying relationship between Food Safety Management System (FSMS) and Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM), and how these risk factors and food safety behaviors are associated with foodborne illness in restaurants.

FSMS refers to a specific set of actions (procedures, training, and monitoring) to help achieve Active Managerial Control (AMC). Non-existent or inadequate FSMS are thought to contribute to the worldwide burden of foodborne disease.

CFPM is an individual who has shown proficiency in food safety and possess an accredited certificate, as required by most regulatory agencies. Research has shown that the presence of a CFPM is associated with improved inspection scores (Hedberg et al., 2007; Brown et al., 2014)

Food Code emphasizes the need for risk-based preventive controls and daily AMC of the risk factors contributing to foodborne illness. AMC is “the purposeful incorporation of specific actions or procedures by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors” (FDA, 2013). AMC involves the continuous identification and proactive prevention of food safety hazards. Two strategies supporting AMC efforts in food establishments that have received growing attention are presence of a CFPM and an effective FSMS.

Research and results:

Data items that were included in FDA’s studies included:

  • proper handwashing practice
  • no bare hand contact of ready-to-eat foods
  • protection from cross contamination (during storage, preparation, and display)
  • food contact surfaces properly cleaned and sanitized
  • TCS foods are held at proper temperature
  • displayed or stored hot foods are held at proper temperature
  • foods are cooled properly
  • TCS RTE foods are properly date marked/discarded within 7 days
  • raw animal foods are cooked to required temperatures
  • foods are reheated to required temperatures

From food safety behaviors/practices that were investigated in this FDA study, we see that restaurants had better control over no bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods and making sure that raw animal foods are cooked to their required internal temperatures. But, there remains a huge need to gain better control over food employee’s handwashing habits and controlling temperatures of TCS foods.

Some results are very alarming: For full service restaurants, more than 2/3 of visited facilities did not date-mark their TCS foods properly; more than 2/3 did not cool their hot foods properly before storing it; almost 2/3 had dirty food contact surfaces; and 1/3 failed to reheat foods to proper temps. For fast food restaurants, 1/2 of visited facilities failed to cool foods properly; 40% had dirty food contact surfaces; 1/3 did not date-mark their TCS foods properly; and more than 1/3 failed to prevent cross-contamination of foods.

Also,

  • Fast food restaurants that are multi-unit operation showed 2.65 out-of-compliance items compared with the ones that are not a chain operation, who showed 4.51 out-of-compliance items. CHAIN RESTAURANTS PEFORMED BETTER.
  • The difference in mean number of out-of-compliance items for graded inspection was extremely minor. The difference was also minor for jurisdictions that required public disclosure of inspection report. The difference where food handler training is mandatory or not was equally minimal. This was true for fast food and full-service restaurants. GRADING OR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE DOES NOT IMPACT COMPLIANCE.
  • Fast food restaurants with a CFPM present and in charge had a significantly lower number of data items out-of-compliance than those with no CFPM. 2.88 vs 3.46 – HAVING A CFPM MEANS BETTER COMPLIANCE.
  • Full-service restaurants that are multi-unit operation showed 4.66 out-of-compliance items compared with the ones that are not a chain operation, who showed 5.30 out-of-compliance items. CHAIN RESTAURANTS PEFORMED BETTER.
  • Full-service restaurants with a CFPM present and in charge had a significantly lower number of data items out-of-compliance than those with no CFPM. 4.73 vs 5.69 – HAVING A CFPM MEANS BETTER COMPLIANCE.
  • FSMS were the strongest predictor of items being out-of-compliance in both fast food and full-service restaurants: those with well-developed FSMS had significantly less food safety behaviors/practices out-of-compliance than those with less developed systems. HAVE AN EFFICIENT AND PROPERLY IMPLEMENTED FSMS.
  • Restaurants with a CFPM present at the time of data collection were associated with fewer out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices.
  • Simply having a CFPM employed without that individual being present does not materially improve the restaurant’s compliance. The correlations between CFPM and out-of-compliance become non-significant, indicating that FSMS (not the presence of a CFPM) predicts better compliance with food safety behaviors/practices.

What do we learn from this?

It is extremely important to have your own FSMS. Documents can sit in a binder and collect dust but unless you have provided adequate and proper training, all tools and ways to resolve discrepancies, it is absolutely of no use. Train all team members, requiring mandatory accredited certification and provide all necessary tools for them.

It is not complicated y’all!

_______

Read all 84 pages (including checklist used) from FDA publication here.

Some reference material used in FDA’s publication:

Cates, S.C., Muth, M.K., Karns, S.A., Penne, M.A., Stone, C.N., Harrison, J.E., and Radke, V.J. (2008). Certified Kitchen Managers: Do They Improve Restaurant Inspection Outcomes? Journal of Food Protection, (72)2, 384-391.
Hedberg, C.W., Smith, S.J., Kirkland, E., Radke, V., Jones, T.F., Selman, C.A., and EHS-Net Working Group (2006). Systematic Environmental Evaluations to Identify Food Safety Differences between Outbreak and Nonoutbreak Restaurants. Journal of Food Protection, (69)11, 2697-2702.
Leinwand, S.E., Glanz, K., Keenan, B.T., and Branas, C. C. (2017). Inspection Frequency, Sociodemographic Factors, and Food Safety Violations in Chain and Nonchain Restaurants, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2013-2014. Public Health Reports, 10,1-8.
Luning, P.A., Marcelis, W.J., Rovira, J., Van der Spiegal, M., Uyttendaela, M., and Jacxsens, L. (2009). Systematic Assessment of Core Assurance Activities in a Company-specific Food Safety Management System. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20(6), 300-312.

 

Picnic vs Pathogens – Food Safety P’s

As you and your family, friends gather for Memorial Day backyard indulgence with the P’s – Pools, Puppies, People and Playgrounds, do not forget about the other P’s like Pathogens, Puke, Poop, Pain!

Some simple Precautions can provide you with a Pleasant experience in the outdoor world.

  1. Mom always told you — wash your hands.
    Be sure to wash hands (not just pretend to) during food preparation, when switching from handling raw meat to chopping raw vegetables for a salad. Hand sanitizer is not good enough. Note: When you are in a situation without any running water, soap – ok to use hand sanitizer (at least 60% Alcohol), wipe hands with paper towels and apply the sanitizer again.
  2. Keep it clean!
    Clean and sanitize coolers, grills, grilling knives, tongs, serving utensils, baskets and bags because they can be a mecca for pathogenic growth. Do this before heading out to a remote site if not at your own home.
  3. Keep it Cold or Keep it Hot!
    Never allow your foods to stay between 40°F and 135°F for more than 2-3 hours. Keep and use ice chests, coolers with ice, plugged in camping equipment – as needed. Keep coolers in the shaded area – when outdoor. Pack water bottles that are frozen – the night before – for extra precaution and place them in coolers.
  4. Separate, separate, separate!
    Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from other ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cooler for raw meats and poultry and another for foods such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and desserts. Take two sets of plates and utensils for handling raw meats and for serving cooked foods to limit the chances of cross-contamination.
  5. Thermometer is better than your eyes and fingers!
    Cook all meats to safe internal temperature and a food thermometer is the only way to make sure that food has reached this temperature. Cook fish (seafood) and hot dogs to at least 145°F, ground meat to 155°F and poultry items to 165°F.
  6. When in doubt, Toss it out!
    If the meats and perishable items have been out on the serving table for more than 90-120 minutes, it goes in the trash bin. Hotter the weather, smaller window you have to make sure that everyone eats before jumping in the pool. Don’t take any chances.
  7. Uninvited guests (insects) – keep them out!
    Fruit flies, houseflies are annoying, unwanted, and not welcome at outdoor events. Not just fly barf and poop have been associated with human illness. footprints are just as, if not more, dangerous.
  8. Don’t forget these:
    Chips, cut fruits, mayo, salsa and other foods can also become cross contaminated if hands are not washed after swimming, or being in ponds, lakes. Norovirus, E. coli is present everywhere. Making sand castles on beach, fishing in ponds, playing with domestic and farm animals are all a risk with wherever your festivities take you. Another P, that cold potato salad deserves cold storage too!

Simply put – keep unwanted pathogenic bullies from crashing your outdoor party and have fun! 

How IoT can help #FoodSafety – Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT)

Consumer preferences are evolving and the food industry faces challenges to ensure safe food – Everyone wants: clean labels, natural, organic, locally grown, gluten-free, GMO-free, antibiotic-free – and the food movement is real. Food manufacturers and retailers are adapting to changing consumer demands and as a result, are enhancing their food safety protocols and technologies as well. Properly connected technology can help take food safety to the next level.

Food service establishments (restaurants, grocery stores, super markets, convenience stores) are becoming more proactive in protecting their brand. The idea of keeping any happenings limited to the awareness of only the few that were involved is a thing of the past. Forward-thinking companies realize that social media has changed the landscape, and what was once a single-store minor “meh” can now cause company-wide experiment.

In recent years, digital technology has connected sensors and devices, created new business models, transformed how we communicate and helped grow our economies. We hear that 70 percent of the potential value of digital technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) is in B2B (business-to-business) applications.

How can we utilize IoT-enabled food safety systems for evolution?

MEASURE & MONITOR

Managing food safety is a big challenge for everyone in the industry. Cumbersome and manual processes restricts corporate or regional communications. Collected data is hard to share, analyze and act upon if not digital.

  • Was the ice machine and soda dispensing area properly sanitized last night?
  • Was the seafood special cooked to and held at the correct temperature?
  • During that recall, did we destroy/return the suspect sauce?
  • Did the manager provide corrective action plan to the regulatory agency?
  • Our supplier was on the federal warning letter list. Did they resolve it?

Achieve better compliance, greater operational efficiency, enhanced food quality and higher guest satisfaction.

INFLUENCE AND LEAD

With digital technology, identify future risks and proactively resolve issues before problems occur. Data from monitoring equipment in your facility— and sensors in facilities around the world—can be communicated in real-time. Trends, patterns and risk predictions can only help us for better decisions and drive business strategies. We all know that predictive is better than proactive (and reactive) style of doing things in the food safety world.

PARTNER AND GROW

We love to obtain a lot of data but we don’t know what to do with it. The key to success is to translate and analyze the collected data into actionable insights, identify trends and focus your resources on the problems at hand. Use the right business partners and providers. Verify your performances to ideal resource allocations and reduce operational cost. Strategic alliances and forward-thinking technology – when executed properly, can only enhance your food safety management system.

KEY BENEFITS

IoT and “smart” connected devices have successfully permeated the consumer market in recent years.

  • Connectivity within the kitchen: between front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) employees
  • IoT monitors the equipment that cooks, cleans or stores food
  • IoT and smart digital equipment can measure cooking equipment- fryers, grills, ovens, etc. whereby the circuit boards provide prompts to take action (filter cooking oil, temperature, etc.)
  • IoT provides data outside of the restaurant/store to compare with another
  • IoT collects data to drive proper distribution of resources for analytic info for future use/procurement
  • IoT provides real-time information about compliance with one’s standard operating procedures using daily/weekly/monthly checklists and schedules
  • IoT and combination of data provides cost savings and enhanced efficiency
  • IoT reduces food waste while producing consistent food items
  • IoT enforces standard operating procedures, increases employee morale, simplify manager’s jobs
  • IoT enables you to personalize promotions by integrating customer data, including purchase history and geographic location, with loyalty programs
  • IoT enables customers to place orders and pay their bill from a digital kiosk or mobile device
  • IoT enables you to monitor inventory levels in real time, while advanced analytics help you forecast demand
  • IoT Sensors can be used to detect the presence of customers at or near the restaurant/store and deliver promotional offers via their mobile devices

Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to vividly improve food safety practices. Automated data collection will yield labor cost savings. For HACCPers, critical control points can move upstream to food safety and asset management and drive down operating costs.

In conclusion: The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept that everything will one day (soon, if not already) be connected with. Remember when computers became networked and connected with the internet? Remember when you were the first one to have a 3 ½” drive on your PC?

Savvy operators and food safety professional who understand changing food safety regulatory demands are driving the adoption of these technologies that ease the transition towards ongoing compliance. Food safety technology is changing! Are you changing with them?

 

Flooding and food safety

Food Safety after flooding

If you don’t know someone named #Harvey, by now – am sure that you don’t want to see anything named Harvey come close to you – especially if you live in the great state of Texas, like me.

There has been countless homes (including a few relatives and friends of mine) flooded from this epic hurricane #Harvey event and as they get ready to begin the recovery phase, wanted to share a few safety tips with y’all.

Image source: Google.com

After flooding and hurricane, one needs to review all food and food preparation areas and equipment to decide what to keep or throw away. Flooding, can contaminate the public water supply as well (did you hear about city of Beaumont?). Water in the hurricane-affected area may not be safe to drink. Local announcements from radio stations and health department should provide updated information on the water supply in your area.

Food

  • Don’t eat food that may have come into contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Don’t eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth and similar containers that have been water damaged.
  • Don’t save food and beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops and home canned foods, if they have come in contact with flood water. These containers cannot be disinfected and this is not a way to save a few $.

If you have commercially-prepared foods in metal cans or retort pouches, they can be saved.

  • Remove all labels
  • Thoroughly wash the cans, rinse them and then disinfect them

Sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water should be adequate.

Water

  • If tap water is not potable or is questionable, follow these directions:
  • Use clean (fresh bought) bottled water if it is available.
  • DIY: You can boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. Cloudy water can be filtered through clean cloths and boiled. Boil the water and let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • DIY: If you don’t have power or gas available, you can disinfect water using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths, and draw off clear water for disinfection. Add ⅛ teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  • If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your water well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.

Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment

  • Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, to avoid skin contact, irritation or infection while cleaning.
  • Discard ALL wooden equipment (cutting boards, dishes and utensils), plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers that have come into contact with flood water. These items cannot be safely cleaned.
  • Metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils (including can openers): Clean with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and sanitize by boiling in clean water or immersing for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).
  • Countertops: Clean with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and sanitize by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air dry.
  • Don’t avoid cleaning corners, cracks and crevices, door handles and door seals in rooms that have been affected by flood water.

Kitchen Appliances

  • If the power in a refrigerator goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
  • Once the power is restored, determine the safety of your food. If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
  • Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours and the door was kept closed. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.
  • Discard refrigerators that have been submerged in flood water, or if enough moisture was present from liquefied food items to reach the insulation inside the equipment.
  • Run your dishwasher (empty) through three complete cycles to flush the water lines and assure that they are cleaned internally before washing dishes and utensils in it.

I am not a medical physician and I am not able to provide your health and well-being suggestions but don’t forget to ask them and/or check with your local health department for tips and safety.

Image source: Google.com

I wish each and every one of you a quick recovery and send my prayers for you and your families.

Ten Commandments – Food Safety Plan

Ten Commandments – Food Safety Management

You have seen the ten commandments in your spiritual life but what about the food ten_commandments_hebrew_stonesafety life?

 

As we all know, the DoJ has stepped into the food industry and they can seek to prosecute cases where illnesses have occurred – restaurant companies, manufacturers, etc. Our consumers are demanding “cleaner” products as they eat out or purchase their food. With the science of genome sequencing, it’s possible to link illnesses from years earlier to their source, meaning a past incident can come back to haunt a company – long after the event.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – based regulations are here. The first impression that restaurants and grocery stores would not be impacted is now becoming clear that the ripple effect of FSMA will increase the food safety demands on them as well. FDA has written the rules for some flexibility – which is causing significant confusion and it carries the risk of many in the industry getting something wrong and placing considerable and unnecessary strain on already overburdened QA professionals.

Therefore, the food safety professionals cannot manage food safety program in the same old way. There has never been a more important time to stop, take a critical and unbiased view of the food safety management systems and processes, and emulate best practices being used in the industry.

Follow these 10 simple commandments:

  1. Senior Leadership Team on your side

Senior leadership want to know: ROI, key issues and plans to address those, business trending, strategies employed to move the business in the right direction, and how the quality and food safety strategies support business strategies and objectives. These strategies are always focused on the customer.

Be clear with the senior leaders’ group about the investment required in food safety, and the benefits gained through the investment. As we all know, the investment is significantly less costly than the problems. Provide simple but impactful food safety training to the senior leaders. This will highlight that effective food safety training is provided for every team member in the company.

  1. Suppliers audited

Regularly audit all suppliers, especially prior to their first delivery of items. Must review supplier’s track record so it can be established that appropriate systems and processes exist. The audits need to be structured so that all of the elements supporting the supplier’s ability to reliably meet all the quality and food safety requirements are checked, and where deficiencies are found, formal corrective actions are established. There are a number of good auditing schemes in widespread use, accredited under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

Best practice in this area: Obtain full copy of every audit, review the audit outcomes to establish that risks are effectively identified and managed; and ensure that corrective actions requested by the auditor are resolved in a timely manner.

  1. Supplier Specifications

To ensure consistency of the items you are using in your restaurant, specification is required for most items.

The specification should include the chemical, physical, and biological parameters the supplier has promised to comply with to ensure the item is safe. The specification should also contain a full ingredient list of the product, including the presence or otherwise of any allergens. This is essential to enable rapid investigation of the presence of a particular ingredient of concern that may be subject of a wider recall.

  1. Supplier Performance

Supplier audit is merely a point-in-time assessment, and may or may not reflect the typical week-to-week performance of a given supplier. Be sure to include conformance to specifications, the number and rate of corrective actions and timely responses to measure performance. The best industry practice is to keep your dialogue and communication with the suppliers – – fact based; transparently providing comments to the supplier on their actual performance.

  1. Risk Assessment and Preventative Controls

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is used on a voluntary basis by few operators, though not currently required. The HACCP process identifies all hazards that may exist and clarifies the point at which the hazard can be managed or controlled. This process prevents the hazard: a) from entering the food, b) eliminating it in product, or c) reducing it to acceptable levels.

FSMA’s requires for the supplier to identify particular hazard, if not controlled by their process. In this case, they must advise users of their non-compliance in writing.

Restaurants must acknowledge that items such as raw meats, fresh produce, and many other items contain hazards, and take on the responsibility for controlling specific hazard. Implement HACCP (if possible) to ensure that the hazard is effectively controlled.

  1. Validate | Monitor | Document |

The validation step determines that the control measures put in place are scientifically sound and will control the identified hazard. Managers and team members are required to “monitor” the control measures to ensure the hazard is eliminated/controlled.

The best way to verify a restaurant’s plan is being followed is to document the evidence. One can also include a review of the execution and evidence for corrective actions being taken when control measures are out of compliance. Verification is providing proof that you are doing what you said you needed to.

  1. Corrective Actions

Organize workflow, take prompt and timely corrective action when something fails and always follow-up. Documentation of all the required communication of the details between the parties is very important. Train and re-train as necessary.

  1. Documentation

An arduous food safety management system ensures that everything is documented—a challenging task in today’s dynamic work environment because of pressure on new product development, constant change in the supplier world, pressure on value engineering, and staff turnover. For documentation to be truly effective, each element of data needs to be dated, and each action must be trackable. Thankfully, technology has changed, and in this cloud-based computing age and with the right software, data can be available to anyone who is authorized, from any device, at any time and from any location.

  1. Complaints and Social Media

While employee empowerment is a great approach to resolve complaints at the point of receipt, there must also be an entrenched process of identifying and resolving common causes. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) being used by the masses – can’t be ignored and must be effectively monitored and managed.

  1. Professional FTE

One must have a food safety professional on staff – company’s growth and future plans must include a FTE, if not already! Consultants can help and assist you and your team as well – but there are limitations to this.

In short: Almost 60% of all food borne illnesses in the US is caused by food consumed from a food service facility, the business must take every possible step to ensure brand protection and that all food served is safe to eat.

Image: via leewoof.org