Category Archives: Blog

How to Prepare a New Cleaning Tool for Use

New cleaning tools—especially those sealed in plastic pouches like the ones from Vikan and Remco—often look like they’re ready for use right out of the bag. It’s easy to assume these tools can start sweeping, mopping, and brushing right away, however, as most in the food industry know, looking clean isn’t the same as actually being clean. Here are a few steps that must be taken to ensure all new tools are ready for use in food production plants:
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What are Documents of Compliance in Food Processing?

Food contact surfaces like cleaning and material handling tools must comply with the FDA’s rules about what they can contain and how they must be designed. FDA CFR21 110 Subpart C, states that “Food-contact surfaces shall be corrosion-resistant when in contact with food. They shall be made of nontoxic materials and designed to withstand the environment of their intended use and the action of food, and, if applicable, cleaning compounds and sanitizing agents.”

There currently isn’t an obligation to test finished products to comply with FDA regulations, however, it is a generally accepted practice to provide documents that show the base materials of food contact tools are FDA compliant.

But, companies that trade with Europe must follow a much stricter set of documentation laws. According to Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 and Regulation (EU) No 10/2011, each food contact material (FCM) needs to undergo migration testing and be declared safe for food use.
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New-Employee-Proof Your Safety Plan with Color Coding

In the food processing industry, like many factory-based jobs, employee turnover is high. When you’re seeing a turnover rate of about 35% yearly, how do you train your staff to follow important safety plans? When you’re in an industry where a simple mistake by a single employee could result in thousands of people getting sick, how do you ensure HACCP compliance?

For many, color coding has become the easiest answer. Color coding offers a simple solution to an otherwise complex problem. Even the newest employee can quickly learn that red products belong with the raw product, and white goes with the finished.

Here are our top 5 tips to using color coding to ensure all of your employees follow CGMPs.

  1. Set up cleaning stations

    Cleaning stations serve as a visual reminder that everything has its place. Put a sign over a station filled with blue tools to remind everyone that those tools are used to clean floors in the packing area, and another sign over a pink wall bracket to tell employees that those tools are used in receiving. Cleaning stations also remind employees to hang tools back up once they’ve been cleaned.

  2. Continue reading New-Employee-Proof Your Safety Plan with Color Coding

The Differences Between Non-Sparking and Anti-Static Tools

Non-sparking and anti-static tools both have a common purpose—preventing fires or explosions in production facilities where flammable materials present a concern. However, they each are designed to prevent specific dangers, and shouldn’t be confused. Non-sparking tools are characterized by their lack of ferrous metals (steel and iron), which means they don’t cause sparks that could ignite under the right conditions.

Anti-static tools are carefully designed to work within a system of grounding equipment to prevent static electricity from building to the point it could damage electronics or provide enough of a charge to start a fire or explosion.

However, being non-sparking doesn’t mean a tool can’t also be anti-static. When properly grounded, a non-sparking tool can also prevent electrostatic discharge.

When are non-sparking tools needed?

Non-sparking tools are important for use in a facility that may have an explosive atmosphere or any reason to be especially concerned about the possibility of sparks causing a fire or an explosion. This typically concerns production facilities that contain flammable gas, mists, dusts, or liquids. Non-flammable tools are often used in oil refineries, paper companies, and ammunitions plants. Food processing facilities that use powdered milk, egg whites, cornstarch, grain, flour, or cornstarch may also use non-sparking tools since these can all create combustible dust hazards.

What are non-sparking tools?

Non-sparking tools are, essentially, those that don’t contain ferrous metals. Ferrous metals include steel and iron, in all of their different iterations. Items that are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron or wrought iron all have the possibility of producing a spark.

Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, brass, silver, and lead. They’re not the only materials that non-sparking tools are made out of, though.
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3 Surprises from the 2016 Food Manufacturer Survey

Food Engineering Magazine’s annual State of Manufacturing Survey is here, and it shows the industry has a lot of room for growth, despite taking some extremely positive steps last year. In this year’s survey, 72% of respondents reported that they have a food safety management system in place, and 69% report having a recall plan.

2016 Food Safety Methods
Chart courtesy of Food Engineering Magazine

Though having a food safety management system in place isn’t the same as being FSMA-ready, in 2014, only 38% of those surveyed said they followed FSMA recommendations, and in 2015, manufacturers reported 41% compliance.

GFSI Adoption and Food Safety Management Systems Grow

As FSMA has begun to take effect this year, more plants are adopting Global Food Safety Initiative programs like BRC, SQF 2000 and FSSC 2200. Plants are following these schemes, which all include an audit protocol, to ensure they’re ready for the possibility of an audit by the FDA, as well as to ensure they’re following current best practices. These programs often include measures like color coding facilities to minimize cross-contamination and using durable tools that are less likely to contribute to foreign body contamination.
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What you need to know about FSMA: Part 1

If you are in the food industry and have had your eyes and ears open, then most likely you have heard the word FSMA being thrown around… a lot. However, some people might find themselves unfamiliar with the term or have limited knowledge of it, so in this entry, we are going to cover some general information regarding FSMA and in upcoming blogs, we will go into further detail about each proposed rule issued by the FDA that supports this legislation.

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The people, pathogens, and food of today are not those of the past. Our population is living longer and with problems that make them more susceptible to foodborne illness complications. Pathogens are evolving and becoming more adaptable and harder to kill. Our food is traveling more than it ever has. For example, the FDA states that 15% of the food we eat is imported. A total 75% of our seafood, 20% of our vegetables, and 50% of our fruit is imported. However, one thing has not changed and that is the threat that foodborne illness presents to the food industry and its consumers. Continue reading What you need to know about FSMA: Part 1

Using Color-Coding for Food Safety and Organization

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of consulting with food processors to build and improve color-coding systems in their facilities. Color-coding can be approached in a variety of ways and works well with a number of related programs. One such program is a lean manufacturing practice called 5S, which I encountered often in a previous position working in the steel industry.

I’m starting to see 5S used more often in food processing. Although I am not an expert in this system developed by the Japanese, I do know that the 5 S’s are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The aim is to eliminate waste, keep workspaces organized, and develop procedures that are consistently easy to follow. I can see why this set of guidelines is appealing to food processors. An organized processing facility is agreeable with inspection authorities, because it demonstrates that a food safety procedure is defined and in practice.

Color-coding for food safety

Color-coding is also commonly applied in conjunction with written food safety plans and HACCP programs to further enhance food safety. The purpose of HACCP and the CGMP regulations laid out in 21 CFR 110 is to identify and control hazards that could potentially impact the safety of food. Cleaning and food contact tools can potentially transfer hazards like pathogens and allergens throughout the facility, so it may be important to keep certain tools in designated areas. Color-coding supports this objective by clearly identifying where tools belong or what task they are designated to perform.
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Food Contact Tool Storage Best Practices

In many of my visits to food production plants, I see outstanding food safety procedures that can be shared as best practices. One of the easiest and most beneficial best practices to adopt is proper storage of food contact and cleaning tools. Selecting the right tools for specific tasks can mean a significant investment of time and other resources. A good storage plan for those tools will help to protect that investment and enhance food safety efforts.

Wall with Full Red Bracket color-coded food contact toolsThe way a food contact or cleaning tool is stored is almost as important as the tool itself. Implementing a hygienic tool storage system takes some time and effort, but will also provide many benefits once set up correctly. These benefits include better organization, prolonged life of tools, and maintaining the sanitary conditions of tools.

From an organizational perspective, having a storage plan ensures that tools are where you need them, when you need them. Production line supervisors are able to check defined tool locations at the conclusion of each shift. Showing a visual representation of the tools designated for the area enables each supervisor to quickly verify if tools are missing and identify the correct part number for any tools that need to be reordered. Also, tools go missing less often when a storage plan is specified.
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Being a Food Safety-Minded Consumer

As a consumer with a passion for food and cooking, I know a thing or two about food safety in the kitchen. In my time at Remco, I’ve learned a lot more and have become acutely aware of all the considerations for the safety of our food as it moves from farm to fork. I am amazed at how much food safety professionals need to know in order to perform their daunting jobs.

Lettuce greens and food safetyI try to be aware of basic food safety guidelines in my kitchen. I use a meat thermometer to be sure the food is within the safe range, but also because I prefer not to overcook it. I avoid the cans with dents at the grocery, because the good ones stack better in the pantry—but also because some dents may compromise the integrity of the product. I clean my grill tools before flipping food if they’ve come into contact with raw meat, and I always use a fresh plate to bring food back inside.

Now that I’ve worked closely within the food industry for over three years, I’m starting to think a little differently about my own food safety. My new awareness goes beyond my own kitchen. Lately, I’ve started to wonder about the food safety efforts at the facilities that produce the food I buy. And I’ll tell you, when I hear about a producer going above and beyond for food safety, it sticks with me.

A great example is Earthbound Farms—a California salad greens grower and packager. I read recently that they are BRC validated, which requires very rigorous third-party audits. As a consumer, the fact that they have pursued food safety validations above and beyond requirements tells me that they really care about the safety of their consumers. And they are very transparent about their food safety program. They’ve gained a loyal consumer in me.

With that being said, food safety in my kitchen now starts with getting to know a little bit more about where my food comes from—not just the temperature it arrives at when I’m done cooking it. I now seek information about the food safety programs of producers I purchase from, and I’m willing to spend a bit more if I know that they are diligent in their efforts.

Remco at Process EXPO 2013

At Remco, we’re gearing up to exhibit at Process EXPO 2013 on November 3-6 at McCormick Place in Chicago. We’ve been through this drill a few times in the past 28 years, but this time is going to be a little different. That’s because Remco has evolved—drastically—in the last year. And we’re ready to show off the results of that evolution in a couple short weeks at Process EXPO. You’ll find us in a shiny, new, redesigned and interactive display at booth #5245.

Remco booth sneak peekProcess EXPO aims to bring you the latest innovations and solutions to critical issues. Remco and Vikan have planned a show strategy that highlights the innovations and solutions we offer. We’ll also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our partnership. Possibly the biggest innovation we have to offer is our mutually realigned focus on adding value to the food safety efforts of food processors. As complex as food safety is, Remco and Vikan can provide plenty of support above and beyond offering high-quality cleaning and material handling tools.

As far as innovations you’ll see at Process EXPO, we can name a few. Not only will Remco unveil an interactive new display that will allow you to test out products from Remco and Vikan, but we’ll also offer live demonstrations of Vikan’s new Hygienic Zone Planner Application for the iPad. This innovative app makes quick work of building custom color-coding programs. You’ll definitely want to see the new app in action—there’s nothing else out there like it.

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