Listeria’s Most Common Hideouts and How to Minimize its Risk of Spreading

This is adapted from an article from Vikan. Find the original here

Listeria is a very common bacterium that adapts well in many environments. It is found in soil, water, animal guts, and on raw foods, and it can easily be introduced into and spread throughout food production facilities.

Listeria can form biofilms that help them attach to the surface of floors, drains, and equipment – making them more difficult to remove during cleaning and protecting them from drought, heat, and standard cleaning and disinfection chemicals. Listeria biofilm is often the source of food product cross-contamination.

Additionally, Listeria can grow in cold environments and can survive freezing temperatures. These conditions are often used to control microbial growth, but for Listeria they serve only to restrict the growth of its competitors. This means that refrigerated and frozen foods still are at risk. Most ready-to-eat food processing environments are chilled and provide the nutrients and moisture required for Listeria growth. So, there’s good reason for being concerned about Listeria contamination if you produce ready-to-eat, chilled food.

Floors

Floors that are made of inappropriate materials or that have been installed poorly can lead to static water pools, water trap points, or water absorption. Badly constructed or poorly sealed wall-to-floor or drain-to-floor joints often lead to water becoming trapped, as can poorly maintained and damaged floors with cracks, holes, or gaps. All these situations can lead to Listeria colonization. Consequently, the appropriate selection, installation, and maintenance of your production floor are very important for Listeria control.

Drains

If Listeria is present in your food production facility, it will most likely be found in your drains. Drains act as collection points for most of the Listeria-contaminated water on site, and then provide the nutrients and moisture required for Listeria to grow.

Even though cleaning drains is an unpleasant and complex task, it is critical for Listeria control. Dirty drains can be a source of Listeria contamination, and flooded drains can spread listeria via pools of contaminated water on the floor. Drains should (if possible) only be cleaned during production downtime to avoid spreading listeria particles. You should also give aerosols time to settle before rinsing and disinfecting your food contact surfaces. You should use specific drain-cleaning equipment to keep contamination from spreading. Many facilities use black handles to denote that a brush should only be used on floor and drains.

Select, install, and maintain your drainage systems to eliminate the chances of standing water and water backups. Hygienically designed drainage systems are much easier to clean and maintain, and they minimize the risk of microbial growth.

Processing equipment

Like floors and drains, hard-to-clean areas on and inside food processing equipment can allow for water accumulation and contamination, which can then lead to Listeria colonization and growth.

To minimize the risk, it’s essential to use hygienically designed processing equipment, which is easy to clean and made of suitable materials that are safe for food contact.

The frequency of cleaning and disinfection should be based on a risk assessment, but for equipment used to process chilled ready-to-eat foods, it should most likely be at least once a day.

Daily cleaning should be supplemented with regular equipment strip-downs and deep cleaning to ensure that areas that are difficult to reach during daily cleaning are controlled. Again, the frequency of deep cleaning should be based on a risk assessment.

During cleaning and disinfection, pay attention to hard-to-reach areas on the equipment. These are the areas where Listeria is more likely to be present, especially if an area is wet. These areas can include poorly drained open equipment frameworks, niches, hollow unsealed rollers, poor welds, spaces inside slicing machines, and areas under covers and guards.

Equipment lubricants and moisture traps on compressed air lines can also become a source of Listeria contamination and should be changed and checked regularly to minimize this risk.

Cleaning equipment

Cleaning equipment can be a major source of Listeria contamination – with surveys showing that up to 47 percent of cleaning equipment in food-processing areas tests positive for Listeria (Campden BRI, 1990).

To prevent Listeria contamination, there are two important factors to consider for your cleaning equipment: hygienic design and proper maintenance.

Your cleaning equipment should be of appropriate hygienic design to facilitate easy cleaning and prevent microbial growth. Hygienic design features include smooth surfaces, one-piece construction, easy dismantling (if it’s not one-piece), and a lack of crevices and coatings.

In addition to using hygienically designed tools, it is very important to maintain your cleaning equipment properly. All tools should be replaced, cleaned and/or disinfected regularly after use and stored correctly on suitable wall brackets or shadow boards. It is also essential to use color-coded tools, and to segregate tools used to clean floors from those used for food contact surface cleaning.

How to avoid Listeria contamination from floors and drains

Listeria can be transferred from contaminated floors and drains to other food production areas – and to food itself – in several ways. These include footwear, equipment, and trolley wheels, as well as cleaning equipment. The best way to avoid Listeria contamination from your floors and drains is to clean and disinfect them regularly. Remember to clean floor and drains in a way that minimizes the possible contamination of other surfaces in the room. The use of high-pressure hoses or mechanical scrubbing will increase the risk of Listeria aerosolization, where the bacteria spread through the air into other areas and onto equipment, food, and food contact surfaces. Instead, use dedicated color-coded manual cleaning tools for floor and drain cleaning. Tools used to clean floors should have a different color from those used to clean drains and from those used to clean food contact surfaces.

Chillers, freezers and air-handling systems

As mentioned above, Listeria can survive at very low temperatures – even as low as 23° Fahrenheit (or -5° Celsius). Chillers and freezers are cold and wet, and Listeria faces less competition from other microorganisms in these environments, making them perfect Listeria hideouts.

It is essential to keep the evaporation plates and fans in chillers and freezers clean and disinfected at all times. Condensation from cooling systems should be directed to the drains or to drip pans, which should be emptied, cleaned, and disinfected regularly. Never allow products to pass underneath a cooling or freezing system.

In many air-handling systems, there are also evaporators that need to be cleaned. Moreover, it is critical to prevent condensation – and subsequent water buildup – in your air-handling systems.

To download the original article from Vikan, written by Stine Vislev, click below.

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The Food Code Gets a Boost at the 2018 Conference for Food Protection

Remco, as an industry support member, is proud to have sponsored and participated in the 2018 Conference for Food Protection (CFP) Biennial Meeting that took place from April 16-20 in Richmond, Virginia. The event was well-attended by over 360 members from industry, regulatory, academia, consumer and professional organizations, who mainly deliberated on the significant changes required in the U.S. FDA’s Food Code.

The Food Code is a guidance document that helps state, local, territorial, and tribal regulators to model their own food safety rules on a national policy basis, and also, to be able to provide scientific and technical basis for regulating the retail and food service industries such as restaurants, grocery stores, and nursing homes. The current 2017 Food Code version is available on FDA’s site at: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/ucm595139.htm.

The following councils were formed, in which members collectively discussed the important Food Code and various committee issues.

Council I: Laws and Regulations – Some important issues discussed were on:

  • Clean-in-Place (CIP)
  • Biofilms
  • Food Equipment Certification Standards
  • HACCP Plan

Council II: Administration, Education, and Certification – Key issues deliberated were on:

  • Employee Food Safety Training
  • Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (VNRFRPS)
  • Food Allergens Training

Council III: Science and Technology – Important aspects covered were on:

  • Safety of Mail-Order Foods
  • Safe Cooking of Rotisserie Chicken
  • Handwashing Compliance Requirements

The meeting also hosted regulatory officials from the FDA CFSAN (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition), USDA-FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service), and the CDC, who provided important food safety updates. There was also an interactive workshop study and a networking event at the Science Museum of Virginia included within the conference program. Overall, this event was a great opportunity for the food industry to understand and get involved in understanding and developing the policies and recommendations that strengthen our national food safety system.

The 2020 Biennial CFP conference venue will be at Denver, Colorado. More details are available at the CFP site: www.foodprotect.org.

AFDO Journeys Toward the Integrated Food Safety System Vision

Food safety took top priority at AFDO 2017

As an AFDO industry member, Remco Products Corporation is proud to have participated in the 121st Association of Food and Drug Officials Conference this June. Over 400 members from federal, state, and local agencies, as well as members of industry groups, trade associations, consumer organizations, and academia, made the trip to Houston for the recent conference.

AFDO has, over time, become a recognized voice in promoting uniform, simplified, and efficient laws, regulations and guidelines related to food safety and public health. Their humble beginning predates the existence of the FDA by 10 years when in 1896, two state commissioners from Michigan and Ohio met in Toledo to discuss the difficulties of manufacturing food in one state and shipping it to another, where the same product may not have complied with the local statutory regulations.

The push for states to collaborate and come to a mutually acceptable solution eventually resulted in a streamlined regulatory solution across the states. With time, AFDO became a forerunner in publishing model codes and guidance for various foods, which have been used to formulate aligned state regulations. The defining moment arrived in 1998, when AFDO was the first to offer a vision of a national Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS) that would empower state and local authorities to collaborate effectively with their federal counterparts. The crowning glory came with the passage of FSMA in 2011, which shifted the FDA’s focus from the reactive to the preventive mode of addressing food safety risks, which also mandated the adoption of IFSS across the food supply network.

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How is HARPC Different From HACCP?

How is HARPC Different From HACCP

HACCP and HARPC share more than just four letters. They’re both food safety standards based on prevention, but they do differ on execution. Their differences and their similarities aren’t as important as the way they fit together for most food processors, though. A HARPC plan shouldn’t be considered as a replacement, but as a necessary upgrade to the conventional HACCP plan. Understanding how the systems fit together is the first step toward implementing both.

HACCP

HARPC

(1) Is the preventative approach based on a standard, guideline or a set of laws?
Based on a guideline recommended by CODEX and NACMCF Based on FSMA act and principally, the Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food
(2) What food safety risks are considered using the preventative approach?
Conventional – Biological, Chemical, and Physical Beyond the conventional risks for actual and potential food safety hazards
(3) What is the goal of the preventative approach?
To prevent, eliminate (or) reduce hazards to a safe level (in that priority) Preventive controls that prevent or significantly minimize “known or reasonably foreseeable” risks
(4) Who is primarily responsible for the development and maintenance of the preventive plan?
Primarily, a competent HACCP coordinator with assistance from multidisciplinary team Trained Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) as described in the FSMA Act
(5) At what frequency is the preventive plan being reviewed by the facility?
At least once a year, or when required At least once in 3 years, or when required
(6) The plan is mandatory for what type of establishments?
For FDA and USDA mandated establishments, or when required for certification purposes For all establishments along the food supply chain that serve U.S. consumers, unless exempted
(7) The plan is excluded or exempted for what type of establishments?
Unless mandated or required for certification, HACCP is voluntary, and GMPs are mandatory Exemption list is provided by FDA, but this does not exempt facilities from following at least CGMPs
(8) Who is the interested party here? For whom is the plan for?
Stakeholders: auditors, inspectors, and customers The FDA
(9) What is the documented approach for making the preventive plan?
12 Steps of HACCP (includes 7 Principles) 7 Steps of Developing a HARPC Plan

HARPC as an Upgrade to HACCP

HACCP, or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, is already widely used due to requirements from retailers, auditing standards, and inspectors, though the USDA and the FDA only mandate it for meat, seafood, and juice products. As a global standard conceptualized the 1960s, HACCP has been continually developed and updated. HACCP requires a multi-disciplinary team for implementation and follows prescriptive steps.

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FDA Final Rule on the Sanitary Transportation of Food Compliance Gains Momentum

 

The FDA’s final rule on the sanitary transportation of food went into effect June 6, 2016. Though larger carriers, shippers, and receivers should have their compliance plans in place, smaller companies (fewer than 500 employees and less than $27.5 million in annual receipts) still have two years from the rule publication date to comply with the requirements.

This final rule—the sixth of seven rulemakings for FSMA—was based on a combination of the Sanitary Transportation of Food Act of 2005 and about 240 submissions from transportation companies, food safety organizations, consumer advocacy groups, and more.

The rulemaking has been proposed to ensure:

  1. Proper refrigeration during transportation of foods that require it;
  2. That vehicles and food storage are adequately cleaned and sanitized; and
  3. That there is adequate protection for food during transport.

Waivers have been proposed to exempt carriers, shippers, and receivers who hold valid permits and are inspected under National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) Grade ‘‘A’’ Milk Safety Program only when they’re shipping Grade A milk and milk products. The exemption should also apply to retail and food service operations that hold valid permits only when they are engaged in transportation operations as receivers, or as shippers and carriers in operations in which food is relinquished to consumers after transportation from the establishment.

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FDA Inspection Checklist

Remco Products presents Food Industry Counsel’s FDA Inspection Checklist as a part of our commitment to bringing our audience the best information in the food industry. We don’t endorse any legal services or provide legal advice. For legal services or advice, please consult your attorney.  You can also contact Shawn Stevens, the author of this post, at stevens@foodindustrycounsel.com.

What to do Before, During and After Your Next FDA Inspection

Food Industry Counsel, LLC is pleased to provide you with the most comprehensive and useful FDA Inspection Checklist available. With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given the mission of overhauling the safety of the nation’s food supply. The new FSMA regulations written by FDA are now coming into effect, and the agency is now aggressively enforcing its new rules during routine inspections. Within the coming years, FDA Investigators will conduct an onsite inspection of every food facility in the U.S.

Here are FDA’s new enforcement priorities during routine unannounced inspections:

(1) To carefully critique each company’s written food safety programs and verification records to ensure they are compliant with the new FSMA requirements;

(2) To conduct extensive Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3 and Zone 4 microbiological sampling inside all food facilities to find evidence of pathogenic contamination;

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How to Prepare a New Cleaning Tool for Use

Color-coded grout brush

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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