Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: A Focus on Sanitation, Hygiene and Material Handling Requirements

The CFIA enforces the Safe Food for Canadians regulations to establish a modern legislative framework that is aligned with internationally recognized standards. The regulations fit well with the Codex Alimentarius Principles for food safety, as well as key consumer protection requirements. Through this, Canadian businesses, importers and exporters are mandated to meet the relevant licensing, preventive controls, and traceability requirements.

 Outline of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 1 in 8 (or about 4 million) Canadians are affected by foodborne diseases annually that lead to over 11,500 hospitalizations and 240 deaths. Acute bacterial foodborne illnesses alone are known to cost the economy close to $ 1.1 billion a year. As a result, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found it necessary to adopt a more preventive, streamlined, and modernized approach toward food safety in the interest of protecting public health – and, with this in mind, the Safe Food for Canadians Act was enacted into law on November 2012. This important piece of legislation allowed the CFIA to develop administration provisions for implementing the new food safety policies in the form of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

The SFCR requirements were published on June 13, 2018, and came into force on 15 January 2019. The scope of these regulations generally applies to food businesses that:

  • manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package, or label food to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • grow or harvest fresh fruits or vegetables to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • handle fish on a conveyance to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • slaughter food animals from which meat products are derived to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • store and handle a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA
  • import food; and
  • some of the traceability, labelling, and advertising provisions of SFCR also apply to intra-provincially traded foods.

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations is a legal document comprising of 16 parts, which has been developed so that the following parties can benefit from the administrative provisions:

Consumers

  • The emphasis on developing a robust food safety system that facilitates the prevention of foodborne illness, and faster removal of an adulterated product from commerce.
  • Enhanced traceability, labeling, and grading requirements to assure consumer protection.
  • Improved import controls that ensure foreign food products are as safe and wholesome.

Regulatory authorities

  • SFCR combines and streamlines the provisions relating to food from about 14 sets of regulations into one document, therefore creating a consistent, outcome-based regulatory inspection regime framework. The new consolidated regulations shall replace the following administrative provisions:
    • Dairy products regulations;
    • Egg regulations;
    • Fresh fruit and vegetable regulations;
    • Honey regulations;
    • Ice-wine regulations;
    • Licensing and arbitration regulations;
    • Livestock and poultry carcass grading regulations;
    • Organic products regulations;
    • Maple products regulations;
    • Processed egg regulations;
    • Processed products regulations;
    • Consumer packaging and labelling regulations;
    • Fish inspection regulations; and
    • Meat inspection regulations.
  • CFIA’s inspection and enforcement powers are clarified and this reduces the administrative burden, which would allow the agency to make more inspections, and enhance food safety compliance at the licensed sites.

Industry stakeholders

  • The SFCR simplifies the compliance process, and this enables industry to innovate through its outcome-based provisions, adopt best practices and create greater market access opportunities for the Canadian food products exported abroad.
  • The new regulations improve consistency of rules across all types of foods, and between food industry sectors.

Importers

  • The new consolidated regulations include a requirement that imported food be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada.
  • All imported food now must meet applicable Canadian import requirements. Previously, only importers of some foods were required to be licensed and have preventive food safety controls in place. Hence, SFCR provides for a consistent approach across all types of imported foods.

Exporters

  • The SFCR requirements are consistent with international standards and this should help Canadian businesses maintain and improve market access for Canada’s food sector by aligning Canadian food safety regulations with those of key trading partners, including the U.S., European Union, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Based on the U.S.-Canada Comparable Food Safety System Recognition agreement, by acquiring an SFCR license, Canadian food businesses may demonstrate that they meet the requirements under the U.S. Foreign Supplier Verification Program so that they can continue trading with the United States.

In this white paper, we will provide a few examples of how our tools and solutions can assist in complying with sanitation, material handling, and hygiene requirements of the Part 4 or Preventive Control elements of SFCR, as given in the next section.

Preventive Controls – Focus on the Sanitation, Hygiene and Material Handling Requirements

In the new Canadian regulations, prevention of food safety hazards has been given a much greater importance. Such a measure should go a long way in helping avoid or significantly minimize foodborne illnesses, inspectional violations at sites, and market food recalls.

In the U.S. and Canada, one in three food recalls are generally related to sanitation, hygiene and material flow issues within a food processing facility. A significant proportion of these recalls can be avoided by instituting appropriate preventive controls to help reduce food contamination incidents in a plant. Based on industry estimates, having the facility, equipment, utensils, and tools be of sanitary condition could save a company $0.5-1.5 million annually in actual costs of product rejection, recalls, and associated expenses.

According to SFCR, Preventive controls “help to prevent food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market, whether they are prepared within or outside of Canada.” They are considered to be international best practices employed by businesses to identify and correct food safety issues early in the production process.

Preventive Controls (PCs) are generally classified into three of the following broad categories:

1. People-related PCs:

  • Management team commitment
  • Employee competence
  • Employee hygiene
  • Employee health

2. Facility-related PCs:

  • Unloading (receiving), storing (holding), and loading (shipping) food
  • Maintenance and operations of establishments
  • Equipment, tools, and utensils maintenance and flow
  • Sanitation and pest control
  • Treatments and processes, such as cooking or packaging

3. Procedures-related PCs:

  • Complaints receipt, investigations, and response
  • Market withdrawal and recall

Note – Part 4 [on Preventive Controls] of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations contains the majority of the food safety provisions.

Also, most businesses need to document their food safety controls in a Preventive Control Plan (PCP), which must include the following elements, as illustrated:

Preventive Control Plan

GMPs or Basic Preventive Controls:

Part 4 of SFCR on Preventive Controls

Division 4: Maintenance and Operation of Establishment

Sections 50-81 (Subdivisions A-G)

Food Safety PCP:

5 Preliminary Steps for Developing a HACCP Plan

+

The 7 Codex Alimentarius Principles

Market Fairness PCP:

– Labelling

– Packaging; Net Quantity

– Grading

– Standards of Identity

– Humane Treatment of Food Animals

– Import/Export Provisions

 

In a nutshell, a written PCP must describe the risks to food (and if applicable, food animals) that need to be identified and controlled. The GMPs and other food safety controls are based on internationally recognized Codex Alimentarius Guidelines. The PCP must also include market-based measures related to packaging, labelling, grades, and standards of identity, etc.

Remember, certain businesses may be exempt from having a written PCP. These are:

  • exporters of food (other than meat products or fish) who do not need an export certificate
  • businesses with $100,000 or less in gross annual food sales. This exception will not apply to businesses that conduct any activity in respect to food animals, meat products, dairy products, fish, eggs, processed egg products, or processed fruits and vegetables

Keep in mind, though, that businesses that do not require a written preventive control plan still must have preventive controls in place, such as sanitation and pest control etc.

Remco can provide high quality tools and solutions to help comply with the relevant sanitary requirements of SFCR, especially as preventive controls, and the following sections in Subdivisions from Division 4 on “Maintenance and Operation of the Establishment”:

Subdivision B on “Sanitation, Pest Control, and Non-Food Agents” requires that sanitation and handling of the materials must be conducted in a manner that does not present a risk of contamination to the food.

Remco provides a range of color-coded cleaning tools for use on product-contact surfaces such as process equipment, and non-food contact areas like floors, or drains. Moreover, color-coded scoops can be used to handle allergens and avoid potential mix-up.

 

Subdivision C on “Conveyances and Equipment” states that such units must be designed, constructed, and maintained in a way to prevent contamination.

Cleaning implements of poor design could jeopardize food safety and quality as they can be a major collection point for pathogens and other contaminants. Vikan’s Ultra Safe Technology brushes and brooms and Ultra Hygiene squeegees are hygienically designed to provide a superior cleaning solution. They are also constructed of Canadian, E.U., and U.S. regulations-compliant material.

Subdivision D on “Conditions Respecting Establishments” requires that the exterior and interior of the food facility be maintained to prevent or control sources of contamination and also permit hygienic employee practices.

Remco and Vikan can provide a range of sanitation, hygiene, and material handling tools and equipment that can be effectively used to help avoid or significantly minimize allergen cross-contact and contamination incidences within the facility. To view our product range, visit our site at https://remcoproducts.com/products/.

Subdivision E on “Unloading, Loading, and Storing” states that the receiving and shipping operations shall be conducted in a way that does not contaminate the food. It also requires that the food, its ingredients, packaging and labels to protected from contamination during storage.

Our tubs (with undercarriage attachment) come in 5 different colors. Also, we have a range of 12 colors to choose from for 35 of our most popular products. This feature supports a facility’s hygienic zoning program.

Subdivision G on Hygiene” requires that appropriate protective clothing shall be worn when handling food.

Remco can provide high quality color-coded garments such as aprons, gowns, and sleeves, which are an effective hygienic wear for food handlers.

Key Comparisons between Canada’s SFCR and U.S. FSMA

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations requirements are closely aligned with those of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). However, there are a few differences in their regulatory approach towards licensing, preventive controls, and documentation requirements.

The table below provides a comparison between the North American and Canadian regulatory regimes based on some of the key elements:

 

FSMA

SFCR

 

Regulatory Agency

 

 

FDA

 

CFIA

 

Licensing

Biennial FDA License under the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002

Biennial CFIA License under the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations

Key Food Act and Regulations amended (and yet, still in place)

Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and related Code(s) of Federal Regulations (CFRs)

Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drugs Regulations

 

Primary Reference(s) for Regulatory Compliance

The seven FSMA Final Rules; the most important rule being Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF)

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SOR/2018-108) legal document

 

 

Regulatory Scope

 

Federal jurisdiction; Qualified facilities involved in interstate commerce and international trade

 Food businesses involved in inter-provincial and global trade. Some provisions, like labelling, apply also to businesses dealing with intra-provincial trade

 

Key Basis for GMPs (for the processing of human food)

 

The Modernized GMPs under the 21 CFR 117

GMPs (Sections 50-81) listed under Part 4 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations on Preventive Controls

 

Food Safety Plan

Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) Plan

Codex Alimentarius based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plan

 

Preventive Controls (PCs)

Process PC; Sanitation PC, Allergen PC; Supply-Chain PC; Recall Plan; Other PCs appropriate for food safety

Pre-requisites or GMPS; Food safety based Preventive Control Plan (HACCP); Market Fairness PCPs

 

 

Traceability

 

 

One-step forward to the customers, one-step back to the immediate supplier

One-step forward, one-step back. Persons who sell food at retail are required to trace the food back to the immediate supplier, but not trace forward to the consumer

 

The Key Difference

FSMA Rules are related only to the mandated food safety requirements along the supply chain

Canadian Regulations additionally have non-food safety elements i.e. the Market Fairness PCPs

Key SFCR highlights

Here are some essential tips to assist businesses on how to comply with the SFCR requirements:

  1. Revisit the SFCR exemption list: Find out whether your company is required to comply with the SFCR requirements. The Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and SFCR do not apply to the following businesses:
  • food for personal use, when food is not intended for commercial use, and:
  • the quantity of food falls within the stipulated Maximum Quantity Limits for Personal Use Exemption, and
  • the food is imported, exported, sent, or conveyed from one province to another by an individual other than in the course of business, or
  • the food is imported or exported as part of the personal effects of an immigrant or emigrant
  • food carried on a conveyance, e.g. ferries, airlines, trains, for use by crew and passengers
  • food intended and used for analysis, evaluation, research, or exhibitions, weighing 100 kg or less, or in the case of eggs, is part of a shipment of five or fewer cases
  • food not sold for use as human food (for example pet food, cosmetics), and that are labelled as such
  • foods imported from the United States onto the Akwesasne reserve, for use by a permanent resident of the reserve
  • foods imported in bond (in transit) for use by crew and passengers of a cruise ship or military ship in Canada
  • food inter-provincially traded between federal penitentiaries
  • when transporting a food commodity, if that is the sole of activity of a person

Note: Despite being exempted, such food must still be safe and meet the applicable requirements of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

 

2. Find out if your business requires an SFCR License: Eligible businesses must apply for an SFCR license that meet their specific requirements. A license is valid for 2 years. As an evaluation aid, use the Licensing Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/SFCR_licence/?&lang=en

3. Evaluate if you need to have a Preventive Control Plan (PCP): These contain majority of the food safety requirements, and also consumer protection related sections. A written Preventive Controls Plan (PCP) is required for most businesses with CDN $100,000 in gross sales. As an evaluation aid to determine whether your business requires a PCP, use the Preventive Control Plan (PCP) Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/SFCR_PCP/?&lang=en.

4. See if you have to meet any other food-specific preventive controls: There may be additional commodity-related food-safety and/or market fairness controls associated with –

  • Dairy products
  • Egg and processed egg products
  • Fish
  • Fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Honey
  • Maple
  • Meat products
  • Processed fruit or vegetable products

For more information on “food-specific preventive controls,” check out the CFIA link at: http://inspection.gc.ca/food/requirements-and-guidance/preventive-controls-food-businesses/eng/1526472289805/1526472290070.

5. Check if you comply with the traceability requirements: Almost all food businesses must track their food products, materials, and ingredients along the supply chain, at least, one-step forward to the person to whom the food was provided, and one-step backward to the immediate supplier. Comprehensive and complete traceability documentation and records must be kept for at least 2 years. As an evaluation aid, use the Traceability Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/traceability/?&lang=en.

6. Become aware of the SFCR compliance timelines for your business: Though some requirements were to be met immediately by Jan. 15, 2019, others are being phased in over a period of 12-30 months. The timelines or complying with licensing, preventive controls, preventive control plan and traceability requirements vary by food, activity, and size of the food business.

Provided below is a Phased Implementation Chart based on sector, size and gross revenue of the food business:

 

 

 

ELEMENT

Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy, Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products, Honey, Maple Products

 

 

 

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

ALL OTHER FOODS

 

 

>$100K and

>5 employees

 

 

>$100K and

<5 employees

 

 

<$100K

License

Jan. 15, 2019

Jan. 15, 2019

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

Traceability

Jan. 15, 2019

(Jan. 15, 2020 for growers and harvesters only)

 

July 15, 2020

 

 

July 15, 2020

 

 

July 15, 2020

 

Preventive Controls

Jan. 15, 2019

Jan. 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021

Written Preventive Control Plan

 

Jan. 15, 2019

 

Jan. 15, 2020

 

July 15, 2020

 

July 15, 2021

 

Not required

Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency: ‘Phased Implementation by Sector and Business Size: Presentation to Canadian Society of Custom Brokers’, August 23, 2018

Note that almost all the requirements of the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations shall come into effect for all remaining food business sectors by July 15, 2020.

For more information on specific SFCR timetables, refer to the CFIA website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/timelines/eng/1528199762125/1528199763186.

How can Remco help you?

Remco provides specialized solutions and products including color-coded tools for cleaning and material handling where hygiene and safety are critical. We have a 30-year+ partnership with Vikan, a global leader in supplying hygienically designed products. Our combined experience and focus on hygienic design make it a natural partnership and strengthens our ability to provide comprehensive solutions to food processors.

We can assist you in complying with the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations requirements:

Our library of white papers and articles are designed to help you find the right solutions to your food safety challenges. Download our white papers and read our articles at the Remco Knowledge Center, http://remcoproducts.com/knowledge-center/.

Some important white papers that could assist in complying with the Canadian food safety regulatory requirements are as follows –

  • Understanding GMPs in Food Processing:

https://remcoproducts.com/white-paper-understanding-gmps-in-food-processing/

  • HACCP Planning for Food Safety:

https://remcoproducts.com/white-paper-haccp-planning-for-food-safety/

https://remcoproducts.com/ust-white-paper/

  • Color-Coding Toolkit for Food Processing Facilities:

https://remcoproducts.com/toolkit/

By making information on the latest safety news, regulations, and best practices accessible via our social media and our website, we hope to provide the industry with the required support. If you require any technical assistance and additional information about our products and services, kindly contact us at cs@remcoproducts.com

Essential Information

Government of Canada’s Role in Assuring Safe Food for Canadians:

The Public Health Agency of Canada conducts outbreak surveillance and provides advice to protect people’s health.

Health Canada develops food safety standards and policies to help prevent or significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) carries out inspection of the food industry to ensure that it meets its food safety requirements and responsibilities.

Key Terminologies

SFCA: Safe Food for Canadians Act, S-11, is an enabling law enacted to protect Canadian families from potentially unsafe food. This new act received Royal Assent on Nov. 22, 2012.

SFCR: Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SOR/2018-108) document was published on June 13, 2018, and came into force on Jan. 15, 2019. These contain the administrative provisions of SFCA that simplify, modernize, and streamline Canadian food safety regulations for the benefit of consumers, regulators, food businesses, global importers, and exporters.

SFCR License: This is issued by the CFIA to a food business whose activities are subject to the new Canadian regulations. Generally, compliance is required of establishments that manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package or label food to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders. Also, it applies to companies that deal with intra-provincially traded foods where traceability, labelling and advertising provisions of SFCR could also apply.

Traceability: This is one of the three key requirements of SFCR (besides Licensing and Preventive Controls) required of food businesses. Almost all food businesses must track their food products, materials and ingredients along the supply chain, at least, one-step forward to the person to whom the food was provided, and one-step backward to the immediate supplier.

Preventive Controls: These are measures that help to prevent food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market, whether they are prepared within or outside of Canada.

GMPs: Also called “pre-requisite programs,” these are general food safety controls that relate to the people, establishment and the procedural practices or required prior to developing a robust HACCP plan. Examples of GMPs include sanitation and pest control, hygiene etc.

HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

Market Fairness PCPs: These represent non-food safety related regulatory provisions necessary for consumer protection or market acceptability. Examples include: labelling, grading, packaging, and standards of identity.

U.S.-Canada Comparable Food Safety System Recognition: Systems recognition involves reviewing a foreign country’s food safety regulatory system to determine if it has legal authorities and regulatory tools comparable to domestic requirements. For example, the FDA has an arrangement with CFIA and Health Canada that they recognize each other’s food safety systems and that they can leverage each other’s science-based regulatory systems.

 

Selected References

Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA website: www.inspection.gc.ca

CFIA (2018). Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations – A Handbook for Food Businesses. Link: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-aboutcfia-sujetacia/STAGING/text-texte/regs_safe_food_regulations_handbook_business_1531429195095_eng.pdf

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), Link: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2018-108/page-1.html

 

Professionals at the Food Safety Consortium Endorse FDA’s Vision of a ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’

Remco is proud to have participated and exhibited in the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo. Over 400 food safety professionals and about 50 exhibitors attended this leading educational and networking event, and some of the key sessions covered were on:

  • Salmonella detection and control;
  • FSSC 22000 v.5;
  • Data-driven, smart food safety management systems;
  • Role of water activity in FSMA regulations;
  • Aggressive approach to sanitation: planning for a decontamination event;
  • Sanitary design as the generation next of food safety;
  • Innovative food safety technologies;
  • Monitoring and controlling environmental pathogens; and,
  • Creating effective training programs for food manufacturers.

The keynote speaker at this leading conference was Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, who provided a vital overview on the ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety.’ Frank shared the FDA’s 21st century vision of promoting better, interconnected food safety systems that are FSMA-based, technology-enabled, digital, collaborative, people-led, consumer-focused, and with the enhanced traceability features. He also talked about the recent inclusion of FSMA Performance Measures within FDA-TRACK*, which is the agency’s performance management program that monitors, analyzes and reports results (on a quarterly basis) from key FDA performance data, projects and initiatives.

Remco also virtually participated in the Food Safety Public Meeting on the FDA’s blueprint for a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” that took place in Washington DC on October 21, which was well attended by regulators, industry stakeholders, academia, consumer advocacy groups, and the media.  The FDA have requested formal comments from the stakeholders, and the details are available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/18/2019-20229/a-new-era-of-smarter-food-safety-public-meeting-request-for-comments.

Remco shares the vision of promoting smarter food safety by providing the end-users with high quality color-coded material handling tools like scoops, tubs, scrapers, mixing paddles, and much more. As a Vikan company, we also distribute innovative, hygienically designed cleaning tools and solutions (e.g. brushes, brooms, squeegees etc.) to food producers and manufacturers based in North America. For further information, kindly visit us at: https://remcoproducts.com/.

Note:

Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo is one of the food safety industry’s premier event organized by Innovative Publishing Co. LLC, a publishing house for Med-Tech-Intelligence, Food-Safety- Tech, and Cannabis-Industry-Journal. More information is available at: https://foodsafetyconsortium.org/.

The New Era of Smarter Food Safety Initiative is the FDA’s strategic blueprint on how the agency plans to leverage technology and other tools in order to create a digital, traceable and safer food safety system. More information is available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-industry/new-era-smarter-food-safety.

* About FDA-TRACK: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fda-track-agency-wide-program-performance/about-fda-track

White Paper: Color-Coding as a Preventive Control

Color-Coding as a Preventive Control in Food Processing

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans become sick by eating contaminated food every year, resulting in an estimated 3,000 deaths. As if the human cost isn’t sobering enough, the Grocery Manufacturers Association also estimates the average cost of a recall to a food company is $10 million in direct costs in addition to brand damage and lost sales.

Considering growing public health concerns and the economic burden of foodborne illnesses, the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act shifted the FDA’s focus from simply responding to food safety problems to trying to prevent them. FSMA now requires food facilities to conduct a comprehensive hazard analysis and then establish risk-based preventive controls. For a number of facilities, color-coding has become one of the preventive controls to protect food against direct contamination, cross-contact, and cross-contamination incidences.

Defining Preventive Controls

According to 21 CFR 117 Subpart C, preventive controls are risk-based assurances that relevant food safety hazards are significantly minimized or prevented upon application of that control. The same regulations also stipulate that food manufactured, packed, or held by a facility will not be adulterated or misbranded in any way.

As illustrated in the diagram to the right, Preventive Controls are distinguished from the modified Current Good Manufacturing Practices (or CGMPs, which are the minimum, legally required sanitary and processing practices describing the methods, equipment, facilities, and controls for producing safe and wholesome food).

Color-coding as an industry best practice can definitely qualify as a valid preventive control.

Benefits of Color-Coding as a Preventive Control

Color-coding quickly communicates essential information for food safety, regardless of language barriers. It’s this simplicity that makes color-coding an effective preventive control.

Colors can signal the process status – visualize the traffic lights and what each color communicates to a driver. The same concept could apply to material handling across process flows and act as a signal for whether the product should move to the next process level or not.

More importantly, colors act as visual cues to identify the personnel, equipment or tools within an area. If blue-bristled pipe brushes are used for cleaning food conveyance pipes, and black-bristled tube brushes are used for clearing drains, there is a clear identifier between food-contact and non-food contact tools to prevent accidental misuse.

The other function of color-coding is that colors can separate zones and products based on risk. Something as simple as red and blue storage tubs could easily separate low-risk raw meat from high-risk processed product to prevent cross-contamination. It can also be used to separate allergen zones.

Color-Coding as a Preventative Strategy

There are three main ways a color-coding plan can fit into a food safety management system:

  1. As part of the Standard Operating Procedures: A color-coding plan can specify the colors used for scoops for handling different products within an allergen SOP, or cleaning brushes to be used for different surfaces within a Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure (SSOP).
  2. As a Preventive Control within a Food Safety Plan: For this, the plan must be validated or justified, monitored, verified, and reviewed as a food safety control.
  3. As a Standalone Color-Coding Plan: This could reference other procedures and can also follow the same format as the food safety plan.

The facility may decide to reference color-coding within their Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), Preventive Controls, or Best Practices framework as long as there’s consistency and a clear process of justifying, verifying, and reviewing the program. m.

Developing a Color-Coding Plan

The steps to establishing any preventive controls are as follows:

  1. Conduct a Comprehensive Hazard Analysis: Do you have areas where there’s a chance of allergen cross-contact or cross-contamination? These could be the right place to establish color-coding zones or use color-coded implements.
  2. Evaluate the Applicability of Color-Coding: Will color-coding prevent issues? If you need to keep scoops separated because they’re not easily identifiable, it would be an appropriate use of color-coding as a preventive control. If raw product is touching finished product because there isn’t enough workspace, color-coding may not help.
  3. Establish Control Measures, Preventive Controls, and Practices: Color-coding may be employed as part of the current Good Manufacturing Practices, or as a risk-based Preventive Control, or as an industry best practice.
  4. Set the Monitoring, Corrective Action, Verification, and Review Criteria: For monitoring, process leaders and managers can effectively watch out for colored-tools being used in the wrong zones. Corrective actions vary from putting affected products on-hold to retraining specific employees. Verification comes through pre-operational inspection and being on the floor to see that the right tools are being used in the right zones. Review the criteria for the plan to ensure it’s working and still fits the need in that area.
  5. Education, Train, and Refresh the Employees on the Plan: Workers should be reminded of color-coding procedures through continuous education. They should be retrained on color-coding at least yearly, or whenever there are changes to the plan.

Evaluating Risks with the Hazard Analysis Cube


The Hazard Analysis Cube is one way of visually identifying the three key variables essential for a comprehensive hazard evaluation:

  1. The Food Safety Hazard refers to the type of contaminant i.e. biological, chemical or physical, that may adversely affect food. Though stating the hazard is still key to the process, FSMA moves hazard analysis beyond this fundamental.
  2. The Mode of Hazard Introduction clarifies how the hazard was introduced—whether it was accidental, naturally occurring in the product, or deliberately added by malicious agents.
  3. The Focus Point of Control refers to where the control strategies to prevent the hazards are put into place. Is it at the lower tier for materials, ingredients, or product, or at a higher level involving processes and personnel practices, or at a much higher, systematic and environmental level?

For each potential hazard, a risk analysis should be conducted based on Likelihood x Severity, as shown in the diagram. Issues that are of a greater public health concern are a high-risk priority and require immediate attention, followed by those with moderate-to-low risk, and then the very low, negligible, or no-risk issues.

As an example, consider wheat and soy cross-contact, a chemical hazard that could be accidentally introduced during processing by personnel. The hazard would be a high-risk issue, and the objective of the preventive control would be to reduce the risk to safe, low levels.

For each potential hazard, a risk analysis should be conducted based on Likelihood x Severity. Issues that are of a greater public health concern are a high-risk priority and require immediate attention, followed by those with moderate-to-low risk, and then the very low, negligible, or no-risk issues.

As an example, consider wheat and soy cross-contact, a chemical hazard that could be accidentally introduced during processing by personnel. The hazard would be a high-risk issue, and the objective of the preventive control would be to reduce the risk to safe, low levels.

Elements of a Color-Coding Plan

The format of the color-coding plan can be similar to a typical food safety plan, so it requires the same standard steps to prove its efficacy. As an example, let’s consider a critical step within a typical food safety plan, where soy and wheat are used together while preventing cross-contact in the main supply of each allergen product container: 

– The Material or Step is adding soy lecithin to wheat flour.

– The Hazard is chemical, and more specifically, the allergen cross-contact between the wheat and soy supplies.

– The Control Type used is allergen control through product handling and personnel practices, and sanitation control by cleaning lines between changeovers. As a justification, color-codingcan also be used because of its role in preventing cross-contact incidences.

– As a Monitoring Action to ensure the color-coding plan is followed, the supervisor may ensure, say, trained operators use blue scoops for handling wheat and use red scoops for handling soy.

– Now if the wheat and soy scoops were accidentally switched, the Corrective Action steps would likely be:

 i) Stop production.

ii) Separate affected product from the good batches and safely dispose of it.

iii) Thoroughly clean scoops and the affected areas.

iv) Start production.

v) Document the action.

vi) Find the root cause and prevent further cross-contact between allergens through employee education, training, and process redesign.

– As part of the Verification Action, Quality Control can take sample allergen swabs before production begins to check if surfaces are allergen clean. QC can also check if the operators are following appropriate allergen handling procedures.

– Some of the Records and Supporting Documents that may be used in the plan are:

  • Color-Coding Maps
  • Allergen Control Plan
  • Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs)
  • GMP Records
  • Corrective Action Records

The color-coding plan is generally reviewed annually, or whenever there are significant changes in allergen handling and processing activities.

Educating and Training Employees on Color-Coding

When it comes to creating companywide awareness on color-coding, it’s not enough to show employees how a task is done. They should also learn, in the best and simplest way, why color-coding will help improve food safety and make their jobs easier. Trainers should clearly lay out the concepts, such as how certain food allergens could make a vulnerable individual seriously ill or cause death, and reinforce why color-coding as a preventive control is so important. When employees are invested in a program and feel like they have a stake in it, even just by knowledge of why and how it works, they’re more likely to follow it.  

After six months or at most a year, refresh the employees and evaluate to see if they know how well and why they are doing the process. It’s also essential to re-educate and re-train employees if there’s a breakdown or a change in the color-coding program.

If an employee is using the wrong scoop to handle allergens, it’s important to re-educate and re-train them to do it right the first time and at all times. If there is a change in the color-coding program, where a yellow scoop instead of red will then be used to handle soy, the plan must be re-developed to reflect the change and employees must be re-educated and re-trained on it.

Deciding Which Products to Color-Code

When it comes to using color-coding as a preventive control, the recently published FDA FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food recommends the following best practices:

  • Color-coded uniforms, smocks, and footwear to identify employees working in high-risk areas and to minimize pathogen contamination spreading.
  • Color-coded containers to identify and separate waste from useable or edible products.
  • Color-coded equipment in hygienic zones to keep tools from spreading one type of contamination or allergen to other areas in the plant.
  • Color-coded facility maps to differentiate hygienic zones.

Tips on Implementing Color-Coding

Keep the color-coding plan simple. Plans work best with 3-5 colors in most small-to-medium plants. Secondary methods of color-coding, such as using a broom that’s one color with a different colored handle, usually confuse workers and aren’t nearly as effective as a total-color system.

Be consistent with colors. Large changes shouldn’t happen frequently, and should be carefully evaluated for necessity. Each change may cause confusion among the staff and could increase chances of cross-contamination or allergen cross-contact.

Communicate the plan effectively and often. Post signs, hold training meetings, and have managers reinforce the need for color-coding. Such measures can enhance food safety culture among the employees.

Bring in help. Remco Products has a large Knowledge Center full of articles and white papers with tips on developing and maintaining a color-coding plan. We can also send experienced representatives out to your location to assist with creating the best color-coding plan for your facility. Contact cs@remcoproducts.com if you’d like assistance or simply have questions.

Revisiting the Significance of Hygienic Design with 3-A SSI

Amit M. KheradiaAmit M. Kheradia attended the 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc. (3-A SSI) Educational Conference and Technical Workgroups that took place from May 13 – 16, 2019 in Bloomington, Minnesota. The conference turned out to be an insightful knowledge sharing platform.

Some of the key topics of significance were on the following issues:

  • The economic benefits of hygienic design
  • The unseen threats to food safety
  • Retail and consumer expectations for hygienic design
  • Counterfeit parts and their relationship to food safety

The conference was well attended by over 200 professionals from various regulatory, industry, and advocacy groups who came together to support the organization’s overarching mission of promoting food safety through hygienic equipment design.

Poor hygienic equipment design has been known to be a significant contributing factor in adversely affecting the safety and quality of manufactured food products. Such equipment can act as harborage spots for pathogens, allergens, or foreign matter, which may subsequently lead to foodborne illnesses, inspectional violations, operational losses, and food recalls. Moreover, according to industry estimates, having the facility, equipment, tools, and utensils of sanitary design could help companies save about $0.5 – 1.5 million annually by greatly minimizing the chances of costly product rejects, recalls, and associated expenses.

The Technical Workgroup Sessions, which are open to all food safety professionals, covered the updates related to the standards and accepted best practices for: farm equipment, vessels, fillers, fittings, valves, pumps and mixers, dairy equipment, heat exchangers, instruments, concentrators, conveyors, feeders, process and cleaning, as well as plant support equipment. If the cleaning solution and food-contact components of an equipment not designed for CIP or other automated methods of cleaning, these parts should be cleaned and sanitized manually. Manual cleaning, in such cases, involves the use of tools such as brushes, scrapers, squeegees etc. along with other sanitation aids to achieve the desired effect required to remove soils from a contact surface. Hence, cleaning and material tools, like those provided by Remco and Vikan, also play a key role in assuring sanitary design and conditions of the equipment and environment.

About 3-A SSI

As an independent organization, 3-A SSI principally relies on the collaboration and consensus of regulatory sanitarians, equipment fabricators and food processors when developing voluntary standards and accepted practices for food processing systems. In order to be granted the authorization to use the 3-A symbol on their processing equipment or parts, equipment fabricators must have their systems successfully audited against the required criteria through a third-party verification process. Additionally, 3-A SSI has an extensive knowledge center, and also organizes an annual conference to promote a high level of professionalism within the hygienic equipment design sector. More information about 3-A SSI is available at: http://www.3-a.org/.

Salmonella in Raw Poultry – From Processing to Purchasing

According to the CDC, an estimated 1.2 million Americans a year get sick from Salmonella infections. Of these, around 23,000 are hospitalized and approximately 450 people die. While there have been innovations around whole chicken processing that have led to reductions in bacteria, around 1.5% of carcasses still test positive for Salmonella at processing plants. Additionally, chicken parts (such as a package of raw chicken breasts), don’t even have USDA-FSIS performance standards established as yet.

With due diligence from processors and consumers on safe poultry handling practices, rates of foodborne illness from Salmonella can be reduced.

Stopping Salmonella from Reaching Grocery Stores

Processors must take on the burden of reducing Salmonella’s presence in raw poultry while government programs continue to educate consumers on proper handling and cooking practices. There are a couple of steps that food processors can take to reduce the chances of Salmonella cross-contaminating their products:

Implement zoning and color-coding

Hygienic zoning, when supported by color-coding, helps reduce the spread of contamination at critical points in a processing environment. Each processing step can be assigned a different color, which keeps tools used on pre-cleaned chicken away from those used on ready-to-package poultry. Workers’ protective clothing can also be separated depending on the zone they’re used in. Color-coding can also be used to keep the cleaning brushes that are used on food-contact surfaces from being mixed up with those used on drains or floors. Moreover, tool racks and shadow boards can separate tools from each other even when they’re being stored. With many companies offering products in 9-12 colors, there are enough choices to add color-coded support to almost any hygienic zoning plan.

Use hygienically designed tools.

Hygienically designed tools are normally made of FDA compliant materials and are less likely to support the survival, growth, and spread of pathogens like Salmonella. They are generally free of cracks and crevices (that could allow bacteria to hide and multiply in), and have rounded corners and smooth surfaces that make them easy to clean and dry. Tools that are easier to clean are more likely to be cleaned more often and more thoroughly. Any tool that has multiple pieces should be able to be separated easily for cleaning.

Keep poultry at acceptable temperatures.

One of the best ways to control Salmonella contamination is by keeping poultry at temperatures under 39° F. When poultry is held below this danger point, bacteria growth is slowed. In the range between 40-140° F, bacteria flourishes, which may lead to high amounts of Salmonella that can, in turn, cause consumer illnesses and public outbreaks.

Consumer and Retailer Behavior

Although over half of Americans say they believe that preparing food at home is safer than eating out, a study has found that consumers don’t always treat raw poultry with foodborne illness prevention in mind, nor do retailers. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) collaborated on a study that found:

  • Only 18% of stores had plastic bags in the meat and poultry sections. In those stores, only 25% of shoppers used them.
  • 87% of shoppers touched their cart’s handle after handling raw poultry.
  • 84% of shoppers placed their poultry near other food items in the cart, and 56% of them placed it such that it directly touched their other food items.

It’s clear that consumers and retailers need better education on safe poultry practices since processors can’t completely eliminate all harmful bacteria from uncooked poultry. FMI and PSFE are working with FightBac.org on their “Don’t Wing It” campaign to help increase consumer awareness of foodborne illness and on how to prevent it.

The Don’t Wing It campaign promotes:

  • Not directly touching raw poultry in the store and using provided plastic bags to store the item.
  • Using hand sanitizer and a disinfecting wipe for cleaning shopping cart handles before use.
  • At home, placing poultry immediately into the freezer and using the refrigerator to thaw it to prevent the poultry’s juices from contaminating other products. 
  • Cooking raw poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.

It’s important to note that raw poultry processing can’t eliminate all probable harmful bacteria. Consumers therefore need to learn how to safely handle packages of poultry during shopping, storing, and cooking. However, there are also a few ways poultry processors can help in reducing the spread of Salmonella, such as the use of color-coding, using hygienically designed tools, and keeping poultry at safe temperatures. Therefore, processors as well as consumers and retailers have significant roles in reducing the overall rates of foodborne illnesses.

Exploring the Recent U.S. and Global Food Safety Developments and Expectations for 2019

As we move closer to 2019, it’s worth remembering the regulatory changes, world news, and company updates that happened in 2018, even as we look forward to the changes coming with the new year.

Updates on FSMA Final Rules Compliance Dates –

The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been focusing on a developing a prevention-based food safety system for combating foodborne illnesses, in great part, by ensuring that qualified food facilities comply with one or more of the seven published FSMA Final Rule requirements. More importantly, by Sept. 17, 2018, all qualified facilities were supposed to comply with 21 CFR 117 regulatory requirements or particularly, the FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Control of Human Food (PCHF).

Upcoming 2019 FSMA Final Rule Compliance Dates:

1. Produce Safety, January 28

Small farms for other produce and very small sprout farms must comply by this date.

2. Foreign Supplier Verification Program, March 18

Importers of human food from very small business foreign suppliers, importers of animal food from small business foreign suppliers, and importers of animal food from very small business foreign suppliers subject to PCAF CGMP Requirements.

3. Intentional Adulteration, July 26

Large businesses must comply by this date.

4. Foreign Supplier Verification Program, July 29

Importers of produce from small business foreign farms required to comply with Produce Safety Rule and importers of sprouts only from very small business foreign farms that comply with the Sprout Requirement of Produce Safety Rule must comply by this date.

5. Preventive Controls for Animal Food, September 17

Very small businesses subject to PC Compliance, which marks the date when all qualified facilities must comply with this rule.

For specific details on the FSMA regulations, please refer to the FDA website, www.fda.gov and also the FSMA Final Rules Key Dates link at: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM568798.pdf

Key Version Releases of Global Food Safety Standards

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a leading collaborative platform that brings together key actors of the food industry to drive continuous improvement in food safety management systems around the globe. One of GFSI’s objectives is to provide a benchmark of equivalence and convergence between various food safety management system certification standards. Currently, GFSI Benchmarking Guidance Document Version 7.2, which was released on March 2018, is being used. Below are the most recent developments regarding the key GFSI Certification Programs.

FSSC 22000, Version 4.1

Auditable date: Jan. 1, 2018

Launched in July 2017, the new standard version included unannounced audits and food fraud prevention clauses.

SQF Food Safety Codes, Edition 8

Auditable date: Feb. 2, 2018

The new SQF edition has code standards developed for each level along the food supply chain from primary production to food retail.

ISO 22000:2018, 2018 Version

Publication date: June 2018

Apart from some clause changes, the fundamental difference when compared with 2005 version is the use of consistent High-Level Structure (HLS) that’s also found in other ISO programs.

SQF Fundamentals, Edition 1

Publication date: June 2018

The program is for small or medium suppliers who don’t have a robust system in place or who want to take their food safety program to the next level. The Fundamentals program is available for food manufacturers and primary producers.

IFS Food, Version 6.1

Auditable date: July 1, 2018

The new version is aligned with the April 2017 GFSI Guidance Document. It has an entirely new section dedicated to the prevention of food fraud.

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, Issue 8

Auditable date: Feb. 1, 2019

This new issue, published in August 2018, is an evolution from previous standards in that there is a strong emphasis on management commitment, a greater focus on HACCP-based food safety programs and quality management systems, a further development of food defense and fraud programs, and an expanded requirement for environmental monitoring of pathogens in food production facilities, among other concerns.

For more details about GFSI and the benchmarked certification programs, refer to the site: https://www.mygfsi.com/

Food Safety News Wrap-Up for 2018

A significant number of food safety events happened in the U.S., as well as globally.

2018 has been a busy year for various multi-state food illness outbreaks and recalls; some of these include:

  • Shelled eggs potentially contaminated with Salmonella Braenderup
  • Ready-to-eat deli ham contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes
  • Romaine Lettuce contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7

This year also saw the worst documented global Listeriosis Outbreak within the Republic of South Africa. Over a period of 14 months, 1,056 cases were reported and 214 deaths were attributed to the outbreak. The South African Department of Health identified the source of the outbreak was a ready-to-eat sausage known as Polony that came from Enterprise Foods in Polokwane, South Africa. This crisis has further heightened the need for faster detection, environmental monitoring and control, and Listeria prevention strategies within the global food supply network.

On an additional note, on June 13, 2018, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published the much-awaited Safe Food for Canadian Regulations (SFCR), Canada’s answer to a modernized, prevention-based food safety system, that’s more aligned with FSMA. The regulations are scheduled to come into force next year, on January 15, 2019. As a relief, among the changes is the fact that Canadian food businesses exporting foods that are regulated by the FDA can now leverage their valid SFCR license to demonstrate that their food safety controls meet their U.S. importer’s requirements under FSMA Foreign Supplier Verification Program. More information is available on the CFIA site at https://www.canada.ca/en/food-inspection-agency/news/2018/06/making-food-safer-and-creating-more-trade-opportunities-for-businesses.html

Important Company News

Remco’s Business Development team achieved SQF Edition 8 Practitioner qualification with the hope that the team will be able to pass along valuable knowledge and better recommendations to Remco’s customers. The employees were trained as a group by an in-house food safety specialist who is also an FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food Qualified Individual. For more details see: https://remcoproducts.com/remco-employees-achieve-sqf-8-practitioner-qualification/

Remco Products and Vikan have added three new colors (lime, gray, and brown) to 35 of our most popular products over the next several weeks. Vikan will produce 24 tools, including brooms, brushes, buckets, handles, and squeegees. Remco will make 11 tools, including scoops, scrapers, and shovels. A Color-Coding Toolkit has been recently released to provide more information to our customers.

 

We look forward to providing you with of-the-moment food safety news and recommendations in 2019. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for the latest from Remco Products.

Tips on How to Keep Pumpkins Safe to Eat this Fall

It might be Halloween, but the pumpkin you serve shouldn’t be scary. Traditionally, Halloween kicks off the “everything pumpkin” season. The popular gourd can be made into rolls, pies, latte, butter, bread, muffins, jellies and various processed products.

When prepared correctly, pumpkins are relatively healthy and incredibly delicious. However, it’s important to know how to keep the pumpkins away from pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and toxin-producing Escherichia coli as these micro-organisms could make a person very sick.

Pumpkins (scientific name: Cucurbita maxima) are round, smooth, rib-skinned squashes with yellow to deep-orange color flesh and white edible seeds. Typical product characteristics, critical to food safety and quality, may be summarized as follows:

 

Estimated Sugar Content

(grams/100g of product)

 

 

5g /100g of Pumpkin

 

pH

 

 

4.90 – 5.50

 

Water activity (aw)

 

> 0.98

 

 

Storage Conditions

 

Whole pumpkin: 30-90 days in a cool, dry and dark place (70° F -75° F)

Sliced/packed:  2-5 days under refrigeration (32° F – 40° F)

 

(The product characteristics may differ between and within the pumpkin varieties)

Owing largely to the nature of the squash, if cut pumpkin is not processed, packed, or stored properly, it can provide the right environment for harmful bacteria to survive, grow, and spread. Therefore, during the cutting and packing of pumpkins, the following food safety tips are essential:

  1. Select good quality pumpkins – Reject over-ripe raw pumpkins that have big patches of broken, diseased, moldy, spotty, or pale skin. A good pumpkin has unblemished, intact, and bright-orange colored skin.
  2. Wash adequately before cutting – Wash the pumpkin under running warm water (with clean hands) to remove soil and to significantly reduce the microbial load on the skin. Wash every surface area of the pumpkin for 2-3 minutes. The crease lines and the areas around the stalk must be thoroughly cleaned as these spots potentially harbor a lot of soil and bacteria.
  3. Ensure tools, surfaces, and equipment used are adequately cleaned and sanitized – To avoid any cross-contamination from pathogens and foreign material, clean and appropriately sanitize the equipment, work surfaces, knives, and scoops. This step should be done well in advance of processing the pumpkin.
  4. Work in a sanitary environment – Ensure all food contact and non-food contact surfaces and areas are in good and sanitary condition, as we would not want environmental contaminants to negatively affect the safety of the product. Look out for any possible hazards that could be a food safety concern. This step is also done well before any processing of pumpkin begins.
  5. Follow good personal hygiene practices – If you’re making pumpkin products at home, you should wash your hands before starting and after cleaning the pumpkin. If you have long hair, be sure to tie it back before setting foot into the kitchen. In a food processing plant, those who handle the pumpkin must follow good manufacturing practices at all times. They must wear a hairnet, wash their hands properly, put on clean work garments, a pair of gloves and arm guards before starting their work. This prevents the spread of germs during the actual processing operation.
  6. Discard the waste properly to avoid unhygienic condition – Pumpkins should have the top with the stock removed first. Then, the pumpkin can be sliced into the desired sizes and shapes, from thin slices to thick cubes. Seeds can be laid out to dry, and the inedible middle portion of the pumpkin should be disposed of immediately.
  7. Pack and label the product – Shrink-wrap or heat-seal the exposed product using clear, clean, and dust-free polythene film. The product should be labeled by name, production date and lot number, if required for tracing the food item.
  8. Refrigerate the processed product during storage or transport – Refrigerate the product at 32° F – 40° F, within 2 hours of processing, to ensure the safety and quality of the packed product. During transportation, ensure that the juices do not leak from the package, as this may create a breeding ground for germs to grow and spread.
  9. Clean the equipment, surfaces, and area thoroughly after the processing operation – Ensure that the processing area, equipment, and tools are cleaned and appropriately sanitized within 4 hours (or preferably less) of production, to maintain the sanitation and hygiene of the preparation area. Be sure to use the correct type of scrubbing brush for the best cleaning results. The cut pumpkin can then be used to make other delicious food products. Make sure to use the refrigerated pumpkin within a few days for a better-quality product.

Following good food safety practices goes a long way in keeping food safe, and can prevent people from getting serious illnesses.

Come October 31, have a food-safe Halloween!

As Fall Approaches, Keep Food Safe From Germs

Recommendations from the Partnership for Food Safety Education

September is National Food Safety Education Month. The concept was developed by the Partnership for Food Safety Education (a non-profit organization with a mission to end foodborne infections in the U.S.) to create awareness about the importance of consumer food safety education in helping keep food safe.

According to CDC estimates, every year, 1 in 6 Americans become sick by eating contaminated food. The majority of foodborne illnesses and deaths are from noroviruses, and the pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli strains. Even though everyone in the global food supply chain, from farmers to retail distributors, have shared responsibility to keep food safe, consumers also play a major role in food safety.

With the aim to reduce foodborne illness risk, the Partnership for Food Safety Education develops and promotes trusted scientific behavioral-health messages, educational resources, and tools for pertinent levels of consumers, through an active network of about 13,000 health and food safety educators. Some of the key food safety initiatives launched by the organization are as follows:

The Core Four Practices –

These food safety practices are implemented to help in avoiding or reducing the survival, growth, and spread of bacteria on food products, equipment, or surfaces.

  1. CLEAN – Wash hands and surfaces properly, and at an appropriate frequency
  2. SEPARATE – Don’t cross-contaminate raw meat with produce or cooked food
  3. COOK – Heat food to a safe internal temperature to kill harmful germs
  4. CHILL – Refrigerate food quickly to 40° F or below to slow the growth of pathogens

The “Don’t WING IT” Campaign –

This consumer initiative is designed to promote safe poultry handling practices, which are necessary to reduce the risk of illnesses from commonly found germs like Salmonella and Campylobacter.

DON’T TOUCH: The key handling steps are –

  1. Place poultry in a plastic bag provided at the meat counter
  2. Keep poultry in the plastic bag when bringing it home
  3. Place poultry on the low fridge shelf to prevent leakage from contaminating other foods

CHECK TEMPERATURE:

  • Use a Food Thermometer to ensure poultry is cooked to at least 165° F
  • Store poultry at or below 40° F

“The Story of Your Dinner” Campaign –

To support the millions of Americans who cook and share meals with family and friends, the Partnership for Food Safety Education and sponsors have developed The Story of Your Dinner recipes (that also include food safety instructions), videos, children’s activities and food preparation tips to the consumers.

More information for consumers about Food Safety Education Month is available at: http://www.fightbac.org/food-safety-education/food-safety-education-month/. The website also has offers other free resources for educators, evaluators, dieticians, teachers, and trainers.

Remco Products Corporation, your partners in hygiene, value the importance of food safety education. As a company, we provide specialized products and solutions for cleaning and material handling, along with a Knowledge Center packed full of food safety information. For more information, visit our website at: https://remcoproducts.com/.

 

Remco Employees Achieve SQF 8 Practitioner Qualification

Remco Products

Remco Products recently asked its business development managers to take the SQF practitioner qualification exam, after many hours of training spread across several months. Each employee passed on their first attempt and became qualified in the Safe Quality Food Institute’s eighth edition of their food code. Remco trained its business development managers for the exam to improve their knowledge on the food safety and regulatory compliance challenges their customers deal with.

SQF version 8 is a recently updated globally recognized food safety management system that incorporates a quality component. The system is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and is used by retailers, manufacturers, and restaurants around the world to ensure the food they’re producing is safe and high-quality.

The training course, overseen by Remco’s Education and Technical Support Manager Amit Kheradia, took place over 12 training sessions. The group focused on food and beverage manufacturing but touched on all SQF sections. Kheradia trained employees for the exam through a variety of workshops, webinars, quizzes, and practiced with Remco’s tools as examples.

SQF 8 Qualified Practitioners take an exam to prove they know the tenets of the SQF system so they can help their organization improve their food safety. Traditionally, these practitioners would be in charge of implementing food safety measures across a facility and keeping the entire premises compliant with SQF’s code.

Remco Products employees took the exam so they could be of more help to customers during site visits. One of the company values is excellence, and the group wanted to learn even more about the regulatory and process challenges their customers face every day. Their hope is that by becoming qualified as SQF Practitioners, they’ll be able to pass along valuable knowledge and make better recommendations to Remco’s customers.

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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