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.

Relevant white papers, all of which can be found in our Knowledge Center:

White Paper: SQF Edition 8

SQF Edition 8 White Paper

SQF Edition 8: Focus on Hygiene and Sanitation

The SQF certification program can help facilities comply with crucial hygiene and sanitation requirements, as there is an enhanced focus in preventing, eliminating, and significantly minimizing food safety hazards of public health and legal significance. This whitepaper explores the notable contributions of SQF Edition 8 as a global standard, toward developing, implementing, and maintaining sanitation controls and hygiene practices within food and beverage processing sites.

This white paper will help you understand:

  1. Why GFSI-benchmarked programs are worldwide
  2. How SQF Edition 8 focuses on hygiene and sanitation
  3. Significant changes in Edition 8
  4. SQF System Elements for Food Manufacturing
  5. How to prepare for SQF certification

Download this White Paper

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.