A Year in Regulations: Key Food Safety Developments for 2019 and 2020

With the new year just around the corner, it’s time to reflect on what changed in 2019 and what’s to come for 2020 in the world of food safety. Significant foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls this year put an increased focus on farm-to-fork accountability. For many food processors, this meant reevaluating their facility’s food safety efforts and those of their suppliers.

  • Foreign material contamination forced a recall of over 11 million pounds of frozen and RTE chicken strips
  • Salmonella Uganda infections spread and are potentially related to whole, fresh papayas
  • An coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce

The following five trends should influence the food safety landscape in North America next year:

1. Regulatory performance metrics should drive FSMA implementation – The FDA has launched a food safety dashboard, FDA-TRACK, to help evaluate how well the FSMA rules are being implemented, and whether there is any need for improvement from the industry to control foodborne outbreaks, recalls and product contamination. More information about this agency-wide program is available on the FDA’s website.

2. There will be a focus on modernizing food production lines – As an example, FSIS-USDA just announced a final rule for facilitating the establishment of a New Swine Slaughter Inspection System aimed at allowing for food safety innovations while not compromising the goal of protecting public health.

3. Regulations will increasingly influence regional food safety developments – In the U.S., phased implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) through targeted FDA’s Final Rules has been making its mark. Meanwhile, Canada’s Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), came into force on January 15th of this year. We should expect to see closer collaboration between the FDA and the CFIA in order to streamline and align their food safety systems to ensure a seamless regional trade partnership. Explore our recent white paper on Canada’s SFCR in our Knowledge Center.

4. Hygienic design will be a much bigger industry focus – A new working group has just started their work on integrating hygienic design elements with the existing GFSI requirements (with a globalized farm-to-fork food safety approach) under scope K, covering food processing/handling equipment and facilities. This will facilitate the eventual adoption of hygienic design elements by the industry as it’s implemented in GFSI-benchmarked standards like BRC and SQF.

5. We will be entering a New Smarter Era of Food Safety, and maybe sooner than expected – Frank Yiannas, the FDA deputy commissioner for Food Policy & Response, has been spearheading the agency’s efforts to develop a strategic plan on leveraging technology, smarter tools, and best practices for creating a more digital, traceable, and safer food safety system. Through Frank’s previous professional work experience with Disney and Walmart, he has aptly evaluated that implementing such a novel regulatory approach requires continuous collaboration and communication with the industry and relevant stakeholders. A brief summary of the FDA’s approach is available on their website.

2020-2021 Compliance Dates to Remember:

 Type

Details

Compliance Date

GFSI-based standard

FSSC 22000 Version 5

Auditable from Jan. 1, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. FSMA Final Rules

PRODUCE SAFETY rule compliance for all produce types (for all farm sizes); other produce (remaining water requirements for large farms); other produce (very small farms except certain water requirements)

 

Jan. 27, 2020

FOREIGN SUPPLIER VERIFICATION PROGRAM rule compliance for importers of animal food whose foreign supplier is a qualified facility (including very small businesses) subject to PCAF, PC but not CGMP requirements

 

March 17, 2020

INTENTIONAL ADULTERATION rule for small businesses

July 27, 2020

FOREIGN SUPPLIER VERIFICATION PROGRAM rule compliance for importers whose very small business foreign supplier is subject to the Produce Safety rule

 

July 27, 2020

 

 

 

Canadian SFCR Compliance

Written Preventive Control Plan for fresh fruit and vegetables facilities

Jan. 15, 2020

Licensing, traceability and written Preventive Control Plan compliance for other food facilities (except meat, fish, eggs, dairy, processed fruits or vegetables, honey, maple products, and fresh fruits & vegetables) with gross income >CDN100K and >5 employees

 

July 15, 2020

 

Licensing and traceability requirements compliance for other food facilities with gross income >CDN100K and <5 employees

July 15, 2020

 

Written Preventive Control Plan compliance for other food facilities with gross income >CDN100K and <5 employees

July 15, 2021

Licensing and traceability requirements compliance for other food facilities with gross income of <=CDN100K

July 15, 2020

Preventive Controls compliance for other food facilities with gross income of <=CDN100K

July 15, 2021

 Remco believes that using the right sanitary implements – and through their selection, storage, care, and maintenance – has a vital role in maintaining a cleaner and safer food production environment. Our line of food-safe offerings includes color-coded material handling and cleaning tools like scoops, tubs, brushes, squeegees, and more. Additional information about our products is available at remcoproducts.com/products/.

 

Links for Additional Information:

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

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.

How to Choose the Right Brush for Food Processing

scrub brushes

Proper cleaning tools can increase plant hygiene and make it easier for food processing facility staff to do their job. Finding the right brushes for each job is easier when you understand the role bristle stiffness, brush type, and bristle/block attachment play in how a brush functions.

Hygienic Design of Brushes

Drilled and stapled brushes are made by drilling a hole into the brush block and stapling bristles into it. Higher quality versions will have only small gaps near the attachment point, making it less likely for contaminants to become trapped. Low-quality versions may have issues with bristles falling out and will have larger gaps around the fiber attachment points, making it easier for microorganisms to hide and multiply. For many food processing needs, a high-quality version of this type of brush is appropriate.

Resin-set brushes pose a variety of hygiene concerns. For this brush, holes are drilled in the block, filaments are stapled into them, and resin is added for extra bristle security. Resin itself isn’t approved for food contact and often gets trapped in between bristles and falls out, creating a source of contamination. This type of brush isn’t suitable for food manufacturing.

Ultra Safe Technology (UST) brushes from Vikan improve bristle retention and brush hygiene. These innovative brushes have a unique construction and design. Bristles are fully molded into individual bristle security units. Those units are then molded directly into the brush block, eliminating holes, gaps, and contamination traps. Because of this production technique, bristle security units can be arranged in patterns that allow brushes to be cleaned easily while maximizing cleaning efficiency. These ultra-hygienic brushes are ideal for food production plants that make infant formula, baby food, and ready-to-eat food.
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How to Choose the Right Broom for the Job

Color-coded brooms

Maintaining hygienic standards is easier when employees have access to the right tools for the job, including the proper brooms. The staff in charge of cleaning will be better able to carry out cleaning tasks effectively and efficiently when they have tools that are fit-for-purpose.

Hygienic Design of Brooms

Drilled and stapled brooms are produced with the traditional method of folding bristles and stapling them into a block. This creates a tight fit that holds bristles in place. When a tool is well-designed, there are minimal places for contaminants to hide in and multiply. However, bristles have been known to fall out, though less frequently on better-quality tools. For most food industry purposes, this provides a high level of hygiene and supports sanitation efforts.

Resin-set brooms have cropped up in recent years, but they present a host of hygiene concerns—namely, that the resin itself isn’t approved for food contact and have been known to fall out of the broom, creating and spreading its own contamination. This type of broom isn’t recommended for food processing.

Ultra Safe Technology (UST) brooms from Vikan are state-of-the-art tools that have a unique design and construction that improves bristle retention and hygiene. Bristles are fully molded into bristle security units in patterns that maximize efficiency while allowing the broom itself to be cleaned easier. This level of hygiene is appropriate for facilities that require a higher level of cleanliness, such as ready-to-eat food, baby food, and infant formula processing plants.
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The Importance of Hand Washing in the Food Industry

Hygienic nail brush being used in hand washing
Handwashing in the food industry is one of the first lines of defense in food safety. Along with being a consumer health risk, inadequate personal hygiene can lead to costly and reputation-destroying recalls. However, it’s not just the responsibility of individual employees to ensure proper handwashing procedures are followed. Managers must cultivate a culture of food safety where taking time-off from lines to wash up is encouraged. Facilities also must be equipped with adequate hand washing stations.

Not only will setting the scene and creating the culture for effective handwashing help protect consumers, it will also help protect your business.

When to Wash

Employees knowing when to wash their hands is just as important as knowing how to properly wash them. High-visibility signs posted around the facility can teach and remind employees about handwashing. 

Signs posted around the facility make for great reminders, but the topic should also be covered in training seminars. Don’t forget to translate instructions in whatever languages required to communicate with all of your employees.

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Food Safety Culture – Color-Coding for the Color-Blind

Food production facilities often rely on color coding their tools and workstations to create zones of control. These zones can designate areas where allergens are used to prevent cross-contact incidents, separate raw – from finished products to avoid cross-contamination issues, or visually represent different shifts to account for concerning potential direct-contamination trends. Color coding is generally easy to understand and provides a universal language for people of all levels of literacy -and – language background.

However, for 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women, some colors may be difficult or impossible to discern. Color-blindness comes in many forms, but the most common type is partial color-blindness, where the person can’t distinguish between a couple or a few colors. Of those, the two forms of red/green color-blindness: deuteranopia (reduced sensitivity to red light) and protanopia (reduced sensitivity to green light), occur most frequently. That doesn’t imply color coding as a zoning solution doesn’t work for color-blind employees, but it does mean that colors should be chosen carefully to avoid the most common color-blindness pairings.
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AFDO Journeys Toward the Integrated Food Safety System Vision

Food safety took top priority at AFDO 2017

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

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

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

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How is HARPC Different From HACCP?

How is HARPC Different From HACCP

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

HACCP

HARPC

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

HARPC as an Upgrade to HACCP

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

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

 

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

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

The rulemaking has been proposed to ensure:

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

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

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