Conference for Food Protection Workshop Sheds a Light on the Industry 4.0 Sanitation Challenges and Developments

Remco is proud to have participated at the Conference for Food Protection Virtual Workshop themed “The Impact of New Food Technologies and New Foods on the Food Safety Professional” from April 13 – 15, 2021.

In spite of the current challenges posed by the pandemic to the food retail and foodservice sector in the U.S. as well as globally, the expert panelists and participants from the industry, regulatory, academia, consumer, and professional arena were determined to deliberate on food safety and sanitation challenges and solutions arising from emerging Industry 4.0 technologies.

Some key topics discussed were on the following:

  • 3-D Printed Foods: Part of the talk centered around the limitations in proper cleaning and sanitizing regimes of 3-D printer equipment for producing next-generation foods.
  • Edible Cannabis: Where the regulation is left to individual states, the lack of standardized testing and the variable GMPs may accentuate food safety and sanitation problems.
  • Lab-Grown Meats: When compared with conventional meats, the novel technology is getting embroiled in complex regulation, allergen, and religious issues.
  • Virtual Reality/AI: Discussions featured food safety training with SmartGlass, predictive decision-making using algorithmic programs, and automated equipment troubleshooting.
  • Aggregating Social Media Data for Decision Making: Talks focused on the use of social media platforms for tracking foodborne illness incidents and unsafe foods in the market.

Remco will also be participating in the upcoming Virtual Biennial Conference from August 15-21, 2021, where the issues mainly centered around the Food Safety Code will be discussed.

Notes:

Disclaimer: Through this blog, Remco is simply providing some opinions about the workshop. More specific information may be achieved by referring to the workshop archive at: http://www.foodprotect.org/biennial-meetings/2020-biennial-meeting/workshop/

Conference for Food Protection (CFP) is a non-profit organization that was established in 1971 to provide a formal process whereby members of industry, regulatory, academia, consumer, and professional groups are afforded equal input in the development or modification of food safety guidance, such as the U.S. Food Code. More information at: http://www.foodprotect.org/.

Industry 4.0: Generally refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the “ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industry practices, using modern smart technologies.”

Understanding SQF Edition 9 Changes from a Hygiene & Sanitation Perspective

Safe Quality Food (SQF) is a GFSI-benchmarked food safety and quality management system standard. As a globally recognized certification program that covers the food supply chain (from primary production to foodservice), it is a popular standard with at least 80% of SQF-certified global sites located in U.S. and Canada.

According to SQFI, SQF Edition 9 Code audits will begin on May 24, 2021. Prepare for these changes by reading the major sanitation-related updates from SQF Edition 8.1 to Edition 9, listed below:

1. SQF Edition 9 food safety code books have become more sector-specific:

Previous Edition 8.1 Codes

NEW SQF Edition 9 Codes

GMP Modules Covered

 

  Primary Production

 Primary Plant Production

 Primary Animal Production

Aquaculture (Seafood Production)

7, 8, 10, 18

5

6

 

 

Manufacturing

(Processed) Food Manufacturing

Pet Food Manufacturing

Animal Feed Manufacturing

Animal Product Manufacturing

Dietary Supplements Manufacturing

11

4

3

9

17

Food Packaging

Manufacture of Food Packaging

13

 Storage & Distribution

Storage & Distribution

12

Food Retail

N/A (Still Under Edition 8.1)

15

Food Service

N/A (Still Under Edition 8.1)

  16

  • By referring to relevant code books, a site should be better able to address specific food safety aspects such as hygiene and sanitation GMPs, and other programs specific to their industry sector(s).

Note: In the subsequent points, we’ll focus on key changes in SQF Edition 9 Code: Food Manufacturing.

2. There is a significant transformation of GMP module sections and elements. As a key example of this, some of the following Module 11 (GMP for Processed Foods) sections have been reorganized and/or updated:

 11.1 Site location & premises

 

11.1.1 Premise location and approval

11.1.2 Building materials

11.1.3 Lighting and light fittings

11.1.4 Inspection/quality control area

11.1.5 Dust, insect, and pest proofing

11.1.6 Ventilation

11.1.7 Equipment and utensils

11.1.8 Grounds and roadways

11.2 Site operation
 

 

11.2.1 Repairs and maintenance

11.2.2 Maintenance staff and contractors

11.2.3 Calibration

11.2.4 Pest prevention

11.2.5 Cleaning and sanitation

 

11.3 Personnel hygiene & welfare

 

11.3.1 Personnel welfare

11.3.2 Handwashing

11.3.3 Clothing and personal effects

11.3.4 Visitors

11.3.5 Staff amenities (change rooms, toilets, break rooms)

  • These changes have promoted more structural clarity in sanitation and related GMPs, and further reduced redundancies within the codes.

3. There’s an enhanced focus on cross-contamination prevention. Module element 11.6.1.2 further states that: “… Unprocessed raw materials shall be received and stored separately from processed raw materials to avoid cross-contamination risk.

  • We’ve been saying consistently over the years that color-coding is a preventive control strategy that can work to significantly reduce contamination incidents within food facilities, whether we are designating distinct hygienic zones or separating color-coded tools in raw and ready-to-eat zones (RTE) to help avoid cross-contamination, or allocating identifiable cleaning tools for food-contact surfaces and non-food contact surfaces.

4. Module element 11.7.1.2 on air testing requirements for high-risk processes states: “Ambient-air [in such areas] shall be tested at least annually to confirm that it does not pose a risk to food safety.

  • This requirement points to the need for maintaining air hygiene in high-risk zones such as RTE prep rooms or exposed product handling areas. Microbes or allergens may aerosolize and contaminate food and other surfaces. One way of controlling these hazards is through the right choice of mechanical tools and methods to ensure effective cleaning while preventing/minimizing contamination spread over time.

5. Foreign matter contamination control has become more relevant. Module element 11.7.3.1 further requires that inspections must be performed to ensure “… plant and equipment remain in good condition, and [that] equipment has not become detached or deteriorated, and is free from potential contaminants.

  • Sanitation requires buildings and equipment be cleaned based on risk assessments and that only durable tools that can withstand operating conditions (i.e., varied temperature, chemical use, and mechanical stresses) over time are used. A common query we get is: Do metal detectable bristled brushes really work in reducing foreign matter contamination? A reliable technical study has shown that such kind of bristles do more harm than good since they tend to be more brittle and difficult to detect due to their size. A better solution would be color-coded, hygienically designed brushes with the right type of bristles secured onto the block.

6. Greater accountability of non-conforming site and equipment is now required. System element 2.5.4.3 on internal audits and inspections states: “Regular inspections of the site and equipment shall be planned and carried out to verify GMP and facility and equipment maintenance are compliant to the Code requirements. The site shall also take corrections or corrective and preventive action, and maintain records of inspections and [on] any corrective action taken.”

  • Tools, as material handling or cleaning equipment, have the potential to easily become vectors of key contaminants, e.g., microbial biofilms, allergens, and foreign matter, and therefore, a contaminated tool should be treated like a non-conforming environmental surface that’s capable of creating a food safety hazard. Hence, cleaning tool maintenance becomes absolutely critical, and these implemented preventative actions should also be accounted for.

7. There’s a widened focus on the review of specifications critical to food safety. System element 2.3.2.10 requires that: “Specifications for raw materials and packaging, chemicals, processing aids, contract services, and finished products shall be reviewed as changes occur that impact product safety… A list of all the above specifications shall be maintained and kept current.”

  • Tool specifications, in our view, can also impact food safety. Tools and utensils used in food processing operations must be compliant with 21 CFR FDA or equivalent regulatory requirements. Remco offers a range of FDA-complaint cleaning and material handling tools to our clients. Our FDA-compliant tools all have up-to-date technical specifications, declarations of compliance, guidance, and technical support, where required.

8. Expansion of hygienic design requirements for sites and equipment should be expected. With the alignment of SQF Edition 9 Codes to the new GFSI Benchmarking Document 2020, hygienic design industry scopes (i.e., JI and JII) should prominently feature in the near-future-standards. Moreover, benefits of ease in accessibility, inspection, cleaning, and maintenance of newly designed and installed sites and equipment shall eventually be realized by stakeholders through proper adoption of these scopes.

9. Food Safety Culture is a new component in the Edition 9 Codes. System element 2.1.1.2 on management responsibility states that “senior site management shall lead and support a food safety culture within the site…” Food safety culture is defined as a set of food safety-related attitudes, values, and beliefs that are shared by a group of organization members.

  • Remco’s sales and support team can help by offering cleaning and material handling tools that meet the site’s food safety objectives by offering and recommending viable color-coding solutions in tool selection, usage, cleaning, storage, care, and maintenance requirements, which has been shown to strengthen food safety culture in an organization. To schedule a complimentary site visit with one of our trained and experienced business development managers who understand the SQF Codes and other food safety requirements, click here.

Please note: The author has sampled just the significant changes in SQF Edition 9 Food Safety Code for Food Manufacturing (assuming a transition from previous Edition 8.1 to new Edition) that support our company’s relevant viewpoints and best possible industry advice on key sanitation and hygiene requirements. Refer to the SQFI website as the best resource for comprehensive information on understanding and preparing for the SQF Edition 9 Code certification standard requirements for a site. For any queries on the advisory information above, feel free to email us at edtech@remcoproducts.com.

 

References:

Celebrating FSMA’s 10th Anniversary: What have we achieved, and what’s to come in 2021?

blue workstation

Ten years ago, on January 4th, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This act enables the FDA to better protect public health by focusing more on preventing food safety problems rather than simply reacting to them. Looking through a decade of U.S. regulatory challenges and achievements, so far, seven FSMA Final Rules and several guidelines have been published, and most food industries are already complying with the relevant requirements. Other FSMA compliance date deadlines to look out for are as follows:

FSMA Final Rule

Applicability

Compliance Date Deadline




Produce Safety

Other Produce – Small Farms (remaining water requirements)

Jan. 26, 2021

Other Produce – Very Small Farms (remaining water requirements)

Jan. 26, 2022

Small Farms – Non-sprout agricultural water requirements

Jan. 26, 2023

Very Small Farms – Non-sprout agricultural water requirements

Jan. 26, 2024

Intentional Adulteration

Very Small Businesses

July 26, 2021

 

For more current information on FSMA compliance requirements, visit the FDA’s website.

The battle is still far from being won – allergen labeling and management remains the top cited cause for product recalls, and contamination by Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella continue to be the leading causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. These trends indicate that regulatory agencies, industry stakeholders, and allied groups should continue to make a concerted effort in providing safe and wholesome food to consumers. In light of increased hospitalizations during the ongoing pandemic, controlling for allergens and contaminants are even more critical as we face an already strained healthcare system. 

This year should see significant activities centered around strengthening industry requirements toward FSMA compliance. The following are some of the recent developments to potentially keep track of:

  1. Collaboration and Integration within Agencies: Expect more open communication among North American regulatory agencies such as the FDA, FSIS, and the CFIA and stakeholders. One such collaborative initiative that has been spearheaded by these organizations is on Salmonella reduction efforts in meat, poultry, and produce to meet Healthy People 2030 global targets. 
  2. Digitization of Food Safety Processes and Systems: To meet increasing record-keeping requirements, industries will make a greater effort to move away from physical paperwork and towards digitization and the use of AI and Data analytics technologies. Companies should be able to take advantage of real-time, block-chain, or predictive capabilities to help in hazard prevention, but these systems must also meet the 21 CFR 11 requirements on electronic record-keeping.
  3. Preparing for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety: The FDA’s Blueprint was launched in July last year as the agency’s masterplan towards creating a more digital, traceable, safer, and FSMA-based food network system that should help bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. We should expect more developments for this initiative in 2021.
  4. Traceability as a Preventive Approach: The ability to trace and track the source of foodborne illnesses to be able to better prevent future outbreaks has become one of the FDA’s priorities. This year we look forward to the finalization of FSMA’s proposed Rule for Food Traceability, which should mandate additional record-keeping requirements for certain high-risk foods.
  5. Enhanced Focus on Sanitation Controls: With sanitation being elevated to one of the hazard analysis risk-based preventive controls, there should be an increased industry focus toward an integrated sanitation approach. Such an approach should also include the selection, cleaning, storage, and maintenance of cleaning tools, as such equipment can also become vectors of contamination in a food plant.

For more updates on the FDA’s Viewpoint on FSMA progress and the path forward, visit the FDA’s website.

References:

2020 Food Safety Development Recaps in Anticipation for 2021 and Beyond – The Future is Now!

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, it’s essential for the global food supply and food safety systems to keep delivering safe and quality food to consumers. Notably, the message from the FDA has been clear: “There is no evidence, as yet, regarding transmission of COVID-19 through food and food packaging.” 

However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that the industry and public-at-large keep abreast of relevant regulatory changes and follow science-based experts’ guidelines. Furthermore, as we all look forward to the progress on the vaccines, CDC/WHO/Public Health guidelines on minimizing the virus transmission and spread will still need to be followed.

This has definitely been a year of challenges for the food industry; however, let’s take a moment to recall some of the significant developments in food safety that should positively influence the North American food safety landscape in the years to come:

  • On July 13, the FDA unveiled its blueprint on the ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’ on creating a more digital, traceable and safer food network system to help reduce food illnesses in the U.S.
  • On August 22, the FSIS-USDA held a virtual public meeting to launch the “Roadmap to Reducing Salmonella” for meat, poultry, and egg products, and also to meet part of the Healthy People 2030 goals.
  • On November 18, the FDA released a new outbreak investigation tool that shall tabulate all foodborne outbreaks in an effort to initiate an early response from the FDA’s CORE (Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation) team.

During the last quarter of this year, the FDA cited an inspectional violation to a manufacturing facility because of poor cleaning tool storage and use that led to RTE product cross-contamination. This reinforces the point we have been making for years that tools are vectors of contamination and so they need to be properly selected, used, cleaned, stored, and maintained.

Here is a list of key food safety-related developments to look out for in 2021:

  1. The FDA has just released the Proposed Rule for Food Traceability to provide the basis for additional traceability recordkeeping for certain foods based on Section 204 of FSMA. In 2021, we should expect a finalization of the rule and more guidelines, specifically on the Food Traceability List.
  2. SQF Edition 9 Code books were published during the latter half of 2020. In a nutshell, the new codes now reflect a more sector-specific approach, and with an emphasis on food safety culture. The new codes shall be aligned to the newest GFSI Benchmarking Documents Version 2020. SQF Edition 9 is expected to become the auditing standard from May 24, 2021 onward.
  3. GFSI version 2020 has also incorporated two new scopes of recognition on Hygienic Design i.e., JI and JII. We should expect more food safety system requirements regarding hygienically designed facilities, equipment, tools, and utensils in the very near future.

Important Company News:

  • In order to effectively serve grocery stores, our parent company, Vikan, has launched the Food Retail line of products and solutions. To download the guide, click here.
  • Remco now stocks high temperature resistant tools that can be effectively used for cleaning ovens or other heated surfaces. 
  • Our SQF practitioner-qualified, HACCP- and PCQI-certified Business Development Managers are now capable of conducting virtual site assessments. To request a site visit, contact us.

Remco, as a supplier of color-coded, high-quality, and durable cleaning, hygiene and material handling equipment, appreciate and wholly support the role of the food industry and the front-line workers in assuring food safety and sanitation even during these trying times. 

We earnestly look forward to a healthy, prosperous, and stable 2021 for all. Meanwhile, we wish everyone happy holidays and a safe season!

References:







Focus on FSMA: Looking Forward to a Year of Produce Safety Improvements

Produce safety changes in 2020

According to the World Health Organization, low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has been shown to be a significant risk factor potentially contributing to cancer, heart disease, and strokes around the globe. Indeed, nutrition experts have recommended a minimum individual daily intake of 400 g of various fresh produce commodities.1 However, eating fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t without risk, as there are minimal processing steps (such as washing, cutting, and packing) even when they’re not just eaten raw. This can and does increase the chances of produce cross-contamination that may result in foodborne illnesses.

Last year, in 2019, a significant number of disease outbreaks and recalls were linked to the produce sector. Some of the key food safety incidents that made headlines were on:

  • Multi-state coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with romaine lettuce from Salinas growing region in California, that led to about 138 reported illnesses and 72 hospitalizations;
  • Nationwide recall of Ready-to-eat (RTE) vegetable products from various retail outlets due to potential risk of Listeria monocytogenes found in produce sourced from a common supplier;
  • Outbreak of Salmonella Uganda infections (reported in nine U.S. States) linked to whole, fresh papayas imported from a Mexican farm.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. is currently a net importer of fresh produce.2 Just over half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of fresh vegetables consumed by the American public are imported from other countries such as Mexico, Chile, and Canada. The risks to food and produce safety are greatly aggravated if suppliers do not have adequate preventive food safety controls in place. Thus, it became imperative for the U.S. federal government to enact the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which basically provides the FDA with a proactive authority to regulate the way foods are sourced or grown, harvested, processed, stored, and transported for interstate or international commerce.3

In 2020, we should expect stakeholders to build upon the existing regulatory framework or initiatives in order to foster better Produce Safety improvements, and with a collaborative objective of providing safe and wholesome food to the public. Some of the key things coming in this arena are as follows:

1. Produce Safety Rule compliance date for very small farms is nearing:

The FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety was published on January 26, 2016, with the aim of providing minimum food safety standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables.4 Most of the compliance deadlines have passed, but then the compliance date for the very small produce farms (other than sprouts – which has a separate compliance date) shall be January 27, 2020.

2. Supplier traceability challenges should make industry adopt smarter food safety technologies:

To enable a faster foodborne outbreak response in the interest of public health, more reliable information, better processes and updated technologies will be required by industry to track the source and destinations of contaminated produce. According to Frank Yiannas, the FDA deputy commissioner for food safety, facilitating the adoption of newer traceability technologies (such as blockchain) in the produce sector will usher in a New Era of Smarter Food Safety that is people-led, FSMA-based, and technology enabled.5

3. Sanitation and hygiene will become a greater produce sector focus:

There will be an enhanced requirement to strengthen the foundation of Good Agricultural Practices and the key risk-based sanitation programs on farms that should help prevent microbial contamination of the marketable produce, associated food recalls, and foodborne disease outbreaks. Examples of these practices include ensuring worker health and hygiene; overall plant sanitation and cleaning; organizing growing, harvesting, packing, and holding activities; ensuring the proper quality of agricultural water and soil amendments; and properly maintaining equipment, tools, and buildings. Moreover, it has been generally estimated that poor sanitary conditions at a plant or site is responsible for at least one-third of North American food recalls, and a lot of direct and indirect expenses could be avoided through proper sanitation strategies.6

Remco can help the food industry, as a well as the produce sector, with the right selection, storage, care and maintenance criteria for sanitation and material handling implements that are required for a sanitary and more hygienic food production environment. More information about our tools are available at https://remcoproducts.com/products/.

 

Selected References:

(1) WHO: Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health – https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/index1.html

(2) The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products – https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34468.pdf

(3) FDA Food Safety Modernization Act – https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-regulation-food-and-dietary-supplements/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma

(4) FSMA Final Rule On Produce Safety – https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-rule-produce-safety

(5) New Era of Smarter Food Safety – https://www.fda.gov/food/food-industry/new-era-smarter-food-safety

(6) Evaluating FDA Food Recalls with Sanitation as a Root Cause – https://www.vikan.com/media/8428/2019_iafp-poster_amitmkheradia-us.pdf