Legionnaires Disease Kills 10 in Flint, Michigan Since Water Change
Soruce : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/legionnaires-disease-kills-10-in-flint-michigan-since-water-change/
By Carla Gillespie (Jan 17, 2016)
Ten people have died and 77 others have been sickened by Legionnaires Disease in Flint, Michigan and the the surrounding area since June 2014, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced this week. The spike in illnesses began two months after the city of Flint changed its water supply to the Flint River in a money-saving move, but health department officials say its too early to tell if the two are related. One reason health officials say they cannot be directly link the cases to the water change in Flint is the they don’t have isolates from case patients.
“While Legionellosis cases are not uncommon, we are concerned about the increase in cases seen in Genesee County,” said Eden Wells, M.D., chief medical executive with the MDHHS. “We are releasing this report and continuing surveillance and investigations to ensure that appropriate actions are being taken to protect the health of the residents of Flint.”
From June 2014 to March 2015, there were 45 confirmed cases of Legionnaires Disease, seven of them resulted in fatalities. From May 2015 through November 2015, 42 cases were reported, of those, three were fatalities. Those sickened ranged in age from 26–94.
Legionnaires’ Disease, which does not spread from person-to person, causes pneumonia-like symptoms including fever, cough, fatigue, confusion, aches and lung inflammation. It develops when water mist contaminated with Legionella bacteria is inhaled. The source of contaminated water mist can be showers, faucets, whirlpools, swimming pools, fountains or cooling towers in air conditioning systems.
Between 8,000 and 18,000 Americans are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ Disease. each year. The condition is so-named because it was first discovered when an outbreak of pneumonia struck an American Legion convention in 1976.
Food Defense in the Age of Domestic Terrorism
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-defense-in-the-age-of-domestic-terrorism/
By Robert A. Norton, Ph.D. (Jan 15, 2016)
Food Defense in the Age of Domestic Terrorism
Historians will likely look at December 2, 2015, as a “game changer.” The news has become all too familiar to the world. Two individuals, a husband and wife in this case, perpetrated another terrorist event by killing 14 people and wounding 21 others who were attending what is reported to have been a holiday party.
The operational competence the perpetrators exhibited in the shooting was immediately characterized as being something different, exhibiting many of the characteristics of careful and extended planning and precision execution. The perpetrators were in and out of the facility quickly and escaped before the first police arrived, although police arrived only minutes after the first shots were fired.
When the “perps” were finally tracked down, a massive gunfight ensued. The end result was, thankfully, no injured police, but two very dead terrorists. The SUV they drove when they fled the attack contained a substantial arsenal of weapons and ammunition, as well as numerous improvised explosive devices (IEDs), some of which were thrown at police during the chase. A subsequent investigation at the apartment of the killers revealed what can only be described as an “IED factory,” in many ways identical to those encountered by the military since 2002 in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. This was indeed a game-changing tragedy.
Amidst the din of media coverage, the press failed to notice two things—and when the press doesn’t notice, the public usually doesn’t either. The implications of these two facts lie squarely at the intersection of food safety and food defense. First, the male suspect, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, was a 2009 graduate of California State University at San Bernardino, with a degree in environmental health. That in and of itself might be an interesting fact, but it takes on more significance when placed in the larger context of trying to figure out motives and, more importantly, capabilities. These are natural questions to be asked during a police investigation, and these are questions with national security implications.
The second fact missed by many in the press and public is that the San Bernardino County Public Health Department environmental health services division employed Farook as a food facilities inspector. Under local and state codes, this division is responsible for inspecting restaurants, public pools, hotels and motels, body art facilities and rental housing, as well as overseeing community food producers and cottage food operations. Farook routinely spent time working without supervision in the kitchens of restaurants, hotels and motels—the kinds of facilities that serve food to large numbers of people every day. Again, the implications of this can only be appreciated by looking at the facts through the lens of law enforcement and national security.
The question that did emerge almost immediately in the press was whether this tragic event was the work of ISIS (Islamic State). The evidence, much of it cyber-related (smartphones, computers, social media), must be gone through methodically. Here are some facts about ISIS that you might not know. ISIS is currently trying to acquire multiple “tools” they consider game changers. The first and most important desired acquisition is recruits, specifically Americans, who live and work here and who can act as “lone wolves” or in teams of attackers. Farook was an American, reportedly born and educated here. Was he an ISIS recruit? The answer is actually not important, because he acted in the manner that ISIS is trying to promote, therefore enabling ISIS to claim credit—whether or not the claim is true. ISIS is also seeking weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons (or industrial chemicals used as such), biological weapons (with which to attack food and water systems), radiological weapons (i.e. “dirty bombs”), and ultimately nuclear weapons.
Most people think countering these threats is the sole responsibility of the government, police and military. They are wrong. Food production and processing systems, restaurants and grocery stores might not be considered on the front line for national defense, but every American eats food and drinks water. ISIS knows this and is trying to acquire weapons that could be delivered through these systems, because using the food system would be a quick way to cause casualties (dead and sick). More important is the devastating mass psychological effect, the front face of “terror.”
Farook had “the keys to the kingdom,” meaning he had inside access to a critical infrastructure. He had the capability and opportunity to do things to food-related facilities, and the products they contained, that could make people sick, perhaps even kill them. Did he do that? That question cannot yet be answered definitively, since we are very early in the investigation. Did he plan to do that at some later time? Again, only time will tell as the investigation matures and more evidence is uncovered.
At this stage, however, there is an even more troubling element. Terrorists rarely operate in a vacuum, meaning they do things people can observe during the various phases of planning, rehearsal and mission execution. Farook is no exception. Neighbors are now reporting all kinds of strange characters and happenings at the Farook household. Reportedly, neighbors observed males of approximately his same age bringing large quantities of materials into the apartment at all hours of the day and night. No one reported these observations to the police out of fear they would be considered “racist.”
A question therefore naturally emerges. Would personnel in food establishments he inspected have acted in the same way, had they observed something suspicious? Would food establishment personnel ever have considered a county health inspector a possible threat?
If they didn’t, they should have. Perhaps this case will cause them to consider more seriously the idea that any person associated with the food establishment, whether an employee (an “insider threat”), a visitor (inspectors, delivery personnel, etc.) or even a customer could pose a serious threat. The world has changed, and the way food establishments operate must change to meet the threats. So what is the owner of a food establishment to do?
Some simple solutions cost little. First, owners of food establishments must know definitively who they employ, and observation is the key to spotting anomalies. Any deviance from normal behavior or actions must be considered in the larger context of security. Any sudden or dramatic change in behavior must be investigated. This is the responsibility of all employees, and leadership should nurture and foster an environment with a “no fault” reporting mechanism. No one should be frightened or intimidated from reporting concerns, out of a fear of being accused of doing so maliciously. In those cases where false accusing does occur, punishment should be swift and public, so as to discourage a repeat. This is good advice in general, not just in the context of terrorism. Insider threats are a huge problem for business, and disgruntled employees have shown themselves on numerous occasions to be fully capable of causing tragedy, both personal and businesswise.
Visitors, whether government officials or delivery personnel, should be escorted at all times, and their movements should be controlled as appropriate to the situation. Even in small facilities, lack of attention to visitors can give them quick access to parts of the business where they do not belong.
Overall surveillance is also important, particularly in those areas of the facility that might be considered “pinch points” (such as hallways and storage rooms) or “concentration points” (such as food production and processing areas and equipment). Cameras or motion detection systems are often used to illuminate potential problem areas. Cameras, unfortunately, are only useful after an event has already occurred. A more robust system utilizes video cameras, with video regularly reviewed for abnormalities. The faster an event is detected, the better. Discovering a terrorist or criminal event in the earliest stages might mean the survival of the business versus its destruction in the wake of tragedy and litigation.
America is at war and therefore must act accordingly. The food production, processing and distribution systems, whether wholesale or retail, are potential targets that must be hardened rapidly or eventually suffer the consequences. Business cannot depend on the government. Brand is everything in this highly competitive economy, and a company not capable of protecting the consumers of its products is a company likely not long for this world.
We as citizens of this great nation are all in this together. We have to pull ourselves together and steel ourselves for the fight. Each of us has a responsibility; if we “see something, say something.” For the sake of our businesses, but more importantly for the sake of our friends and families, we must not let the adversary win.
The friends and families of 35 people are now grieving because of the loss or injury of their loved ones, people who suffered because others saw suspicious behavior and said nothing, out of fear others would see them in a negative manner. Truly this was a tragedy that did not need to be allowed to happen.
Robert A. Norton, Ph.D., is a professor at Auburn University and a member of the Auburn University Food System Institute’s core faculty. A long-time consultant to federal and state law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense and industry, he specializes in intelligence analysis, weapons of mass destruction defense and national security. For more information on the topic or for more detailed discussions about specific security related needs, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 334.844.7562.
Food safety research focuses on packing
Source : http://www.goodfruit.com/food-safety-research-focuses-on-packing/
By Geraldine Warner (Jan 14, 2016)
Scientists in Washington have been doing research to help fruit packers ensure fruit is clean when it goes in the box and reduce their food safety risks.
Dr. Ines Hanrahan, project manager with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, has been working with Dr. Karen Killinger, former food safety specialist with Washington State University, to evaluate the most effective microbial controls for packing houses and identify new products and approaches.
Controlling microbes in the dump tank is difficult because of all the soil (organic matter) that is dumped with the fruit. Organic matter binds to and inactivates chlorine.
Hanrahan said it is not uncommon for packers to just have one dump tank and change the water once a week. “This is where you can lose control, and you then start contaminating the fruit,” she said.
Ideally, the dump system should have two parts beginning with a small tank where the bins are initially submerged. Then, the fruit would go under a rinse bar and into a separate, cleaner dump tank.
“It’s much easier to control your chlorine levels and prevent cross-contamination in the second dump tank, and you may get a microbial reduction, depending on your management system for the dump tank and flume system,” she said.
Packers might not have room for two dump tanks on their existing lines, Hanrahan said. “But it’s easy, if you’re building a line, to consider that, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do it. Just a little alteration makes a huge difference for food safety.
“If you have two separate water systems, a dump tank followed by a separate flume system, you can switch the water in the first dump tank very frequently. You don’t have to dump all the water in the system at one time. It’s easy to replenish that tank and keep it clean. Determining an appropriate water change schedule with more frequent water changes can improve safety.”
The oxidation/reduction potential (ORP) can be used as an indicator of how much active chlorine is in the system to help control microbes, so it’s important to measure the ORP with a meter or probe to make sure it stays in the right range, she said.
However, readings can be affected by the placement and accuracy of the instrument as well as frequency of calibration.
For example, if readings are taken close to the chlorine injection system, perhaps because it’s a convenient location, they might not accurately indicate the overall ORP level throughout the entire system.
The scientists recommend aiming for ORP readings higher than the minimum target levels to control microbes to account for variability in readings and the accuracy of the probes. Meters need to be maintained properly.
A spray bar system can be an effective way to reduce the microbial load on fruit. However, Hanrahan said many packing lines don’t have a spray bar or, if they do, it’s not long enough. “If you have a spray bar that applies a treatment directly to the fruit for a few seconds, that’s clearly too short.”
Research has shown that generic (non-pathogenic) Escherichia coli on apples can be reduced by more than 90 percent when 60 to 80 parts per million of peroxyacetic acid are directly applied to the fruit for at least 30 seconds, with or without soap.
Some packers have changed the layout of their packing lines to add spray bars or created space for longer spray bars.
“This is a nice outcome, so you can get microbial reductions on the packing line,” Hanrahan said.
The scientists emphasize that microbial control must be maintained throughout the packing process. In a study at a cooperating packing house, they found no evidence of coliforms or generic E. coli in the pre-size dump tank water system, but the lack of a sanitizer in the flume system and bin fillers resulted in increasing microbial loads on fruit after pre-sizing.
They also monitored microbe levels after each step during final packing: dump tank, soap spray bar, hyperwash, water rinse spray bar, fans, wax application and dryer. The step that appeared to reduce microbes the most was drying.
Research is now underway to further study how drying during the packing process affects microorganisms on fruit.
Overall, progress is being made on identifying steps in a packing system that can improve microbial control and offer opportunities for microbial reduction, Killinger and Hanrahan report.
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Gathering data for food safety
Source : http://www.goodfruit.com/gathering-data-for-food-safety/
By Geraldine Warner (Jan 14, 2016)
Research by scientists in Washington and other parts of the country could influence what will be required from tree fruit growers and packers as the Food and Drug Administration implements new food safety regulations.
Since the Food Safety Modernization Act became law in 2011, the FDA has been developing a series of rules covering food production, handling, transportation, importation and auditing, with the focus on preventing food-related illnesses.
Kate Woods, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said the FDA, which had never before regulated farms, began proposing very prescriptive rules governing on-farm practices.
However, there was not much data showing the safety or health risks to consumers posed by current growing practices for different types of produce.
For example, little was known about which pathogens farmers should test for in water and at what levels the water could be considered safe for application to tree fruit if pathogens are present.
Nor was it known where the water should be sampled within the irrigation system to get the most accurate reading, or what the best mitigation measures might be.
Growers are covered by the Produce Safety Rule (standards for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce).
Most Northwest tree fruit growers irrigate from open canal systems, and the initial version of the rule (proposed in January 2013) included water standards that seemed completely unachievable in terms of how frequently growers would be required to test their water supply and what they should do if results came in at unacceptable levels, Woods said.
After receiving feedback and releasing an interim draft of the rule for public comment, the FDA published the final rule on Nov. 27.
It includes slightly more workable standards and requirements for produce growers and some flexibility should future scientific studies show different methods that would allow producers to meet FDA’s standards for human health protection.
Woods said research is being done around the country, some of it funded by the Center for Produce Safety, to fill in the gaps and provide information that will be critical as the regulations are implemented.
For example, Dr. Karen Killinger, former food safety specialist at Washington State University, and Dr. Ines Hanrahan, project manager with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, have been working on projects relating to food safety in the orchard and packing house. (Read “Food safety research focuses on packing.”)
The final Produce Safety Rule is 801 pages long, and Woods said that, as of press time for this issue of Good Fruit Grower, the Northwest Horticultural Council and other produce organizations were still analyzing and seeking clarifications from FDA on exactly how it will impact growers.
However, as was expected based on previous versions, the rule will require growers to test their water and take certain actions should microbial tests come back above a set threshold close to harvest.
The rule appears to provide options for science-based alternatives to certain parts of the new water requirements created in the rule.
It’s hoped that, based on data from current or future research, the FDA will be able to give growers flexibility in setting and achieving these standards and not force them to meet requirements unnecessary for human health protection.
The research also will provide growers with information to help them implement the rules.
Very small growers — those with less than $250,000 in annual produce sales — will have four years from Jan. 26, 2016, the day the rule goes into effect, to comply with most provisions in the Produce Safety Rule.
Growers with $250,000 to $500,000 in sales will have three years to comply, and all others will have two years. However, growers will be given an additional two years to meet the water quality standards because of concerns about the difficulty that growers may have in meeting these new requirements.
Woods said once the industry has finished analyzing the rule and has a better idea of exactly what will be required, growers should start looking at their operations to see if changes need to be made. The FDA is preparing guidance documents, but it’s not known when they will be issued.
The other FSMA rule that will have a significant impact on the tree fruit industry is the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule.
Some fresh fruit packers might fall under the Produce Safety Rule if most of the fruit they pack comes from company-owned orchards, though the location of the orchards is also a factor.
However, if most of the fruit comes from outside growers, the packer will likely fall under the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule instead. This could lead to some confusion at first, Woods said.
Packers who handle fruit from their own orchards and from other growers will need to determine which rule applies to them. This also applies to storage facilities.
The FDA issued the final version of the Preventive Controls Rule in September 2015. It’s a document of more than 900 pages that industry representatives are still analyzing in order to understand the implications.
One thing’s certain: It will require more paperwork from packers to document their use of safe practices. Each packer will need to identify food-safety hazards in their facility and how to address them.
An industrywide approach won’t work, Woods said, because each packing facility has different points where there might be vulnerabilities and different solutions that might be best to address them.
“There’s information we can provide, but I don’t think there’s going to be a cut-and-dried plan that’s going to work industrywide,” she said. “There’s certainly going to have to be science and data and research provided to assist packing houses to address these concerns.”
Woods said Pacific Northwest fruit packers won’t have to duplicate what they’re already doing for third-party auditors or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Good Handling Practices, but there will likely be additional requirements that will take additional time and resources at first.
Produce industry organizations, such as the Northwest Horticultural Council, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association are all still analyzing the Preventive Controls Rule to find out exactly what it will mean for packers.
Very small businesses, with less than $1 million in annual sales, will need to comply with the Preventive Controls Rule by September 2018.
Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 full-time equivalent staff, will have to comply by September 2017. All others will need to comply by September 2016.
The FDA will publish guidance documents specific to fresh produce packing that should provide more information on how the FDA will interpret the rules, but Woods said it’s not known when those will be available.
Woods said there should be plenty of training opportunities for growers and packers. The Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University in New York will offer train-the-trainer courses for people interested in training growers on how to meet the Produce Safety Rule requirements. FDA has been working with the alliance to develop the curriculum.
Industry associations, including United, PMA and the Washington State Tree Fruit Association are working on education and training efforts for producers. Since the FDA has no experience with regulating on-farm practices, the agency will probably also work with states to implement and enforce the rules, though that’s not yet been announced. •
Blue Bell’s Listeria Clarification Needs Clarification
Source : https://search.naver.com/search.naver?where=nexearch&query=%EB%8F%84%EB%82%98%ED%83%80&sm=top_hty&fbm=1&ie=utf8
By News Desk (Jan 13, 2016)
Two recent announcements from Blue Bell Creameries about new food safety measures following the deadly Listeria outbreak linked to its ice cream have people wondering: has the company recently found Listeria at its Texas ice cream plant or not?
The short answer is yes. So why the confusion?
On January 7, the company posted a statement on its website called “An update on our enhanced procedures at our production facilities.” That statement led some media outlets, including this one, to believe the company’s new food safety measures were helping to identify areas where Listeria was present enabling them to clean and sanitize the areas to prevent contamination of ice cream.
But the next day, January 8, the company removed that announcement and replaced it with another entitled: “Clarification regarding enhanced testing by Blue Bell Creameries.” It reads:
“To keep our customers informed, we gave an update yesterday, January 7, 2016, on the progress we have made with our enhanced procedures in our production facilities. Unfortunately in some media reports this information has been misstated.
In our facilities, we have identified suspected areas where bacteria may be present but in no case have we confirmed Listeria monocytogenes.
The entire purpose of our enhanced environmental testing is to identify locations where bacteria could be found in our facility in order to properly clean and sanitize the surface and prevent contamination.
We have tested and will continue to test every batch of ice cream produced. No products produced have tested positive. No products are shipped to stores until tests confirm they are safe. We will continue to work closely with our regulatory agencies, as we have throughout this process.”
Why then did the company tell the Texas Department of State Health Services that it had found Listeria at its plant in Brenham a couple of times in the last month, according to health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams? The company told the health department it found Listeria on non food contact surfaces and addressed the problem, Williams told Food Poisoning Bulletin in an email today. Recent tests conducted by the department on environmental and product samples have all been negative, she said.
So why did Blue Bell say “in no case have we confirmed Listeria monocytogenes?” A look at the company’s past track record may provide the answer.
About a year ago, health officials discovered the Blue Bell outbreak after they noticed five patients hospitalized for unrelated causes at hospital in Wichita Kansas all contracted listeriosis. Four of those sickened were able to provide a food history and all of them reported having milkshakes made with Blue Bell “Scoops,” a single serving product, while they were in the hospital.
Health officials then used DNA fingerprints of the Listeria monocytongenes outbreak strain to look for other cases. They found seven others dating back to 2010.
As the investigation of Blue Bell’s longstanding Listeria problem came to light, documents began to surface. Among them, documents that revealed the company was aware of the presence of Listeria in its plants.
At its facility in Broken Arrow, Okla. where ice cream served at the Kansas hospital was made, Listeria was isolated from samples of non-contact food surfaces five times in 2013, 10 times in 2014, once in January 2015 and once in February 2015. Listeria was also found after the outbreak was discovered in environmental samples collected by the FDA on March 24, 2015 and March 25, 2015.
The documents show that when Blue Bell tests turned up positives for Listeria, the company did not conduct further tests to determine if it was Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogen that can, and did in this case, cause severe illness and death.
Because they never tested for it, it would have been technically true for Blue Bell to say in 2013 “in no case have we confirmed Listeria monocytogenes.” So the clarification raises more questions than it answers. Why say “suspected Listeria” in your statement to the public after telling the health department tests were positive for Listeria? Did Blue Bell test the Listeria they found this time and determine it was not Listeria monocytogenes? And why not be more direct while under investigation by the Justice Department?
Allergens and Security Top List of Food Safety Concerns
Source : http://agnetwest.com/2016/01/12/food-safety-concerns/
By agnetwest.com (Jan 12, 2016)
With food recalls on the rise and the threat to food security growing, food manufacturers are going to want to know more details about farmers’ and ranchers’ food safety and security practices, Nationwide’s Lance Reeve told workshop attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
Reeve is senior risk management consultant-food safety for Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company. Despite manufacturers’ rigorous food safety protocols, they’re being outwitted by ever-evolving microbes.
“We’re finding bacteria in places we didn’t find bacteria 20 years ago,” Reeve said.
A far greater problem—and a much big driver of recalls—are allergens. Eight foods account for 90 percent of food-allergy reactions in the U.S: eggs, shellfish, fish, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts. Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, since 2006 all labels must list ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. A significant portion of food recalls over the past decade are due to foods accidentally not being properly labeled for these allergens.
Although food defense events—people purposely contaminating food products—are miniscule compared to accidental events like mislabeling, many food manufacturers jumped on food security a long time ago, Reeve explained. And they may soon be expecting farmers to be prepared with defense plans of their own.
“I understand you can’t lock down a farm, but to say you can’t do anything isn’t true,” Reeve said. He urged farmers and ranchers to consider looking carefully at the procedures they have in place for securing commodities and feed and managing farm visitors.
In light of the many changes related to food safety over the past 20 years, Reeve expects that far more are in store— many of which could affect farmers and ranchers directly.
Allergens will continue to be a top concern, and GMO labeling, though not a food safety issue, would significantly impact everyone involved in the farm-to-table process.
“How many grain elevators are set up to truly distinguish between GMO and non-GMO? At the farm-level, how many of you are really cleaning your trucks out as you go from one commodity to the next? How about your bins? I know you rinse them out, but can you tell me there’s no possible grain residue left?”
Experts to study food safety of oilfield wastewater
Source : http://www.heraldcourier.com/news/calif-experts-to-study-food-safety-of-oilfield-wastewater/article_d94e9ca4-3a7f-5b94-97d6-81b3401b31e9.html
By heraldcourier.com (Jan 12, 2016)
More farmers in drought-stricken California are using oilfield wastewater to irrigate, and a new panel on Tuesday began taking one of the state's deepest looks yet at the safety of using the chemical-laced water on food crops.
In the fourth year of California's drought, at least five oilfields in the state are now passing along their leftover production fluid to water districts for irrigation, for recharging underground water supplies, and other uses, experts said.
Chevron and the California offshoot of Occidental Petroleum are among the oil companies supplying oilfield wastewater for irrigating tens of thousands of acres in California. Almond, pistachio and citrus growers are the main farmers already using such water.
California's aging oilfields require intensive drilling methods and generate lots of wastewater. In Central California's San Joaquin Valley, a center of the state's agriculture and oil businesses, oil companies in 2013 produced 150 million barrels of oil — and nearly 2 billion barrels of wastewater.
Central California leads the country in food production. It's also the main oil-producing base in California, the country's No. 3 oil-and-gas producing state.
For farmers in California's drought, the question is "where's the water going to come from if you want to maintain agriculture," said Gabriele Ludwig, a representative of Almond Board of California and one of the members of the new panel.
The state officials, academic experts and industry representatives on the panel are charged with studying the safety of irrigating food crops with oilfield wastewater that may contain chemicals and other material from hydraulic fracturing, other intensive drilling methods and oilfield maintenance.
The effect of oilfield chemicals on food is "largely unstudied and unknown," says the nonprofit Pacific Institute, which studies water issues.
Researchers, for example, don't know the long-term toxicity of up to 80 percent of the hundreds of materials used in oilfield production, Pacific Institute researcher Matthew Heberger told panel members.
Testing so far has found only negligible amounts of chemicals in the recycled oilfield water, said Clay Rodgers, a manager at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which assembled the panel. At least one local water district also has begun growing test crops with the oilfield water to study how much of the chemicals wind up in the produce.
As of now, with so many unknowns about the hundreds of chemicals involved and their possible impact on crops, "We're not able to answer the public definitely and say there's no problem," said William Stringfellow, a panel member and environmental engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley.
The regional water board will use the panel's findings to guide its oversight of the recycling of oilfield wastewater, Rodgers said.
Your 2016 food packaging safety to-do list
Source : http://www.packagingdigest.com/food-safety/your-2016-food-packaging-safety-to-do-list
By Gary Kestenbaum (Jan 11, 2016)
Review and act upon these 5 recommendations and you’ll be more informed and prepared to identify and address the food packaging safety issues within your operation. You, your facility and management will all benefit.
Feedback collected from professionals connected to the food packaging industry suggests that years after the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has gone into effect, gaps remain between food packaging customer expectations and food packaging supplier safety control.
I’ve taken the liberty of interpreting information that I’ve collected in the 4 plus years since the FSMA was broadly announced to the food and packaging industries. Broadly speaking, we in the packaging industry are not food scientists, we are not microbiologists, we are not HACCP experts, nor are we attorneys.
We are engineers, chemists, production managers, process developers, logistics and implementation experts and packaging material scientists. Hopefully, some of our cross-functional colleagues are quality-control professionals. We respect them, and, maybe, once a year, we listen to their presentation at the annual division or department team meeting.
As packaging professionals, we exist to develop, commercialize and manufacture (or use) packaging and/or materials to convert them. In our business, quality refers to the integrity of the threads on the finish of a rigid container, the wall thickness at a critical point on a thermoformed part, the integrity of a die-cut ECT 36 corrugated display shipper or the COF (coefficient of friction) on a roll of printed film.
If we’re equipment-related engineers, quality relates to consistency of operation, proper design, assembly and satisfactory completion of the factory or customer acceptance test. Rarely do we walk through the halls of our technical centers or the aisles of our manufacturing facilities burdened by worries that the packaging or related equipment we sell, use or distribute is at risk of causing a food safety breach at the customer or consumer level.
Avoid the safety sin of omission
We are all aware of food packaging safety “events” which get occasionally publicized and we are oblivious to the ones that aren’t. We are certainly experienced enough to understand that safe, suitable food packaging materials conversion doesn’t magically “happen.” But we are often guilty of acting to the contrary. Many of us are oblivious to day-to-day food safety risks, or we act in a manner which makes us appears unprepared or uninvolved.
Food packaging safety awareness may never get to the level of importance applied against food ingredient safety, but it is well-advised for those of you involved in every aspect of food packaging, contact or not, to understand the basics of food safety in relation to the component(s) that you are providing. In order to become or feel more connected to the food safety and quality discipline, I make the following recommendations which I will expand on in future articles at PackagingDigest.com:
•Facilitate, organize or attend basic food and packaging safety training or introductory education.
•Attend an “introduction to HACCP” course.
•Attend a client/customer “supplier quality expectations” course or seminar.
•Organize or become a member of a “food safety team” within your facility or organization.
•Subject your internal food packaging safety programs (be you supplier or client) and vendor expectation requirements to external review.
In upcoming blogs I will drill down into each of the listed topics and offer practical, easy-to-execute suggestions for initiating same. Before we move any further into 2016, now is an excellent time to allocate reasonable resources against food packaging safety and suitability!
Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, six as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer with Kraft. As senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at email@example.com or 410-484-9133. The website is www.ehagroup.com.
Ireland Issues Fewer Food Safety Violations in 2015
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/ireland-issues-fewer-food-safety-violations-in-2015/
By Staff (Jan 11, 2016)
Ireland Issues Fewer Food Safety Violations in 2015
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) says they issued fewer enforcement orders to food businesses for food safety violations in 2015 compared to 2014.
In 2014, a total of 113 enforcement orders were handed out. In 2015, that number dipped to 106--a decrease of 6 percent.
Part of this may be explained by FSAI’s emphasis on reminding food businesses that they are legally responsible for ensuring that the food they serve and sell is safe to consume. In a statement, the agency says that, “The FSAI warns that all food businesses must ensure they have robust food safety management systems in place and that enforcement officers will not hold back in taking swift action against any food business that fails to meet its legal obligations in this area.”
Last year’s enforcement orders included 90 closure orders--mostly due to poor cleaning and sanitation of premises, poor personal hygiene, lack of running water, inadequate hand washing facilities, incorrect food storage, lack of or ineffective pest control program, structural problems arising from lack of ongoing maintenance, and lack of or inadequate food safety management system. In addition to the closure orders, 16 prohibition orders were also issued.
Commenting on the annual figures, Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI warned that there can be no room for complacency when it comes to food safety and that the legal onus is on food businesses to ensure they fully comply with food safety legislation at all times. She says, “There is absolutely no excuse for negligent food practices. The types of reasons cited for Closure Orders are recurring reasons and easily avoidable. They are simple errors that should not be happening in any food business. Food businesses need to have the proper systems in place to ensure that the food they are preparing or serving is safe to eat. While most food businesses follow high standards and are compliant with food safety legislation, we continue to encounter cases where consumers’ health is put at risk through a lack of compliance. This is unacceptable and will be met with the full rigors of the law.”
Byrne has urged food businesses to take full advantage of the information and support provided by the inspectorate and the FSAI to ensure that they have the correct food safety management systems in place.
State Lawmakers Go Back to Work As Food Trends Turn Popular
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/state-lawmakers-go-back-to-work-as-food-trends-turn-popular/#.VpxFCE5umUl
By News Desk (Jan 11, 2016)
Ahead of standing for election later this year, lawmakers in most states are getting down to business again. Another 20 state legislatures will convene this week. When added to the dozen that got underway last week, it means that legislative business will be conducted in a majority of the states for the first time since last spring or early summer.
These election year sessions are usually shorter affairs than those held during the odd years. Some states—Nevada and Montana come to mind—don’t even bother meeting during election years. But most will Pierre-State-Capital-406x250conduct some legislative business, at least for awhile, and food safety will be impacted mostly by budget decisions involving support for such activities as surveillance and restaurant inspections.
But while those kinds of food safety decisions are not always popular with state lawmakers, it appears that when it comes to food policy, state lawmakers are lately inclined to go along with what might be called the latest in food trends.
A new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, funded by Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Futures, shows that since 2012 the states have supported what NCSL calls “local food systems.” These do not include food safety, but rather trendy local food system approaches, farmer’s markets, community gardens and urban agriculture, healthy retail groceries, and food policy councils.
Highlights of the report includes:
•Between 2012 and 2014, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire have enacted legislation to provide a statewide approach to local food.
•New farm-to-school programs were subject of legislation in Missouri, South Carolina and West Virginia between 2012 and 2014.
•Nine states—Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia have appropriated funding to farmer’s markets.
•Four states – New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and West Virginia – focused on the benefits of community gardens for financially or socially vulnerable populations. California and Missouri allowed local governments to establish urban agricultural zones and encourage these initiatives with tax incentives.
•Three states—Maryland, Massachusetts and Mississippi— passed legislation that attempts to make financial assistance available to promote healthy grocery retailing. Only the Maryland legislation included funding, however. New Jersey passed legislation to help consumers purchase healthy foods by expanding the locations where SNAP (food stamps) benefits can be used.
•Rhode Island and the District of Columbia created food policy councils. Two states— Colorado and North Carolina—extended the lives of existing councils. Three states— Colorado, New York and North Carolina—modified the membership of policy councils since 2012.
The complete package of reports on how states have strengthen local food options can be found here.
Point-Counterpoint: The Produce Traceability Initiative
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/december-2015january-2016/point-counterpoint-the-produce-traceability-initiative/
By Food Safety Magazine
The Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association formed the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) in 2007 to help produce companies and their buyer partners move toward achieving whole-chain traceability. Initially guided by a committee of more than 50 produce retailers, wholesalers, distributors, packer-shippers and growers, an action plan was developed to achieve whole-chain, electronic traceability by 2012. GS1 US joined PTI’s administering organizations in 2010. That same year, a leadership council was formed to direct PTI’s activities moving forward, including the development of best practices, pilot studies to address barriers to both implementation and transparent communication with supply chain members.
PTI is designed to help the produce industry maximize the effectiveness of current traceability procedures, while developing a standardized approach to enhance these systems for the future.
While most produce companies have embraced PTI and have begun to implement its suggested best practices, some are still resistant. We offer this point-counterpoint to address the lingering disparate perspectives on PTI and offer a glimpse into common ground between these differing viewpoints.
Taking the Point position is Gary Wishnatzki of Wish Farms; taking the Counterpoint side is Steve Warshawer, National Good Food Network food safety coordinator and consultant to the Wallace Center.
Gary Wishnatzki: It has been a long journey to get the entire produce supply chain on board with PTI. I believe that to have an efficient and effective traceability system, everyone needs to be speaking the same language.
Fortunately, the aviation industry figured that out fairly early on. English is the de facto international language of civil aviation. Every pilot and air traffic controller speak it. Can you imagine the chaos there would be in the sky if there wasn’t this standardization?
PTI has been evolving for nearly 10 years, and there has been a very inclusive approach taken by the PMA leadership to shape the standards and best practices. PTI may not be the perfect system for everyone and it may not be the best solution for every application, but it is a standard that has been hammered out through tens of thousands of hours of produce industry volunteers’ time.
It was the consensus of everyone involved that we needed a common language that can be easily communicated throughout the entire supply chain. In online meetings about PTI, it was a widely held belief that the produce industry should formulate traceability standards that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], in their implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act [FSMA], could “coat-tail” on. In conversations with FDA officials, it became clear that they were looking to the industry to craft traceability standards and they were not interested in constructing the rules. It seemed far less likely that the FDA would impose any guidelines that we wouldn’t agree with if we created a traceability system they could simply inherit. I don’t expect that we will see anything coming out of the Produce Rules that will be inconsistent with PTI, for that reason.
PTI is not complicated to implement. The primary challenge for growers is that there is an added cost. My company, Wish Farms, is a marketer, but I also own farming operations. I am very sensitive to burdening growers with additional costs.
Before PTI was formalized, we were already doing item-level traceability on strawberries. The system that we have now branded as “How’s My Picking” provides valuable information that we view as an accountability system, and traceability is a beneficial byproduct. We can tie back consumer feedback to an exact harvest event and a picker in the field. We see real value in that, and we can point to cost savings because of it. Whereas PTI we view as an insurance policy that would allow us to do a precise recall and potentially limit the fallout on a larger scale. There were some challenges in melding our item-level system with case-level labels, but we were able to design a seamless system that incorporates both. Item-level traceability is needed to pinpoint the exact source of a problem. Case-level traceability is necessary to facilitate an organized recall.
The Tester Amendment to FSMA contains flawed thinking in that small growers have less risk of having a food safety issue. There is no reason that any grower should be exempt from food safety guidelines, including traceability. A small grower selling their product into the marketplace where it will end up on a family’s table should have to play by the same rules as everyone else. There are many low-cost solutions to print labels. One thing the federal government could do is provide subsidies to small growers to help them obtain a GS1 number. The bottom line is: If you are in the farming business, you should be taking precautions to ensure your produce is safe and traceable regardless of the size of your operation.
Retailers will need to do their part to make sure that the industry continues moving toward full implementation. It does little good if growers go through the cost of complying with PTI if warehouses are not capturing the information and tracking it through their systems. PTI affords the possibility of precision recalls if retailers follow through on implementation in their organizations. Otherwise, recalls will be done by casting a much larger net and will be much more costly. This is what growers are trying to protect themselves against by using PTI. I applaud those retailers that require PTI compliance and who are also taking steps to track the produce through to their stores.
For our organization, there is no turning back on PTI. When the call comes in to Wish Farms’ control tower, we will not be speaking Greek.
Steve Warshawer: I have been asked to offer a counterpoint to the case for PTI. I am viewing PTI specifically from the perspective of operations that are new to the supply chain, often smaller and generally operating with simple and manual record-keeping systems. Some groups within this sector have religious and/or philosophical objections to mechanization/technology/automation. Many are struggling with the costs of starting businesses in ways that give them a higher likelihood of success. Many are new to the supply chain and its requirements. Most recognize that “your” (supply chain) customers want “their” food, and that “your” customers appreciate the opportunity to purchase “their” food at familiar locations where they will be shopping or eating anyway.
The case for traceability is sound. Any businessperson who has explored the pros and cons of traceability can see that it benefits his/her business. The question is, “How can a business address its traceability needs in a scale- and cost-appropriate fashion?” This is where so far PTI loses traction: It asks too much and at too great a cost for a very large number of mostly smaller and new businesses.
The top-line goal of “electronic” traceability creates the disconnect described above. There is no doubt that PTI is helping larger supply chain partners and their intermediaries and growers and packers maintain superior knowledge about the sources and movement of produce through the supply chain. This information helps dramatically in the event a food safety or quality issue has been identified. Even over the great distances that product has moved, offending product can be quickly tracked, the public can better informed and protected, and the reputation of the product or commodity in question and the businesses who have handled it can be preserved. Electronic implementation integrates well with the scale and systems of the large supply chain players.
In order for PTI to gain “universal” acceptance, if by “universal” we mean the full range of operations from large to small, then there must be further refinements to the PTI implementation process and there needs to be a cost (sharing) structure. The challenge of the electronic side of universal acceptance begins and will end with the question of at what cost and at whose cost is this system implemented?
Some of the major factors that influence the PTI operational cost include:
• Acquisition of a GS1 company prefix
• Hardware and software to build GTIN [global trade item number] or cost to join a GS1 partner’s connection
• Cost of prefarm-gate adaptation of harvest and record-keeping to produce initial case data
• Training costs and maintenance costs for current technology
Estimate and add up these costs, and if all of those that pertain to farm-level implementation are borne by the farm, then only farms of a certain size and technology-readiness will be able to meet PTI requirements and enter the supply chain. This is fine if this is what the supply chain players want. But if the notion mentioned above is correct, that “your” customers want “our” food, then something has to give.
There is no disagreement over the notion that traceability systems are invaluable and can benefit all supply chain players, regardless of scale. A consistent language for describing the contents of a case, in easy-to-read and easily accessible form, is beneficial particularly to fresh/perishable product suppliers. In my business, I have implemented a simple traceability system for our shell eggs that in one instance helped us quickly track down a quality issue, isolate where it occurred, which customers were affected, recover affected product and retrain the individuals responsible for the issue. The speed with which we were able to respond to the problem, and the clarity of explanation we were able to offer at the end of the process, supported our reputation in the small community that we serve. The success of the simple system has led to adoption of similar methods in other fresh-product distribution in our community. But no aspect of this process is electronic. Labels are handmade, and case data are transferred to invoices by hand.
GS1 barcoding is used for our eggs and by nearly all nonproduce vendors, (dairy, baked goods and more), but case-level information is not added. The GS1 barcode is unique only to the company and product. It is not unique for batch and lot coding. In adding case-specific data to the GS1-based barcode, a far more sophisticated and costly level of equipment, system and process is needed.
Currently, our local food distributor maintains GS1 membership at a level that allows it to issue company and item codes to any small local producer who needs one. This is not part of an exclusivity arrangement; it is a “community service.” One that has very little cost to the distributor. Would it make sense for any/all/every distributor to offer this service to its suppliers who need it?
So far, this service has not been extended to produce suppliers. The discussion of how to extend this service is focused on developing a system where human-readable, handwritten information could be entered into a portable scan/print unit at the receiving location and the resulting tag applied to the case of product. The coming fall and winter will allow time to further explore this idea.
To make this interface more efficient, it may make sense to assign a company code to each farm and help them acquire labels that include their name and address and a company ID barcode.
If that works, then it would also be conceivable to add to the label a product code (GTIN), but the printing costs rise as more inventory is created in anticipation of product not yet harvested. So maybe the product GTIN is a separate label, and any grower producing that item can use a common GTIN label. At that point, the manual label content could be date and lot code only, and the manual data entry at receiving point would be much reduced.
To advance its goal of universal acceptance of an electronic traceability standard, PTI leadership might want to invest in and pilot ideas like this one, where manual on-farm systems are captured in electronic form at the point in the supply chain where the hardware, software and human resources exist to efficiently effect that transition.
All of us in business, regardless of our size, want to do what is best for our customer. That commitment is at the core of every successful business. This is as true in the area of food safety as it is in any aspect of the food production and supply process. The PTI vision of traceability is one that all farmers can play a role in but cannot shoulder the costs alone. In the end, all the farmer should need to do is to provide the next step in the supply chain with what it needs to ensure full trace-forward. A legible label that includes basic details and in turn links to the farm’s internal harvest and pack records meets that description. The FSMA Produce Rule will require “one step forward, one step back.” How to best achieve the automation of the detail that the supply chain wants, and that PTI calls for, will likely require breaking the overall problem down into smaller pieces and sharing costs to alleviate burdens on the primary, original producer wherever possible.
Your customers want our food. And you want the best trace information that you can get. Working together under PTI with some creative implementation strategies, there should be a win-win for all.
Food Safety Magazine: While there is strong agreement about the virtues of traceability, questions of how this should be achieved may require additional compromises across the produce industry. At Food Safety Magazine, we believe that ongoing discussions among producers of all sizes across the supply chain provide the best chance that industry can present prospective solutions to regulators while guaranteeing a universally high standard for food safety from farm to market.
We hope that the ideas presented in this article lead to a fruitful resolution of the challenges that remain for produce supply chain members seeking to implement PTI.
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