By Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in the prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA)

Looming on the FDA horizon is the enforcement of the last of seven foundational rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Intentional adulteration, commonly called food defense, is the deliberate addition to an ingredient or food of a hazard to cause illness or injury which makes the food adulterated. This criminal act could be the work of an outside group or individual who gains access before an ingredient crosses the perimeter of your facility and is delivered at Receiving. Thinking inside the box requires you to consider the access of a disgruntled or temporary employee from Receiving through to the sealing of packaging, i.e. an inside job. Addressing both perspectives is required.

The deadline is July of 2019 for businesses with more than 500 employees. The description of the first companies to come under enforcement aligns with the PCHF rule. In July of 2020, small businesses with an annual revenue of $10,000,000 come under enforcement. You can see where is says ten million here. Yes, that means that businesses with an annual revenue under $10,000,000 are defined as very small businesses by FDA and are exempt from requirements other than providing documentation of the very small business status. The very small business exemption aligns with the PCHF rule. I have written more on the food defense rule in a previous blog post on ConnectFood.

Businesses with more than 500 employees are writing their food defense plan. Quality managers schooled in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) will see the parallel of steps in a vulnerability assessment to the hazard analysis process in HACCP or PCHF. However, a food defense plan and program have completely different outcomes compared to food safety. Your food safety team may not be the right people to address food defense, so now you have another team, and most companies bring in food defense experts for a fresh pair of eyes and their experience. I have previously written about resources for food defense. I teach a one-day workshop on food defense. My recommendation is to bring on-site a food defense trainer and consultant for one day of training with your cross-functional team, followed by two days in the facility for a vulnerability assessment with the food defense team leaders-no more than three people. Our own Matthew Botos, CEO of ConnectFood, is an excellent source of information on food defense.

“Any supply chain has the potential of being vulnerable from a multitude of unstable individuals who have both the operational capability and the behavioral resolve to inflict damage on products, people, or facilities. We have the most sophisticated and safest food supply in the world and FDA is only trying to bolster that with their continually proactive regulations. Companies need to not only look after food safety in a traditional sense, (look for hazards and protect the consumer) but also look at non-traditional methods that may impact the safety of the food supply. ConnectFood stands ready to help companies and protect people.” – Matthew Botos, CEO.

Food defense plans are facility-specific. My recommendation is that you choose one site from your company and completely finish its food defense plan. Once the team has learned the process, you can get the other sites started and either bring in the trainer again or create a corporate food defense team that goes to each of the sites to implement food defense with the local team. Because this is the first time that your food facility is required by FDA to address food defense, be prepared for large investments in monitoring of employees, capital expense, or reconstruction. One company I worked with is way ahead of the curve on food defense, yet I left them with a long action item list following one day of training and one day of touring the facility to identify vulnerabilities. We needed another day. After the company completes the action item list, I will review their draft food defense plan.

To get started on your food defense plan, FDA has publicly available and free documents. Go to the webpage for FSMA Final Rule for Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration. You want to start with the Fact Sheet and the Explanatory Diagram. The Question and Answer document is good. Scroll down to the questions on Intentional Adulteration, because the Q & A covers all FSMA rules. When you are ready, go through the first Guidance document. Others will be published through this next year. Matthew, the other ConnectFood food safety experts, and I can guide you through the system using the Expert Services; the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting LLC
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she has delivered over 20 workshops to the food industry. With 35+ years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an active communicator at all levels of an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in the prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

By Dave Seddon, MBA RD LD (PEAKCORE, a ConnectFood Partner)

For many, change can be daunting. This includes the new FDA Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule. With increasing regulations, such as with the implementation of Electronic Logging Device (ELD), transportation companies are wondering what impact will this new rule have on the bottom line and operations. Fortunately, the changes that have come about since the 2005 Sanitary Transportation of Food Act, provide more flexibility and a preventative scope on top of the existing industry’s best practices.

The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food’s foundation is a “risk-based” model for food safety, clearly defines who is covered by the rule, and highlights certain preventative operational areas that help to ensure product food safety, such as temperature, is being maintained throughout the course of transport. The final compliance date for most businesses, barring any waivers, are upon us. We have provided a few bullet points of those requirements that are now being monitored to help you implement an improved food safe environment.

    ● The final rule establishes clear definitions of the transport role you play in transport. Those identified are Shippers, Carriers, Loaders, and Receivers. Some of the operational guidelines also will enhance and impact cGMPs (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Since, businesses can play multiple roles, a food safety plan should state each of these.
    ● FDA states “any movement of food in commerce by motor vehicle or rail vehicle,” all Transport Operations, Vehicles, and Transport Equipment are subject to the requirement.
    ● Temperature monitoring operations for foods are now required for temperature control safety. Thus businesses need to be able to provide temperature maintenance documents upon request. Clearly, these requests are becoming more prevalent and you should be prepared to show evidence for your clients.
    ● Training certificate and internal training programs are a few ways that businesses can illustrate compliance for training employees on food safe handling practices.
    ● The final rule requires maintenance and retention of records of written procedures, agreements, and trainings have been completed. Procedures should include ways to address pre-cooling, prior cargo handling (post), and vehicle/transport vehicle cleaning records. Cleaning, sanitizing, and inspecting of vehicles and transport equipment procedures must be written and maintained. Retention length depends upon the type of record and when the activity occurs.

Raising the bar for food transport adds to the increasing awareness that improved food safety transport systems strengths the diverse and complicated food procurement system. Creating a Sanitary Food Safety plan is a great way and first step for some to help your company meet many of these new requirements and ease the burden of compliance. Tools, such as ConnectFood, provide a resource for templates, models, and a framework to develop your own plan in short period of time. Best of all, all records can be maintained for ease of access for your client and the regulatory bodies. If you need further assistance, experts are available as well.

As always, ConnectFood is ready to help. A transportation plan guidance is available on the ConnectFood website, and a template with information is available to be loaded for your company upon request. Contact us.

About the Author
Dave Seddon, MBA RD LD (PEAKCORE, a ConnectFood Partner) is a food safety consultant with 25+ years of financial, operational, and managerial experiences in for-profit and non-profit organizations. He is well versed in food safety, SQF, HACCP, operational control, business development, entrepreneurship, M/A, risk analysis, and ERP/system implementation. Dave is a ConnectFood partner as part of the Expert Services.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in January of 2011, was created with the intent to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested, and processed. This rule allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step into the food safety chain to protect the public by assessing, regulating, and ultimately strengthening the food safety system. FSMA focuses on five main topics according to the FDA’s fact sheet, each of which has subtopics that relate to your food safety depending on the classification, facility size and employee count, and the purpose of your food company:

    1. Prevention
    2. Inspection and Compliance
    3. Response
    4. Imports
    5. Enhanced Partnerships

Back in November of 2016, we released a blog entitled “What is the Food Safety Modernization Act?”, which began our continuous discussion of FSMA. For the past few months, ConnectFood has been releasing blogs that touch upon the topics most relating specifically to the safe production and hazards around human food. For example, we discussed every aspect of record management regarding safe production, documentation, logs and records, and food safety plans. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6) We also discussed the importance of practicing mock recalls and the more specific and intimate details of recall planning and writing your food company’s recall plan.

Whether you are a food manufacturer, a distribution plant, a restaurant, small food producer, or anything in between, your facility or kitchen must be compliant with FMSA regulations. You should assume that an FDA Inspector will arrive to perform an audit on your facility at any time, on any day of the week. Sometimes, these visits are scheduled, but often, you should be ready for a surprise. Get ready to hand over your required documentation, explain your processes, justify your Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), and most of all, get ready to be expected to implement some changes.

Over the next few weeks, ConnectFood’s goal is to continue to educate you on the segments of FSMA and the regulations surrounding food safety policies. We will be having food safety experts write on the following topics:

1. Sanitary Transportation of Human & Animal Food
Sanitary transportation is an element of FSMA that has a rule finalized by the FDA. According to their online documentation, “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is now final, advancing FDA’s efforts to protect foods from farm to table by keeping them safe from contamination during transportation… The rule establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of that food. The requirements do not apply to transportation by ship or air because of limitations in the law.”

2. Foreign Supplier Verification
The final rule on foreign supplier verification began implementation on May 30th, 2017. The online documentation states: “The final rule requires that importers perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards. This rule is the product of a significant level of outreach by the FDA to industry, consumer groups, the agency’s federal, state, local, tribal and international regulatory counterparts, academia and other stakeholders.”

3. Preventive Controls for Animal Food
As you know, ConnectFood talks about human food constantly, but there is equal importance in making sure our pets are fed safely. Let’s not forget our furry friends in our safety planning. Check out the FDA’s final rule fact sheet here until we release our blog on the subject.

4. Strategies to Protect Food from Intentional Adulteration
Intentional Adulteration is not a topic to skim through – we will be having our own Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., PCQI, (who is trained in the prevention of Intentional Adulteration) write a post focusing solely on the topic. Until you get to read her writing on the subject, take a read through of the FDA’s webpage here.

All of this information may be overwhelming no matter if it is old news or fresh news. As always, if you have any questions regarding FSMA and how it relates to your food company, the team at ConnectFood is always here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. The time for compliance is the present – don’t be caught without a FSMA-compliant food safety plan in place. Contact us.

About the Author

Johanna Seidel, PCQI

Johanna Seidel is an administrative member of the ConnectFood team, where she works as manager of operations and manager of social content. Johanna received her Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) certification in November of 2017. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree upon graduation from West Texas A&M University in May of 2016. When she is not working with food safety experts, Johanna also works as a dance instructor for The Chicago School of Ballet, as well as a professional contemporary dancer in the city of Chicago.

Your company is generating a record right now. Somewhere in the facility there is monitoring, a new employee is being trained, or ingredients are being shipped to you. I have written in previous posts here on ConnectFood.com about required and recommended records. Below is an outline of topics which generate records in need of management.

What records must my company have?

    Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPS). Every food facility is required to follow GMPs.* You will feel confident in an inspection or audit if you have good documentation for GMPs.
    Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

      Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) are required when a sanitation preventive control is identified in the hazard analysis and for some allergen preventive controls.*

    Training records*
    Hazard Analysis*
    Validation study for each process preventive control or critical control point*
    • Shelf-life study, recommended
    • Supply chain program

      Supply chain preventive controls are required for ingredients for which the supplier controls the hazard.*

    Receiving records for ingredients with a supply chain preventive control*
    • Monitoring and Verification*
    • Calibration of monitoring devices*
    • Equipment maintenance, recommended
    • Corrective action*
    Recall plan*

*Required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food rule.

“How do I store all these records?”

This is a question I always get in a training workshop. It usually starts with, “I have a HACCP plan” or “I have records for auditing” and proceeds to the concern of getting rid of everything that has been done up to now and starting over. The answer is an emphatic “No!” to starting over. Your company is not going to rid itself of the old systems and start with the new kid on the block. Everything you have done for record keeping is still valuable and fits into the new food safety or HACCP plan. The next question is harder. “How do I organize my food safety plan and my required records for audits?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question, because it is completely up to you.

Matthew Botos, CEO of ConnectFood, did have a response to the above question:

“Records are of the utmost importance in the food safety risk management system. As I have said probably thousands of times (as have my peers): “If you haven’t documented it, you have not done it.” Records have traditionally been paper records, but over the decades with advancements in technology we are now ready to “trust” electronic records. As always, they are only as good as the information we put into them. What I can tell you is that there are companies like ConnectFood which will facilitate the storage and retrieval of records. In the electronic world that we live in, electronic storage of records is no longer just the future, it is the present.”

When the FDA inspector requests review of an electronic record, there is no requirement to supply a paper copy or printout. Records can be stored in the “cloud” if they can be retrieved. Imagine being on the floor in operations with an inspector and you are asked for the pH meter calibration record from a year ago. You can pull up the record on your phone or tablet and move on to the next question.

For your ease of mind, it is important that you understand how electronic records are stored and retrieved at your company so that you can efficiently display the record for review. What I tell my workshop participants and clients is to find the person at your company who loves office supplies. This is the tell that they love to sort, store, and organize things. Do they have every color of highlighter? I do. Do they have a label maker? I do. While my desk is often messy, my office supplies are organized and labeled. If you need a pad of paper, this person knows exactly where to get one for you. This is the person you want to task with organizing records electronically, too. As quality manager or Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) you have too much on your plate, and I want you to delegate when possible.

Once a system for records management is created, all food safety team members should be required to follow the system. There should be no stray records being held outside of the system and unavailable to the entire team. Never rely on one single person having access to part of the records. Store electronic records in a common location for two or more years.

The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she delivered over 20 workshops to industry. With over 35 years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an effective communicator at all levels in an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd

This week was a historic week for the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Three times since the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, FDA has used its new authority, i.e. new tools to prevent illness or injury from food. In 2012, FDA suspended the facility registration of Sunland, Inc. of Portales, New Mexico, a manufacturer of peanut butter. In 2013, FDA sent a Notification of Opportunity to Initiate a Voluntary Recall to Kasel Associates Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of pet treats. This week, FDA ordered a mandatory recall of kratom products from Triangle Pharmanaturals, LLC of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The FDA used its authority under FSMA to order a recall. This is a big deal. In all the history of food safety and the FDA, this is the first time the FDA has announced a mandatory recall. There have been thousands of recalls in FDA’s history, and before this week, every single recall has been voluntary and announced by the company.

What were FDA’s options before FSMA? Traditionally, FDA has followed up inspections with Form 483. Observations are detailed on Form 483, and the company must respond with corrective action to each observation. FDA has written soft letters, had phone conversations and sent email messages to communicate. Beyond communication and for more action, the FDA sends Warning Letters and can go to federal court to seek either an injunction to halt sale of product or an order for seizure of product. Product seizure can be taking product off store shelves or stopping finished product from entering commerce. Those are a lot of options! In the three cases stated above, FDA used many tactics to communicate and work with the companies, before getting to the last straw.

Case 1. Sunland peanut butter sold finished product containing Salmonella.
A little research on Sunland shows a long history of peanut butter recalls and FDA communication from 2009 to 2012. Just a year and a half after President Obama signed FSMA and four years before the food industry came under compliance and enforcement, the FDA exercised its new authority. For my readers who favor less government and less rules, look at what FDA did before pulling Sunland’s registration:

    1. 2007: Form 483 following inspection 10/25/2007
    2. 2009: Form 483 following inspection 3/10/2009
    3. 2010: Form 483 following inspection 9/23/2010
    4. 2011: Form 483 following inspection 3/25/2011
    5. 2012: Form 483 following inspection 10/29/2012

For the 2012 inspection, FDA was on-site for one month and listed the details of ten observations. Given authority under FSMA, FDA was able to stop production of Salmonella-laden peanut butter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the Salmonella outbreak from Sunland peanut butter covered 20 states and was responsible for 42 cases. Children under 10 were 61% of the cases, and 28% of cases were hospitalized. We know that diagnosed and reported illnesses represent a small portion of all persons with illness from an outbreak. Dozens of companies using peanut butter in their products went through subsequent recalls because of the peanut butter recall. I know, because it was my job to follow recalls and post them to ConnectFood’s Twitter.

Case 2. Kasel dog treats recalled after Salmonella found.
FDA has authority for enforcement and compliance over animal food. In February of 2013 Kasel was manufacturing dog treats and was re-inspected. In a 2012 inspection, Salmonella was found in the dog treats, in the processing environment, and on food contact surfaces. FDA inspectors cited problems with Kasel’s Good Manufacturing Practices including building repair, pest control and cleaning and sanitizing procedures. The dog treats had either a one-year or two-year expiration date. Kasel was given two days to initiate a voluntary recall after receiving FDA’s Notification of Opportunity to Initiate a Voluntary Recall, and Kasel complied by announcing a voluntary recall on February 19, 2013. Here’s my favorite sentence from the Notification: If you do not voluntarily cease distribution and conduct a recall in the time and manner described in this section, FDA may, by order, require you to immediately cease distribution of the affected pet treats. Fast-forward to 2018. FDA is rigorously inspecting animal food manufacturers, and we have seen a wave of pet food recalls [author’s note: choose Animal Health for from the drop down menu of recall categories], primarily of raw pet food.

Case 3. Triangle Pharmanaturals’ kratom products contain Salmonella.
Remember all those options available to the FDA? It seems the FDA used them and got no response from the company in return. FDA sent Triangle Pharmanauturals a Notification of Opportunity to Initiate a Voluntary Recall with no response from the company. All companies in the past which have received this letter from the FDA have followed up with a voluntary recall, because this is the first company which has not! This is the evidence I have gathered against Triangle Pharmanaturals. There is currently (April 2018) a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella. During interviews in March of people ill from Salmonella, when specifically asked, 40 of 55 reported consuming kratom before getting sick. Salmonella has been isolated twice from Triangle Pharmanaturals’ products by the state of Oregon and four times by FDA. Triangle Pharmanaturals’ competitors have recalled their kratom products. As I am writing this, I received updated recall information to include 38 states and 132 confirmed cases.

These three companies have in common that their products contained Salmonella. To me as a microbiologist, that is interesting. More importantly, their company names are forever tied to the history of FDA in the fight of foodborne illness. Personally, I am thankful for the work of the FDA and CDC.

The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she delivered over 20 workshops to industry. With over 35 years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an effective communicator at all levels in an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd

All of us have our personal culture in which we live. How we spend our time at home and on the weekend creates our culture. The time we spend with our neighbors, friends, family and church defines us. Think of the clothes we wear, the food we eat and our traditions. Now think of the culture at your work. Think of the clothes we wear, the rituals in our procedures, and the food we make for customers. What is the status of your food safety culture?

When the FDA inspector visits your facility, the inspector will be looking for evidence of a good food safety culture. If you work in food safety or quality management, you work hard. You wear many hats. When the FDA inspector comes, your records will be inspected, and your employees will be observed. You prepare for that. You have good, organized records. You have good training programs for your employees. Most companies are confident in addressing records and training and making the evidence appear for the inspector. While the inspector is reviewing records and observing employees, the inspector is looking for evidence of a food safety culture. This is touchy-feely and sometimes hard to document. The culture is who you are and how you work together.

What does food safety culture look like? Start with your employees. Are the uniforms clean? Is their footwear of good quality and cleanable? How is their personal hygiene? Do all employees practice good handwashing? These observations plus good recordkeeping lay the foundation of a favorable food safety culture. These parts of a food safety culture are obvious to most and will be discussed more in this blog. In a second blog, I discuss 5 Signs You Don’t Have a Food Safety Culture.

Training records are complete for each employee.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)’s PCHF rule, training records are required for every employee. The FDA inspector will review your training records as part of a FSMA inspection. Companies earning more than $1,000,000 annually must have a PCQI, and most PCQI will provide a certificate from their training. Going beyond the PCQI, all other employees are qualified individuals, i.e. qualified to do their job. Ensure that your training records are complete, up-to-date, and show how an employee is qualified to do their job.

Your company uses signage.
Show me the sign! We have all seen the sign in the public bathroom stating employees must wash hands before returning to work. I think we get a little numb to the handwashing command. In fact, you cannot invest enough time and resources for proper handwashing. Besides handwashing, we use signs to direct employees to do many things. Signs are great! I am a huge proponent of signs. First, a picture says a thousand words; use pictures on your signs. Make the signs language appropriate for your employees. Use universal symbols as much as possible. Use color. If your employees are getting numb to the signs, move the signs. Change it up. Change the color. Change the shape.

As I travel to different food factories and am escorted into operations, I am always impressed by well-used and maintained handwashing stations, perfectly placed in a transition area and before entering operations. I like to see reminder signs. I love to see posted directions on the proper method for washing hands. My biggest pet peeve with handwashing is people not rinsing and wetting their hands before applying soap. Rinse first! Also, how many of us lather the full length of two “Happy Birthday” songs? That is the minimum time for just the lathering step.

Your company has obvious means for employees to report problems and offer suggestions.
Do you have a suggestion box in the lunchroom? As you observe employees in operations, do they freely discuss concerns with each other and supervisors? There should be an obvious and free exchange of information at all times. A red flag is when an employee is asked a question they should know and states they do not know. Does your company have team meetings with operators? Team meetings should include all shifts and facilitate communication among operators.

I worked with a company where the President sat at the conference table with his Vice Presidents and Managers. Over and over, I witnessed the President shutting down the excuses for food safety shortcomings. He was preaching food safety culture. Sanitation doesn’t have enough thermometers. Buy more. It’s not practical to record data in real time. Find a technology that works in real time. Occasionally a foot foamer is not working. Have a back-up ready to go.

Matthew Botos, CEO of ConnectFood.com, tells us, “Food Safety is ‘Basics Done Well’. As described, risk management best practices start at the top and filter all the way down to every employee and vendor. Food Safety is everyone’s responsibility. There are many tools out there to help companies.”

It is difficult to present a favorable food safety culture and sometimes more difficult to measure. The topic of a food safety culture is new and will develop over time in the food industry. As we continue to talk to each other about food safety culture, we will know it when we see it, and we will be able to measure it.

Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting

Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she delivered over 20 workshops to industry. With over 35 years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an effective communicator at all levels in an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd

Preventive controls are actions your company takes to ensure the product is safe. The FDA recognizes five types of preventive controls in the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. They are process, allergen, sanitation, supply chain, and other preventive controls.

Food companies with more than $1 million in annual revenue are required under FSMA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule to conduct a hazard analysis and identify preventive controls. The company will consider biological, chemical, physical, and radiological hazards. The hazard analysis drives the discussion and decisions on preventive controls. For every hazard, there are actions the company takes to control the hazard.

Most food companies have a process preventive control and monitor time and temperature. The time and temperature are combined to control a biological hazard. Most companies have a metal detector, inspection of packaging to match the product and label allergens for an allergen preventive control, and monitoring of sanitation preventive controls for the control of environmental pathogens. FDA’s current thinking on environmental monitoring is detailed in the draft Listeria guidance. Process preventive controls and sanitation preventive controls may be designed to prevent foodborne illness, but did you know most recalls are due to the hazard of allergens? The food may be perfectly made, but if the packaging is wrong, the company will have a recall. Follow this link for just one example.

Some companies have so many redundant steps that it is difficult to name the step which is a preventive control. In this case, the food safety team should talk through their process and imagine taking away a step. I talked with a company that had multiple filters for their stream of product. To name every filter as a preventive control creates a lot of work and is unnecessary. Failure of the first filters was not a food safety issue because later filters work. The company visualized which filters were the most important for food safety by visualizing the removal of each individually. Where failure could result in a food safety hazard, the step was named as a preventive control.

If the hazard is controlled by the supplier, the receiving company must verify the hazard was controlled. An example is ice cream inclusions, like nuts. Imagine how the receiving company could verify the safety. COAs of course. Will the supplier share their food safety plan? An audit is required. Does the supplier have a validated process? Supply chain preventive controls are all about verification.

In addition to the four types of preventive controls mentioned above, the FDA also gives industry the option of other preventive control. I look at this type in two ways. First, your food safety team may disagree on naming the type of preventive control. For example, is an allergen clean a sanitation or allergen preventive control? It doesn’t matter! It only matters that it gets done. The second way that other can be used is if new scientific information emerges and does not fit into one of the four types of preventive controls. Current scientific understanding (below) means that we are always learning, and new information on hazards is always emerging. With the latest information, a company may need to reanalyze their food safety plan.

Here is the definition of preventive controls from the rule:

Preventive controls means those risk-based, reasonably appropriate procedures, practices, and processes that a person knowledgeable about the safe manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of food would employ to significantly minimize or prevent the hazards identified under the hazard analysis that are consistent with the current scientific understanding of safe food manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding at the time of the analysis.”

The knowledgeable person ultimately is a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) in cooperation with engineers, microbiologists, and other food safety experts. The PCQI works with his or her food safety team to write the hazard analysis and identify preventive controls. The food industry has trained over 40,000 PCQIs in less than two years. PCQIs are your go-to people for food safety. If you are a small company in need of food safety expertise, the folks at ConnectFood are here to help.

Please comment on this blog post below. I love feedback! Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources; click here to Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

I am writing this on September 18th, 2017. For over a year I have trained people in workshops that this date is the FDA enforcement date for all food companies as regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. The small companies had more time for compliance, but this is it. Time is up.

Going forward from this day, all food companies in the United States earning more than $1 million in annual revenue must have a written food safety plan. The written food safety plan starts with a written hazard analysis and ends with a written recall plan. The food safety plan must meet the requirements in Subpart C of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Today changes the way I teach, the way FDA enforces, and the way food companies prove food safety.

Even though today is the day, word on the street is that the FDA is a little behind on FSMA inspections. The FDA has done a great job training inspectors, providing guidance, and giving inspectors the tools they need. I hear that FSMA inspections will be more like audits: with the emphasis on review of the food safety plan and employee training records. There will be less time walking the line and more time reviewing monitoring and verification records. That being said, most FDA inspections are still for Good Manufacturing Practices, found in Subpart B of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. If your company manufactures a product that has been recalled by a competitor or is known to be under high scrutiny by the FDA, then you should be prepared for an inspection in the near future. If not, you may have more time to prepare.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Did you find this blog post because your food safety plan is not finished or you feel it is lacking? I do not want you to feel alone or isolated from the resources and help you need. There are plenty of food companies still writing their food safety plans, so you are in good company if yours is not yet complete. You have landed in the right place – let ConnectFood help you get it done!

ConnectFood is a great tool to write your food safety plan. You can choose the free option, which is a good place to start, or you can subscribe for a low, reasonable cost. By subscribing, you will have access to the ConnectFood experts, like ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos, myself, and other ConnectFood experts. If we don’t have the answer, we have a vast network of food safety experts to get you the answers you need.

Please comment on this blog post below. I love feedback! Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

One of the biggest challenges for a company and its Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) is organizing both the food safety plan and materials for an audit. The food safety plan will be reviewed by the local, state, or FDA inspector. Some companies are under USDA inspection as well. In my experience, most food companies have a third-party audit for BRC, SQF, or ISO 22000 certification or with an auditing firm specializing in food manufacturing. How do you prepare for both?

There are different requirements for a government inspection and a third-party audit. The inspection is driven by public health and regulations. Food facilities will be inspected against the requirements for Good Manufacturing Practices, hazard analysis, preventive controls, and recall plan found in the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Quite frankly, the government is not concerned at all with your audit criteria. The focus will be on public health and FSMA rules. Going forward, FDA inspections will evolve in to more audit-like activities with the emphasis on record review. The PCQI is required to organize or oversee the organization of records. The goal is to be inspection-ready at all times.

Much of the material that is required for an audit is the same for an inspection. Each certification or auditing body has their own requirements, and often the PCQI has the responsibility of organizing these materials also. Do you need help with organization? I encourage PCQIs whom I train to find that one person at work who loves office supplies. Put them in charge of labeling and storing materials. Trust me, they will love it! Also, find the person who is exceptionally good at organizing electronic documents. Put them in charge of developing the system of storage and retrieval. The PCQI just needs to know where paper and electronic files are and how to access them.

Do you remember Venn diagrams? List everything you need for an inspection in one circle. List everything you need for an audit in a second circle. What overlaps, and what is unique? One option is duplicating common records for both inspection and for auditing. Another option is to keep records unique to an inspection separate from records unique to an audit and have one record of common records. The inspector will not review records unique to an audit. As you are working through this organization, focus on the best location for individual records, in general. Records for an inspection can be paper or electronic, in a format of your choice. There is no mandate for use of forms. Focus on what makes sense for storage and then retrieval of records.

Let’s go back to the original question. If I am compliant with a third-party audit, am I FSMA-compliant? Maybe; it depends. The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule requires a written hazards analysis which identifies hazards requiring a preventive control. The preventive controls go beyond process preventive controls to include allergen, sanitation, and supply chain preventive controls. If all the preventive controls are addressed in the audit requirements, then you are covered for both an inspection and audit. Beyond the Human Food rule, are you compliant with the Sanitary Transportation rule? In 2019, compliance with the Intentional Adulteration rule takes effect. Are you required to comply with any of the other FSMA rules? The answer is complicated.

Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

I have been teaching for over a year from the Preventive Controls for Human Food curriculum and feel quite comfortable with the topic of food allergens. I heard a talk by Dr. Steve Taylor, Co-Director and Founder of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. These are eight key points I learned.

  1. The science of food allergens is new. Food allergens were recognized in 1988. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association from a physician at the Mayo Clinic reported eight deaths associated with the consumption of food and development of an allergic response. I don’t know the details, but I do know that 1988 was not a long time ago.
  2. Besides the United States, Canada, the EU, FAO and Codex Alimentarius recognize the Big 8 allergens. The Big 8 are dairy, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat. I wrote that list off the top of my head! Teaching the workshop helps. In the United States, the Big 8 are regulated under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Other countries may recognize other allergens or include sulfites, which are technically not allergens.
  3. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency pulls food from the shelf and tests for undeclared allergens. Let that sink in.
  4. Very few universities teach the science of food allergens. With food allergens being the number one cause of recalls and food packaging being most responsible, students need to understand quality assurance in a food manufacturing facility and effective methods for cleaning to remove allergens.
  5. Fourteen different companies make test kits for allergens. Buyer beware. There are sensitivity and matrix differences that will get you significantly different results. You are not mandated, but are highly encouraged, to validate your allergen clean process.
  6. Food allergens cause up to 40% of eczema.
  7. Physicians were wrong to tell parents to not introduce peanut butter to infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics guideline for introducing peanut butter is at 4-6 months for infants at highest risk with other food allergies or severe eczema and earlier for infants at lower risk. It is best to blend the peanut butter in another food, to avoid its choking hazard. A peanut butter campaign for pediatricians is needed to reverse the thinking of physicians and well-meaning grandparents. Soon peanut patches will be available, like the technology of nicotine patches.
  8. A safe dose of each allergen does exist. While the US currently has a zero-tolerance policy for allergens, more research is needed to understand low thresholds for each allergen where an allergic response would not occur. In the future, we may move to defect action levels being allowed for each allergen, as the lowest amount allowed in food at a safe level for all.

Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.