With GMPs, You Lay the Foundation for HACCP & Food Safety

With formidable GMPs, you lay the foundation for HACCP and Food Safety.

When the FDA or state inspector steps inside your facility, they may not want to immediately go to a conference room and review your written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) or food safety plan. The written plan is important, but the inspector will potentially want to walk the facility for a current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) inspection. There will be inspection checklists and notes of observations. Shortcomings could result in a Form FDA-483 to the facility from the inspector. Companies should continue to work hard on their risk management programs and that starts with the food safety fundamentals of GMPs.

In the same way that you can’t run a business without funds, people, equipment and supplies, you can’t have a functioning HACCP or food safety plan without a foundation of good current GMPs.

Lynn Knipe of Ohio State University said it well,

    GMPs can support a processors’ HACCP programs, however, they cannot be used to directly control a hazard.

As I work with clients on HACCP or food safety plans, I have been reminded several times this week of the importance of GMPs in my work, which brings me to write about GMPs again. In a previous post, I wrote a review of GMPs on ConnectFood.com. When I reviewed the weekly post of FDA Warning Letters for food issues, I found mostly GMP issues, not HACCP or preventive controls issues. In most cases, a food facility receives an Warning Letter as a follow up to an inspection and Form 483, when the FDA is not satisfied with the actions taken to address the issues. Sometimes it is a matter of timeliness in that the facility has not responded by a deadline or is lacking documentation to prove corrective action. Warning Letters can be juicy reading for those of us that live food safety and for customers and clients because they are very specific in naming the issue.

Let’s play a game of “Name the GMP that was not followed.”

Case study: Cakes and Biscotti Bakery

    [a] live rodent was observed running across the east end of the production area, into the laundry room and into a hole in the wall at the northeast corner of the room.

Name the GMP that was not followed: Pest Management & Plant and Grounds

    [d]ough residues were observed on the edge of the (b)(4) north prep station and on the (b)(4) south prep station after (b)(4) sanitation was conducted.

Name the GMP that was not followed: Sanitary Operations

    [t]he interior of the stove hood was observed with a build-up of dust and debris directly above the stove and prep table where uncovered in-process foods are prepared. Employees were observed melting chocolate and gelatin, heating cream, and preparing blueberry topping on the stove directly below the hood.

Name the GMP that was not followed: Plants and Grounds

    [i]n the men’s restroom, the floor was observed soiled in front of both toilets, the urinal, and both sinks. One of the toilets was observed soiled. A toilet brush was observed on the hand wash sink. No hot water was available at the hand wash sinks and no paper towels or hand drying device were observed. The trash can was observed with overflowing toilet paper tubes, used paper towels, and other waste.

Name the GMP that was not followed: Sanitary Facilities and Controls

    [a]n employee was observed handling biscotti with a bare hand that was bandaged. She was observed removing the bandage and continuing to package biscotti without washing her hands.

Name the GMP that was not followed: Personnel

In the latter example, there are so many problems to address. Because of the bandaged hand, the employee should be removed from the packaging station. Without the need for a bandage, the employee should be following hand washing procedures and the glove use policy. This observation shows a lack of food safety culture and the need to train the entire workforce at packaging.

This food safety culture is key. Being part of the team in the position of writing a HACCP or food safety plan, please take time for an internal audit of GMPs. Without good GMPs, food safety cannot be realized. The search for GMP forms and checklists can be overwhelming, and the ConnectFood website has free resources. Sign in and find information under cGMPs. Do you have questions about GMPs? 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

, ,

Enforcement Reports for Class II and Class III Recalls Offer Help to the Food Industry

I subscribe to alerts for Class I recalls from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The message goes to my email with a link to the press release. It’s a great automated system, and the number of alerts is small enough to manage daily in email. The FDA recalls more than just food – their recalls include biologics (medical products), animal health products (pet food), medical devices, drugs, cosmetics and tobacco. I didn’t sign up for everything, and the subject of the emails I receive helps me decide which ones I can delete without opening… efficient.

Class I recalls are announced when there is a large possibility a consumer will become ill or be injured from a food they have ingested; think of glass shards or pathogens in food. This is where the food industry spends research dollars and companies take measures to prevent biological, chemical, and physical hazards. Class I recalls are the ones we see in social media, which are heavily communicated on the news and posted about on the FDA website. Class I recalls must be entered into the Reportable Food Registry. Do you know what hazard is the number one cause of Class I recalls? The answer is… allergens: a chemical hazard. You cannot put too many resources into allergen management if your product contains an allergen.

I was recently reminded by a colleague to keep up with the Class I notices (done!) and enforcement reports. Hmmm, enforcement reports? In FDA’s words:

    “All recalls monitored by FDA are included in the Enforcement Report once they are classified and may be listed prior to classification when FDA determines the firm’s removal or correction of a marketed product(s) meets the definition of a recall. Once FDA completes the hazard assessment, the Enforcement Report entry will be updated with the recall classification.”

“Classified” does not mean the recall is top secret! There are three classes; Class I is discussed above as the most serious among the classes. A Class II recall is a situation where the probability of illness or injury is remote. Only the manufacturer can make the call on if the recall will be classified as Class I or II based upon the specifics of what went wrong. The situation has a possibility of illness or injury, but the chances are so small that the conditions for illness or injury are unusual or unlikely. A Class III recall is not likely to cause any illness or injury. Period. It absolutely will not happen. The fourth option in an enforcement report is “pending.” This means the FDA is still considering the class for the recall. You would think this is pretty straight forward, but recalls are one big bell curve. Class I and Class III extremes are easy to get right, but there is a huge bump in the middle for Class II. This leads me to the FDA website.

Enforcement reports are posted weekly. When you go to the previous link, click on the week of interest, then sort with the ‘Product Type’ dropdown menu for ‘Food’ or another category. Dietary supplements are posted under ‘Food,’ even though they are not food and are separately regulated. If you really want a scare, choose the category of ‘Drugs’ to see all the problems in that industry, or see pending recalls of drugs. In addition to the Class I recalls, the other classes are of interest as well.

We use enforcement reports to keep up with our industry. What problems do others in your commodity experience? When we read the Class II and Class III recalls, we see what problems are occurring in our industry. Are you in dairy, flour, nuts, or produce? Look for companies with similar commodities as both your ingredients and your products. As part of reviewing your written food safety plan, the food safety team is required to keep up with current science and potential hazards. One way to know what is going on in your commodity is to keep up with enforcement reports.

Have you heard all the recalls of pet food? These are not coming to my email, so I need to update my alerts. The ConnectFood website has free resources, including the ability to create a recall plan for your facility and products using the online software. 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

Will My Facility Be Inspected? FDA Helps Small Businesses Determine Their Size

FDA published the draft guidance Determining the Number of Employees for Purposes of the “Small Business” Definition of Parts 117 and 507: Guidance for Industry on March 19, 2018. The comment period is through May 20, 2018. The purpose of the guidance is to raise awareness of exemptions for Part 117, the human food rule, and Part 507, the animal food rule. There is also a later compliance date for small businesses under the animal food rule of September 17, 2018, than originally set. I am addressing human food within this blog.

Why did FDA publish this draft guidance?
I’m having a difficult time understanding the publication of this Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) draft guidance at this time. It is helpful in defining subsidiary, affiliate, facility and full-time equivalent (FTE) employee. There are clear examples to showcase types of facilities and calculations of FTEs. The purpose of calculating FTEs is to determine if a facility is defined as a small business of less than 500 FTE employees. This is a concern when multiple facilities are related and if there are part-time or seasonal employees. This is a question I have tried my best to address in PCQI workshops for my participants. It’s nice to have the draft guidance. The reason I am having a difficult time is that it is a moot point for industry now. All small businesses came under enforcement in September 2017 for human food. Small businesses must meet the same requirements their larger competitors met in September 2016.

    I believe the reason for the publication of the draft guidance
    is not as much for industry as it is for the FDA.

Will my facility be inspected?*
FDA prioritizes their inspections, so FDA must know if a facility is a small business or larger. In fiscal year 2016-2017 when businesses with more than 500 employees came under enforcement, FDA’s goal was to complete 300 FSMA inspections. Facilities with more than 500 employees were under inspection first, because of the potential public health impact to a larger number of consumers. A total of 165 domestic and foreign FSMA inspections were completed. All other inspections-the majority-were Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) inspections. That trend will continue with most inspections being GMP inspections. The FDA continues to train its inspectors on FSMA, and FDA inspectors are primarily in a FSMA educator mode with industry. In fiscal year 2017-2018 the goal is higher at 500 FSMA inspections; the pace is faster.

In addition to the number of FTEs, there are other factors used by FDA to prioritize inspections.

    • Domestic and foreign facilities goals are 400 and 100 inspections, respectively.
    • Facilities with a current or previous Class I recall or warning letter
    • Facilities in the same market as a facility with a Class I recall
    • Facilities making a high-risk ingredient or product

      1. Ready-to-eat foods
      2. Foods identified in FDA’s Listeria risk assessment
      3. Foods otherwise with a history of risk

While it is not possible to know if your facility will be inspected until the FDA inspectors are at your door, you can determine the likelihood by using the same tools FDA has to prioritize inspections.

*The author participated in a Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance quarterly webinar for Lead Instructors on February 8, 2018, in which FDA inspection data was shared.

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

,

FDA Listeria Draft Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Foods: Part 2

I first learned that Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen in 1985 during the Jalisco cheese outbreak in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California. There were 29 deaths from 86 documented cases. The veterinary world was very familiar with Listeria in cattle, long before food microbiologists. Industry and the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took this emerging pathogen seriously. Since 1985, there has been active research and investigations at universities and food companies. We know that Listeria is ubiquitous, and current lab methods improve our chances of finding Listeria.

FDA Listeria Draft Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Foods: Part 1, published previously at ConnectFood.com, discussed Listeria testing on food contact surfaces (FCS) and non-food contact surfaces (NFCS) and from finished product. We encourage you to study FDA’s draft guidance, Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods: Guidance for Industry. Here, I present three concepts needed to understand the information in the guidance.

A positive Listeria test from a FCS assumes the presence of Listeria in your product.

The guidance for ready-to-eat food recommends FCS be sampled after three hours of production and five FCS samples be collected per week per line. First consider these sample sites. The FCS sites should be after the final kill step. It does no good to sample FCS sites before the final kill step. If the test is positive, the assumption is that the final kill step killed the pathogen. The FCS sites are before the final product is sealed in packaging. Think about the distance where your product travels after the final kill step to where the package is sealed. In that distance, think about where the product is open to the environment. Listeria is an environmental pathogen. What I mean is if the product is in tubing, the product is not exposed to the environment, and these would not be FCS sites for Listeria. I am thinking about an ice cream plant. The mix travels through tubing until carton filling. The distance the product travels from the end of the tube to the carton is small, and the distance the open carton travels until sealed is small. Compare that to a large bakery. After leaving the oven on conveyor belts, the baked goods travel open to the environment for cooling and the addition of toppings. I have seen distance as long as 50 yards with the transfer onto multiple conveyor belts.

Once you have your FCS sites identified and if a FCS test is positive, it is assumed the product is positive, even without direct sampling and testing of the product. This makes sense. If a FCS is positive, the product touched the FCS. At that point it’s a chicken-and-the-egg discussion of whether the product contaminated the surface or the surface contaminated the product. It doesn’t matter until you do your root cause analysis. What you do know is that you have contaminated product.

A positive Listeria test from an environmental sample has an isolate identified as Listeria innocua or another Listeria species; consider Listeria monocytogenes as present.

Listeria monocytogenes is one of 17 species of Listeria. Only the species Listeria monocytogenes is considered a foodborne pathogen. When your contract lab tests for Listeria genus or spp., a positive test does not tell you the species. Further testing can identify the species, if needed. It is very common for the lab to report negative for Listeria monocytogenes and report the presence of Listeria innocua instead. In no way can you rest easy with a positive Listeria test and negative Listeria monocytogenes test. When the lab reports a positive Listeria test, consider Listeria monocytogenes present.

Consider the sampling site and technique. Let’s use the example of a drain swabbed with a sterile sponge. Assume Listeria monocytogenes is there. Perhaps the sponge did not swab the location of the pathogen. Perhaps the sponge did not get through the layers of goo where the pathogen is harbored. There are many reasons for missing the pathogen in the procedure for swabbing. If the test is positive for a different Listeria species, the conditions at that site are conducive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. Corrective action must be done in the same way as if the test were positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Consider the variety of microflora at the site. The site was not sterile and does contain diverse types of bacteria at different numbers and proportions to each other. Listeria monocytogenes is the wimpy kid on the playground. Listeria innocua outcompetes Listeria monocytogenes not just 10-to-1, but as much as 20:1 or 50:1! The mere chance of finding Listeria innocua instead of Listeria monocytogenes is simply greater. Listeria monocytogenes may have been present in the sample, in the testing, and simply not detected.

An environmental sample tests positive for Listeria genus or Listeria species (spp.); react as if the sample were positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

You will direct the lab in what method to use and at what point to stop the testing. Work with the contract lab in making this determination. After a positive test for Listeria genus or spp., you have the option to continue testing to identify the isolate of Listeria. This costs more money and time. Will you do something different with that information? No! It is not necessary to confirm the presence of Listeria monocytogenes from a positive Listeria genus or spp. test, when your corrective action is the same. Think this through before testing. Know the action the plant will take when a Listeria genus or spp. test is positive. Expect to get positives from zones 3 and 4. FDA inspectors should not have a problem with seeing occasional positive tests. Since Listeria is ubiquitous, you are expected to find it. The important part is what you do as corrective action. Follow-up testing should be negative to prove Listeria is eliminated from the site and the area adjacent to the site.

As you work through the FDA Listeria guidance, 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

, ,

Examine Your Facility During a Hard Rain

If you are in a drought, just have me visit, because I seem to bring rain storms. At first, I was frustrated by rain and having to navigate to a facility new to me. But when touring food plants after or during a rain storm, it is a blessing. Now I pray for rain! Examine Your Facility During a Hard Rain was a slide title in a presentation by Kevin Lorcheim of ClorDiSys Solutions, Inc., during the workshop Key Elements of a Food Safety System. Hearing Kevin talk, plus there was an 80% chance of rain that afternoon, got me thinking about my visits to food plants.

The next time you get a hard rain, I encourage you to walk your entire facility and perimeter outside. When inside, you are going to look up at the ceilings. Search for any evidence of water getting in and dripping down. Are the ceiling tiles bowed and holding water? Do you see evidence of water from stained ceiling tiles or hanging light covers? Are tile tracks rusted? Pay particular attention to pipes and I-beams coming down from the ceiling and any water coming down.

The next level down is the dripping lines. In most facilities and when it rains, there will be excessive condensate dripping down from cold lines. Pay extra attention to areas over the open product, in packaging, in dry ingredient and packaging storage and in final product storage. While you are looking for condensate drips, look for leaking pipes. I am a professional leak detector. Product, steam or water. This is a point of high complacency in food plants, where employees get numb to leaks and don’t report them for repair. You do not need to pay a consultant to detect leaks. Repairing leaky pipes is critical for efficient operations.

I was in a plant one morning where liquid product was shooting from a pipe. The pinhole leak had been reported before midnight, and the split had grown. This was a 24/7 operation. Product was literally going down the drain. The QA Manager reported the leak; the pipe was repaired and reinstalled. Not long after, the pipe had split again and farther, so product was showering out. The QA Manager reported the leak again. Please train all employees on the importance of reporting leaks.

You are probably not standing at shipping or receiving as you read this, but when you get a hard rain, investigate those sites. When a driving rain hits the side of your building, does water ingress around bay doors and outside doors? As part of your facility walk, examine doors and outer walls as soon as possible after the rain to detect leaks. Look for rivers flowing from bay doors and wet floors under the doors. Many food plants have screened windows and other air intakes; check these too. Does the rain flow down an inside wall from an upper window?

As you walk your facility, has a new river of water formed on the floor? There may be a leak coming down along an I-beam or into an interior wall and then out. The good thing about water is that it follows the path of least resistance. When you start at the river on the floor, follow the path to the wall or interior structure, and trace back to the source.

Examine EVERY room from top to bottom in your facility: boiler room, maintenance, break room, dry storage, cooler, offices, shipping and receiving. Talk to your people and ask them where they see water. Do not skip any area. Be deliberative about seeing every room. It would be best to check the outside of the building during the rain storm. Walk the perimeter outside. Note standing water. Check the integrity of the building to keep water out. Check the that downspouts are functional.

By fixing your problems of water coming in, you will stop or prevent problems in your food plant. Still have questions? 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

FDA Listeria Draft Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Foods: Part 1

FDA Listeria Draft Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Foods: Part 1 is an outline of essential information on the Listeria draft guidance, answering who, what, when, where, why and how questions. The guidance is written for companies manufacturing ready-to-eat (RTE) food and ingredients. As a guidance document the language is different from a rule where companies are required to comply. In general, an FDA guidance document does not require compliance, is written to help industry interpret rules, and explains FDA’s current thinking on a topic. The FDA Listeria Draft Guidance is different. In this author’s opinion, the guidance carries the full weight of a rule and will be enforced as such by FDA. If your company manufactures a RTE food, your President or company owner must be fully informed on the contents of the guidance. This paragraph answers why.

Who must test for Listeria?
All food companies making RTE foods under the jurisdiction of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What must be tested for Listeria?
The company will identify food contact surfaces (FCS) and non-food contact surfaces (NFCS) as appropriate to the design of individual facilities. Finished product testing is discussed in the guidance and is recommended.

    We recommend that you establish and implement a written procedure for the periodic collection of samples of your RTE food product, and for testing those samples for the presence of L. monocytogenes. See page 52.

What sterile supplies are needed?
The best method to sample a surface uses a premoistened, sterile sponge on a stick. My personal favorite comes from World Bioproducts. In addition to sponges, companies can use any sterile tool including Q-tip type swabs, tongue depressors to collect solids, scoops, dippers, pipets, bottles or bags. If you are concerned about contamination during sampling, have sterile gloves available for your technicians and intensify training. Finished product may be shipped in final packaging, or, if the finished product is large, a trained technician can obtain a portion aseptically to ship.

What lab method for Listeria is used?
When samples are sent to your contract lab, you specify for the testing of Listeria genus or Listeria monocytogenes. You can specify a one- or two-step enrichment. There are pros and cons for every method and its application, but you are expected to use a standard method which has been validated when testing for Listeria. Indicator tests which do not directly test for Listeria are useful for zone 1 and 2 samples; my favorite is an indicator test called HQA.

When are FCS sampled?
Warning! Warning! You are not going to like the answer. FDA wants food companies to sample FCS after three hours into production. The reasoning here is that microbial niches will have shook free and the conditions are representative of normal operations. Be very careful if following this FDA recommendation.

When are NFCS sampled?
NFCS can be sampled at any time provided food is not affected in the process of sampling and a positive Listeria test would not be associated with the product. When NFCS are tested as part of pre-op, this is a verification activity for a sanitation program.

Where are samples taken?
FCS and NFCS samples must be taken from every production line and from any area in the facility beyond production lines.

How many samples are taken?
A minimum of five samples from FCS (Zone 1) must be taken from every line every week. A minimum of five samples from NFCS must be taken. Imagine you have four lines in each room. You will take a minimum of five FCS samples from every line, for a total of 20 samples. Know that FDA is very conservative on their definition of FCS. For example, a control panel can be a FCS, if the technician who touches the panel in turn touches the production line or product. The same is true of overhead structures like pipes where condensate or powder could fall on to the product. How you interpret the minimum of five NFCS samples is up to you and dependent on the variables in that room. In general, FDA wants to see more samples from Zones 1 and 2 than from Zones 3 and 4.

What is the frequency of testing for Listeria?
Designing the sampling plan for Listeria testing is an art and a science and determines the cost to the company. Here are examples provided in the FDA Listeria Draft Guidance. See pp. 37-38. Pay attention to the wording on frequency:

    An example of how to specify the frequency of sample collection in a written environmental monitoring plan for FCSs in an establishment producing an RTE food that supports growth of L. monocytogenes is as follows:
    • Collect environmental samples from specific FCSs on the production lines at least once every week when the plant is in operation; and
    • Test each FCS in the plant at least once each month.

    An example of how to specify the frequency of sample collection in a written environmental monitoring plan for non-FCSs in an establishment producing an RTE food that supports growth of L. monocytogenes is as follows:
    • Collect environmental samples from representative sets of non-FCSs at least once weekly for zone 2 sites, every two weeks for zone 3 sites, and monthly for zone 4 sites when the plant is in operation; and
    • Test all non-FCS sites identified in the monitoring plan at least once each quarter.

Table 4 in the guidance, pp. 34-35, is the only published FDA guidance on zone designation of which this author is aware. Please share FDA publications on zone designation with me. I would love to talk through the design of your Listeria sampling plan with you. You can reach me by signing up for Expert Services on ConnectFood.com.

Of course you still have questions! 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

, ,

5 Signs You Don’t Have a Food Safety Culture

As I travel across the nation helping food companies with food safety issues, I get to be in a lot of food companies and observe many employees going about their jobs. Most of what I see is good. When I dig deeper into a company, I see what is missing in the food safety culture.

There is no publicly-available training program (so far) for a food safety culture. If you know of one, I want to know. What do you think about when you first think of food safety culture? I think of employees wearing clean uniforms and footwear. I think of good handwashing procedures. As I have been in food plants, I have compiled evidence of a food safety culture. As you get deeper into the culture of your company, you will see or not see these five signs of food safety culture.

You need a Vice President of Food Safety.
A food safety culture starts at the top with the President of the company. Period. If that is true, your company will have a direct report for food safety to the president, CEO or owner of the company. The title of the job may be Director or Manager, but the role of that person is to oversee food safety. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is and what the actual titles are. What matters is that food safety has a seat at the table, i.e. the conference table where the President is at the head of the table. The Vice President of Food Safety must be equal in importance with Operations and Sales and Marketing. Why? Because you make food! Your company is legally obligated to make safe food.

You need a preventive maintenance program.
There are companies and management styles which are described as “putting out fires.” If your management goes from one crisis to the next, you do not have a food safety culture. One symptom is the absence of a preventive maintenance program. Gears must be lubed; filters need changing. In a preventive maintenance program, these activities are scheduled. Factory shutdowns for cleaning are scheduled.

Your work orders need to be completed in a timely manner.
In a food safety culture, there is a work order form. Employees know where to find the form, anyone can fill out the form, and everyone knows who receives the form. After the form is completed and turned in, the work order is logged and goes through triage to determine its timeline to completion. Critical problems are reported and fixed immediately. Less serious problems are fixed as soon as possible, e.g. within a week. Problems requiring additional labor or capital expense are put in the budget to get done within a year. As work is completed, the keeper-of-the-log records valuable information for planning purposes and marks the work order as complete. Typically, the manager of maintenance is responsible for employees following the company’s procedures for work orders, including paperwork, and reports the status of work orders to upper management. In a company without food safety culture, this simply does not happen. According to Matthew Botos, CEO of ConnectFood.com, “Food Safety is all about communication and documentation! Communicating what is being manufactured, what is arriving and what is leaving are just some of the fundamentals of food safety. Communicating when equipment needs to fixed and documenting the actions is critical. Consumers consume safe products because all throughout the supply chain, from top to bottom, we are communicating and documenting our procedures.”

Speaking of critical problems being fixed immediately, it is Murphy’s Law that critical problems will occur at night on a weekend or when key personnel are on vacation. It does not matter what day or time of day the problem occurs; the appropriate maintenance personnel must return to work and fix the problem. In a food safety culture there is a record of maintenance on equipment. This history is valuable in times of trouble and when planning for capital expense. It is wrong to rely on people’s memory of the history of repair.

Your company’s food safety team needs to meet.
A food safety team is required of small and larger companies and documented in a written food safety plan. If I were an inspector, I would ask to show me the list of names on the food safety team. I want to see the name, title, email address and telephone number. You get extra credit for personal cell numbers. Is everyone on the team still employed at the company? Are their titles current? Second, show me the food safety team meeting minutes. There are many opportunities for the team to meet. I am not a fan of scheduled meetings for the food safety team, so I do not want to see consistent dates, like a monthly meeting. I am a fan of the team meeting when corrective action forms are initiated that affect food safety. I want to see a copy of the corrective action form to show the root cause. The team discusses the situation and determines if there is a threat to food safety; document the discussion and conclusion.

Duct tape has been used.
First, never use duct tape in the production area. Second, never use duct tape beyond the production area where wet cleaning is done. Duct tape does not provide a smooth, complete seal. Product and moisture get under the tape, creating the perfect growth niche for your pathogen of choice.

As I returned to write this blog over several days, I thought of more and more examples. It is easier to determine where you lack in a food safety culture and focus on making improvements. That is good quality assurance, but don’t forget to recognize and celebrate good food safety culture when you see it. You can read my blog, 4 Signs of a Food Safety Culture here at ConnectFood.com.

Still have questions? 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

, , , , , , , ,

4 Signs of a Food Safety Culture

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

,

How a Government Shutdown Affects Your Food Safety

A government shutdown looms on today’s horizon

January 19, 2018. There are many federal agencies working for the American people on food safety. Three examples are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for monitoring public health, identifying outbreaks, and investigating the source of outbreaks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes and enforces laws and guidance for ingredient suppliers and food manufacturers and inspects food companies for compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has parallel duties in food safety to FDA. USDA has jurisdiction over animal products, and FDA gets all the other foods.

CDC. The US is currently in an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes from potentially from Romaine lettuce. CDC is working closely with Canada, where the outbreak was first identified. There have been deaths. South Africa is currently investigating the largest outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes the world has ever seen. When last I saw, there have been 67 deaths. CDC personnel are certainly in communication with health officials in South Africa to monitor the outbreak and collaborate with food safety officials. Then there is flu season. CDC is responsible for monitoring the cases and number of deaths to track the impact of the flu. With a government shutdown, these non-essential duties and communication may cease, putting millions of Americans in harm.

FDA. FSMA has six laws currently under enforcement. Both the food industry and FDA have been ramping up compliance to the laws. FDA inspectors have been trained and are out doing FSMA inspections. FDA inspections where a user fee is levied will continue. FDA posts recalls daily. With a government shutdown, will recalls be deemed essential duties for the FDA? Will the recalls be announced? Will FDA arrive at the food factory to investigate? Will FDA meetings on recalls be postponed?

USDA. One significant difference between FDA and USDA is that animal slaughter, with subsequent meat packing operations, has mandatory supervision by a USDA inspector. Without the USDA inspector, there is no animal slaughter.

For more details on the affect of a shutdown, go to this PBS article.

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

,

How do I Add Radiological Hazards into My Food Safety Plan?

Radiological hazards are chemical hazards.
Radioactive chemicals emit harmful radiation that at large doses is harmful soon after exposure and at small doses is harmful years or decades later. Our food may become contaminated through the absorption of radioactive chemicals found in soil or water. Radioactive chemicals in air may settle onto food, water, or soil. Terms used to describe radioactive chemicals include: radioactive isotopes, radioactive elements, and radionuclides. Examples include: radioactive cesium, uranium, and strontium.

You may be familiar with radon testing before purchase of a home; this is standard practice in real estate. I was at the house we were purchasing when the radon test was done – it was a beautiful day, but I could not open the windows or the test would be invalid. Radon is a gas. When a radon test is done inside a house, the air is tested for a given time. (Our house passed the radon test.) Radon is not a chemical hazard of major concern in the food industry.

Radioactive chemicals are naturally present in some rock formations. As rainwater filters through soil and is collected in aquifers below the surface, the water may pick up radioactive chemicals. If your facility uses well water, research the location of the aquifer. What is known about the soil and rock formation surrounding the aquifer? Is the location known to have a risk of radioactive chemicals? If your facility uses municipal water, your water treatment facility tests for radioactive chemicals. Add your annual water report from your water treatment facility to your food safety plan. If you have questions on the report, talk with your local water treatment facility.

When you write your hazard analysis, include radiological hazard as a chemical hazard once for your water supply.
In the hazard analysis you may determine that the hazard does not require a preventive control and will remain as a Good Manufacturing Practice for potable water.

Approve suppliers using your own criteria.
If ingredients for your product include a crop, you may have concerns about the location of the field and water used for irrigation. Theoretically, there could be an uptake of radioactive chemicals if present in the soil or if present in the water used for irrigation. Know the location for the crop and communicate with your supplier if you have any concerns.

Radioactive chemicals are of concern after nuclear power plant accidents. In the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in what is now the Ukraine, plumes of radioactive material were sent into the air in updrafts from a steam explosion and resulting fire. The radioactive material settled into the surrounding area as the wind blew away from the facility. In the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan, a tsunami hit the coast. Loss of electricity to cooling pumps caused a reactor meltdown, explosions, and release of radioactive material to the air, ground water, and the Pacific Ocean.

What can you do about the potential for a nuclear power plant accident near you? First, locate the nearest nuclear power plant to your facility. The website for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a feature for locating nuclear power plants. Second, determine if you are within an emergency planning zone and review the plume exposure pathway. If your facility is within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant and an accident occurs, there is a ban of contaminated water and food.

When you write your hazard analysis, include radiological hazard as a chemical hazard for your location.
If your facility is within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, identify a hazard requiring a preventive control and write an emergency plan. Being prepared for an emergency is the best insurance that it won’t happen.

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.