FDA Publishes a Final Guidance Document
That headline is part of the big news here. We are living in the world of draft FDA guidance documents for food safety that are the FDA’s current thinking on a topic. I applaud the FDA for releasing the final guidance document on this topic in June 2019. FDA published the draft guidance Determining the Number of Employees for Purposes of the “Small Business” Definition of Parts 117 and 507: Guidance for Industry in March 2018, and this is an update on my blog post from that month.

Why did FDA publish this guidance?
The purpose of the guidance is to raise awareness of compliance deadlines for Part 117, the human food rule, and Part 507, the animal food rule through the calculation of number of employees. All food facilities are now under enforcement for the human food rule regardless of the number of employees, making the guidance unnecessary for the human food rule. Only very small businesses can qualify for an exemption from Subparts C and G of Part 117 Preventive Controls for Human Food rule and are defined as earning less than $1 million in annual revenue and not by the number of employees.

The guidance 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 for calculating FTEs is to determine if a facility is defined as a small business of less than 500 FTE employees.

Wait. What about the Intentional Adulteration rule?
If you are on top of your FSMA rules game, you know that the last FSMA rule to come under enforcement is the Intentional Adulteration rule in July 2019. Guess what food facilities are first to come on board? Yes, facilities with more than 500 FTE employees! Does your facility have a written and implemented food defense plan? I have blog posts here on food defense to get you started; search “food defense.”

Will my facility be inspected with a preventive controls inspection?
FDA prioritizes their inspections, so FDA must know if a facility is exempt from inspection as a very small business. For all other businesses, there are other factors used by FDA to prioritize inspections.

    • FDA inspection goals for the number of domestic and foreign facilities
    • Facilities posting a recall on the FDA Reportable Food Registry
    • Facilities with a current or previous Class I recall or warning letter
    • Facilities in the same product sector 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

Most inspections are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) inspections. Every year the goal for the number of preventive control inspections increases and more FDA inspectors are trained. Some states have FDA contracts to inspect on behalf of FDA, and state inspectors go through the same training process as FDA inspectors.

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, i.e. the links above. Very small business can qualify for an exemption of a written food safety plan and recall plan, but all other food businesses will be more prepared for an inspection with a current food safety plan and recall plan.

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 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.

Caliente! Hot Topic!
Have you heard? FDA is going to initiate recalls and announce recalls to consumers. Technically, the FDA initiating a recall is not new, because FDA gained the authority to initiate a recall in 2011 with the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA has pumped out three new guidance documents on public notification of a recall. The last of the three, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019, was recently published.

What is the Purpose of the February 2019 Guidance?
FDA is communicating to industry and providing recommendations for its own staff for when they will initiate a recall and publish a public warning of a recalled food. FDA has seen, in rare cases, where there is not cooperation from the recall firm or there is slow announcing of a recall. FDA calculated the average time for a firm to announce a recall is four days; it is implied that four days is too long for hazardous food to be in commerce. FDA intends to work cooperatively with the recall firm. The FDA must first provide the responsible party with an opportunity to voluntarily cease distribution and recall the article of food. FDA gives the first opportunity for initiating and announcing a recall to the Owner, Operator, or Agent-in-charge. Infant formula recalls are mandated separately, but all food, ingredients and chewing gum are otherwise covered by the guidance.

It’s not all bad news!
For fiscal year 2018, there were 7420 recalls and 831 classified as a high risk. Since 2012, the 2018 numbers are the lowest number of recalls. What happened after 2012? February 2013 was the start of FDA uploading whole genome sequences to GenomeTrakr and the transition away from PulseNet which uses the method of pulsed field gel electrophoresis. The greater sensitivity of whole genome sequencing has led to more recalls.

Timeline: April 2016
Given a head’s up on a pending report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), FDA created a team of senior leaders with oversight of recalls; the team meets at least weekly. Named Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution (SCORE), SCORE expediated the process for suspending the registration of two facilities as of December 2017.

This is where the E. coli hit the fan.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Food-Recall Process Did Not Always Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Food Supply, December 2017. The 2017 report published from the OIG found FDA failures in food recall practices. The OIG made a series of recommendations on how the agency might improve its management of recalls.

Timeline: January 2018
FDA draft guidance [the January 2018 draft guidance is no longer available] on FDA’s policy and notification of recalled products and posting recalls to the FDA Enforcement Reports was published to assist the food industry in working with FDA through a recall.

What products are covered?
Food, drug, or device intended for human or animal use; cosmetic and biologic intended for human use; tobacco product; and any item subject to quarantine regulation. Radiation emitting electronic products are not covered.

Timeline: April 2018
I wanted to know when and how FDA used its new authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Last year I wrote what I learned in a ConnectFood blog post, which included 3 cases:

    1. Sunland peanut butter sold finished product containing Salmonella.
    2. Kasel dog treats recalled after Salmonella found.
    3. Triangle Pharmanaturals’ kratom dietary supplements contain Salmonella.

One of my favorite sentences from the Kasel recall notification is as follows:

    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.

Timeline: September 2018
FDA Draft Guidance, Public Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees to Effectuate Certain Human and Animal Food Recalls Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff September 2018, was the first of three guidance documents published by the FDA. If known, FDA will notify the public of stores where recalled food was sold. Retail consignees include grocery store, pet food stores, convenience stores, but not restaurants or distributors.

Timeline: November 2018
In this FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on FDA’s effort to make more robust use of mandatory recall authority to quickly remove unsafe foods from the market November 2018, two examples were given for when FDA has notified the public of a recall:

    FDA Investigated Multistate Outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Linked to Fresh Crab Meat Imported from Venezuela, September 2018
    FDA Alerts the Public Regarding Recalled Vegetable Products, October 2018 McCain’s Ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat (RTE)

While I appreciate the explanation, the following sentence stopped me in my tracks:

We’ve already acted on these draft guidances.

I had previously heard that FDA was acting on a different unpublished draft guidance document, but here I saw it in print. It is not clear if the FDA is working from the published draft guidance shared with the food industry or from unpublished, draft guidance documents.

The second guidance document was published: Questions and Answers Regarding Mandatory Food Recalls: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff, November 2018. The Q & A addresses three questions.

1. When will the FDA publicize retail consignee lists?
FDA will determine the likelihood of serious adverse health consequences or death of humans or animals (SAHCODHA) resulting in the food being adulterated and in most cases a class I recall. Some class II recalls or unclassified recalls will be publicized. I was very interested to see examples of what FDA considers high risk foods:

    Listeria monocytogenes-smoked salmon, pumpkin seeds
    Salmonella in ready-to-eat food-peanut butter, alfalfa sprouts, deli products
    Certain undeclared allergens in food
    E. coli O157:H7 in leafy greens
    Botulinum toxin- e.g. under processed canned chili
    Choking hazard in baby food, and
    Misbranded food with missing or incorrect food allergen labeling

For notification by FDA and in most cases, the retail packaging will make recalled food difficult to identify, and the food will be likely to still be in homes or stores. For example in the spring 2018 Romaine lettuce recall, much of the Romaine was beyond its shelf life and was not expected to be available in stores or homes by the time the recall was announced. From the Q & A guidance: There may be situations where both criteria are not met and FDA notifies the public. The FDA is not required to contact the firm before issuing a public warning or allow its review of the proposed statement. FDA may supplement or correct [the] warning.

What information will the FDA provide?
When FDA notifies the public of a recall, they wish to have information that help the consumer identify the product. Such information includes name of the food, lot or code dates, product description, photographs, geographic information, retail-related information, e.g. by naming the retail store chain, and potentially store specific information such as city and state. FDA will describe the risks and information about similar food that is not affected by the recall. FDA will state that the information may be under or over inclusive.

How will the FDA publicize this information?
FDA Public Warnings will come as a press release posted on the FDA website, alerts, and public notices by email, web or social media. Public notification of a recall is published in the weekly FDA Enforcement Report.

Timeline: February 2019
The FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps to strengthen the agency’s process for issuing public warnings and notifications of recalls February 2019, and FDA Guidance, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019, detail the FDA’s current thinking on when FDA will notify consumers of a recall. Companies which do not cooperate with the FDA for a recall or communicate a recall slowly to the public may experience the FDA announcing a recall.

ConnectFood can help you meet the requirement of the rule and be prepared for a potential recall. 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 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.

References

    1. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) January 2011
    2. FDA Rule, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food September 2015
    3. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report, The Food and Drug Administration’s Food-Recall Process Did Not Always Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Food Supply December 2017
    4. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on efforts to support more efficient and effective food recalls December 2017
    5. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new policy steps for strengthening public warning and notification of recalls January 2018
    6. ConnectFood blog post, FDA Uses New Authority Under FSMA to Order a Mandatory Recall, April 2018
    7. FDA Draft Guidance, Public Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees to Effectuate Certain Human and Animal Food Recalls Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff September 2018
    8. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on FDA’s effort to make more robust use of mandatory recall authority to quickly remove unsafe foods from the market November 2018
    9. FDA Guidance, Questions and Answers Regarding Mandatory Food Recalls: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff November 2018
    10. FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new steps to strengthen the agency’s process for issuing public warnings and notifications of recalls February 2019
    11. FDA Guidance, Public Warning and Notification of Recalls Under 21 CFR Part 7, Subpart C, Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff February 2019
    12. 21 CFR Part 7 FDA Enforcement Policy, Subpart C–Recalls (Including Product Corrections)–Guidance on Policy, Procedures, and Industry Responsibilities

The Food Safety Modernization Act has changed the food manufacturing landscape and will continue to do so in the new year. The industry has embraced the proactive approach by the federal government, but there is still much work to be done. ConnectFood’s customers had a banner year in 2018 with the launch of several new technologies and the adoption of the small and medium-sized industries realizing that the federal, state, and local regulators will be looking to work with industry to ensure that the food supply continues to be safe.

The food industry has spread from a local community to a global community and then back to a local community. I know that is an interesting statement, but as we look at the globalization of food from local farms and communities to the spread of large manufacturing and a global society we have also trended back to small manufacturers selling to restaurants and restaurants selling small batches to grocery stores.

The Government Shutdown has also recently had an impact on inspections. With that being said, FDA is still on point for the rest of this new year.

The partnership between the segments of the food industry has never been stronger. We must focus on fundamentals. As we have previously discussed, there are key areas we as a food industry will need to focus on as we move forward.

FSMA focuses on seven basic areas:

    • Preventive Controls for Human Food.
    • Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.
    • Standards for Produce Safety.
    • Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP)
    • Accredited Third-Party Certification.
    • Sanitary Transportation.
    • Intentional Adulteration (Food Defense)

It is my belief that the backbone of the act is the Preventive Controls for Human Food – and my personal favorite graphic is:

Each component of The Food Safety Modernization Act is asking and at times telling our industry that we must look at all of the hazards that could be possible in our facilities. A hazard is defined as:

    • Hazard requiring a preventive control: a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard for which a person knowledgeable about the safe manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of food would, based on the outcome of a hazard analysis (which includes an assessment of the severity of the illness or injury if the hazard were to occur and the probability that the hazard will occur in the absence of preventive controls), establish one or more preventive controls to significantly minimize or prevent the hazard in a food and components to manage those controls (such as monitoring, corrections or corrective actions, verification, and records) as appropriate to the food, the facility, and the nature of the preventive control and its role in the facility’s food safety system.
    • Known or reasonably foreseeable hazard: A biological, chemical (including radiological), or physical hazard that is known to be, or has the potential to be, associated with the facility or the food.
    Human Food asks us to look at facilities that process, package and hold food. This is just asking what all components are that could potentially harm humans during consumption.

The Animal Food Regulation

“The final rule was published in September 2015 and larger animal food facilities were required to comply with the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) requirements by September 2016.
Now larger animal food facilities have been required to comply with the preventive controls requirements since September 18, 2017, and facilities that are small businesses were required to implement the CGMPs by that date.

Because compliance dates are staggered by the size of the business, the next major compliance dates come in September 2018, when small businesses will also have to meet preventive controls requirements and very small businesses must implement the CGMPs.
This rule requires animal food facilities to have a food safety plan in place that includes an analysis of hazards to determine which ones need control and risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent those hazards” (FDA.gov)

Produce Safety

This rule establishes “science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables” for human consumption.

The Produce Safety Rule has six core components – as all of the rules are, they are connected to reducing the risk of contamination of produce:

    • Agricultural water.
    • Biological soil amendments.
    • Sprouts.
    • Domesticated and wild animals.
    • Worker training and health and hygiene.
    • Equipment, tools, and buildings.

This rule has a long list of exemptions and variances which can be found at this link.

The Transportation Regulation

The Sanitary Transportation Rule establishes requirements for sanitary practices, this helps to reduce the risk of food becoming contaminated during transportation. This rule applies to “shippers, receivers, loaders, and carriers who transport food in the United States by motor or rail vehicle.”

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP)

Foreign Supplier Verification applies to companies that are importing food into the United States. These companies must have verified food safety plans and need to have evaluated their hazards for their products. Once again, this rule is set up to protect the United States consumer. The ultimate goal is to establish program that make foreign manufacturers as responsible as domestic manufacturers.
Accredited Third-Party Certification

This rule establishes the framework, procedures and requirements for accreditation bodies seeking recognition by the FDA, as well as requirements for third-party certification bodies seeking accreditation. As discussed by the FDA, this helps promote international consistency when all the components are used together.

Intentional Adulteration (Food Defense)

One of the most important components in my mind is making sure we keep out food supply from being compromised. FDA is working hard at putting components that will allow for companies to protect themselves from intentional acts of contamination and potential terrorism. Some of these components include:

    • Vulnerability assessment.
    • Mitigation strategies.
    • Mitigation strategy management components.
    • Training and record keeping.

All of these components together have created a proactive environment for the food industry. In the past we had been in a position to be rather reactive. Following these components, having active management commitment and working with your regulators will continue to help create he safest food supply in the world. We must now become more proactively involved.

The important thing from 2018 is that we have seen more reported recalls due to the diligence of the consumer, the industry, and the government. This means that the trend of understanding the importance of food safety is increasing, allowing more people easy accessibility to food safety information. The trends in local manufacturing, produce, and the security of our food supply will continue to increase.

In the coming weeks, ConnectFood.com will be covering all of these topics while highlighting the ways to tackle those food safety topics within our software. Our experts will weigh in and give you the information you need as it is available.

About the Author
Matthew Botos is the CEO and Founder of ConnectFood. ConnectFood offers a step-by-step, “Do-It-Yourself” food safety plan generator to help companies comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act and On-Demand plan reviews from a national network of food experts. Mr. Botos is currently on the Food Safety and Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) International Subcommittee. He is also one of few approved Train the Trainer instructors of the FSPCA Lead Instructor program launched in October 2015 and has taught over 800 of the nation’s leading food safety experts.

CNN Lets ‘Food Babe’ Spout Pseudoscience on Lettuce Outbreak
There’s another wonderful headline. Everyone has something to say about Romaine lettuce and pathogenic E. coli. Everyone I know anyway. I do not spout pseudoscience, but I have previously written about our first Romaine recall of 2018 here, and I use credible sources for my information like CDC and FDA.

The United States is currently in a second E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Romaine.
Our friends to the north in Canada are with us in this outbreak too. The CDC reported on November 26, that 43 cases in the US have been diagnosed across 12 states, with 16 hospitalizations and no deaths. The illness for at least one person has resulted in hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), i.e. kidney failure. The outbreak started the beginning of October, and more cases are expected to be reported.

Romaine is currently not harvested from Arizona.
The first 2018 outbreak of pathogenic E. coli was traced to Romaine grown in Arizona. It took some time to detect, but the source of the Romaine for the current outbreak is California, not Arizona. In fact, the search has narrowed to six counties in California where Romaine was grown and harvested.

Where was my Romaine grown?
In the last outbreak, family members were asking me if they really had to throw away the old Romaine in the refrigerator and the fresh Romaine they just bought at the store. Yes! All Romaine was discarded in the supply chain. Growers, processors, stores and restaurants are understandably upset at having to dispose of Romaine again. Thanks to government and industry working together, FDA is urging processors to label Romaine with used by dates, harvest location and harvest date.

Do you remember the outbreak of 2017?
Yes, we were in a similar spot a year ago with an E. coli outbreak in the United States and Canada. Data pointed to leafy greens, but the source of the outbreak was never found, and a recall was never announced by the FDA. Canada’s traceback investigation landed on Romaine as the source. In the US, there were 25 cases across 15 states with the outbreak starting the beginning of November. By the end of February, two people had HUS and one person had died. Canada saw 42 cases and one death.

Are all these E. coli the same? No, and Maybe.
No. The FDA states that the E. coli O157:H7 from the first outbreak of 2018 and from Arizona Romaine is different genetically from the E. coli O157:H7 of California, like non-identical twins. Close, but not the same.
Maybe. However, when comparing the E. coli O157:H7 of the current outbreak to the E. coli O157:H7 of the outbreak this time last year, they are identical twins:

    Genetic analysis indicates that illnesses reported in this current outbreak are caused by the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 seen in a previous outbreak that occurred in fall of 2017 that affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S.

Smart people are working on this problem in the United States and Canada. In the meantime, toss away any Romaine you have in your refrigerator. Recalls are stressful situations. The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule under FSMA requires a written recall plan.

ConnectFood can help you meet the requirement of the rule and be prepared for a potential recall. 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 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.

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

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

As I sit drinking my Jamaican Me Crazy morning coffee, I open the newest FDA recall announcement, and it is for Death Wish Coffee’s Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew. First, that’s an unfortunate name given that the recall is for the potential of botulism which is deadly. Putting that aside, I have been waiting for the first recall or outbreak of cold brew coffee. I have been telling anyone who listens that it is only a matter of time before there is a recall or outbreak. The business of food safety is secure.

The beauty of coffee is that it is made with hot water. Most of us have seen on TV or, in some cases, in person the harvesting, gathering, and shipping of coffee beans. The process is nasty. Mud, birds, and rodents are intimately involved in the process. The beans are roasted, but microbiologists like to say, “dirt in, dirt out.” Some of us don’t say “dirt.” After the beans are roasted, they are ground. Have you ever ground beans at the grocery store? I bet that piece of equipment never gets cleaned. What about at commercial roasters? How often does the equipment get cleaned? Or at your gas station/ convenience store? You get the picture.

Again, the beauty of coffee is that it is made with hot water. Folks, this is a needed kill step. FDA recently gave us Chapter 6 of the Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food: Draft Guidance for Industry in draft form. Chapter 6 is Use of Heat Treatments as a Process Control. Every food manufacturer should review this guidance.

This recall of coffee is of canned cold brew coffee. There was no kill step for Clostridium botulinum, and there is the potential for botulism. The company is faced with the fact that they cannot can cold brew coffee without destroying the flavor profile. Smart on their part is to announce that they have suspended the production of this product. It is also smart to work with a process authority like ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos. There are nonthermal ways to approach the manufacture and packaging of cold brew coffee. That will cost upward of a million dollars, so profit margin needs to be high.

This is what we do at ConnectFood. We support; we educate. Right now though, I need more coffee.

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.