Floor to Ceiling Food Safety Plans

From kambucha to ground beef, a remarkable array of food safety-focused concerns were taken on this year at the International Association of Food Protection’s Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida. Nelson-Jameson was proud to be part of the 2017 Exhibit, as well as the continuing sponsor of the Elmer Marth Educator Award. The realities of food safety in the modern food and beverage industries continue to push producers, regulators, academics, and even suppliers like Nelson-Jameson to think in terms of prevention versus reaction in a comprehensive way.

This is an important distinction that unifies the attendees of IAFP, and it is a distinction that unifies the food and beverage industries, in providing safe, quality food products to consumers. Perhaps more than anything, the idea of “holistic” came to mind to the NJ team as we engaged in discussion with customers, manufacturers, professors, etc. We were reaffirmed in our assertion that viewing a production facility as a totality is an important means of formulating quality food safety plans and strategies.

From selecting the right drain cover to install underneath the pathways we tread in our sanitized boots, to finding the right swab to reach out-of-sight surfaces above our heads, food safety demands a holistic approach. In essence, every part of Nelson-Jameson’s catalog/array of offerings can be looked at as part of a holistic approach to food safety.

The process of researching the right sanitary coupler, picking out the most useful products to establish a color-coded program, browsing through metal-detectable offerings, considering pest protection products, shopping for environmental testing items, or selecting the right handwashing station options, all present opportunities to think food safety. Each item has the potentiality of being incorporated as part of a holistic food safety plan and strategy. Beyond “getting the job done” the products in your basket are all potential players in this plan that can make a significant difference when accounted for and understood as preventative gatekeepers in the production process.

To learn more about IAFP, go to foodprotection.org, and be in touch with your food safety concerns…we’re here to help you get a holistic vision of food safety together, one product at a time.

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Listeria vs The Dairy Industry

In February I had the opportunity to attend the “Artisan Dairy Producer Food Safety Initiative Workshop” to learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) along with other leaders in the dairy industry here in Wisconsin. It was put on by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and was offered at no expense thanks to a generous grant from USDA-NIFA. Marianne Smukowski, from the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Matt Mathison from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) were the trainers for the workshop. The workshop was a brief overview of the expectations that the FDA has put before every business in the food industry, from the large to the small plants. This workshop was geared towards the dairy industry, focusing on the hazards that arise, and how to put a detailed plan together to prevent them. One of the hazards that was of special interest, especially due to the sheer amount of news coverage that it has gotten in the previous months, was the elimination and prevention of Listeria monocytongenes in raw milk, cheeses, and Ready-to-Eat (RTEs) products.

Listeria monocytongenes is a gram-positive microorganism that does not form itself into a spore when dormant, doesn’t need oxygen to reproduce and can grow between -0.4 and 50° C (31.28 and 122° F). L. monocytongenes can be found in numerous places in our environment, including water, soil, dust, plants, animal feed, feces, and sewage. When it comes to the dairy plant, Listeria has been mostly found in moist environments including drains, floors, coolers, conveyors, and case washing areas. Pasteurizing is the most effective way of destroying Listeria, but if post-contamination occurs Listeria growth can swiftly get out of control. Listeria can quickly multiply to dangerous levels, and despite proper refrigeration can continue to multiply.

Listeriosis is the foodborne illness that is caused by Listeria monocytongenes. It is estimated that it affects 1,600 people every year in the U.S and it is known to kill 19.5% of those sickened by it. Much like any foodborne illness it can affect the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and it is also known to impair and sometimes kill fetuses.

So what can be done to prevent the contamination of Listeria? First and foremost a detailed safety plan that segregates raw milk and the tools and equipment used before pasteurization from the pasteurized milk is absolutely necessary. This can be assisted by using a color-coding system to keep brushes, squeegees, pails, etc. from being cross-contaminated with raw milk. Just recently Nelson-Jameson put out a new Color-Coded Catalog highlighting the numerous products that can be put in place to create a zoning system to prevent the cross-contamination that is so dangerous to product. You can check out that catalog here. Another important part of preventing Listeria is developing an environmental cleaning, sanitizing and monitoring program. Nelson-Jameson carries a variety of ATP monitoring systems to help with this. Check out this previously featured, easy-to-understand blog, that breaks down what ATP is and what luminometers can do to assist in ensuring cleaning efficacy. We also carry quick swabs that can specifically be used to test equipment for Listeria.

Unfortunately, recalls due to Listeria keep popping up. Nelson-Jameson is provides the tools and instruments to help prevent recalls. Not only does Nelson-Jameson provide you the luminometers, swabs, brushes, and other equipment needed, but we also do our best to help our customers search out educational opportunities that can be so powerful in helping understand and combat food safety threats.

For instance, our partners at Cherney College have a variety of classes that could be helpful in preventing Listeria along with any other microorganisms from entering product. Some of the classes from Cherney college include: “Environmental Monitoring & Sanitation Essentials,” “Introduction to Food Microbiology-The Basics,” “Advanced Food Microbiology” along with a few others. Check out their website for dates. Mention that you are a Nelson-Jameson customer at checkout and receive 10%. In addition, the CDR has some great short courses, including, “Wisconsin Cleaning and Sanitation Workshop,” “HACCP Workshop,”, and “Milk Pasteurization” that can assist with helping plants become safer. Together, and through educational opportunities like those mentioned here, the food and dairy industries can take on the challenges of the Food Safety Modernization Act, fight food safety threats like Listeria, and ensure a safe food supply for the nation.

NCIMS Considers Another Proposal to Lower Somatic Cell Counts

The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) is scheduled to meet in May 12-17 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will be considering a proposal for lowering the maximum allowable somatic cell count (SCC) in milk to 400,000 cells per milliliter. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has long been a proponent of lowering the SCC threshold to 400,000 cells/ml. The current threshold is 750,000 cells per milliliter. The European Union (EU) and other countries have adopted the 400,000 cell/ml standard, placing import bans on any dairy products sourced from farms with SCCs above that level.

SCC levels measure dead white blood cells in milk, an indication of mammary gland infections. Lower levels of somatic cells indicate higher quality milk. Some federal milk marketing orders have a 350,000 cells/ml threshold to determine milk quality premiums. Dairy processors believe that lower SCC thresholds impact cheese yield, taste and shelf life.

Nelson-Jameson offers several PortaCheck products to help dairy farmers monitor the SCC of individual cows in their herd. UdderCheck LDH Milk Test is an effective tool in monitoring udder health. It measures Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH), an enzyme present in milk when cells are damaged during an udder infection. LDH levels often rise earlier than somatic cell counts, making it an excellent marker for early detection of mastitis.

PortaCheck also offers two somatic cell count tests for on-farm detection of sub-clinical mastitis. The PortaSCC Milk Test is used with a color chart or digital reader. It has a 45 minute reaction time and numerical results are projected by the digital reader. The PortaSCC Quick Test is based on the same technology as the original test, but it has a faster reaction time of 5-6 minutes. It uses a test strip which is compared to a color chart to give a general level of SCC. Read more about these tests here, or check out the instructional video.


Key Food and Beverage Trends for 2017

Now that we’re well into the 2017, it’s safe to say that certain foods and beverages are outshining others in regards to new product launches, menu appearances and overall hype. As always, Nelson-Jameson is here to digest all of these culinary crazes into bite-sized highlights with our annual food and beverage trends blog! Here’s what we predict will be more than just a flash in the pan:

You Don’t Know Jack…Yet

Plant-based meat alternatives are gaining major traction in both the restaurant and grocery worlds, which means we’re likely to see a veggie-centric shift in the variety of tasty protein sources available to supplement a healthy diet. Jackfruit, an Asian tree fruit that’s part of the mulberry family, has a fibrous flesh suitable for replacing pulled pork in recipes. Low in carbs and calories but high in protein and potassium, it provides a healthful yet hearty boost to tacos, barbeque, sandwiches, curries and more.

You will also see meat substitutes be given more of an equal-billing in your local food retail establishments. Vegetarian and Vegan “butcher” shops are popping up in urban areas such as Minneapolis and New York; and, supermarkets such as Whole Foods, have begun to merchandise Beyond Meat, a ground meat alternative (and Nelson-Jameson customer!), alongside its beefy peers in the butcher case. Looks like veggies will be moving up to entrée status on a more regular basis!

Label Maker

A major trend in the dairy category this year will be ‘Clean Label’. Clean Label foods are generally those that are minimally processed, natural or organic, “free-from” certain additives and/or have simple, understandable ingredients. In other words, clean label is all about transparency to the consumer. The concept is being hailed as the new “global standard” in dairy processing, and is predicted to eventually incorporate the entire supply chain. It’s advised that dairy processors view clean label as a strategic approach to “increase consumer trust and to mitigate brand risk” and focus on “back to basics” product formulation. It looks like the approach will likely be profitable– -studies claim that 75% of consumers are willing to pay more for clean label products.

Sweet Talk

Many have hailed 2016 as the “Year of the Sugar Tax”, and it appears that things aren’t going to slow down on the legislative front in 2017 with many cities, states and countries considering versions of sugar taxes in the name of health. In the United States, the FDA will require the that the “Nutrition Facts” label on packaged foods list the added sugars separately from total sugars beginning in 2018. Globally, food manufacturers have been reformulating their products to comply with both the trend and various laws, with a “low sugar” claim seemingly being the sweet spot. However, words like “low” and “added” seem to be somewhat subjective, and some in the food industry plan to respond to sugar legislation with litigation. It looks like we may be in for one long, bittersweet ride.

Health Club

As these three food and beverage trends highlight, health is at the forefront in 2017. Look for lots of buzzwords like “better for you”, “free-from”, “clean label”, “organic” and “natural” on food packaging, restaurant menus and in food marketing. Because for food processors this year, health truly may mean wealth.

Totalled Recall

There have been times in the past when I became ill with a supposed food-borne illness, or found a bug in a product in my home and wondered did that come from my kitchen or did it come from the manufacturer? From my experience of working in the food industry I know that every comment that came in had to be investigated. I would have to go up to our retention samples, find the lot number that the customer was commenting on, and do some investigation. This included looking at the certificate of analysis to see what the bacterial counts were at, looking at the production log from that lot, and looking at batch test reports. Depending on the severity of the comment or the frequency of the comments from the same lot number, determined how far we took the investigation. Thankfully, in my time in the plant,  I was never part of a recall, but recalls are definitely a reality of the modern food industry that companies should consider.   

(Photo from aol.com)

(Photo from aol.com)

Recalls can happen for a number of reasons including: undeclared allergens; contamination with a pathogen such E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella; foreign object contamination such as plastic, glass or metal fragments; nutrient imbalance, along with numerous  others. Recalls can be costly and they can affect a company in three different ways that are useful to keep in mind.   

First and foremost are direct costs. According to Sam Lewis of Food Online, average direct costs of a recall comes in at about 10 million dollars.  This is assuming that no one becomes sick, injured or dies from the product. Direct cost begin to start adding up initially, in dealing with regulatory bodies, including making them aware of what is going on. Once a recall is initiated, the recalling company submits their recall strategy to either the FDA or FSIS. Then, of course, there are the costs of retrieving the affected product, its storage, and proper disposal.   While the product is being retrieved, companies can count on an exhaustive look into documentation, HACCP plan, and GMPs used during the time frame of the recalled product, in principle, finding the root cause of what happened to cause the product to be contaminated. Were employees washing their hands, wearing gloves? Was the metal detector working and in place, were the right safety precautions taken to prevent a metal, glass, or plastic fragment from falling into the product? These questions along with many others have to be asked along with a plan to prevent another recall from happening again. This plan also has to be submitted to the regulatory bodies so they know that you are being responsible in the handling of the situation.

Secondly, the cost of lost sales can also be another tough pill to swallow.  No product goes unturned until the problem is figured out. That means a long drawn out downtime on production lines, tanks, etc. until the root cause is figured out and a plan is in place and approved to prevent it from happening again.  In addition to the cost of any food that needs to be recalled, downtime unrelentingly keeps cutting the bottom line throughout the recall process.  However, the true costs of a recall doesn’t stop there.     

A third cost to consider, is the cost that a recall can have on a company’s reputation.   Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can take a food safety case quickly from the privacy of a few kitchens quickly over to the court of public opinion, when it takes just seconds to share a post with friends, family, and anyone who will listen.   For PR departments trying to manage a company and brand identity in the midst of a potential recall situation, this can be a frustrating Pandora’s Box to have opened.  

Coupled with general media coverage, and word of mouth, social media combines to form a powerful voice that can change consumer choices for weeks, for years, or forever down the road:     

“In a Harris Interactive Poll, consumers indicated that 55% would switch brands temporarily following a recall, and 15% said they would never purchase the recalled product and 21% would avoid purchasing any brand made by the manufacturer of the recalled product.” Read Here.

When these three kinds of costs are added up, you can see why some food processors never recover from the financial strains a recall can put on an operation.    Here at Nelson-Jameson we are here to give you the tools, equipment, and knowledge you need to help avoid recalls, produce a consistent and safe product, and to keep your customers coming back for more.