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

(Photo from

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.

A Focus on Our Farm Friends

cosNelson-Jameson has been the “one stop shop” for the food processing industry for almost 70 years providing cheesemakers, dairy processors, breweries, food manufacturers and other industries with products in a wide range of categories.  Food processors may be the largest customer for Nelson-Jameson products, but dairy farms are also an important part of our business.  Dairy producers can purchase a variety of products including cleaners, sanitizers, teat dips and udder washes, drum and pail pumps, hose, nozzles and reels, brooms and brushes, milk filters, cow towels for prepping udders, milk filters, needles and syringes, gloves and footwear, and many other supplies.   

Producing high quality milk is very important to dairy producers.  We provide a variety of testing kits for on-the-farm testing of antibiotic residues being the primary distributor of Delvotest kits in the United States.  In addition, our PortaCheck products can help monitor Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) of individual dairy cows or herds and can be used for early detection of mastitis.  Herd managers can also monitor the bacteriology of the herd through on-farm culturing of milk samples with a 3M Petrifilm™-based testing system.  Test kits and meters are also available for detecting ketosis in dairy cattle.

Getting dairy calves off to a good start is crucial for dairy calf managers.  Brix refractometers are available from Nelson-Jameson that can be used to identify high-quality colostrum and improve your ability to raise healthy calves.  Another tool that is proving to be valuable for calf raisers is the ATP luminometer.  These can be used for checking the cleanliness of calf feeding equipment through ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) testing.  We offer a selection of swabs and luminometers.  These are just a few of our products that can meet the needs of dairy producers.

Dairy farmers can consult with the experienced staff at Nelson-Jameson for help in producing high quality milk, for their dairy equipment sanitation needs and for monitoring herd health through testing and early detection of problems.  Ask for a free online subscription to our quarterly “Farm Tales” newsletter for brief articles on the use of products provided by Nelson-Jameson that will assist in the management and profitability of your dairy herd.  Call 1-800-826-8302 for your dairy farm product needs or to subscribe to “Farm Tales.”


Sussing Out Sampling in the Food Processing Environment

If you are in a position of responsibility for your company’s food safety program, you may be faced with deciding which sampling products to choose from, in a market that has no shortage of available items and product options.

To get to the bottom of what is right for your operation, you will need to ask, “What do I want to accomplish with my sampling and testing program and what media will work best?”

The cleaning and sanitization methods that are implemented in your food production facilities need to be effective in reducing potential pathogens.  There are many different chemicals and sanitizers utilized throughout the food industry, with each company designing their procedures to meet the specific cleaning required.  These sanitization chemicals must be considered when choosing your sample handling media.

The environmental monitoring program you have designed should detect any post sanitizing molecular cell life that may be present after the sanitization step.  The residuals of the sanitizers could affect the recovery of any remaining indicator or pathogen organisms that were injured or stressed by these chemicals.

Therefore a neutralizing buffer should be selected that will effectively deactivate the remaining sanitizer and allow for the recovery of any surviving organisms.

Another factor that influences which buffer to choose is what test methodology is being used, or do specific regulatory compliance methods recommend a specific type of media.  If you utilize a contract laboratory to test your microbiological samples you should contact them to determine which media they recommend for the procedures they will be conducting.

The food industry most commonly uses neutralizing buffer but also utilizes letheen broth and D/E neutralizing buffer.

Labalog cover

After the proper collection media has been selected, there are several options of sample collect tools to choose from.  Swabs are commonly used when sampling small areas approximately 4 inch x 4 inch.  If your sampling will exceed that size a sponge type of application should be selected.

If you are doing pathogen sampling, a 12 inch x 12 inch sampling area is recommended.

Keeping in mind a few of these basic concepts, you can make more informed choices on what sampling products to select.   Check out our Labalog HERE to see our wide line of sampling, testing, and monitoring products to choose from for your facility’s specific needs.   We’re here to help and make sure you get the products that are perfectly geared to your operation and needs.

Considering Allergens: From Raw Materials to Finished Production

A key focus of the Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as a practical, immediate concern for food industry producers on a daily basis, is allergens.  From incoming raw materials to line and cleaning verification considerations, allergen concerns abound in modern processing environments.  In a recent issue of Food Safety Magazine, Michael Cramer took a look into the realities of allergens and what the food industry can do to become “zealots for the prevention of allergen cross-contamination and mislabeling to protect consumers, prevent serious allergen-related hospitalizations and reduce the number of allergen-related recalls. ”  You can check out the full article HERE.


Also included in the article was the helpful graph below that details numerous process steps to consider in your management of allergens.   In addition to the training and educational needs that Cramer advocates for in the article, know that Nelson-Jameson continues to assemble a full program of allergen focused products to help you in your processes.  From color-coded products to allergen-specific testing products, we’re here to address your allergen program requirements.

Edible Packaging? Are we ready?

edible burger

Credit: NY Daily News

Back in 1960s, Roald Dahl’s imagination ran away with Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory in Charlie and Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka, Oompa-Loompas, and the Everlasting Gobstopper were created. In 1971 the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released into theaters where we watched Willy Wonka drink from a tea cup and then eat it. It has been 45 years since the movie was created, and the age of edible or innovative packaging is becoming a reality.

If we take the time to think about the amount of packaging we use on just one item, we might rethink what we could do differently. For example, as I’m writing this article I am eating a bag of microwave popcorn. The popcorn comes in a bag, the bag is in a cellophane wrapper, and the wrapped popcorn bag was in a box, inside another box that it was shipped in. That’s FOUR layers of packaging to get to the popcorn. According to the EPA based on the 2013 Fact Sheet, Americans alone generated about 254 million TONS of trash and composted over 87 million tons of this material. [See the statistics by clicking here!]   One can easily see that our environment needs a break from the waste that we, as humans create.

Just recently the American Chemical Society introduced a packaging film made of milk protein, casein. According to research leader Peggy Tomasula, D.Sc., “ The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain.” [Learn more by clicking here.] Currently most food packaging is petroleum-based which puts additional unnecessary stress on our environment, with plastic taking up to 1,000 years to completely decompose. So by the time my kid is a grandparent, the plastic I’m using today still might not be decomposed.

At first the film was hard to handle and would easily dissolve in water too quickly. When citrus pectin was added to the blend the packaging became even stronger. Not only did it become stronger but it was more resistant to humidity and high temperatures. In the future, nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be added. Also, though casein doesn’t have a lot of flavor, flavors could actually be added in the future.  

There are several drawbacks to casein-based packaging along with other edible packaging would require a secondary package to protect the edible packaging from getting wet and dissolving, or getting dirty and contaminated with microbes, becoming unsuitable for consumption. This issue also lies with other edible packaging developments.   Edible packaging also has an uphill battle of overcoming the public’s’ perception of eating the packaging that their food comes in, and trusting what they are consuming is healthy and won’t cause further health concerns like cancer down the road.

Casein is far from being the only player in the edible packaging sphere.   For example, Loliware edible drinking cups; Bob’s Brazilian Hamburger WrapsWikiCells, which are edible bites like yogurt balls by Stonyfield Organic; and Vivos Films are all creations of companies looking to package food with these new delivery methods.    

Just think about it, we already eat apples, peaches, and other fruit and vegetable with the skins on. Those skins are fruits and vegetables own packaging. We eat that so why can’t we eat an environmentally-friendly  cup that is made from sweeteners, filtered water, seaweed, and other natural flavors derived from fruits and vegetables?     Maybe Willy Wonka wasn’t so far off…perhaps we can have our tea, and eat the cup and saucer too…