Tag Archives: food safety

FDA Inspections: Where are We Going?

Not only has COVID put a significant dent in our social lives, but it also has impacted many operations and practices throughout food processing facilities. Unfortunately, this includes one area that has consumers worried, inspections of food facilities. With all the new requirements and protocols that have come out of this pandemic, the industry has had to learn to alter their inspections. Some are even using video technology as a substitute. With COVID laying a foundation that will likely alter the way inspections are completed in the future, what should processing facilities across the country expect moving forward?

According to the FDA, inspectors are “required to inspect facilities that handle high-risk foods every three years. Facilities handling foods not deemed high-risk must be inspected every five years” (Fox, 2019, pp. 13). With being in the midst of a global pandemic, the FDA has halted these inspections, but is still conducting some necessary inspections for specific scenarios like outbreaks of foodborne illness and Class 1 recalls. 

To temporarily replace in-person inspections, many auditors are allowing for special accommodations to be made such as remote and hybrid audits (Black, 2021, pp. 5).

Aside from the FDA, other auditors such as BRCGS and SQFI are offering blended options. BRCGS is offering certificate extensions for up to 6 months with a risk assessment and review. Remote assessments are also available and require a video audit of the facilities storage and production spaces. SQFI is postponing certifications for extenuating circumstances and have implemented additional processes for risk assessment (Black, 2021, pp. 7). For more information on other auditors current COVID policies, click here.

Once in-person audits can resume in the future, the FDA plans to host pre-announced audits for FDA-regulated businesses. According to an interview with Frank Yiannas, it is predicted that health and safety are going to be important factors moving forward with inspections. It is also assumed that consumers are going to want to know not only how their food is produced, but also how it will be safe enough for them to eat. Fortunately, the FDA is in the works of implementing a Smarter Food safety initiative that will allow for a digital way to trace the food system (U.S. food & Drug Admin., 2020, pp. 31).

As for now it seems unknown when in-person audits will fully resume. The FDA stated in a press release that they will likely resume when there is a consistent downward trend in new COVID cases and hospitalizations in geographic areas they are working in (2020, pp. 6). Until then, they will continue to make significant strives with food safety, making it stronger than ever.

Sources:

Black, J. (2021, January 29). Food Safety Audits During a Pandemic: What You Should Know and How to Prepare. FoodSafetyTech. https://foodsafetytech.com/column/food-safety-audits-during-a-pandemic-what-you-should-know-and-how-to-prepare/.

FDA. (2020, April 16). Food Safety and Availability During and Beyond COVID-19. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/conversations-experts-food-topics/fdas-perspective-food-safety-and-availability-during-and-beyond-covid-19.

Fox, M. (2019, January 15). FDA to resume food safety inspections Tuesday. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fda-resume-food-safety-inspections-tuesday-n958631.

Hahn, S. M. (2020, July 10). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA prepares for resumption of domestic inspections with new risk assessment system. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-prepares-resumption-domestic-inspections-new-risk-assessment-system.

 Sjerven, J. (2021, January 21). COVID-19 forces FDA to alter food safety inspection practices. Food Business News. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/15740-covid-19-forces-fda-to-alter-food-safety-inspection-practices.
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International Association of Food Protection Annual Meeting (IAFP)

This year IAFP 2020 will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each year they hold an annual meeting designed to inform individuals on topics such as emerging food safety issues, the latest science, innovative solutions, and the opportunity to network with individuals in the same industry as you.

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Food Safety Summit

Although being held virutally online this year, 2020 Food Safety Summit conference will be providing the same quality experience as in previous years. Attend this 3 day conference to learn about solutions that are designed for the needs of the entire food industry. During this conference you can gain networking skills/contacts, take special training courses to become certified for HACCP, and to find practical solutions that are needed within your industry.

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Wisconsin Safety Council Virtual Conference

Wisconsin Safety Council invites you to join them for their Annual Safety Conference on September 1 & 2, 2020. This year the conference will be held virtually, but you can still expect to receive the same quality experience as in previous years. There will still be speakers along with educational breakout sessions with the latest safety information. When registering, please use Nelson-Jameson’s promotional code “Expo10” to recieve a 10% discount!

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“Eek-osystems”: Biofilm Considerations for the Food Industry

Have you ever missed one or two of your normal tooth-brushing sessions, and found your tongue traversing over a disconcertingly slimy layer coating your chompers?   Well, welcome to the disturbing and quite fascinating world of biofilms.  These hearty amalgams of microbiological activity provide both protection for microorganisms, as well as headaches for not only those avoiding plaque build-up, but most importantly for this blog, the food industry (allowing harborage and protection for bacteria and fungi).

Biofilms can form on a variety of surfaces in food processing environments, including stainless steel.  A supercell of harborage, “Biofilms are complex microbial ecosystems formed by one or more species immersed in an extracellular matrix of different compositions depending on the type of food manufacturing environment and the colonizing species” (Geaile, et al).   The “matrix” formed creates a powerful source of protection and fuel for the continued life and shear tenacity of these “eek-osystems”  to affect, disrupt, and harm products.     

Though biofilms are capable of creating a lot of hassle when it comes to cleaning, spoilage concerns, etc., Gaile, et al, in  “Biofilms in the Food Industry: Health Aspects and Control Methods” note:  “Of particular importance to the food industry is that some biofilm-forming species in food factory environments are human pathogens.”  With biofilms aiding and abetting pathogens, the cost of not waging an effective sanitation onslaught, may create food safety issues of serious proportions.   This is even further complicated by the fact that, “Mixed biofilms show higher resistance to disinfectants such as quaternary ammonium compounds and other biocides” (Gealie, et al.).   This means traditional cleaning protocols may not be enough to counter the threat biofilms pose to public health.

Here at Nelson-Jameson, we continue to work with our supplier-partners to take on the threat of biofilms in the food industry.   Our hope is that through a multi-pronged approach, we can help address this serious concern for our customers.  Here are just a few of the ways we are taking on the challenges of biofilms currently:

  1. Providing effective and efficient cleaning solutions, like hygienic brushes and squeegees from Remco and Carlisle, to cleaning chemical options from Hydrite, Kersia, and Best Sanitizers.  
  2.  Formulating and offering the best enzymatic cleaning solutions with Realzyme.
  3. Offering the best in testing solutions, including 3M Petrifilm and ATP testing equipment, as well as offering sampling collection/sample integrity products from Whirl-Pak and QualiTru.   

Though continuing to be a tough challenge for the food industry, biofilms will squarely be in the crosshairs of our team and our supplier partners.  Together, across the industry, we can seek out effective solutions, and build tailored programs to take on the challenge and the tenacity of biofilms in the production environment.   For an excellent resource on biofilms please be sure to consult the Gealie et al. article referenced above, here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5949339/.

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