Food safety at fairs and festivals

Tanya Banuelos of the Argus Observer writes:

As the last few weeks of summer vacation dwindle down and families are taking advantage of outdoor food at barbecues, picnics and the county fair, it’s time to talk about warm weather and food safety.
With 100-degree weather expected this week, it’s important to remember how much sooner food can become perishable when it’s out in the heat.
When it comes to food safety, food handlers at the Malheur County Fair must adhere to health guidelines, and an inspector is on site throughout the week. And as with every year at the fair, for those who sell consumable goods, food safety is a priority for vendors, such as Awesome Blossom and Fiesta Guadalajara.
Rely on equipment
One of the key details to remember is the importance of temperature.
Modesto Vega, co-owner of Fiesta Guadalajara, said he is able to keep foods at the appropriate temperature during the fair with commercial equipment.

I have inspected my fair share of temporary events including festivals and fairs and not all vendors are equipped with commercial fridges, freezers, etc. If you got them, all the power to you. I would typically see a lot of residential equipment, some good and some bad. As long as cold/hot holding temperatures are maintained, I’m good.

There have been a myriad of outbreaks associated with outdoor events nationally and internationally. The ethnic nature and diversity of foods prepared coupled with extreme temperatures pose unique problems for public health types. Public health inspections of said facilities rarely assess behavioral practices; rather, they are focused on meeting Regulatory standards. Time commitment and lack of public health staff have a lot to do with this, I have experienced this personally.

Effective food safety training during these events is critical. A number of operators at fairs and festivals are typically required to take a mandatory 8- hour food safe course or variation thereof prior to the event. I would rather see on-site hands-on training during vendor set-up focusing specifically on their menu items to ensure food safety, a mini HACCP if you will. If a vendor intends on serving hamburgers, well let’s go over what you need to do to ensure that no one barfs from your hamburgers.

Therman Collins, who has been a food vendor at the fair for eight years, said the key to keeping food safe for consumption is to make it fresh and send it right on out, adding that when it comes to food safety, “we know it all.”
Time, temperature equally important
When food is already cooked, especially with warm temperatures, how long people keep their food outside is a cause for concern, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Most picnic foods will only be safe on the table for two hours; however, if the air temperature is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then the food is only safe for an hour.
Most importantly, food should be kept out of the danger zone, where cold foods are recommended to be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot foods above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Raw is risky: Pressed Juicery edition

Besides the high sugar levels, I don’t frequent those funky juice bars and I don’t buy unpasteurized juice because of the risk of bacterial contamination.

pressed-juicery-reviewI haven’t seen frozen juice in Australia, but as Sloan sings, “three cans of water provokes me.”

Hayden Slater, chief executive thingy of Fresno, CA-based Pressed Juicery, received a catchy letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which said that after numerous inspections in 2015, that the juice manufacturing facility had serious violations from the FDA’s juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 120 (21 CFR Part 120).

This inspection resulted in FDA’s issuance of a Form FDA-483 Inspectional Observations (FDA-483), at the conclusion of the inspection. 

Mr. Slater, your juice sucks.

  1. Your HACCP plan does not include control measures that will consistently produce, at a minimum a 5-log reduction of the most pertinent microorganism(s) of public health significance that is likely to occur in the juice, for at least as long as the shelf life of the product when stored under normal and moderate abuse conditions, as required by 21 CFR 120.24(a). Your HACCP plan for “Ready to Drink Beverages, Soups (Food Drink), Freeze and Toppings,” which includes low acid 100% juices (pH > 4.6), does not have control measures for the pertinent microorganism, Clostridium botulinum. Furthermore, the validation study conducted by Food Microbiological Laboratories to validate the microbial load reduction of Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in your juice products using the High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP) process did not take into consideration the pertinent microorganism C. botulinum for the low acid products. Additionally, FDA recommends you provide a validation study for each of the products you manufacture, to demonstrate, at a minimum, a 5-log reduction of the most pertinent microorganism(s) of concern.

FDA believes that it is necessary to address the control of hazards that could occur in low acid refrigerated juices subjected to severe temperature abuse. Further guidance on this public health issue can be found at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Juice/ucm072481.htm].

  1. Your HACCP plan must, at a minimum, list all food hazards that are reasonably likely to occur, to comply with 21 CFR 120.8(b)(1). A “food hazard” is defined in 21 CFR 120.3(g) as “any biological, chemical, or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.” However, your HACCP plan for “Ready to Drink Beverages, Soups (Food Drink), Freeze and Toppings,” which includes juice blends with apple juice, does not list the food hazard patulin. Because patulin, a mycotoxin, can occur in apple juice from rotting or molding apples and is not destroyed with thermal processing, it is reasonably likely to occur in your juice products that contain apple juice.

EU food safety standards could bring boom or bust to Ukraine

Ukraine’s huge agriculture sector has long been constrained by outdated food safety regulations and practices that have limited the country’s export and investment potential.

ukraine_agricultureBut that should change soon, according to Volodymyr Lapa, the head of the new food safety and consumer protection state regulatory body.

Lapa told the Kyiv Post that new laws that came into force in January have finally brought Ukraine’s food safety and consumer rights legislation into line with that of the European Union.

The new legislation aims to improve standards of hygiene and food safety, as well as government supervisory procedures. Under the law, and to comply with the minimum requirements for exporting to the EU, all Ukrainian producers and retailers must conform to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points standards.

But according to the International Finance Corporation, which advises businesses and the government on how to achieve HACCP standards, only several hundred out of thousands of Ukrainian companies currently comply with them. In 2010, the corporation calculated that 200 out of 20,000 or so manufactures had implemented HACCP standards, though figure does not include retailers.

Under the new laws, the Food Safety and Consumer Protection Agency that Lapa heads will replace the assortment of inspectorates that now exist. A total of 30,500 people are currently employed to regulate various aspects of food and consumer safety, while in future the number will be reduced to 10,000 people.

Company warned to get its HACCP together for eel

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to seafood processing company Saemus on May 18 over what it called “serious” Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) violations.

eelThe determination is based on inspection of the processing facility in Virginia from Oct. 29 through Nov. 5 of last year, the letter said.

Among concerns was that the firm does not have a HACCP plan in place for its frozen vacuum packed, cooked, ready to eat eel.

Also, its ready-to-eat broiled eel kabayaki and hot and spicy eel productslacked the required HACCP plan to assure the fish are cooked sufficiently.

It also found a product — Natural Fresh Water Eel — was misbranded, since the label fails to declare all major food allergens present in the product.

Making a pig’s ear of food safety

I don’t care who does meat inspection, as long as the results are available for public scrutiny, preferably at retail. As we have documented, there are problems with government inspections, audits, and no inspections (see below).

restaurant.inspectionTed Genoways, the author of “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” asks in The New York Times, if, thanks to an experimental inspection program, a meatpacking firm produces as much as two tons a day of pork contaminated by fecal matter, urine, bile, hair, intestinal contents or diseased tissue, should that count as a success?

The agency responsible for enforcing food safety laws has not only approved this new inspection regime but is considering whether to roll it out across the pork-processing industry. Last month, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture said it wished to see if the pilot program “could be applied to additional establishments.”

The issue was not whether microbiological testing was superior to physical inspection, officials said, but whether self-regulation was sufficient and safe. But in 1997, U.S.D.A. executives approved testing in five pork-processing plants.

By the time the pilot program was fully implemented, in 2004, Hormel Foods Corporation, a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Austin, Minn., had succeeded in getting its two major slaughter operations included, and had acquired a third. The new inspection system allowed Hormel to increase the speed of its cut lines, just before demand for cheap pork products like Spam soared during the recession. My reporting revealed that Hormel went from processing about 7,000 hogs per shift to as many as 11,000.

But some of Hormel’s own quality-assurance auditors began to raise concerns. Under normal U.S.D.A. guidelines, inspectors manually check the glands in the head of every hog, palpate the lymph nodes to check for tuberculosis nodules, feel the intestines for parasites and the kidneys for signs of inflammation or hidden masses. A former process-control auditor from the Austin plant told me that, by 2006, the line was running so fast that he doubted the lone U.S.D.A. inspector could do more than visual checks.

Chicago_meat_inspection_swift_co_1906Then, last year, the U.S.D.A. inspector general reported on the hazard analysis project. The findings were damning. Enforcement of food safety protocols was so lacking at the five plants participating that between 2008 and 2011, three of the five were among the 10 worst violators nationwide (of 616 pork processors).

Philip Derfler, deputy administrator of the inspection service, promised a further investigation. That report was finally posted last month. Remarkably, it painted the new inspection program as a success — though much of its data suggested otherwise. From 2006 to 2010, for example, fecal contamination was consistently higher than in standard plants, often much higher.

In 2011, however, the program changed from allowing meat inspectors to decide which carcasses to inspect to a computerized system that set the sampling schedule and recorded results electronically. The system failed repeatedly that year, rendering all data unusable. Inspectors also reported failures in 2012 and 2013 that sent at least 100 million pounds of uninspected meat to market.

Despite this, in 2013, the rate of contamination recorded by the new computer system appeared low enough for the inspection service to declare victory. The new report said the number of serious violations was “exceedingly small.”

In fact, over the course of the study, contaminated carcasses were found in the experimental plants at a rate of about five to seven animals per 10,000 processed, with little variation over time. That may sound low, but given the volume of production and the weight of market hogs, it means that an operation the size of Hormel’s would “approve” about 4,000 pounds of contaminated pork a day.

The American public must be assured that high-volume production — and profits — have not been put before food safety.


Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency.

Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework.

There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time.

This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Thanksgiving in space

According to the food safety nerd historians (and every HACCP class) the world of food safety was revolutionized by a partnership between NASA and Pillsbury.

Jennifer Ross-Nazzal writes about the history in Societal Impact of Space Flight.

Concerned about safety, NASA engineers specified that the food could not crumble, thereby floating into instrument panels or contaminating the capsule’s atmosphere. to meet the outlined specifications, food technologists at Pillsbury developed a compressed food bar with an edible coating to prevent the food from breaking apart. in addition to processing food that would not damage the capsule’s electronics, the food also had to be safe for the astronauts to consume.

Thanksgivinginspac_3120060bAlmost immediately food scientists and microbiologists determined that the assurance of food safety was a problem. [Pillsbury microbiologist Howard] Bauman recalled that it was nearly impossible for companies to guarantee that the food manufactured for the astronauts was uncontaminated.

“We quickly found by using standard methods of quality control there was absolutely no way we could be assured there wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. To determine food safety for the flight crews, manufacturers had to test a large percentage of their finished products, which involved a great deal of expense and left little for the flights.

So HACCP was created.

Today, according to The Telegraph, American astronauts on the International Space Station are enjoying a risk-reduced and HACCP-inspired Thanksgiving meal including irradiated smoked turkey.

NASA Astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore cobbled together a festive feast by combining foods that are stocked on the station. 

The meal also includes candied yams, freeze-dried dressing, cranapple desert, mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms. 

Crew members get ‘bonus containers’ in which they are allowed to carry special items for specific holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

“The turkey they have available for Thanksgiving has been made shelf-stable by irradiation,” said Vickie Kloeris, ISS Food System Manager 

“So this product is ready to eat and they just warm it up and eat out of a packet with a fork.

Mine is still roasting.

Space food: The fascinating story of astronaut food (it should include HACCP)

Since the beginning of the space race, the American public has been fascinated by how astronauts eat.

2001.space“Astronaut ice cream” is an evergreen impulse buy in museum gift shops across the country, and Tang has gotten nearly unlimited marketing mileage from its presence on-board NASA missions.

Special foods have always been required for consumption in space, since few off-the-shelf products have the longevity or rigorous packaging needed to pass muster. Space food must be compact, while offering enough nutrition to support strenuous zero-g activity.

Then there’s the mess factor. Without gravity to pull crumbs to the ground, foods with loose particles can cause all kinds of problems. That means bread is a no-go, and tortillas are the sandwich staple of choice.

While you might imagine pureed goops in tube and freeze-dried bricks are routine for spacefarers, the reality is quite different. In fact, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station hail from all over the world, and have brought a diverse menu to the spaceborne dinner table.

One constant for all space food is that nothing can be served up raw. Dishes must either be extremely shelf-stable or rehydratable. Foods like chicken and steak are thermostabilized, meaning they’re completely cooked to kill bacteria and other potential threats before blastoff. Refrigerated foods are also occasionally consumed on board. Every few months, astronauts get a taste of fresh fruits and veggies from terra firma, but they must be consumed quickly.

With no access to a conventional kitchen, astronauts use special convection-based food warmers to heat frozen entrees to a more palatable temperature. Preparing dehydrated foods, meanwhile, is an integral part of the design of the ISS habitation module. A rehydration unit is built into a console; astronauts simply plug in their meal, turn the dial to the setting indicated on the pouch, and hit a button. The correct amount of hot water is dispensed automatically. 

Food Safety Talk 67: John Bassett

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1411999879196

In episode 67, Ben is on hiatus and Don talks with John Bassett. The scene opens with a vivid description of a picturesque English village with pigeons pooping on the eaves and birds chirping in the background.

John starts by telling the listeners a bit about his background. He is a veterinarian by training, having earned his degree in New Zealand.  He spent seven years as a veterinary practitioner; a bit like that depicted inAll Creatures Great and Small in Epsom (that’s in England). John returned to New Zealand and began a small animal practice but quickly transitioned to work for a government biosecurity laboratory inWellington (that’s in New Zealand) where he solved problems during extended coffee breaks taken in trendy cafes. John got his start in risk assessment using the OIE approach.  John’s next career move was to industry as a risk assessor with Unilever; this took him back to England (that’s in the United Kingdom).  The guys got sidetracked and discussed the sole-crushing bureaucracy that can be found in big industry (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  John’s latest career change finds him in a new mode as food safety consultant.

The guys discussed the recent Chobani mold incident.  From here the conversation jumped into tea.  Iced tea with added sugar was discussed as a possible growth medium for generic E. coli (special concern was expressed for sun-brewed tea) and the potential for herbal (pronounced ‘erbal’ by some) tea as a source of bacteria and maybe pathogens.

John talked about some of his current risk assessment work, and the difficulty of making risk management decisions for low-frequency events.  John explains his recent interest in Gael Risk assessment techniques. This approach can be used for semi-quantitative risk assessment, and may have value in preventing problems like the recent horse-meat food scandal.  The value of audits in science-based food safety was questioned and discussed, and Don and John disagreed about the value of semi-quantitative risk assessments.

Bandwidth on John’s end starts to suffer (perhaps due to John’s kids arrival home from school) so the conversation is paused briefly, while John (the poopy-head) sorts it out.

The show resumes with a discussion on whether HACCP is risk based or not.  John notes that one key to “selling” a risk assessment might be based on saving money in the long run, perhaps from a reduced need for testing and auditing.  A discussion of the Elliott Review takes place before the guys re-iterate the need for using computerized systems for effective traceback in the food supply chain; especially ones that do not need to be linked via paper documents.

John mentions that he will not be at IAFP 2014 due to lack of a wealthy sponsor; but he does plan to attend the IAFP European Symposium in Cardiff in 2015. Don reveals his IAFP presidential party plans (Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ), while John contemplates pork ribs somewhere closer to home.

John mentioned the use of the sear and shave technique to produce safer raw burgers in the UK.  Don didn’t seem convinced, and will continue using his iGrill and tip sensitive digital thermometer, as suggested for use in previous Food Safety Talk episodes, “because everyone’s gotta have a hobby”.  Both guys reminisced over outbreaks of Campylobacter jejuni from seared chicken livers that occurred in the UK and USA.

In the After Dark portion, Don transitioned into talking about Doctor Who, and John explained he was late for the podcast meeting because of a meeting with McDonald’s own Bizhan Pourkomailian.

South Korea PM vows to improve food safety at school cafeterias

South Korea will prohibit food suppliers that fail to meet certain safety criteria from providing school meals, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said Wednesday.

belushi.cafeteria“Food suppliers that fail to meet standards set forth by the HACCP system will not be able to enter a bid to provide meals in school cafeterias,” Chung said.

“We also plan on canceling the HACCP license of any supplier that violates food safety measures, even if it’s just a one-time offense,” he added.

Food safety inspections will be conducted later this month at some 7,500 restaurants near popular summer destinations, Chung said.