Monitoring Manufacturing: Keeping Our Food System Safe By Amy Cook, Food Law Committee Chair and CBA Editorial Board Member A re you reading this while eating? You might not want to. While the American food system is table legs, floors, walls, and even ceilings. Environmental monitoring usually tests for pathogens but could be used to detect allergens as well.
If a pathogen or allergen is found, the entire batch should be considered adulterated. All may not be lost, though: the manufacturer could divert the batch to a customer that would add in a “kill step” such as cooking or pasteurizing. For instance, if the product is a spice that is not meant to be ready-to-eat, the manu- facturer could divert it to a soup company that would have a kill step of cooking the ingredients. When asked how Covid-19 has impacted his industry, Marshall replied that while the virus has not been shown to be transmitted through food, his firm does do Covid-19 controls for employees and facilities such as surfaces, wastewater, worn mask, and indoor air testing. In an interesting twist, he noted that China requires meat exporters to provide Covid- 19 test results. The Food Law Committee addresses FDA and USDA regulations, food truck regulation, safety and sanitation, class action suits, food compost and waste, and how Covid-19 is upending the hospitality industry. The Committee meets on the third Monday of every other month. Join the committee at www.chicagobar.org/committees.
extremely safe and sanitary, Douglas Marshall’s run-down at a recent Food Law Committee program of all the things that could go wrong when processing and manufacturing food was certainly eye-opening. Marshall serves as Chief Scientist at Eurofins, which has 900 labs in 50 countries to conduct testing, moni- toring and consulting to a wide range of companies. Marshall spoke on compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which is intended to prevent food-borne illness rather than merely responding to outbreaks. He said that FSMA brought environmental monitoring to the fore. Food manufacturing and processing clients should be engaging in testing to validate the effectiveness of control plans and to verify that their methods are giving them the outcome they expect. It also helps them protect their brand. Reasons manufacturers don’t test? Cost, fear of being closed down, loss of reputation, and “I trust my supplier.” Marshall says to assume raw materials contain pathogens. In a baseline sanitation program, clients should identify and sani- tize potential pathogen sites such as direct contact surfaces, conveyor belts, tubing,
The testing frequency depends on the history and trends of the facility, plant layout, and the type of product. Marshall says manufacturers should increase sam- pling if there is an out-of-spec result, a change in suppliers or ingredients, a leaky roof, construction, or new equipment installed. What kind of pathogens are important? “All of them,” says Marshall. But the big ones are salmonella, which is found in low- moisture environments, and listeria, which thrives in high moisture environments. To determine type and frequency of testing, clients should assess whether they have high- or low-risk foods. For example, a meat manufacturer may test 75 samples a day, while a honey producer may test five samples a quarter. It may sound obvious, but food manu- facturers should have a plan for pest control. Insects and rodents can harbor and transport pathogens. Some pests and sources of pathogens may not be obvi- ous—for example, birds congregating on roofs can contaminate facilities via water on roofs. Employees smoking outside and gravel parking lots that create dust can also be a source of harmful pathogens.
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