Category Archives: Uncategorized

Study: Effective Handwashing Does Not Require Hot Water

Handwashing is a hot topic in the world of food safety. Lack of proper handwashing procedures in food service and other sectors can lead to the spread of foodborne illness. Are current handwashing rules in need of updating? A new study suggests it may be time.

According to research released by Rutgers University, cool water is apparently just as effective as hot water in terms of washing away harmful bacteria. For the study, 21 volunteers had their hands covered with a harmless bacteria multiple times over a 6 month period. Each time, the volunteers were instructed to wash their hands at varying water temperatures—60 °, 79 ° or 100 °. They were also asked to use 0.5 ml, 1 ml or 2 ml volumes of soap.

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How safe are those home-delivery meal kits?

Research shows food safety gaps in home-delivery meal kits

Failure of cold-chain results in ready-to-cook meal kits with ‘microbial loads off the charts’

CHICAGO — A Rutgers University professor Thursday poured some cold water on those trendy ready-to-cook dinner packages being delivered to homes across America, especially those with meat included.

Speaking on the final day of  the 2017 Food Safety Summit in a session on “Home Delivery,” the professor of human ecology presented results of a Rutgers-Tennessee State University study that looked into the integrity of home-delivered dinners. Professor Bill Hallman said researchers placed orders for delivery of 169 meal kits, including entrees of 271 meat items, 235 seafood items, 133 game items, and 39 poultry items. What the researchers  found raised concerns about pathogens, packaging, labeling and cold-chain integrity.

The study also involved 1,002 interviews with consumers, and review of 427 domestic food delivery vendor websites.

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Allergen Cleaning Validation


Most food processing plants are designed to leverage the maximum number of different products on the fewest pieces of expensive equipment. One challenge for the food industry is changeovers from a product containing allergens to a similar product that does not contain allergens (or the same allergens) produced on the same equipment. Some companies employ precautionary allergen labeling such as “may contain” to all product on the same line or in the same facility; however, this may unnecessarily limit the choices of food-allergic consumers.

Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that precautionary labeling cannot be used as a substitute for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), which implies that companies should try to clean between formulations. Other companies follow an allergen validation protocol to demonstrate an effective sanitation changeover and limit the use of precautionary statements to provide the allergic consumer with more food choices…

Sampling Procedures
Never do testing until you have a plan about what to do if you encounter a positive result. Planning for allergen testing requires clear communication and coordination with senior management to hold or destroy product, pending results of the testing. Some companies employ a testing plan termed “safe mode” wherein they run the same allergen product before and after sanitation so that if the swabs indicate inadequate cleaning, they can proceed to ship and have not put the consumer at risk. They can then modify the sanitation procedures prior to the next allergen validation testing. Management should plan to run the formula with the highest percentage of allergen to effectively assess the sanitation. Consideration should also be given to the form of the allergen, as peanut butter may be cleaned differently than peanut granules. Particulate materials can present a sampling challenge in which numerous samples may need to be tested to offer assurance that some sample would contain a particle if any were present. Management should also consider the method of sample shipping, laboratory scheduling and availability that may impact turnaround time of the results. Prior to testing, the swabs (certified allergen-free) from the kit manufacturer must be ordered and available for use (note: other swabs or sponges may actually contain the allergen due to recyclable materials or microbiological media in sponges). Other items to order include disposable gloves, phosphate buffer (certified allergen-free), labels for samples and a shipping container.

Read More at Food Safety Magazine

For a step by step guide on how to validate and verify allergen cleaning procedure where production equipment is not dedicated:

Click Here

Mail you’d rather not get


It starts with an unannounced arrival in the lobby. A produce company is operating in full swing at its chopped bag salad plant when investigators with the Food and Drug Administration come calling for a random inspection. For the next two weeks, investigators’ eyes are on everything, pouring through records, food safety plans, collecting samples and making observations.

When their evaluation is complete, a five-page document is handed over to the food company’s senior management with a summary of the inspection. This document, known formally as an FDA Form 483, notes three separate observations recorded during the investigation, highlighting issues with contamination of surfaces, floor and wall construction, and a failure to conduct pest screening.

“Essentially, a Form 483 is like a police officer giving you a speeding ticket,” explains Shawn K. Stevens, food safety lawyer and founding member of Food Industry Counsel, LLC. “It outlines all the violations that the FDA investigators observed while inspecting your facility.”

Read More at Food Safety News

Home Improvement: Well Water Testing

water

Location, Location, Location. 

Realtors are aware that location is important to home buyers. Many home buyers dream of getting away from the city bustle and heading toward the quiet of the country.  Buyers need to learn what comes with the country life and what does not. One thing that does not normally come with a country home is municipal water services. 

Residential properties in rural areas often get their water from private wells.  According to the EPA, 15 percent of Americans rely on individually owned and operated sources of drinking water.

A question a potential buyer will or should ask is, “How’s the well and is the water good?”  After all, they will drink, cook, shower, wash and clean with this water every day.

Wells can be affected by many things like the construction and maintenance of the well and pump. The location of the well and the septic tank and lines can affect the well and the water quality.

Some issues with drinking water quality will be obvious. These can include unusual smells, tastes or colors, hard water stains or particles in the water.  Other contaminants are not obvious at all.  The water will look and taste and smell fine.  A few contaminants, like bacteria or nitrates, can cause serious medical issues. Those contaminants can only be detected through laboratory testing of the water. City water is tested regularly by the water company.  Private well owners are responsible for regular testing.

Some local governments and many lending institutions require well inspections and water testing before a home with a private well can be sold.  Testing of the water and inspections of the well should be done prior to listing a property.  This allows the seller to identify and correct any problems that could affect the marketability of the home.  Just like a leaky roof, a contaminated water supply will make a house worth less and it will take longer to sell. 

The EPA suggests the minimum initial tests should include coliform bacteria and nitrates/nitrites.  The lending institution will most likely require the same tests within 30 days prior to closing.

Coliform bacteria is the standard used for the bacterial quality of drinking water. Coliform is not a single type of bacteria, but a group of “indicator bacteria”.  They live naturally in the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals and are found in sewage.  Some can also be found naturally in the soil and surface waters, such as rivers, lakes and ponds.  These bacteria do not usually cause illness by themselves, but testing for specific disease-producing bacteria is complex, time consuming and expensive.

A positive result for coliform bacteria in the water sample indicates surface water or sewage may have entered the well and contaminated the water supply with disease causing organisms. 

Nitrate is a compound that forms naturally when nitrogen combines with oxygen.  Groundwater normally has a low concentration of nitrates. But, sometimes higher levels can be found.  Nitrate is a common contaminant in Illinois groundwater.  High levels can result from overuse of fertilizers near the well, and runoff or seepage from septic fields, animal feedlots and farm fields.

High levels of nitrates do not affect adults, but it can pose a serious health risk to infants under one year of age.  The high nitrate level can cause a condition known as “blue baby syndrome”.  The infant’s blood is not capable of carrying oxygen, causing asphyxiation and the skin turns blue.  Medical attention should be sought immediately. For this reason, pregnant women and infants less than one should avoid using water with a high nitrate level for drinking or cooking. The water should not be used for preparing  infant formula.  Boiling the water will not help. That will actually increase the nitrate level in the water.

The water should be tested by a state certified laboratory.  The lab will provide sampling instructions and collection containers or bags. A listing of certified laboratories can be found here or contact your local health department.

The EPA establishes limits on the concentration of contaminants that would pose a health threat in public drinking water supplies. Private well owners are generally not required to test their drinking water to meet those standards. But, lending institutions usually use the same standards as the EPA for loan approval.  The EPA limit for coliform bacteria is zero.  The EPA limit for nitrates is 10 mg/L and the limit for nitrites is 1 mg/L.

If the test shows positive for coliform bacteria, the well should be resampled immediately. This eliminates the possibility of contamination of the original sample during collection from improper collection techniques.  If the resample is still positive, the water should be boiled before it is used for cooking or drinking and the well system will need to be disinfected.  These methods involve chlorine, ultra-violet light or ozone treatments. If the resample is negative, the water supply can be considered safe for drinking.

Nitrates can be removed for the water with water treatment systems that use reverse osmosis, distillation or ion exchange.  A water softener will not remove nitrates.

Well water conditions change regularly.  It is recommended to test the well at least annually.

A properly constructed and maintained well can provide years of service and safe drinking water will add value to any home. 


Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. cdc.gov.

Illinois Department of Public Health. dph.illinois.gov.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. epa.illinois.gov.

Water System Council. watersystemcouncil.com.

What does “Sell By”, “Use By” and “Best By” mean, anyway?


“You can’t drink that milk!  The date on it is yesterday.”

 

Who has heard that?  Or was it you who said it? 

The dates printed on milk jugs are probably some of the most misunderstood set of numbers in the grocery store.  One of the most common arguments people have at home is whether food should be thrown out because the date has passed.   

Date labels such as “sell-by”, “use-by”, “best-before” are confusing and contribute to about 130 billion pounds of food wasted every year.  Think about how much money that is.  This comes to over $160 billion dollars.

Except for infant formula, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations.  Dating of some foods is required by some states but there are some areas where almost no food is dated.

A “Sell-by” date is found on perishable foods like meats and milk.  This tells the store how long it should be displayed.  It is not an expiration date.  Typically, one-third of the product’s shelf life remains after this date if the product is kept refrigerated at home.  This means milk, if it has been refrigerated at all times, not left of the counter and has not been drunk directly from the container, will usually be drinkable for about one week after the “sell-by” date. 

Egg carton dates may be a “pack date” or a “sell-by” date.  The “sell-by” date will not be greater than 45 days after packing. Refrigerated eggs (in their carton and not in the door) can still be used for 3 to 5 weeks after that date.

A “Use-by” or “Best-by” date is a recommendation for best flavor or quality.  These are normally found on shelf-stable products such as canned or boxed goods or condiments.  It is not a safety issue. Foods age in different ways. Frozen meat will not become unsafe to eat if it is kept frozen.  That doesn’t mean it won’t change.  Freezer burn will affect the quality and texture of the meat and make it unpalatable.  Foods such as cookies and crackers will also be affected by time.  The fat in the cookie will react with oxygen and become rancid and crackers will absorb moisture out of the air and become stale.  They will taste off, but will not make you sick.

An “Expires On” date is about safety.  Only a small group of foods have expiration dates.  Infant formula and some baby foods are required by Federal regulations to have an expiration date.  Other foods that should have an expiration date will be ready-to-eat foods such as deli items and prepared sandwiches.  These foods may contain harmful bacteria and are not cooked before they are eaten.

Expiration dates are about safety.  Best by dates are about taste, texture and appearance.

Save your money.  To reduce the waste at the grocery store and the curbside, your best bet to decide if something is still good is to use your senses.  Look at it, smell it, feel it, taste it.

Sources:

“H.R.5298 – Food Date Labeling Act of 2016.” Congress.gov. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5298

“Blumenthal, Pingree Introduce Commonsense Bill to Standardize Food Date Labeling.” blumenthal.senate.gov. Retrieved from https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/blumenthal-pingree-introduce-commonsense-bill-to-standardize-food-date-labeling

Bloom, Jonathan. “‘Sell By’ Date Labels Confuse Customers, Increase Food Waste.” theplate.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved from http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/20/sell-by-date-labels-confuse-customers-increase-food-waste/

Houston-Edwards, Kelsey. “Why Food Date Labels Don’t Mean What You Think.” pbs.org. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/food-expiration-dates/

“Expiration Dates: Should You Pay Attention?” stilltasty.com. Retrieved from http://www.stilltasty.com/articles/view/5

Nagappan, Padma. “To Eat or Not to Eat? The Food Date Labeling Act Could Help You Decide.” civileats.com. Retrieved from http://civileats.com/2016/05/19/to-eat-or-not-to-eat-the-food-date-labeling-act-could-help-you-decide/

USDA www.fsis.usda.gov

Daily Laboratories Announces the Renewal of their ISO 17025:2005 Accreditation

Peoria, IL, Dec. 08, 2015./ Daily Laboratories, Division of Mobilab, Inc.

Daily Laboratories, a food and water microbiology testing laboratory, has been awarded their renewal of ISO/IEC 1705:2005 accreditation.

This internationally recognized accreditation verifies Daily Laboratories has a quality management system and the technical requirements in place to provide consistent, reliable and accurate test results.

Factors assessed by the accreditation bodies include:

  • technical competence of staff,
  • validity of test methods,
  • maintenance of test equipment,
  • testing environment and
  • quality assurance of test data.

Daily Laboratories’ commitment to quality, along with policies, procedures and operating practices, further makes certain the laboratory operates at the highest recognized standards.

As the food and beverage industry implements the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and amid continuous concern regarding food quality and safety, Daily Laboratories’ suite of food safety testing services are in high demand.

“This accreditation for the microbiological testing confirms that we have the processes in place to aid our clients with their testing needs,” …Lisa Strickland, President.

Daily Laboratories, Division of Mobilab, Inc. is accredited by American Global Standards under the ISO 17025 requirements of American International Accreditation Organization – Bureau of Accredited Registrars (AIAO-BAR). 

About Daily Laboratories, Division of Mobilab, Inc. 
Daily Laboratories is a full-service microbiology laboratory assisting the food, dairy, meat, produce, water, container and closures industries. With over 50 years in the industry, Daily Laboratories works with clients to meet their needs and satisfy state and federal regulations. For more information, visit www.DailyLaboratories.com

Online Vendors of Meat and Seafood: How it Arrives

Wow!  Look at the great price from this online meat place for all this.  Let’s order some.

Ordering perishable meat and seafood online is becoming increasingly popular. However, there are no standards for packing and shipping these items.  While usually packed in coolers with cold packs or dry ice, they are transported, stored and delivered in the same manner as non-perishable items. This means these packages may be subject to temperature abuse.

A team from Rutgers University and Tennessee State University recently evaluated over 650 samples of raw meat, poultry, finfish and shellfish products and reported  on the shipping methods and materials, coolants, and the product temperatures and conditions upon arrival.  Their paper was presented at the International Association for Food Protection in Indianapolis, IN in August 2014.  The study was published in the Mar/Apr 2015 issue of Food Protection Trends  magazine.

Some highlights from the study:  There were 169 shipments and 684 food items tested. That included 9 replacement items. The majority of the orders were shipped via FedEx or UPS.  36% were shipped “overnight” and 29% were “2-day”, and 27% were “standard/ground” shipping. Most of the packages arrived intact, but others had leakage or damage.

Ninety-three percent arrived in a polystyrene box, but only 37% had dunnage (packing material to fill empty spaces).  Dunnage is important to keep items from shifting and reduces the amount of air that needs to stay cold. These can be newspaper, packing peanuts and bubble wrap.  Coolants included gel packs, wet ice and dry ice. Four percent of the packages had no coolant at all. Of the packages that contained dry ice, less than half (36%) provided safety information regarding the safe handling and disposal.

Some examples of the food items ordered: Meat included beef, lamb and pork.  Poultry. Game included bison/buffalo, deer, elk, duck and ostrich.  Seafood included salmon, tuna, lobster tail and crab legs.

The majority of the items were shipped frozen with 21% shipped fresh.  Ten surface temperatures were taken of each product, top and bottom. Temperatures ranged from -23.5°F to 75.0°F.

Conclusion:  More than one third of the products arrived with a mean temperature above 40°F and almost half arrived with at least one temperature above 40°F.   There was no consistency in the packaging methods, materials and dunnage used and a large variability in the types and amount of coolants used.

Their recommendations include the development of standards to be used by the packers and the common carriers.  “At a minimum, guidance for online purveyors of perishable food products concerning best practices for shipping would be helpful to improve food safety.”

 

Refrigerator Cross-contamination

Myth:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator — it is too cold in there for germs to survive.

 

FACT:  Some bacteria can survive and even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.   In fact, Listeria monocytogenes  grows at temperatures as low as 35 °F.  A recent study from NSF International revealed that the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella sp. and Listeria sp.  In your refrigerator, keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.  Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and soap and clean up food and beverage spills immediately to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator.   Don’t forget the walls and undersides of the shelves.

Partnership for Food Safety Education     fightbac.org 

 

Well Water Testing

From the Illinois EPA:

Properly constructed and maintained water wells can provide many years of trouble-free service, but wells can eventually deteriorate or become damaged and allow surface contaminants to enter the water. In addition, some groundwater can contain one or more chemical substances in levels above health-based standards. In some cases, contamination of the water can be detected by sight, taste or smell; however, many of the most serious problems can only be detected through laboratory testing of the water.

Public water systems are tested regularly for a variety of contaminants. However, if you have a private well, regular testing is your responsibility. Well construction inspection and improvements, such as fixing a crack in a casing, are important steps in keeping your well water safe.

Here are some recommendations that you can follow to help ensure that your well water is safe:

Test your well water at least once a year for bacteria

Water that has become contaminated by human or animal waste can transmit a variety of infectious diseases, including dysentery, salmonellosis, hepatitis, and giardiasis. Symptoms vary, but nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, with or without fever, are most common. To assess bacterial safety, drinking water is tested for a group of “indicator bacteria” called coliform bacteria. These bacteria do not usually cause disease themselves, but their presence indicates that surface contamination has found its way into the well and disease organisms may also be present. When coliform bacteria are found in well water, the water should be boiled before being used for drinking or cooking, and the well should be disinfected. In cases when bacteria problems cannot be solved, then you may want to look into continuous chlorination treatment.

Test your well water every year for nitrate, and always test the water for nitrate before giving it to an infant

Nitrate is a common contaminant in Illinois groundwater. An elevated level of nitrate is often caused by septic systems, manure storage areas, feedlots, or farm fields near the well. Wells vulnerable to nitrate contamination include shallow sand point wells and large diameter dug or bored wells and wells with damaged, leaking casing or fittings. Well water containing nitrate at levels above the maximum contaminant level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is 10 milligrams per liter as nitrogen, should never be given to infants less than 6 months old because it can cause a potentially fatal disease called “blue baby syndrome.” In many cases, constructing a deeper well can reduce or eliminate a nitrate problem. If you know, or suspect, that your well water may contain high levels of nitrate,do not boil the water, as this will only concentrate nitrate levels. If nitrates cannot be eliminated from your well water then you may need to look into reverse-osmosis or distillation treatments.

Flush standing water to reduce levels of lead.

Well water in Illinois rarely contains detectable levels of lead. However, lead can enter drinking water through decay of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures. Exposure to lead at levels above health standards can impair a child’s development, as well as cause a variety of other adverse health effects in both children and adults.

To minimize your exposure to lead in drinking water, run the water until it gets cold before using it for drinking or cooking. This will flush out most of the lead that may have accumulated in the plumbing. Also, never use water from the hot water tap for drinking or cooking. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. The only way to be sure of the amount of lead in your household water is to have it tested by a certified laboratory.

This information for citizens as well as information for businesses, government and educators can be found at the Illinois EPA website

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