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Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks with FSMA and Environmental Monitoring

JulianHough_Blog_Image Julian Hough | Product Marketing Communication Specialist
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Symptoms of a foodborne illness outbreak

For companies involved in food handling, the potential symptoms of a food poisoning outbreak include: local or national recalls; fines; legal action; potential financial losses; and tarnished brand reputations. With this in mind, compliance with new regulations and laws regarding food safety and the use of facility-wide environmental monitoring are your best protections against these symptoms.

A serious problem

Food poisoning is a major cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illnesses affect 48 million Americans annually, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And in an age of 24/7 news coverage, any food poisoning outbreak can put a company under a harsh public relations spotlight. In 2015, at least 64 people contracted salmonella from tomatoes at a Mexican quick-serve restaurant. It resulted in two class action lawsuits and eroded consumer trust. A top-selling ice cream brand recalled all of its products in 2017 when 10 reported cases of listeria resulted in three deaths. In late 2018, all of the romaine lettuce in the U.S. was pulled from stores for a month while the CDC searched for the source of its e-coli contamination. The fact is, health officials, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will work to track down the source of virtually all food poisoning outbreaks all the way down the supply chain and cold chain.

The risk comes from not seeing the problems

All too often, the processors found at fault had no idea they were putting consumers at risk. Like all processors, they have to balance the cost and burden of ensuring food safety while still maintaining a profitable business. But many have little way of knowing — or the data to warn them — that they were not maintaining safe handling procedures nor providing a safe environment for food safety.

FSMA: addressing the problem

With the signing of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, a series of regulations set out seven steps to prevent food poisoning outbreaks through prevention programs and environmental monitoring. The FSMA reflected the need for a modern, global food safety system, “a system in which industry is systematically, every day, putting in place the measures that we know are effective in preventing contamination” (Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, 2015).

Regulations like the FSMA are often regarded as an expensive burden. But when you realize that food poisoning outbreaks cost the food processing industry $75 billion per year, investing in preventing problems rather than paying for the consequences makes FSMA compliance an economic imperative.

That’s why Emerson  has been tirelessly working to help ensure our Cooper-Atkins products and solutions are in compliance with FSMA mandates, and providing environmental monitoring systems and end-to-end data services that help control and manage food safety anywhere in the cold chain.

How does the FSMA affect you?

New laws were passed in 2016 to bolster the 2011 FSMA for both large and small FDA-registered companies. To comply, companies must:

At Emerson, we have the expertise, products and systems to help you implement fully compliant HARPC systems and controls, as well as consult on your cGMP education and training programs.  Emerson’s Cooper Atkins business specializes in advanced environmental monitoring systems.

The importance of environmental monitoring

There are many areas along the processing chain where food may be compromised. Storing, receiving and holding food-related items at a temperature that prohibits bacterial growth are required parts of your company’s HARPC plan, making integrated, wireless environmental monitoring systems a must-have.

Processing facilities that invest in integrated, wireless temperature monitoring systems benefit in numerous ways:

  • Eliminating manual labor
  • Streamlining the collection of environmental data
  • Creating custom reporting
  • Complying with new FSMA laws and FDA rulings

As a leading manufacturer of wireless monitoring solutions, Emerson offers a range of environmental monitoring systems through our Cooper-Atkins business. TempTrak Enterprise® is a facility-wide solution that can monitor an unlimited number of points in unlimited locations — all from one software platform. NotifEye® kits are affordable, streamlined and self-installed systems for more localized operations. Both are exception-based systems: they only send out alerts when preset limits are exceeded, saving time and labor while protecting your inventory and, more importantly, brand integrity.

An investment in protection

When you look at the human cost of food poisoning outbreaks, as well as the millions of dollars in recall costs and destroyed reputations, FSMA compliance and facility-wide environmental monitoring and data systems become a highly cost-effective investment. With compliance and a data trail, you can not only prevent foodborne outbreaks, but also verify compliance and protect your brand.

Julian Hough is a product marketing specialist with Cooper-Atkins, a business unit of Emerson that has been manufacturing temperature monitoring equipment for 130 years.

 

How Data Loggers Streamline Food Safety Compliance

JulianHough_Blog_Image Julian Hough | Product Marketing Communication Specialist
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Imagine if you had enough money to put 8.5 million people through four years of private college at an average annual cost of $30k. The same amount would buy a Prius at its sticker price of $23,810 — for roughly 40 percent of American families. That’s what $1.6 trillion buys, and the combined amount that Americans spent in 2015 on food and beverages in grocery stores and dining out.1

Today’s tech-savvy millennials are acutely aware of the food they consume. When an outbreak of foodborne illness occurs, the subjects of food safety and consumer health immediately become top news stories. And CEOs are taking notice. In a 2017 interview, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook stated, “Food safety is McDonald’s number one priority.”2

Food safety regulations and compliancy

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) under President Obama’s leadership; these laws were updated in 2016 to enforce best practices. Industry standards such as Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) were designed to help food processors identify, control and prevent hazards through a systematic approach. HACCP compliance is currently mandatory for meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and juice processors in the United States, as well as retail food services. Because of its success in the food and meat industries, HACCP plans are also being applied to non-food industries.

Under the existing FSMA 2016 mandates, FDA-registered food facilities, manufacturing facilities and processors must:

  • Establish and maintain food safety systems that comply with HACCP/HARPC plans
  • Verify the controls are effective by monitoring, testing and taking corrective actions and documenting the outcomes
  • Maintain risk-based supply chain programs for raw materials and ingredients and provide education and training to employees

With the goal of proactively preventing foodborne illness outbreaks rather than reacting after the fact, FSMA laws helped established a positive path forward. The rise of wireless data-logging technologies has since been embraced by a spectrum of processing facilities — from meat and dairy processors to laboratories — to help maintain compliance.

Why do you need data loggers? 

Data loggers have becoming essential tools that facility managers can use to independently verify information in food retail and processing facilities. By identifying environmental factors that could affect product quality and invalidate food safety plans, data loggers help facility managers meet compliance standards, as well as monitor other key facility metrics, such as: energy conservation, recordkeeping in a cold storage facility, or air handler cycle frequencies.

Traditional methods used to monitor critical limits and maintain an accurate recordkeeping system come with drawbacks. Typically, these are strip chart recorder (with moving parts) or a thermometer that requires an employee to manually check and document conditions. It’s easy to see how these methods are inadequate and threaten the integrity of food safety plans. Alternatively, data loggers do not rely on mechanical, moving parts or constant manual attention from employees.

Temperature monitoring is especially critical for compliance with USDA and FDA regulations. Data loggers can be implemented into HACCP plans to easily achieve this goal. Since each HACCP plan is unique to each facility, the data logging solution is dependent upon an end user’s specific application requirements. This not only saves, time, energy and money, but it also helps facility managers comply with new regulations.

How do data loggers work?

Data loggers are electronic measurement instruments that record environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, pH and much more. Data is retrieved through a wireless connection or downloaded directly to a PC. There, records of the data are generated in graphical and tabular formats and include date and time stamps to fulfill compliance requirements. These records can then be saved electronically or printed to provide to the appropriate regulatory agencies to prove a facility’s compliance.

Data loggers are a cost-effective means of extremely accurate data collection and recordkeeping over long periods of time and in extreme environments. To ensure data accuracy, most data-logging companies provide services to maintain the correct and consistent calibration of devices. A calibration certificate indicates the date and condition of the services, providing the documentation required by most regulatory agencies to prove proper periodic calibration.

Choosing a data logger provider

For more than 130 years, Cooper-Atkins has built a reputation as a trusted provider of environmental monitoring solutions. As a leading manufacturer in the field, Cooper-Atkins recently added state-of-the-art, data-logging technology to its stable of HACCP-compliant, wireless monitoring products.

According to Scott D’Aniello, vice president of industrial and food processing for Cooper-Atkins, there is no room for guesswork in the food supply chain.

“Good data is essential to controlling production and creating a consistently high-quality product,” he said.

Cooper-Atkins was awarded the prestigious “Global Supplier of the Year 2015” by McDonald’s.

“This recognition speaks volumes about who we are and how we can help facility managers. Today’s technological innovations are helping to ease the burden and keep food safe for consumers,” said D’Aniello.

Click here to learn more about Cooper-Atkins data loggers.

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