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Revisiting Food Safety Best Practices

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

To raise awareness about the prevention of food poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have designated September as National Food Safety Education Month. Whether you’re a consumer, provider, processor, distributor, restaurant, supermarket or refrigerated equipment manufacturer, it is important to be aware of issues related to food safety so we can all help to minimize risks of potential contamination throughout the food supply chain.

Revisiting Food Safety Best Practices

What’s at stake?
According to CDC estimates, one out of every six people (48 million) gets sick, 128,000 people per year are hospitalized, and 3,000 per year die from eating contaminated food each year in the United States. Although this could potentially happen to anyone, those whom are especially vulnerable include: children 5 and under, adults 65 and older, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women.

But the potential costs of foodborne illness outbreaks go far beyond their tolls on human health. Researchers have found that restaurants have incurred  costs of up to $2.5 million for a single outbreak of foodborne illness. This may be in addition to brand reputation impact that are more difficult to calculate.  Studies have shown that 44 percent of consumers will avoid a brand for a few months after an outbreak, while 20 percent have reported in surveys that they never intend to make a return visit or purchase anything from that brand again.

How to protect yourself
Foodborne illnesses occur when food becomes contaminated with harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins. Common types of bacteria associated with raw or undercooked poultry include campylobacter and salmonella. Fruits and vegetables (such as leafy greens) can become contaminated with E. coli, salmonella and listeria due to several factors: from unclean water and runoff at a farm; contaminated processing equipment; and from poor hygiene during handling and preparation.

It is critically important for anyone preparing food to maintain proper holding temperatures as part of ensuring food safety.  This also often maximizes food quality and shelf life.

So, when it comes to preparing your own food, the CDC recommends four simple steps to protect yourself and your family:

  • Clean — Wash hands, utensils and cooking surfaces.
  • Separate — Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from cooked food and fresh produce.
  • Cook — Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to an internal temperature sufficient to kill potential germs.
  • Chill — Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within two hours; chill within one hour if ambient temperatures are above 90 °F.

But what about the food we buy at restaurants, food trucks or supermarkets? One-third of Americans eat fast food every day, and more than 60 percent have dinner at a restaurant at least once a week. On its way to those points of sale, food passes through multiple hands and stakeholders throughout the supply chain, each with a responsibility to help ensure food safety and quality. Here are a few more common sense tips to consider when dining out or buying from your local grocer.

  • Shop smart — Choose tidy, well-kept establishments with clean tables, aisles and floors. Some cities/states require facilities to post their cleanliness ratings. If you live in one of those regions, ask for the location of that
  • Ask questions — Inquire about how items on the menu are prepared, how grocery items are stored, and any other pertinent information about the source.
  • Inspect your selections — Look for holes, tears or openings in food packages. Frozen foods should be solid throughout with no signs of thawing. Refrigerated foods should feel cold.

Ensuring safety in the food supply chain
While most of these tips can also apply to the food supply chain, ensuring adherence to them from farm to fork is an even more complex challenge for producers, processors, distributors and others in the food supply chain. By the time food reaches consumers, there are potentially any number of handling and temperature excursions that could have taken place. There are also an ever-increasing number of food safety regulations and documentation requirements that stakeholders must comply with.

Today, Emerson is helping leading food supply chain providers, processors, warehouses, distributors and retailers ensure food safety and protect their brand reputations. Building upon our foundation of refrigeration expertise, we’re providing solutions to help operators at nearly every point of this process to help form a comprehensive, unbroken cold chain. From connected, communicating devices and enterprise management software to temperature loggers, trackers and probing devices, we’re helping our customers achieve cold chain temperature certainty and food safety verification throughout its journey to consumers.

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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