Food safety news this month includes recent recalls, a new outbreak related to ground beef, and a program for lab accreditation proposed by the FDA. In the west, where wildfires have been ravaging the countryside, another popular news item is related to food safety during emergencies.
FDA Seeks Lab Accreditation
The FDA has proposed a new program that would require certain food testing activities to be performed in accredited laboratories. If approved, accreditation requirements would include following certain standards and being subject to oversight and inspection. The goal of this initiative is to produce consistently reliable laboratory results and valid testing methods. If the program is approved, food processors would be required to use accredited labs for testing imported foods and identifying food safety problems, as part of corrective action plans, and more. Another component of the proposal is the ability to request food testing orders for facilities that are suspected of having food safety issues.
If the program goes through as planned, food processing facilities will have plenty of time to comply. The FDA will first go through the process of creating accreditation bodies, and once these are established, labs can apply to them for accreditation. After the FDA has determined that there is sufficient lab testing capacity, food processors will be notified that they have six months to comply with the new regulations.
New Ground Beef Outbreak
A new outbreak related to Salmonella in ground beef has been announced by the CDC. With consumers having reported illnesses since August, this particular strain, Salmonella Dublin, is known to cause worse infections than some other types of the bacteria. So far, 10 people in six states have been connected to the outbreak, but the CDC has yet to determine the specific source. With illness dates ranging as late as September 22, it’s possible that there are unreported cases and that more will arise given the lag time and the possibility that affected ground beef products are still in consumer freezers.
Recent Pathogen-Related Recalls
Several voluntary food recalls have occurred in the past month due to potential pathogen-related contamination. The three most notable are:
- Frozen raspberries - Possible Hepatitis A contamination
- Fresh apples - Possible Listeria contamination
- Unbleached flour - Possible E. coli contamination
No illnesses have been reported yet in all three cases, and the recalls are precautionary measures initiated by the manufacturers after testing indicated the presence of pathogens on finished products.
Food Safety Reminders Linked to Power Outages
With California wildfires raging and power outages plaguing the region, food safety officials are providing guidance about how to handle refrigerated items. Although the information is not new, it is especially relevant during extreme weather and other emergencies, especially as we approach the winter months
The guidelines include:
- Always keep eggs, poultry, meat, and fish refrigerated below 40 °F.
- Keep frozen food at or below 0 °F.
- A refrigerator will keep food safely cold for approximately four hours if it remains unopened.
- A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours.
- A half-full freezer will hold the temp 24 hours if the door remains closed.
- Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature.
With estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost due to spoiled food during mandated power outages, consumers and businesses are naturally eager to reduce losses as much as possible. However, the risk of illness related to foodborne pathogens should outweigh the desire to save money.
Prevention Is Key in All Scenarios
Although emergencies are not predictable, being prepared can help prevent foodborne illness in the home. Food safety professionals can help prevent outbreaks and recalls by employing sanitation best practices and training employees on personal hygiene and sanitation protocols. Stay tuned for the FDA’s proposed program, and be proactive by talking to your existing labs about their intent to get accredited as the program moves forward. To stay proactive, read The Busy FSQA Manager’s Guide to Proactive Plant Sanitation to learn more about how to cost-effectively and efficiently prevent bacterial contamination in your facility.