Friday, 28 March 2008

Dioxin scare with mozzarella cheese

Dioxin has been found in the milk of 66 herds of buffalo around Naples. The Guardian reports that Brussels is asking for further information from Italy about the extent of the problem. Japan and South Korea have already banned imports of the cheese.

The BBC report that in a statement, the European Commission said the measures introduced so far were not adequate: "No recall of product potentially contaminated has been carried out, and the surveillance programme on the farms of the Campania region is still too limited". The BBC suggest that a potential source of contamination is currently being investigated i.e. that industrial waste has been illegally dumped on agricultural land used for pasture.

Why is dioxin a problem? Dioxins are highly toxic and carcinogenic (cause cancer). Dioxins are a by-product of industrial production in industries such as chemical and pesticide manufacture, paper bleaching. We have had food safety incidents in the past with this chemical. In 1999, dioxin was found in European animal feed which sparked a continent wide recall centred on Belgium. In 2004, there was another incident with milk in Belgium and the Netherlands and this was believed to have been due to animal feed that was contaminated with potato byproducts.

I have written before about having an effective product recall procedure in place and the interaction between food safety and brand equity. Food safety incidents, such as this one, require an effective, co-ordinated response in order to maintain customer confidence.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Cantaloupes and Salmonella

Although I linked to two reports on Salmonella and cantaloupe melons on the last post I felt that I should write another post to highlight the ongoing issues. There have been alerts and recalls all over the US and Canada over the potential link between Salmonella food poisoning and central American melons. The Salmonella concerned Salmonella Litchfield has been tracked by the CDC in the US over the last few months. The CDC report that between January 18 and March 5, 2008, state health departments have identified 50 ill persons in 16 states who have been infected with Salmonella Litchfield with the same genetic fingerprint. Interviews with individuals highlighted Honduran cantaloupes as a potential source. The FDA issued an alert on March 22nd which contained further details.

Monday, 24 March 2008

US food safety

Click on the link to find out more about these latest US food safety issues:

Listeria and raw milk

Salmonella and drinking water

Salmonella and alfalfa sprouts

Salmonella and cantaloupes

Salmonella and cantaloupes 2

Produce safety under review

Food Poisoning Law Blog reports that the recent 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases discussed the growing number of foodborne illnesses related to vegetables, mainly leafy greens. To find out more follow the link.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Food safety series of e-books

The first in a series of e-books on food safety, food manufacture and processing has recently been published on Lulu. This book outlines the issues surrounding food allergens and food intolerance and the precautions that need to be taken during food processing, preparation and manufacture to assure same food. Follow the link on the site for more details.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Campylobacter outbreak linked to mud

Campylobacter Blog contains an interesting post on how a number of competitors contracted Campylobacter infections from taking part in a cycling race. For more details follow the link.

Wholesnax recalls chocolate coated snacks

The UK Food Standards Agency has reported that "Wholesnax has recalled some batches of its chocolate coated brazils, peanuts, raisins, peanuts and raisins and mixed nuts and raisins because they contain soya lecithin which is declared as lecithin in the ingredients list". The products are unsuitable for people with a soya allergy and the FSA has issued an Allergy Alert.

Food safety and quality policy

This week I wrote a post about management commitment and driving continuous improvement in an organisation. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food, along with other quaIity management system standards also requires that the organisation has a food safety and quality policy. I have written posts before about quality planning and the development of a quality policy. This really is a key policy document where the organisation outlines its commitment to providing safe products and meeting the quality requirements of its customers. The BRC Standard requires that the organisation defines the strategic aims and objectives of your organisation and this information is often contained in the food safety and quality policy.

The policy is a concise document that defines:

  • goals and objectives with regard to quality and food safety;
  • a commitment to meeting stated requirements of internal and external customers;
  • who in the organisation is responsible for implementing the food safety and quality policy and associated management system;
  • the quality management system (QMS) standards that the organisation is seeking to comply with e.g.; BRC Global Standard, ISO 22000, or ISO 9000; and
  • an undertaking to drive continuous improvement throughout the organisation’s activities;

The policy must also demonstrate senior management’s commitment to providing adequate resources to support the achievement of food safety and quality objectives. The resources that need to be provided within an organisation include financial, physical, human, social and environmental capital (See effective management of assets.) This will include the resources to develop staff awareness of the requirements of the policy.

The policy needs to be reviewed at least annually. The review process often includes the following:

  • confirming that the policy has been signed by a senior manager, e.g. Managing Director, CEO, to demonstrate management commitment to its contents;
  • ensuring that the organisational strategy defined is still valid, appropriate and that the policy complies with legislative and market requirements and any changes to these requirements since the document was last issued have been addressed; and
  • determining whether quality and food safety objectives have been met and continuous improvement can be formally demonstrated.

Why write a food safety and quality policy? Is it just because your customers demand it? If you have a policy it will formally demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to produce safe food, comply with legislation, international standards, and meeting customer requirements. It sets a benchmark for the organisation so that it can measure its own performance. If such commitments are informal, then the organisation as well as the senior management cannot be held to account! This is why the food safety and quality policy forms the foundation of the requirements of the BRC Global Standard for Food.

© Louise Manning, 2008

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Management Commitment

The new version of the British Retail Consortium Global Standard (BRC) for food safety includes some changes in the section on senior management commitment and continual improvement.

Management Commitment has been described as the “Direct participation by the highest level executives in a specific and critically important aspect or programme of an organisation”. In the development of a food safety and quality management system this encompasses:

  • The establishment of the senior management team with the appropriate level of knowledge, skills, and competence;
  • The development, documentation and implementation of a food safety and/or quality policy as combined or separate documents;
  • The establishment of the organisations “mission” in terms of food safety and quality and the associated organisational goals and objectives. These objectives must be formally established (written down), communicated with the associated awareness programme, monitored to determine whether performance standards are being achieved and reviewed and amended as required in order to continue to improve performance. The objectives therefore must contain elements that are measurable for example consumer complaints, customer service levels, internal reject levels;
  • The provision of adequate resources (people, premises, equipment, raw materials etc) and the necessary training and supervision to effectively use the resources. The resources that need to be provided within an organisation include financial, physical, human, social and environmental capital (See effective management of assets).;
  • The development of a management infrastructure to implement the actions necessary to achieve organisational goals and objectives and to deliver products and associated services that consistently meet customer requirements;
  • The development of communication channels throughout the organisation. Any issues with food safety, legality and quality should be identified and preventive and/or corrective action implemented. These actions could include strategic planning and development of internal checks and balances and/or the implementation of product recall procedures;
  • The implementation of management review and internal audit programmes to evaluate the effectiveness of policy implementation and determine how the organisation can continue to improve. The frequency of management review should be determined and should include an evaluation of the adequacy and effectiveness of food safety and quality management systems such as HACCP. An annual review will routinely evaluate performance, but the review is largely historic and cannot influence current practise. Monthly review will drive performance and the implementation of timely corrective and preventive action. Separate agendas should be developed for each meeting. Minutes of the meetings and associated documented system reviews should be maintained to demonstrate the meetings and reviews have taken place , the adequacy of the process and the actions that have been planned, implemented and signed off on completion.

Effective management of food safety and continuous improvement doesn’t just happen in an organisation or supply chain, it is planned, driven and requires the continued commitment of the senior management team.

© Louise Manning, 2008

Saturday, 15 March 2008

More recalls for seeds and Salmonella

The Food Standards Agency have issued a further food alert for Salmonella contamination of seeds. For more details follow the link.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Recent US food safety recalls

There have been some recent food recalls in the US too including:

Chicken and Listeria

Alfalfa sprouts and Salmonella

Pancake and Waffle mix and Salmonella

Follow the links for more details.

Iceland Foods Ltd recalls a batch of Buffalo Chicken Wings due to possible undercooking

Iceland Foods Ltd has recalled a batch of Buffalo Chicken Wings, due to possible undercooking. For more details follow the link.

Julian Graves recall extends to sunflower seeds

Julian Graves Ltd has now also recalled a batch of sunflower seeds, due to the presence of salmonella. For more details follow the link.

Suma Wholefoods has also recalled certain batches of Organic Sesame Seeds and Omega Mixed Seeds, due to the presence of salmonella.

Bart spices recall organic product

The UK food Standards Agency report that Bart Spices Ltd has recalled all batches of its Organic Purple Cornmeal. This is due to the level of fumonisins which are a type of toxin which is naturally produced by moulds. The levels are above the legal limits, but the FSA state that there is unlikely to be any immediate risk to people's health. For more details follow the link.

Marks and Spencer withdraws tomato and chili pasta sauce

The Food Standards Agency report that Marks & Spencer has withdrawn some of its Speciality Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce (350g) because it contains anchovies and sulphites. These are not identified on the label so this could prove a potential health risk for anyone with an allergy to fish or sensitivity to sulphites. For more details follow the link.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Asda withdraw Chicken and Sweetcorn Lattice Bake

The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert with regard to this product. Asda has implemented a product withdrawal for some of its own-brand Chicken and Sweetcorn Lattice Bake. This is because the product contains fish, and this is not declared on the label. Follow the link for further details.

Further recall of seeds for salmonella

The Food Standards Agency report a further recall for potential contamination with Salmonella. For further details follow the link.