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Our Insights

No One Wants A Recall: Plan, Implement and Audit Effective Food Safety Practices

September 20, 2019

By Don Hodapp

Business Development Director, Facilities Division, POWER Engineers

The “kill step” is an industry term that describes the point in food manufacturing where potentially deadly microorganisms are eliminated through processes such as cooking at high temperatures, pasteurization, bacteria-killing washes, irradiation and other means. Pathogens, cross contamination and foreign object contamination are three common ways food can be compromised. If an incident does happen, document the failure, implement corrective actions and audit for compliance.

The “kill step” is an industry term that describes the point in food manufacturing where potentially deadly microorganisms are eliminated through processes such as cooking at high temperatures, pasteurization, bacteria-killing washes, irradiation and other means. Pathogens, cross contamination and foreign object contamination are three common ways food can be compromised. If an incident does happen, document the failure, implement corrective actions and audit for compliance.

All manufacturers of consumable products should be concerned about the possibility of a recall. With the 24/7 news cycle and omnipresence of social media, recalls of contaminated products are under the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny. The theory of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” does not extend to the food manufacturing industry – a recall can result in severe impacts to a manufacturer’s brand, revenue, and the health of consumers.

The risk factors for a recall include human error, food safety monitoring process failures, non-compliance with internal segregation and sanitation procedures, or not catching tainted ingredients in the supply chain. While the causes are complex, proactive preventative actions are quite often common-sense. When these steps are implemented correctly, and audited and adhered to, they do work.

Risk factor: Pathogens
Pathogen contamination can occur when disease-causing bacteria, spores or microorganisms are present in a food product. To minimize this risk factor:

Risk factor: Cross contamination
When raw and ready-to-eat areas are not properly separated, potential allergens or contaminants can be introduced into the product. To minimize this risk factor:

Risk factor: Foreign objects
Accidents happen – when there are equipment/machinery breakdowns or if employees improperly dispose of tools, gloves, hairnets or other objects, it can contaminate the supply chain. To minimize this risk factor:

How to create a controls philosophy
Advance planning is the best protection against food safety risk factors. Develop a written description of your production process with an emphasis on how it should be operated and controlled – this is known as a “controls philosophy.”

Reducing your risk of a recall does not need to be complex or expensive, and it will not decrease efficiency. Preparation, strategic planning and forethought, regular communication, written documentation, and subtle improvements to what you are already doing will go a long way towards keeping your product, consumers, and reputation safe.

About the Author

Don Hodapp of POWER EngineersAs a food industry veteran, Don has been there, done that, and seen it all:  from working on the plant floor, to managing facility operations, to his current role of working hand-in-glove with global manufacturers as an engineering consultant. He understands the complexities of the food industry – the unpredictable nature of ingredients, the unique characteristics of each product, and the importance of uncomplicated sanitation processes. Don finds solutions that meet the requirements for clients’ products and operations while keeping in mind acceptable best practices.

Do you have a question for Don?  You can contact him via email at don.hodapp@powereng.com.

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